Writing an RFP (Request for Proposal)


A while back, a potential client provided me with some general details of the writing work he wanted me to do for his company. Then he asked me to send him a proposal.

Proposal?! I panicked as I tried to confirm with him what he meant by that since I had never done one before, at least not as a freelancer.

I must've not really wanted to pursue this opportunity since I didn't bother to do research or follow up with the company after submitting a contract instead of a proposal. A little time passed, I came across an article on writing RFPs (Request for Proposal). Ding! The light bulb went on. This guy verbally gave me his RFP and wanted a written response.

When a company needs a project to be completed by a contractor or outside source, they write a RFP. This is a formal document describing the project, how the contract companies should respond, how the proposals will be reviewed, and contact information. Often, the company documents the submission guidelines to make it easier for them to compare responses. There are no specific standards or guidelines for creating the RFP, but government agencies usually strict standards they follow when conducting the proposal process.

Outside companies read the RFP and write a proposal (a bid) explaining how they can best provide and meet those needs. When writing the proposal, the company should closely follow the guidelines established in the RFP to avoid being removed from consideration for the potential project.

A typical proposal contains:

  • Executive summary - summary of the entire proposal
  • Statement of need - why project is necessary
  • Project description - How project will be implemented and evaluated
  • Organization information
  • Project schedule
  • Budget
  • Conclusion

My situation was an informal version of all this. The client gave me a high level overview of what I might do for him. If I knew then what I know now, I would've written up a description of the client's needs and how I would complete the work in meeting those needs.

Small businesses would likely do a proposal in between the one I got and the complex government required ones. Most small businesses will be prompted to write a proposal when approaching a client. The client may ask you to submit a proposal outlining what you can do for them. In this case, write a proposal including the elements of a typical proposal and keep it short and to the point especially if the client is not a large company.

There are examples of RFPs and responses peppered throughout the Web, but which one you can learn from depends on the type of work involved. A proposal can be two pages or as big as a book. Rely on your favorite search engine and do the research to create an unbeatable proposal.

Meryl K. Evans, Content Maven, is Editor-in-Chief of eNewsletter Journal and The Remediator Security Digest. She's a slave to a MarketingProfs weekly column and a Web design reference guide at InformIT. She is the author of the popular e-report, How to Start a Business Blog and Build Traffic. Visit her site at http://www.meryl.net/blog/ for free newsletters, articles, and tips.

In The News:

How to haggle  EurekAlert
Pelosi's hostage negotiation  Daily Journal Online
Negotiate a Better Deal  Kiplinger's Personal Finance
9 Tactics for Better Remote Negotiations  Harvard Business Review
The Art of Negotiation  Harvard Business Review
How to negotiate smartly  Deccan Herald

Barter: Its Not Just for Doctors Anymore

Time was, in the country, the local "doc" was as... Read More

Negotiating Technology Contracts

Have you ever tried to negotiate a deal for software,... Read More

Resolve Conflict In 6 Easy Steps - The BEDROL Method

The principles of Negotiation can work for you in any... Read More

Negotiation: A Compromising Position

Negotiating is a hot topic these days for a good... Read More

While Youre Waiting

Not long ago, I made a partnership pitch, on behalf... Read More

Avoiding and Accomodating in Negotiation

The avoiding approach to negotiating is characterized by losing, leaving,... Read More

Just Ask!

Ask and you shall receive & knock and it shall... Read More

Four Ways To Work Out Business Disputes

Business owners have four options to resolve disputes with partners,... Read More

Negotiate to Your Advantage

The hardest and most important part of any negotiation is... Read More

Do You Want a Paycheck or a Passion? 10 Qualities Managers are Looking for in Hiring You

Based upon my research of over 300 managers in the... Read More

Negotiating: Forcing vs Compromising

Forcing is a hard-nosed approach that makes heavy demands from... Read More

Win-Win Power Negotiating

Let's talk about win-win negotiating. Instead of trying to dominate... Read More

How to Change Somebody?s Mind

Believe me, it's not easy! And sometimes, it doesn't work... Read More

Embarrassed To Discuss Your Prices? Seven Common Reasons We Cant Talk About Them

Last week, a wonderfully-skilled electrician installed a new light fixture... Read More

Communicating Across Time Horizons

There was a time in my life when I sold... Read More

Lets Make a Deal

Smart buyers will always ask for a better price. Unfortunately,... Read More

Neogtiation: How to be Right Without Making Other People Wrong

What exactly are we trying to accomplish by proving to... Read More

Barter and Its Benefits

What is Barter? Barter involves 2 parties. Each party wants... Read More

Cross Cultural Negotiations

Cross cultural negotiation is one of many specialized areas within... Read More

30 Tips for Keeping Meeting Expenses to a Minimum

Money makes the world go 'round. And when it comes... Read More

Where to FIND the BEST Employees --

Obviously, you might logically say, "that is good!" You would... Read More

Dont Be Afraid Of Silence

In any conversation with two or more people, there is... Read More

The Art of Negotiation in 535 words

I want to get better at negotiation, but where to... Read More

Negotiate Your Way to a Better Salary

1. Be persuasive: It's hard to force your boss to... Read More

Secrets of the Trade Revealed: Bartering for Business

In its simplest form, bartering involves an equal trade. One... Read More