Take These Five Steps Today to Make Writing Proposals Easier Tomorrow

By Global Services on Friday November 16, 2018 

Writing proposals is a time intensive process that must be done correctly. Even before you break down a request for proposal, there are some easy ways to get setup for success. We’ve outlined five simple tips to create thorough and complete proposals.

1. Take stock of your completed proposals.

After the end-of-year flurry of writing proposals and proposal deadlines has passed, you’ll find yourself with a number of newly completed proposals on hand. While much of the material will be very specific to each proposal, there are certain items you’ll find yourself writing again and again, such as descriptions of your company; your basic organizational structure; your general project management and Quality Assurance (QA) processes; past performance narratives for your most important contracts; key customer accolades; and so on. Take the time to identify these portions of your proposals – they can be converted to useful, reusable “boilerplate” language for use in future proposals.

2. Create boilerplate.

Once you’ve identified the reusable portions of your proposals, you can strip out the specifics (e.g., discussion of a particular customer or niche process) and store it in a library of premade boilerplate content, from which you can draw upon for later proposals. It’s important to remember that boilerplate is NOT a substitute for writing carefully tailored proposal content. However, it IS a useful starting point from which to write, and it can speed up your proposal process significantly. You’ll spend less time rewriting the same basics, and therefore, have more time to spend carefully honing your message for a particular customer.

3. Create a baseline style sheet.

Think of this as page-layout-boilerplate. While each proposal will have different requirements for fonts, font sizes, margin widths and content, etc., you can save a great deal of time by setting up a basic style sheet, which you can easily modify as needed later.

  • Insert a high-resolution version of your company logo in the page header, since it will appear on nearly all proposals.
  • Set up Styles for your document. Make sure you have Styles established for all the document elements you’re likely to use, such as section headers, table text, callout box text, captions, body text, bullet points, and so on. Later on, you can quickly edit the Styles to meet specific RFP requirements. Editing a Style will globally update all text of that Style throughout the document, eliminating the need to manually restyle each individual piece.
  • Set up your preferred table layout, using Table Styles. This will enable one-click formatting of tables in your future proposals.
  • Insert the basic elements that are common to nearly all proposals, such as an editable cover page, a table of contents, a glossary, and a cross reference matrix.

4. Create a library of EDITABLE graphics.

It’s nearly always quicker and easier to modify existing graphics than to create new ones. You can save yourself time in the future by setting up a library of previous graphics, organized by subject matter (e.g., “PMBOK Processes,” “Organizational Charts,” “Staffing Approaches,” and so on).

  • It’s essential that you save the source file from the program in which the graphic was created, NOT the image that you inserted into the proposal document. When you create a graphic in PowerPoint, Illustrator, or another graphic design program, you’re working with an editable vector graphic. Once you export it to an image file (such as JPEG or PNG) and insert it into your proposal, you’ve created a non-editable raster image.
  • While it is possible to make certain small alterations to raster images, any significant editing requires the original vector graphic source file. In addition, raster images cannot be re-sized without loss of quality; vector graphics can be scaled up or down to any size and will not degrade. In other words, make sure you save your vector graphic source files.

5. Organize your library in a logical way.

Boilerplate and editable graphics are of no use if you can’t find them when you need them. You can organize your proposal artifact library in any way that makes sense to you—just make sure that everyone who will be using the library is using the same organizational system. Potential organizational tools include creating folders for specific types of graphic; attaching searchable tags to each file by content area; using uniform and descriptive file names to indicate the type of graphic; keeping a master spreadsheet of boilerplate and graphics; and so on.

Want more tips on writing proposals? Have questions about how you can further streamline your proposal process? Contact Global Services today!