a potential client approaches you to see if you can handle their projects,
how do you prove yourself without resorting to creative output? The
answer is to write an informative and insightful project proposal. Here's
how...By Nigel Gordijk
you begin working for a potential client you need to win their confidence
by proving you're capable of meeting their requirements. Sometimes this
is a formal process where the client has issued a Request For Proposal
(RFP), which means that you'll be competing against others to win the
project. Alternatively, a client may approach just one supplier to see
how they would handle the job.
I'll be discussing my method for handling the individual approach. As
I'm primarily a Web designer much of the advice has a slant towards
online projects, but hopefully most of it will prove helpful for any
This may sound obvious, but make sure that the cover clearly features
your organisation's name (and logo if it has one), the title of the
project and the date of the submission. You want your document to stand
out from the reams of paper on the client's desk.
When you hand over the result of your carefully considered hard work,
make the client aware that you don't want it to be shown to a third
party. They may well be a cheap bargain basement supplier who would
happily steal your ideas. If you don't win the project and a few months
later a near replica appears based on your ideas, this can be useful
for proving that you own the rights to them.
include the following statement on the first page of my proposals:
Nigel Gordijk owns the copyright for this document and all its contents.
This proposal should be considered private and confidential and may
not be shared with any third party without the prior written permission
of Nigel Gordijk.
if someone steals your work it could be near impossible to prove. But
at the very least this will show the client how much you value it.
Explain your understanding of the client, their business and the industry
they operate in. This will form the platform that is your starting point
for a project so you need to show the client that their objectives are
clear to you. The Executive Summary shouldn't be more than about three
or four paragraphs.
List the existing success and failures of any existing efforts the client
has in the area that you'll be working in. For example, if you're redesigning
their Web site then assess how easy the navigation is to use; what does
the design of the site say about the client; is it informative and up
to date; and so on.
Be diplomatic if you can't think of anything good to say. Bear in mind
that this earlier effort may have been commissioned by the person who
is reading your proposal - or worse, they may have done it themselves.
If the site's navigation isn't up to scratch, mention that it could
be improved by simplifying it to make it easier to use.
Who will be using the finished project? Give demographic details - age,
industry sector, etc - as well as details of what needs to be considered
with regards to these people. What type of language should you be using
to address them? Are they likely to be Web literate or complete beginners?
The client should hopefully be focused on what they want to achieve
and this is where you summarise their objectives. Is this an image exercise
or a communication one? Does the client company just want to look cool
or is it trying to tell its target audience about their products and
services? It's vital this is clearly defined, as different requirements
need different executions.
Remember - this is a project proposal, not a project brief. Its purpose
is to prove to the client that you can help them meet their objectives;
so don't be afraid to state what seems to you to be the obvious. If
you do, your proposal may be rejected because of what you omitted.
Given the understanding you've displayed in the Executive Summary, Current
Situation, Target Audience and Project Goals this is where you can get
a bit creative and show off.
Strategy is often described as "the way forward" - you're
starting from Point A and your aim is to take the client to Point B.
Explain what you think is the best route to get there. If you'll be
producing a Web site then list the sections with short descriptions.
How technical you are here depends on how much you think your client
will understand. Will the site's content be dynamic? If so, then describe
how you will achieve this. Will there be a members' forum? What technology
will you use? What type of server will the client need?
the Technical Strategy is governed by budget constraints so it's a good
idea to offer two or three options, each of which vary in price. The
client could launch with a basic HTML brochure site, and then develop
a more advanced (and more expensive) strategy further down the line.
To many clients the creative and technical process is an arcane art.
Now that they've made an initial contact with you they may have no idea
how you work and how they get to a completed project. List the various
steps and give a brief description.
Client consultation leading to the Project Brief
From an in-depth discussion with the client to determine its requirements
you will write the Project Brief that will include a site map, a description
of the content, final timelines and detailed cost breakdown.
Design direction and development
How many different styles of design will you be providing? How will
they be presented - in person, in print or online? Once a design has
been chosen, explain your acceptance process - signing off either by
email or in writing - and that this is the point where you start creating
all the other pages of the site.
the design direction and development is completed and signed off is
the point when the technical stuff happens in earnest - the HTML is
built and populated with content that has either been provided by the
client or generated by a third party.
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Nigel Gordijk is an accomplished graphic designer with over 13 years'
industry experience. His web site designs are noted for their ability
to engage users and their ease of use. He has designed sites for Honda,
Thomson Holidays, Learndirect Scotland and The Office of the e-Envoy.