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13 min read

20 free proposal templates to ace your pitch

By Allisa Boulette · January 4, 2024
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In my vast experience of convincing people to do things they're initially sure they don't want to do, I've picked up a trick or two—namely, that no matter how exceptional and transformative your product may be, if your proposal doesn't articulate its value, you might as well fold it into a paper airplane and throw it out a window.

Impactful proposals require structure, which is where a proposal template comes in. It's the strategic framework that turns your pitch into the corporate equivalent of standing outside someone's house with a boombox over your head—except instead of blasting Peter Gabriel, you're serenading prospects with solutions to their pain points.

Here, in a burst of generosity characteristic of neither me nor most of the business industry, I'll share 20 free proposal templates and show you how to use them to showcase your unique offerings.

Table of contents:

  • What is a proposal?

  • How to choose the right proposal template for your needs

  • Free business proposal templates for any industry

  • Tips for optimizing a proposal template for your business

  • Proposal template next steps

What is a proposal?

A proposal is a persuasive document used to convince someone to buy into your project, idea, or business opportunity. It outlines what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, when you plan to do it, and how much it will cost.

A proposal is the first—and sometimes only—shot to make an impression. It's your opportunity to prove that you understand a potential client's underlying needs and showcase why you're the best choice for the job. A well-crafted proposal can mean the difference between popping Champagne and crying into your takeout.

There are two types of business proposals:

  1. Solicited proposals are submitted in response to a formal client request for proposal (or RFP) and have specific requirements issued by the client.

  2. Unsolicited proposals, sometimes called proactive proposals, are offered to a prospect independent of a request, usually following discussions about their business needs.

Proposals come in all shapes and sizes, from a quick email pitch to a 100-page grant proposal with a budget the size of a small country's GDP. The key is choosing the right level of detail for your audience and objectives. 

If responding to an RFP from a big company, you should roll out the red carpet with videos, case studies, client testimonials—the works. For a small business owner you've been nurturing for months, a short but compelling proposal focused on key benefits and next steps is likely all you'll need.

At the end of the day, a solid proposal should convince your reader that you understand their problems and have the solutions to fix them.

How to choose the right proposal template for your needs

Choosing the right proposal template for your business needs is a strategic decision. 

Different objectives call for a different approach and, thus, a different template. The one you choose should align with your needs and requirements to fit your project like a glove (or at least like a comfortably loose mitten). 

Follow these steps to get started:

  • Ask yourself, "What is the core purpose of this proposal?" (Not in the existential sense—that's a spiral no one needs.) For example, a project proposal template should facilitate a clear outline of objectives, deliverables, and timelines, while a business proposal template might focus more on market analysis and competitive edge.

  • Next, consider who's sitting across the table from you. A contract proposal for legal professionals will differ vastly from a storyboard proposal aimed at creatives. The template should speak their language and cater to their expectations. 

  • Lastly, consider your desired outcome or what you're after. Are you looking to win a contract, forge a partnership, or charm the coins out of investors' pockets? Your template should have all the necessary details to prompt a reaction more positive than the one I get when I say I'm a writer at a family gathering.

Free business proposal templates for any industry

Crafting polished proposals is key to winning new clients and growing your business. But who has the time to start from scratch every time? These business proposal example templates have got you covered. Clients and customers will be so impressed with your beautifully crafted proposal that they won't even realize how little effort it actually took.

Project proposal template

Orange and white project proposal template that outlines the details of a specific project, including an executive summary, objectives, scope, timeline, and costs, submitted for approval or funding

A project proposal outlines the details of a specific project, including an executive summary, objectives, scope, timeline, and costs, submitted for approval or funding. It's essentially a wishlist of how you plan to spend someone else's money.

Best used for: Securing funding or approval for a project

Who should use it: Project managers, business owners, entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations

Download project proposal template

Business proposal template

Orange and white business proposal template including an executive summary, objective and proposed solution

A business proposal is a comprehensive offer from a business to a prospective client detailing how the business can meet the client's needs and the benefits of choosing its services or products.

Best used for: Securing funding from investors, attracting new clients, or partnering with other businesses

Who should use it: Business owners, entrepreneurs, sales professionals

Download business proposal template

Job proposal template

Orange and white job proposal template including an executive summary, understanding your needs and proposed services

A job proposal helps freelancers pitch their services effectively to potential clients. It emphasizes understanding client needs and providing a breakdown of project costs, which improves pitch quality and increases the chances of securing valuable client partnerships.

Best used for: Securing freelance work

Who should use it: Freelancers of all types, including writers, designers, developers, and more

Download job proposal template

Proposal letter template

Orange and white proposal letter template including an overview of the benefits and value proposition

A proposal letter is written to offer a solution or service to a potential client, providing an overview of the benefits and value proposition.

Best used for: Concisely presenting a proposal to a potential client or partner

Who should use it: Business owners, sales professionals, freelancers

Download proposal letter template

Contract proposal template

White and orange contract proposal template including a section for the introduction, scope of work and schedule

A contract proposal is a formal offer detailing the terms and conditions under which a party will perform services or deliver goods to another party. It's the prenup of the business world.

Note: always run such contracts by your legal team to ensure they align with your interests and comply with relevant laws.

Best used for: Securing a contract with a client or partner

Who should use it: Business owners, sales professionals, lawyers

Download contract proposal template

Event proposal template

White and orange event proposal template including sections for an event concept, program outline and logistics

An event proposal is a detailed plan submitted to stakeholders outlining the concept, logistics, budget, and expected outcomes of a proposed event. It's the party planner's battle strategy, where success is measured not in conquests but in compliments and clinking glasses.

Best used for: Securing funding or approval for an event

Who should use it: Event planners, non-profit organizations, businesses

Download event proposal template

Content marketing proposal template

White and orange content marketing proposal template including a section for the executive summary, business objectives and content marketing tactics

A content marketing proposal is a strategic plan presented to a client outlining how content marketing can be used to meet their business objectives, including tactics, content types, and measurement methods.

Best used for: Securing a content marketing contract with a client

Who should use it: Content marketers, freelancers, agencies

Download content marketing proposal template

Proposal planning template

White and orange proposal planning template including a section for the project overview, approach, resources required and more

A proposal plan is a structured document that outlines the approach, resources, and timeline for accomplishing a specific goal or project. It's essentially admitting you need a plan to make your plan. It's plans all the way down.

Best used for: Ensuring that a proposal is well organized, persuasive, and complete

Who should use it: Anyone who writes proposals, including business owners, sales professionals, freelancers, and non-profit organizations

Download proposal planning template

Research proposal template

White and orange research proposal template including a section for the executive summary, project overview, background and methodology

A research proposal is a systematic plan proposing a research project, typically including the research objectives, methodology, timeline, and estimated budget—the "hold my beer" for academics.

Best used for: Securing funding or approval for a research project

Who should use it: Researchers, academics, students

Download research proposal template

Budget proposal template

White and orange budget proposal template including a section for the introduction and projected income

A budget proposal is a financial plan that estimates the income and expenditures for a specific project or department over a set period—a bean counter's dream.

Best used for: Securing funding or approval for a budget

Who should use it: Project managers, event planners, business owners

Download budget proposal template

SEO proposal template

White and orange contract proposal template including a section for the executive summary, current SEO status, and SEO objectives

An SEO proposal outlines a strategy for improving a client's search engine rankings, including tactics, tools, and expected outcomes. It basically says, "Follow me, and I'll show you how to be more sought-after than a parking spot at Trader Joe's on a Saturday."

Best used for: Securing an SEO contract with a client

Who should use it: SEO professionals, freelancers, agencies

Download SEO proposal template

Web design proposal template

White and orange web design proposal template including a section for the executive summary and current SEO status

A web design proposal outlines the scope, design, functionality, and cost of a website developed for a client. It essentially helps navigate the journey from "Hey, I need a website" to "Wow, this is exactly what I envisioned!"

Best used for: Securing a web design contract with a client

Who should use it: Web designers, freelancers, agencies

Download web design proposal template

Sponsorship proposal template

White and orange sponsorship proposal template including a section for the introduction, sponsorship opportunity and sponsorship benefits

A sponsorship proposal seeks financial or in-kind support from a sponsor, detailing the benefits the sponsor will receive in return. It's like asking someone to pay for your party and, in return, they get their name on all the balloons. It's a win-win, especially if you like balloons.

Best used for: Securing sponsorships for an event or initiative

Who should use it: Event planners, business owners, and non-profits

Download sponsorship proposal template

Social media marketing proposal template

White and orange social media proposal template including a section for social media objectives and recommended platforms

A social media marketing proposal is a plan suggesting strategies for a client's social media presence, including goals, platforms, content, and metrics for success. It's a pitch to make a brand as clickable as a "Which potato are you?" quiz.

Best used for: Securing a social media marketing contract with a client

Who should use it: Social media marketers, freelancers, agencies