How to create a successful design proposal

So, a potential client just sent you an inquiry for a *dream* project to work on. You get pumped up and so excited! Now, you need to put together an awesome design proposal with hopes that they will select you for their project. When this first happened to me, I was so excited, but quickly realized how much thought + time goes into creating a proposal! Luckily, once you create a basic structure for your design proposal, it is so simple to update — in fact I usually just update one page in InDesign!

Here is the basic structure of my proposal below. I’ve also included a simple one-page proposal template to download at the end of this post :).

Simple + Attractive Cover Page

This is possibly your first impression with the potential client, so make sure to start off on the right foot! I always start my design proposals + contracts with a simple cover page. This includes my logo, the name of the proposal (ex: Branding + Web Design Proposal), my email and website. It is pretty simple, but looks put together and finished, rather than just jumping into the pricing. It is also important to incorporate your personal branding throughout the proposal. This is a great tool to show clients that even somewhat boring/monotonous paperwork can look custom, professional and unique. I often receive comments about the design of my proposal, and how refined it looks. The potential client is most likely used to Microsoft Word documents, so this is where you can really shine.

Share a little about you

Following the cover page, I like to give a brief paragraph describing my studio. This is an opportunity to highlight how you are a great fit for them (if they are your dream client)! Make sure to use friendly content that is easy to read, and seems personable. I refrain from using phrases like “mission statement”, because to me those seem internal and not the best tool to connect with your ideal clients. Instead, you can share a bit about your studio, your specialties, and who you enjoy working with. Keep it simple and authentic.

Show a sampling of your portfolio

If I have not worked with this potential client before, or if I know they have not seen much of my work, I like to include a selection of my portfolio. This helps them quickly gauge your work, and see if their style is compatible with yours. If you specialize in branding, you could just focus on one brand identity style guide, which gives the client an idea of the process and what they can expect.

This is probably obvious, but I would shy away from sharing any portfolio pieces that you aren’t proud of, or any type of work/style that you are trying to get away from. Only share work that best reflects your vision.

Services + Process

Through sharing the design services you specialize in, you can appear more suited for the client’s project. For instance, if I mention I specialize in brand identities + web design for restaurants, and the restaurant owner is the potential client, then they feel like I am a good fit for their project. Of course, I don’t suggest changing the phrasing of this section to fit every client, but rather being authentic about your niche and what industries you prefer to work with. I believe that through doing this, you will attract your ideal clients if you are patient.

This is also a great place to incorporate a snapshot of your process. I would keep this section brief, then once the client is on board with you, you can walk them through the thorough process.

Specific Investment or Design Packages

After providing an overview of your studio, portfolio and services, you can conclude with the meat of the proposal, the pricing. I like to tuck this section at the end, in an effort to get the client to know a bit about my studio and work before making a quick judgement on price.

For the pricing page, you can include a specific price for their project, if you know enough details. Otherwise, it is handy to have a few design packages established that you can incorporate on this page. Currently, I have three packages: Basic Branding, Brand Identity + Web Design, and Full Branding Experience. I provide what each package includes, as well as a base price for these services. But really, this page is up to you! If you prefer custom pricing vs. packaging, you will just revise this page for each potential client.

End with a thank you

For the final page in the PDF, make sure to thank the client for their interest! I also provide a bit of contact information if they are ready for next steps, or would prefer more details about their project.

I hope this post was helpful for you! It is great to have a well designed proposal ready to go, so whenever a client reaches out to you there won’t be a delay to respond. Once the template is established, you really only need to update the investment page with current pricing, or specific terms for their project. Let me know if you have any questions or tips in the comments below!


free download

Download a PDF design proposal