A project proposal is used to get project sponsor approval and can make or break a project. To get the funding and support needed to move forward, a project proposal must provide a clear rationale for approval by showing how the project will resolve potential issues and take advantage of each opportunity.
The proposal outlines required resources and objectives, and details the project structure. A project proposal is not a complete project plan, since its goal is to initiate a new project. And it’s distinct from a business proposal, which is a sales proposal for products or services that includes terms and conditions, such as in response to a request for proposal (RFP). Project proposals can be used internally within an organization or externally between two parties, and can be solicited or unsolicited. The content and length of proposals vary widely depending on whether it is for a business, non-governmental organization, or another setting.
Below is a list of templates for project proposals ranging from software and consulting proposals to construction and engineering. Each of the proposals can be downloaded for free and customized to suit your specific project. You’ll find professionally designed templates for Microsoft Word and Excel, Google Docs, and PDF.
Project Proposal Tips
The first step for a project manager, or whoever is writing the project proposal, is to carry out detailed research, which may include analyzing previous projects and gathering information to support the project’s efficacy, objectives, and business value. It is important to involve stakeholders and decision makers early in the process to support buy in. Soliciting feedback in face-to-face meetings, and incorporating that feedback into the proposal, can help limit the changes needed and save time in the long run.
When it comes to actually writing the proposal, start by emphasizing the problem you’re addressing. The proposal needs to show measurable benefits such as deliverables for a company or organization to be persuasive. Overall, the proposal should support an organization’s vision and long-term objectives. Whether you’re writing a lengthy research proposal or submitting a one-page proposal template, use clear, concise language so that readers can easily identify the information they need.
What to Include in a Project Proposal
Project proposals vary depending on the type of project and organization, and whether the proposal is for internal or external use. However, there are some common details to include to justify the project and gain approval. Here are some typical sections in a project proposal and how to use them:
- Executive Summary: Briefly provide sponsors with an overview of the project. The aim is to offer a compelling pitch so that sponsors are already convinced the project is a good idea after reading the summary. The rest of the proposal offers greater detail about the key points in the executive summary.
- Background: Use background information to provide context, including company history, details about the problem or opportunity the project addresses, and the proposed solution.
- Objectives: Include measurable goals as well as a broader vision for supporting business objectives.
- Methodology: Describe the project approach and organization along with specific activities and deliverables that will move it toward its goal. This section may include a project schedule with a concrete timeline showing milestones and deadlines.
- Resources: Include any resources necessary to complete a project, such as human resources (including hiring new staff), tools and equipment, time allocated for computer use or other tasks, and the management structure.
- Budget: Show all project costs in the budget, listing each item separately in a table or spreadsheet along with its associated cost. You may also need to include information to justify budget costs or provide further explanation.
- Measurement and Reporting: How will you define and measure success? Explain how you’ll measure and report progress, including the frequency that sponsors will receive status reports.
- Risks: Note potential risks along with the probability of occurrence, potential impact, and plans for mitigating them if they do occur. You may include a detailed risk management plan along with a list of risks and methods for controlling them.
- Appendix: In the appendix, list any separate documents that are attached to support the proposal.
Additionally, you may define and assign key roles to specific people. A proposal will also typically have a section for authorization to document approval. Once the project is approved, you can create a project charter and comprehensive plan.
General Project Proposal Templates
Simple Project Proposal Template
This simple template breaks the proposal into clearly delineated sections, providing an organized layout that is easy-to-use and read. You can use this template for a wide range of proposal types, including school projects. Edit the template as needed to increase or reduce the number of sections. Since this is a Google Docs template, you can quickly download and print the document or share it with others via your Google Drive account.
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One-Page Project Proposal Template
With this template, you can limit your project proposal to a single page, focusing on key details such as objectives, measurements, timeline, and a budget overview. This template can help project managers compile and organize critical information into a concise document. A brief project proposal will make a strong impact and set the stage for in-depth planning.
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Generic Project Proposal Template - Word
Use this generic project proposal to create a customized template. Complete the basic outline with essential proposal elements, including the problem statement, goals, scope of the project, and itemized timeline and expenses. Once you have adjusted the proposal to meet your project needs and company standards, you can reuse the template for future projects, saving time, energy, and cost.
Business Project Proposal Template - Word
This business project proposal template includes fields at the top for entering project details; sections for listing objectives, justification for and impact of carrying out the project, and resources required; plus a schedule timeline. Create a comprehensive proposal that identifies stakeholders, addresses potential risks, and presents a compelling argument for project approval.
Freelance Job Proposal Template
Freelancers can use this template to pitch their services to prospective clients. Describe what problem you will solve, how you will meet the client’s needs, and why they should hire you. The template covers deliverables, quantifiable objectives, a timeline with deadlines, and breakdown of project costs. You can also include terms and conditions to turn the template into a job proposal contract.
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Project Proposals by Product or Service
IT Project Proposal Template
This IT project proposal provides room for listing important roles, such as project sponsor, owner, and manager, their general responsibilities, and the names of other stakeholders. It covers all of the typical elements for a project proposal, including space for technology requirements, security risks, hardware and software costs, and more.
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Software Project Proposal Template - Word
Craft a proposal for a software development project that includes an overview, key milestones, information on development and testing, and reporting methods. A table is provided for a thorough timeline of tasks to help accurately estimate project hours. If the proposal is for external use, you can include payment terms for prospective clients to review.
Mobile App Proposal Template
This template can serve as a professional pitch for mobile app design services. To stand out from the crowd and highlight relevant experience, attach examples of previous work to the proposal template. The information included in the proposal will depend on the specific project. Customize the template to address pertinent details - such as a timeline of design stages and itemized costs - while showcasing what you have to offer.
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Project Management Proposal Template - Excel
With this project management proposal template, you can describe the activities involved in different project phases, outline key deliverables, and list expectations. Adjust the proposal to suit the scale and type of project to be managed along with industry norms.
Engineering Project Proposal Template - Excel
An engineering project proposal should have relevant background information, including the scope of the project and specific engineering tasks to be executed. This Excel template includes automatic calculations for adding costs. Use the work schedule to show a timeline of project phases, from preliminary design through construction. If that work schedule doesn’t work for you, choose one of these free templates for Word and Excel.
Construction Proposal Template - Excel
This construction proposal template offers two sheets, one for providing contractor information, project scope, and agreement terms, and the other for listing the costs for labor and materials. The template calculates subtotals and total expenses, including tax, so that project costs are clear.
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Marketing Proposal Template
Marketing plans mix data with a strategy to reach effective outcomes. Use this template to describe the goals, challenges and projected results of a marketing project. Depending on the project, tasks may include activities related to branding, competitive analysis, content development, and new market development. In addition to a project overview, include a detailed schedule with specific dates for project stages and campaign milestones.
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Web Design Proposal Template
From initial research to ongoing hosting and maintenance, this template can help you create a thorough web design proposal. Write a proposal for a website upgrade or pitch design services to an internal or external client. Clearly state the goals of the web design project in the proposal, including alignment with the vision of the company or organization.
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Social Media Proposal Template
Social media campaigns are a valuable part of business marketing, and proposals need to show how projects will accomplish specific goals, whether it’s reaching a broader audience, creating a brand presence on social networks, or boosting sales. This template follows a traditional format, outlining an executive summary, problem statement, objectives, tactics, and scheduling. We’ve also incorporated a budget section for estimating project costs.
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Accounting Proposal Template - Excel
Use this template to pitch financial services such as accounting. This proposal could be for a specific project or ongoing services for a business or other organization. Include the terms of service, a breakdown of costs, important goals, and a compelling solution for the client’s financial needs.
Consulting Project Proposal Template - Word
Consultants can use this template to offer services for a specific project and make a strong case for getting hired. As with other project proposals, focus on how you will help a company resolve specific issues or seize opportunities. List the activities you will undertake, specific deliverables, and a timetable for project tasks. Contract terms can also be included to secure an agreement with clients.
Research Proposal Templates
Research Project Proposal Template - Word
Research proposals, whether for academic, scientific, or other purposes, are slightly different from the typical business project proposal. In addition to a project overview and background, the template also includes a literature review section to support the significance of a proposed project by identifying gaps in the available literature that the project would address. Additionally, the research design and method section enables you to outline exactly how the research project will be set up and how the results will be interpreted. A list of references may be included to show all sources cited in the proposal.
Take Your Project Proposal to the Next Level with Smartsheet for Project Management
Creating and gaining approval for a project proposal is just the first step in the successful launch of new products or services. Taking the project from proposal to completion requires a committed team, strong communication, and a highly flexible too. Smartsheet is a work management and automation platform that enables enterprises and teams to get from idea to impact - fast. Top project management leaders rely on Smartsheet to help align the right people, resources, and schedules to get work done.
Use Smartsheet to create consistent project elements, increase speed, and improve collaboration with scalable options that fit individual work preferences. Hold yourself and your team accountable, improve visibility into team priorities, and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.