A freelance proposal writer works with clients directly instead of working full-time for a company. Besides creating business and grant proposals, freelance work entails finding clients, promoting yourself, and maintaining a steady client base.
Similar to freelance technical writing, there’s a rise in the popularity of freelance proposal writers. It’s simpler for companies to hire a freelancer, it’s cheaper, and usually, they get the same results.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to start as a freelance grant writer. There are a lot of proposal writers with extensive experience, so you need to be at the top of your game. Furthermore, as a freelancer, you manage your finances which is a day job on its own.
Fortunately, it’s not impossible, and it can be rewarding to be your own boss. The article explains what proposal writing is and how to start as a freelancer.
What is Freelance Proposal Writing?
It might come as a surprise that most people don’t switch to freelancing because of money. Research shows that only about 7% do it for financial reasons and 40% for personal growth.
Freelancing has several advantages and disadvantages. Some of the benefits are:
- Flexibility – As a freelancer, you create your schedule and decide if you want to work remotely or from a freelance hub.
- Autonomy – You hand-pick what projects to work on.
- Diversity – Work on different and diverse projects.
Naturally, freelancing has some disadvantages as well:
- Self-discipline – You need to create a strong work ethic to avoid “I’ll do it later” traps that come with autonomy.
- No benefits – Freelancers don’t have paid leave, paternity/maternity leave, paid holidays.
- No training – Most companies will help you learn your craft. As a freelancer, you’re on your own.
Being a freelance proposal writer isn’t for everybody, but if the pros outshine the cons, it’s a worthwhile experience.
To help you become a freelance proposal writer, check out our proposal writing certification course.
What is Proposal Writing?
A proposal writer creates proposals such as business or grant proposals for clients. Clients require proposals to meet grant criteria and get the government contract or convince customers or their clients to do business with them.
As such, there isn’t a lot of room for creative writing. Instead, proposal writers walk the thin line between the template and innovative writing. If you stray too much from the beaten path or create general proposals that don’t address the client’s needs, your proposals will fail.
An experienced proposal writer knows that you need to do more research than actual writing to hit that sweet spot. Every proposal has its template. For example, every grant proposal needs a cover letter, executive summary, organization background, problem description, goals/objectives, budget, etc.
But how to execute each section is the tricky part. Especially if you’re first-time writing for an organization that you know nothing about. On top of that, as a freelance proposal writer, you need to dig for the details on your own. Just because a company hires you doesn’t mean they will spill the beans from the get-go. It’s not that they want to, but because they don’t know what information you need.
So besides having the capabilities to write a top proposal, you also need excellent communication skills that will help you get the ingredients you need. Generally speaking, here are the top three skills you need as a freelance proposal writer.
- Research skills – Without research, you can’t make the proposal document stick out. A writer usually does extensive research on their client and the business that the client is addressing.
- Communication skills – When someone hires a freelance writer, they expect a professional. The same goes for writing proposals. You need to proactively engage with the client to get the information you need.
- Writing Skills – The most obvious one. Without the proper proposal writing knowledge, you’re shooting dart blindfolded. You might hit the target, but it’s more likely that you’ll miss.
Now that you know what it takes, here are some tips to help you kickstart yourself as a freelance writer.
Tips for Freelance Proposal Writers
Launching a freelance proposal writing career is like creating a gigantic snowball. You start small, and you start slow. But the more work you put in it, the bigger the ball gets and the easier it is to roll down the hill.
But to get to that point, it takes time, usually years. Ensuring that you respond to the latest job alert even when you don’t feel like it, reconnecting with past projects, and finding a larger project that will bring in more money are all part of the process.
Here are some tips to get the possible edge over other proposal writers.
Create a Portfolio
Having at least one project to showcase your skills and services can be a dealbreaker—furthermore, the more different projects you have, the better. For example, if, besides grant writing, you also have business proposal writing experience, you’re more likely to land a job. Additionally, don’t hesitate to include other experience as a writer or an editor. A business article, case study, or white paper, doesn’t matter. Even the slightest aspect can help you get the next big job.
But, while it’s great to have a rich portfolio, what if you lack experience? If you’re stuck in a catch-22 scenario, there are things you can do. One way is to take online courses on grant writing or general proposal writing. Besides building expertise, you also get a certificate as proof of your knowledge. Plus, online courses are an enjoyable process and cost less than a traditional college.
Speaking of experience, you probably don’t want to be all over the place as a proposal writer, at least in the beginning.
Pick a Niche
As a freelance proposal writer, you have the freedom to create your path. Whether it’s business proposals, grant writing, or a general lead writer who does a bit of everything, you decide.
But when you’re just starting, juggling too many writing balls at once is overwhelming. Not only will you struggle with finishing the job on time, but the quality will also suffer. Instead, focus on one thing and pick that one thing based on your interests and experience.
Don’t go for either grant writing or government proposals just because someone told you it pays better. No matter the niche, you’ll earn solid money as a proposal writer. Pick the one that you feel most confident about. Although a better salary is a strong motivator, the incentive turns cold with time, leaving pure frustration.
Picking a niche will not only make your job easier but also enjoyable.
For a proposal writer, the first draft is rarely the final draft. This is especially true for government proposals and grant writing. Even writers who are subject matter experts know that rewriting and being an editor comes with the job.
That means that you need to avoid falling victim to the “it’s probably good” monster. If you have any writing experience, you know that feeling. The feeling where you create a draft and you’re not sure if it’s exactly what the client needs, but it might be. So you swing for the fences.
But the proposal writing process isn’t as forgiving as general writing. For example, the average success rate is 30% to 40% for new grants even for excellent grant proposals. So you can imagine what happens if you provide an average or subpar grant proposal.
To avoid such traps in your proposal writing, use templates, doublecheck, crosscheck, and most importantly, communicate. Remember, proposal writing is more about communication and research than it is about writing.
Next, let’s demystify the common confusion about proposal writing and technical writing. What’s the difference, and can you do both?
Difference Between Proposal & Technical Writing
Proposal writing and technical writing are similar in the sense that the writer needs a similar mindset. Both require a specific writing skill set that focuses on informing rather than marketing and selling.
The difference is that technical writing only needs to inform, while proposal writing needs to inform and convince the target audience to take immediate action.
Technical writing combines informative writing and technical knowledge to create informative documents for either end-users or coworkers. If a team management software company launches the latest update, they need a technical writer that will explain how to use the newest update for its users. Often the benefits aren’t as obvious, and users can be reluctant to change, so the writer needs to explain the usability in the quickest and most straightforward fashion.
A proposal writer rarely has an individual user as the target audience. Usually, it’s a non-profit organization or a private sector business looking for a funding source. Furthermore, proposal writing doesn’t necessarily have a clear starting target. You need to locate the target (client’s strong and weak points) before you start writing.
While you can be both a technical and proposal writer, it’s better to pick one of the two if you’re only starting.
Business and grant proposals are never easy, but it is quite a lucrative business with the right mindset and skills. Furthermore, if you harness your freelancing skills, it can be quite liberating as well.
Being a freelance proposal writer isn’t for everybody. Besides writing, you need to discuss the project, research grants, and other businesses, sign written contracts, and take complete responsibility if the proposed copy fails.
To get the necessary confidence when the latest job alert rings, you need to prepare. But with the latest mindset, freelancing becomes a way of life instead of a mere nine-to-five job.
Here you can find the most frequently asked questions that proposal writers ask about proposal writing.
How to become a proposal writer?
You can become a proposal writer by joining a company or starting your own writing business as a freelancer. While the first way is arguably more accessible, both require some starting knowledge. A great way to start is to take online courses with genuine proposal writing sites. Not only do you get the understanding, but you also get certification that will help you land your first gig or job.
What does a proposal writer do?
Proposal writers commonly write two types of proposals. First are business proposals for companies looking to reach out to clients for a business deal. The second are grant proposals that an organization will write to a government agency to get the required grants.
What makes a good proposal writer?
A good proposal writer is a writer who, besides excellent writing, also has fantastic research and communication capabilities. Since it’s impossible to write a proposal without proper research, great proposal writers know that investing time in research saves writing time rather than taking it away.
If you are new to proposal writing and are looking to break-in, we recommend taking our Proposal Writing Certification Course, where you will learn the fundamentals of being a proposal writer and how to write winning proposals.