If you work in graphic design, you know how hard it is to communicate the value of what you do. From tired jokes about overpriced squiggles, to your grandmother literally not knowing what you do for a living, this gets pretty old.
Often, it’s even tougher to communicate value in a graphic design proposal.
This is an uphill battle. Most of the time you’re trying to convince decision makers that they need design services. Once you’ve done that, you still need to convince them that you’re the best people for the job.
Today we’ll look at how to do exactly that. We’ll start with the basics of how to communicate value to potential clients, before taking you step-by-step through how to create a winning graphic design proposal.
Nailing your Value Proposition
Every business proposal has one goal. You need to convince the reader that your services are worth more to them than what you’re charging. Of course, this all comes down to money. This is called your value proposition.
For graphic design, this works in a number of ways.
For example, stronger visuals can be used to drive up traffic from your social media profiles. In turn, this leads to better revenue. Similarly, in B2B sales, good design projects professionalism, which increase clients’ ability to close sales.
Graphic design is also a massive part of branding. In fact, the average consumer forms their impression of a brand in the first 20th of a second. With the wrong design choices, businesses lose swathes of customers in that first instant.
Match your Objectives with their Goals
An extra challenge for writing a graphic design proposal, is that companies don’t always know they need your services. With something like legal services, a company might realise that they have a problem and go looking for a lawyer. It’s easy to spot the link between a business problem and that service.
To sell a design service, this link isn’t always as obvious.
The key to this is client research. Once you know the problems faced by your prospective clients, or the goals they’d like to achieve, you’re shooting fish in a barrel. So what kind of business problems can graphic design help with?
To name a few:
- Difficulty attracting new customers
- Struggling to retain customers
- Poor brand recognition/ no relationships with customers
- Failing to stand out among competitors
- Bad PR
Companies facing these kinds of problems generally only care about solving them. Whether this is achieved by graphic design or black magic is usually a secondary concern. The goal of your proposal is to convince them you can achieve this.
To do this, you need a plan.
In fact, you should think of your proposal as a business plan. This has two psychological benefits. First, it motivates you as the writer to put more effort into the proposal. Second, it gives the reader the impression that the project is already underway, reducing the leap needed for them to sign on the dotted line.
In sum, matching your objectives to the client’s goals is really a case of putting yourself in their shoes. This makes it far easier to convince them of your value proposition.
Next, let’s look at the nitty gritty of how you can put this into practice in your graphic design proposal.
How to Write a Graphic Design Proposal
In the rest of this article, we’ll look at a structure you can use to sell your graphic design services. We’ll also spend a little bit of time looking at what you should do after you’ve written your proposal. This will help to ensure success.
Use an Attention Grabbing Introduction
Your first challenge when writing a design project proposal is to get the reader’s attention. At one level, this is about getting them to continue reading. More than that though, it’s about getting them excited to read on.
So you need an intro that’s going to grab their attention.
The best way to do this is to be absolutely upfront, and set your goal from the outset. You can be really bold about this. For example, something like:
- Our goal is to improve customer acquisition by 10% in 6 months.
Would you ignore that?
Setting a goal early on allows you to spend the rest of your proposal on how you’ll achieve this. In other words, it allows you to do two things from the start:
- Define the business problem – ie poor customer acquisition,
- Outline why you’re the person to solve it.
On top of this, the introduction is a great chance to make an impression on your client. It pays to introduce yourself as well. Don’t be afraid to go as far as highlighting a few recent achievements at this point to signpost your credibility.
Explain your Strategy for Solving their Business Problems
The second section is the main body of your proposal. In other words, this is your chance to lay out exactly how you’re going to solve their business problems. For graphic design, its best to place activities into related groups, including:
- Technical implementation
This stage of the proposal is essentially about educating the reader. At the end of it, they should understand exactly how graphic design is related to their business goals. This is a good chance to include some statistics.
For example, you could explain that 94% of web users will leave a sales page with poor graphic design. You might even choose to show off some examples of bad design and how it’s impacting other businesses in concrete ways.
No matter what approach you take, the key is to communicate your value in terms the reader will understand. That means no industry jargon. Focus on the bottom line.
Explain the Project Timeline
Providing a detailed project timeline has all sorts of benefits. First of all, it’s a good chance to hammer home your value proposition, without feeling repetitive. This is even more effective if you present this in a logical and visually appealing format.
It’s good practice to outline your timeline in terms of deliverables.
That is, what the client can expect and when. For example:
- Week two – New logo mockups,
- Week three – Final vector files,
- Week four – Take delivery of new marketing materials
A long list of deliverables communicates two things. First, it gives the impression that a lot of value is on offer. Second, it projects a hard-working and diligent image to the client, which improves their trust in you.
Use Client Success Stories
This is your opportunity to communicate your value proposition. To do this, your graphic design proposals should feature case studies of other businesses which have faced similar problems, and how you’ve helped them.
The more similar to the prospective client these are, the better.
Ultimately, this is about adding extra proof of your value. This is also a great chance to include some testimonials from previous clients. These should use the exact same principles as before. That is, what you achieved should be tied to the business goals of the previous client.
After You’ve Written your Graphic Design Proposal
Once you’ve completed your proposal, and your whole team is happy with it, you should schedule a meeting with the client. They might not expect this, or prefer to go through the proposal on their own first.
However, it’s best if you present it to them directly.
This will give you an opportunity to address any concerns they may have, or any issues where you might have missed the mark. You can then make any necessary adjustments and get them to sign off.
How to Create a Winning Graphic Design Proposal
Like any project proposal, the difficulty with selling graphic design services is convincing the reader that it’s worth the money. There are two components to this. First, you need to convince them that good design is a priority.
Second, you need to convince them that they should hire you to do it.
This is all about having the right value proposition. In other words, communicating in clear terms how the benefits of your services will outweigh the costs.
The structure above does this in a repeatable way. First, it grabs the reader’s attention by setting a clear and quantifiable goal. Then it gradually educates them as to how this can be achieved, and how others have benefited from similar projects.