Importance of an architectural proposal
A proposal is an extremely important document that affects your earnings in many ways.
In the short term perspective, an architectural proposal determines if the client will award the project to you. In the long term – a great proposal is your gateway to referrals, new markets, and portfolio growth.
The proposal you send needs to be able to showcase your competence and establish you as an expert in the clients’ eyes, at the same time reassuring them that working with you will solve their problems.
When do you send a proposal
Letter of proposal
A letter of proposal is a more relaxed document that you’re sending the client after a meeting. Most of the time the client has already decided to work with you, and the letter of proposal only needs to contain your plans for the project.
Letters of proposal are usually sent when there is no competition or bidding.
Mention all the parties, the project scope and location, the approximate scope of services you’re going to perform, and the suggested compensation structure. You will further specify all areas of project work with the following documents. In PlanMan you’ll be able to store and manage all the documents conveniently on the cloud.
RFP – Request for proposal
This is a more formal and more competitive document. Each request for proposal contains specific client requirements and involves competition between bidding architects or architectural firms.
The proposal tips following below mostly deal with the competitive RFP proposals.
Parts of architectural proposals
The structure of an architectural proposal is not set in stone, however, there are certain best practices that you need to follow in order to streamline your client communication and maximize your chances of winning the bid.
First and foremost, make sure you reply to the actual Request For Proposal, if you got one. The RFP needs to set the tone for your proposal, since you are competing for the project. Address the RFP specifically and respond to all the requirements it has.
Cover Letter/Executive Summary
This is the part where you explain what you’re up to in your proposal. All the details of your plan and answers to the “what I am about to do” questions go here. Make sure you tie your plans and their descriptions to the clients’ needs expressed in the RFP.
In this part of the proposal you are describing the scope of the project – name all the challenges and problems and explain how you will approach them. Project understanding is where you showcase your competence as an architect and establish yourself as an authority.
Great if you have experience with a very similar project. If you don’t, you can list fragments of experiences with other projects that are relevant. If you have no experience at all – this part can be skipped, but your Cover Letter needs to explain why.
Letter of interest / Architect’s Qualification Statements / Team resumes
This is the opportunity to sell yourself or your team to the client.
Architectural agencies are attaching resumes of the specific people that will work on the project.
If you’re a standalone architect you can insert your resume – unless you’ve already sent it to the client previously.
Make sure to focus this part on your advantages that will solve the client’s problems, not just things you are proud of on your own.
This section explains how you will do your work and why you chose that way of doing it. The technical proposal needs to be rather detailed.
Management plan deals with the management process, points of contact, responsibilities, and possible dependencies.
Obviously, this deals with how much your services are going to cost. We’ve put together detailed posts on architectural fees and setting up your hourly rates – check them out to navigate pricing and billing better.
How to write an architectural proposal
When you are writing your proposal, make sure to always keep your clients and their needs in mind. Address all the challenges and pain points they’ve mentioned in the RFP.
As you are writing, remember to repeat your main selling points over and over again.
Reiterate throughout the text that what you are planning to do will solve the client’s problems. Sell the benefits of working with you to them.
Do not make the proposal about you or your merits only. Even the Relevant Experience section needs to focus on how you solved problems of your past clients. Remember, this document is not about you, it’s about how the client’s needs will be met.
How to style and design a proposal
Proposal design is definitely an important part of the overall impression. However, do not overthink it. Make sure you put the most effort into what is in the proposal, rather than how it looks.
At the same time, most people are visual, and the same is true for your clients. Your proposal design should highlight important information and not distract the readers with unnecessary graphics or design elements.
Make sure that your proposal is easy to read and looks good on paper. No matter what digital tools you are using to build your proposal, print it out and send it to the client to increase your chances.
Keep one thing in mind as a guideline – you never know where your proposal will end up, so make sure it looks good and leaves a great, professional impression of you.
How much time to invest in a proposal
The initial meeting with the client will give you an idea of your chances of winning the bid. If the chances are high then you need to spend a decent amount of time on the proposal – after all that time is not wasted and you will use your research in further work.
Always estimate what your chances of winning the project are. If the chances are objectively low – you might as well want to skip investing time into the proposal completely.
Architectural proposal templates
There are decent proposal templates online, some of them will work for you, some will not. What you need to keep in mind – the proposal needs to be readable and showcase client’s benefits.
Take a look at some of the proposal templates online:
Most of the proposal-related skills come with experience. Once you figure out your workflow with your architectural project management software, you will be able to automatically generate parts of proposals.