Freelance Copywriting Proposals: 10 Questions to Ask First & 4 Types to Write

Excerpt from The Copywriter’s Proposal Bundle

Do you ever sit down to write a freelance copywriting proposal only to realize that you don’t have enough – or the right – information from the client to submit the best proposal that you can?

It’s not their fault. If you agree to write one, it’s your responsibility to make sure you get what you need – whether through a questionnaire or a brief phone call – before you invest the time in writing a proposal, which you should never agree to do lightly.

This checklist will make it easier to get the crucial details you need to write the strongest possible freelance proposal to win you the job.

1. The Goals: What are the big-picture goals of this project? What specific objectives do you need to achieve? How does this project fit into your overall plan? How will you measure the success of this project?
2. The Market: What/who is the market for this project? Is there research available on the market? Is this the first time you’re approaching this market?
3. The Content: Where will the source content come from? Is it ready? Will research be necessary? Who will do the research?
4. The Timeframe: What is your timeline? Is there a hard deadline? Is this a rush? How quickly does your team provide feedback between drafts? Are there other factors that could get in the way?
5. The Contact: Who will be our main point of contact? Will he/she be involved from the start or jump in later?
6. The Decision-Making Process: Who is the main decision-maker on this project? Is it one person or a committee? How will you select your vendor and what is the most important factor in your selection? Price? Location? Style? References? Past experience in your industry? Something else?
7. The Budget: What budget have you allocated for this project? Are you thinking $xxx or $xxxxx? Do you have an overall marketing budget for the year? What is it?
8. The Proposal: What would you like to see in the proposal?
9. The Other Vendors: How many others are bidding on this project? Do you have someone in mind for the project already? Can you say who or what size firm?
10. The Proposal Presentation: Will you be available on (date/time) for us to present the proposal to you either in person or via phone/Skype?

The Best Freelance Proposal for the Job: 4 Types to Choose From

Once you’ve gathered all the information, it’s time to decide which type of freelance proposal to prepare. Sometimes a simple one will do just fine and you’d be wasting time to do more. But there are other situations when the only way to win the project is to do a substantial proposal. But if you’re using the same one for all prospects, you may be selling yourself short.

Depending on the scope of the project and your familiarity with the prospect or client, choose from these four distinct types of proposals to make sure you submit the one that will get you the job.

1. One-page agreement. This is essentially a confirmation letter (often sent via email) or simple cost estimate, best used for small projects and/or projects done for an ongoing client. It should take very little time to generate when you have a simple template ready to drop the details into.
>>> Time to write: 15 minutes or less.

2. Small proposal (1–3 pages). The structure of this short proposal is very close to that of the one-pager but not quite as minimal. It’s ideal for a new prospect that’s already sold on working with you but wants the details of what you’ll do in writing. Like the One-Page Agreement, it outlines the bare bones of a project but goes into a bit more detail, which is especially recommended if your prospect has not worked with a writer before.
>>> Time to write: One hour or less.

3. Medium proposal (4-10 pages). This proposal is for a medium to large project for a prospect you don’t know or a client you do know but who will be responsible for selling you “up the chain” to others who don’t know you. For a proposal at this level, the client has higher expectations and so it often requires more pages. That also means more persuasive copy – remember, absolutely everything you write is a sample of your writing! And for this size proposal, always include a title page and a cover letter.
>>> Time to write: No more than 4 hours.

4. Long proposal (10-20+ pages). For a major project with Ideal Client Inc., the long freelance proposal is an important marketing tool. As a general rule, the higher your fee, the more pages your proposal will need in order to demonstrate the value you bring. A more substantial document shows that you’ve thought through the project and know what you’re talking about. Include lots of relevant examples that position you as an expert, demonstrating that you have the experience and knowledge for this project. And don’t do this one unless your chances of getting it are at least 50%.
>>> Time to write: 1-2 days.

About the Author

Ilise Benun is the founder of and the editor of The Copywriter’s Proposal Bundle. She is also a national speaker, the founder of The Creative Freelancer Business Conference and provides business coaching, advice and accountability for copywriters and other creative professionals who are serious about growing their business. Her books include “The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money,” “The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing” and “Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive.” Sign up for her Quick Tips from Marketing Mentor ( and follow her @MMToolbox

7 replies
  1. Tom says:

    This is valuable information for those that haven’t pitched a large corporation before. I know many that have done “handshake” deals over the web, so all these formalities come as a shock to them!

  2. Chris Sebok says:

    If you need those 10 questions from the business, then how would you write a proposal for a large corporation? How would you even approach a large corporation? I approached a company with an advertising strategy and they didn’t even give me the time of day. I think it’s a great concept, especially since their current marketing is a bit dull. Should I contact them again with the concepts that I want to sell them?

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      @Chris, I say go for it! It couldn’t hurt to try!

      Or you could always pitch your idea to their competitor…



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