How to Write a Project Proposal

A project proposal is a document created by a contractor or organization in response to another organization’s Request for Proposal (RFP) to complete work on a specific project. A project proposal is a bid to win the RFP, and perform the work detailed in the RFP. The primary ingredient for a well-written project proposal is keen attention to detail. Knowing the project scope, defining when the project is completed, and thorough resource planning are all critical ingredients of an effective proposal.

If any one of these critical areas are ill-defined, it can mean not getting the project. This article will show you how to write a project proposal successfully.

Critical Components of a Project Proposal

The project proposal should not contain any extraneous sentences; every paragraph must be tied to an objective, goal, or requirement listed in the RFP.

Two components that must be especially accurate are the executive summary and the scope of the project. If these two components are misstated in any way, the proposal will most likely be set to the side and not considered.

Another project-specific component: the proposal must clearly state is what constitutes the project being completed. Can the requirements and objectives be met to complete the project?

For example, if the RFP states a server needs to operate at the high availability (HA) level, the proposal writer will need to clearly understand what HA means, and what type of server meets this standard. A conventional server‘s online availability is totally different from a continuous availability server — therefore a valid question to send back to the RFP organization is how many minutes or hours can the server be down for a year. As you can see, understanding technical terms and requirements is a must to develop a competitive project proposal.

Read more: Agile Project Management Methodology & Principles

Project Proposal Format

Details are paramount when developing a project proposal. Answered questions are required to capture and understand the full requirements, objectives, and goals to derive a project completion point. Once determined, these objectives, goals, and requirements are bulleted in easy-to-digest phrases or sentences. From there, a succinct executive summary paragraph can be created that captures the intent of the project proposal.

To assist an organization in consistently drafting quality project proposal documents, project management software platforms often offer project proposal templates — such as this one from monday.com. These software applications offer project dashboards, collaboration tools, project scope modules, and resource allocation features, all of which help an organization draft quality proposals. Each project proposal tool offers different features, so each organization needs to find the best package to meet its organizational needs.

In general, you can follow these steps for a consistent project proposal development process:

  1. Identify the purpose of the project and what conditions determine project completion.
  2. Identify the goals, objectives, and scope of the project.
  3. Use words from the objective and goals statement to develop an executive summary.
  4. Develop the project timeline, required resources, resource schedule, and a budget.
  5. Explain the processes and procedures utilized to complete the project.
  6. Draft the project proposal with subject matter expert (SME) input.
  7. Continuously communicate with the client organization and report progress to stakeholders throughout this process.

Creating an Executive Summary

Using words that define the goals, objectives, and requirements from the RFP, create a salient, succinct (55 words or less) executive statement. From this point, the rest of the written project proposal needs to tie back to accomplishing some aspect of the executive summary.

As the necessary resources are identified, build the resource schedule with start and end dates. Note that the resource quantities and timeline should be associated back to an actionable item in the executive summary. Include in your schedule enough time for the customer to perform an operational check on the completed project.

Drafting the Perfect Project Proposal

The research, answered questions, executive summary, and resource schedule are all critical ingredients needed to develop a competitive project proposal. Good project proposals need to stand out with concise and relevant information. Using project management software can show you how to write a project proposal with a repeatable methodology. This facilitates identifying sentences or paragraphs requiring rework and consensus among the stakeholders. Following a documented project proposal process ensures no step is skipped, earlier work is reviewed, and the proposal ultimately makes the best impression.

Read next: Types of Risk in Project Management

Trending Project Management Software

If you’re interested in learning more about top-rated project management software, project-management.com actively recommends the following:

1 monday.com

Visit website

monday.com Work OS is an award-winning no-code work management platform that helps teams manage projects and workflows more efficiently.

Used by 152,000+ customers worldwide, this fully customizable software lets you plan, manage, and track every project in one place. monday.com offers time-saving and easy-to-use features such as automations, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time collaboration. Multiple board views such as Gantt and Kanban help you structure and navigate tasks and projects the way you prefer, and dashboards give a high-level overview of your progress.

In addition, integrations with apps such as Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, and Excel, allow you to easily continue working with your favorite tools from within the platform. monday.com also offers dedicated solutions, such as monday dev and monday sales CRM, designed to answer the needs of specific industries.

Learn more about monday.com

2 Wrike

Visit website

Wrike is the most powerful work management platform on the market, enabling teams to plan projects and collaborate in real time. Our award-winning software is trusted by 20,000+ companies across the globe, including Sony, Estée Lauder, and Siemens.

Wrike’s customizable features include Gantt charts, request forms, dashboards, cross-tagging, time tracking, and proofing. Integrate with 400+ apps from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce. Automate repetitive tasks and achieve 50% faster planning. Work from anywhere with 100% access to your files via our mobile and desktop apps.

Whether you’re a small startup or an established brand, Wrike has the solution for you. Paid plans start at $9.80/user/month. Join our community of 2.3 million — start your free two-week trial today.

Learn more about Wrike

3 Smartsheet

Visit website

Smartsheet is a leading work execution platform that has real-time work management features, collaboration and automation tools. Users are presented with a familiar and easy-to-use spreadsheet-like interface. However, it has enterprise-grade capabilities that even Fortune 500 companies like Cisco, Bayer, HP, and PayPal are confident to adopt in their business. Strong project management features enable teams to utilize different views of real-time data, and switch easily from Gantt, card, grid and calendar views. Smartsheet has automatic update requests, and can be used for waterfall and agile projects, product launch, sprint planning, and more. The resource management feature provides users the visibility who is busy, and who is not, in real-time. They can also attach files, share sheets, get notified, view the activity log, export, email, and print.

Learn more about Smartsheet

Don Hall Avatar
Get the Free Newsletter!
Subscribe to Project Management Insider for best practices, reviews and resources.
This email address is invalid.
Get the Free Newsletter!
Subscribe to Project Management Insider for best practices, reviews and resources.
This email address is invalid.

Demos, trials & More information


Check out our library of 60+ pm books