Proposals are one of the most ubiquitous element in academia, business or any other such pursuit.
A proposal is something which offers a proposed solution to a problem at hand.
Companies build proposals for their clients, researchers in academia write research grant proposals for funding, bloggers online submit their article proposals to publishers for consideration, freelancers create a proposal for their clients and so forth. Seeking out opportunities is important and writing effective proposals is more important, no matter how skilled a company, a researcher, or a blogger might be in what they do.
Anywhere there is a problem or issue, pitching to them with your offering and the proposed solution is how deals are sealed and meaningful relationships are built around them.
If you are a freelancer who is into writing or development work, a good proposal can do wonders for you. You not only end up getting paid higher than usual; you also safeguard your’s & client interest with the scope of the proposal. More on it later.
Being a blogger, pitching publications in your area of interest and expertise is something you must develop eventually to succeed at what you do.
There are four major types of proposals which we’ll be taking a look at in a few minutes, but we’ll focus the writing of effective proposals primarily for bloggers. There are thousands of bloggers on the web and a select few hundred blogs where everyone wants to get their name on.
The simple demand and quality of supply issue make it even challenging in the present times to get published at a decently popular publication. The first step to getting yourself published at reputable publications is to come up with a persuasive proposal offering your services.
6 Effective tips to write effective proposals
Good publishers receive an average of about thousands of pitches each day and this makes it even important to make your proposal strong to fight off the competition. Here are the 6 most effective tips I believe that will help you make your proposals compelling.
Researching your part
Before you begin pitching publishers and blogs randomly, begin with doing your part of the work first.
Understand the topic(s) you are considering to cover for the said publisher and if you have the needed domain expertise to write on that subject matter. Publishers often require that their contributors submit a collection of article ideas they wish to work on.
A glimpse at your previously published works will get you a clear idea whether or not you are positioned perfectly to offer your tips on the topic. Once you’ve come up with a few solid topic suggestions that you wish to pitch to the publisher, next will be to examine the publications better.
All blogs have different guidelines to get published at their publication and it is essential that you understand their required format of your proposal to be even considered. If you’re pitching to a major publication, it is essential to understand the APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual of Style better.
Purdue OWL is a great resource to help you understand these formats better and be prepared to pitch publications at the higher end of the spectrum! Pitching to blogs, although not requiring such stringent formatting rules, have their own set of requirements for proposals to be considered worth their time.
Get to know your Proposal better
Proposals are broadly categorized into two types – solicited and unsolicited.
Solicited proposals, in general, are when a company issues a statement about their problem and they seek out to potential businesses or suppliers who are willing to work with them. These are known as Request for proposal (RFP) and they are usually easy, to begin with.
Think of a solicited proposal like the one where a publication advertises that it is accepting short fiction from the audience and specifies the details in depth. The RFP usually tends to have a strict deadline, formatting guidelines, and the situation is better presented out for people to chime in with proposals.
Unsolicited proposals are where businesses or individuals directly pitch companies and publishers with their services or offers. Unsolicited proposals are usually hard as getting the people involved to even read your proposal is something challenging.
It is not to say that it is important to get a positive response to unsolicited proposals, it just needs some extra work on your end to have it noticed by the end receiver. The second step is having a better understanding of the situation at hand and what type of proposal needs to be done.
It is not usually a good idea to pitch 20 publishers with the same article idea/proposal at the same time. A proper timeline approach, where you set a deadline for yourself before you hear from the publisher is a great way to operate professionally in the publishing industry.
Ask better questions
Once you’ve identified the publishers you are about to pitch, it is a better idea to foolproof your article idea suggestions with this single check. Proposals are primarily are a way of offering solutions to the problem at hand.
The best method to check your proposal for its genuine and credibility is by asking better questions. Are you adding value to the reader’s time? If it has been covered someplace else, what is it that you are adding to the previously said and done a thing?
Think from the perspective of the busy publisher and check if your proposal would be even read from their viewpoint. You need to hit it right on point and for doing so, you need to ask yourselves better questions.
Before any proposal that I make, I make sure that my pitch passes adequately through this phase. Everyone’s time is valuable and you would not want to end up wasting yours and others time in the process. Chances are pretty high that if you skip this phase of submitting your proposal, it might not be even taken a look at, let alone getting a positive response.
Think from the viewpoint of the publisher and the end audience who’ll be reading your content. Knowing the audience better also pops up into the scene to account for before you pitch in your proposals.
Make it personal and concise
We’ve just mentioned earlier that knowing your audience is important for your proposals to get a positive response. Adapting your proposal to the likes of your potential audience is one key way to get an assertive response from the publisher.
Addressing the person you’re pitching to by their name instead of generalizations also prove that you’ve done your part and are disciplined in your work. Copy/cut proposals usually fail at this stage and give off a slack impression of yourselves to the publisher.
A professional and to the point subject line to accompany a perfectly tailored proposal is the way to go in order to get some eyeballs on your proposals.
While addressing the person adequately is important, it is just crucial enough to provide your own information in your proposals. When you’re pitching random people, it is important that you identify yourselves and let them get a clear picture of who you are.
Linking to your LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ or any other such platform is one way to let them know who’s talking to them. One way to make sure that you write proposals with a personal touch to them is to avoid readily available templates. While they are a good place to start from, using it every time you pitch is probably not that good of an idea.
Develop a functional proposal
You might’ve heard of a functional resume, now what is a functional proposal? It is quite similar in its approach to functional resume’s. “Show, don’t tell”, is one of the biggest metaphors used quite often in creative writing and is something that applies even to proposals. While letting the publisher know of your expertise in a particular niche is good, it gets even better if you prove your expertise in the niche with strong examples of previous work.
“A regular contributor at HuffPost, The New York Times and Forbes”, sounds pretty much that you have the needed expertise in your domain to write for their publication.
Even if you don’t have a very strong publishing history in your bag, it is essential that you prove it to them what makes you a better fit to cover a particular topic at a detail which would be of value to their audience.
Throwing in a few jargons is also a good idea to let them know that you’ve done your part and perfectly understand what it’s all about. Building a proposal of action that gives them something to start with, like the link to a Google Doc file of a brief article synopsis, a writing sample or such would make it easier for them to understand your writing style better.
If you’ve done your work in the previous steps, your articles would naturally have to be a perfect match for their audience and place you in a better situation.
Better double-up on that spell checker
What an irony it would be for a blogger or writer to pitch to a publication which itself needs a lot of revision work.
A minor typo would be of no issue, but a poorly structured proposal itself would give away bad cues to the publisher for considering your case. Because this is the first (or last!) piece of your content that the publisher might be reading, make sure you give it your best shot.
Proofread your proposal twice and make sure that it is perfectly summing up everything that has been said here before you hit the ‘Send’ button.
Although not considered a big issue, I’ve seen many proposals getting rejected just because of the grammatical and formatting errors in the email itself. Make blunders at this stage and don’t wonder why the publisher isn’t responding to your emails. End your work at a high and make sure that you’ve done everything possible from your end.
It is not to say that these tips will ‘guarantee’ a positive response from the publisher. These people receive hundreds or thousands of pitches every day and sometimes things won’t work out. But keeping your head high, incorporating these tips and pitching again is a surefire way to build powerful proposals which will be heard.
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Be it a freelancer or a guest blogger, pitching publishers is something very common and often misunderstood by many. What do you think of these tips to write effective proposals? Shout out your thoughts and comments below.