How to Design Proposals That Will Help Grow Your Business

This is a guest blog post from Jennifer Riggins, the community builder and content manager for Quote Roller business proposal software and PandaDoc. You’re looking to grow your business and you want more contracts signed, but the idea of making those contracts and business proposals is a chore. It doesn’t have to be. We work and live in a visual world, where every step of the sales process is a chance to get creative. With proposal software such as Quote Roller, you can create a dynamic, full-color, multimedia proposal that doesn’t just fill in the fine print, but awes your prospects by showing off your brand, your company and your work.

Where to Start

While you don’t want to bore your prospects with a plain Word document, you don’t want to overload them with images and over-design either. Here are a typical proposal’s sections where you can get creative, and those where you probably shouldn’t.

Get creative: Cover Page Table of Contents Meet the Team (smiling faces!) Executive Summary Fonts/Typography/Calligraphy Font colors Appendix Leave simple (maybe even boring): Pricing Table Terms of Service
That said, here’s how to let design trends carry over into creating persuasive, memorable business proposals:  


Many designers are so keen to include sample after sample of their work in their proposals, they turn out more like a collage than a statement. Everything must be put in context. Don’t just include photos of your work, but briefly discuss the process, what your client asked for and how your work best suited their needs. Chances are, you are being hired for a specific purpose. Perhaps it’s to redesign the packaging for a gourmet olive oil company. Your marketing and web design boutique may have created Robin Thicke’s website with 25 million followers – and that certainly belongs in your portfolio, which you can link to — but name-dropping isn’t likely to impress your prospects. Now, the jelly jar labels you designed for your local grocer might not be as glamorous, but show off the kind of work they are asking of you.  

Quick minimalistic tips: Only put what’s necessary; less is more. Stick to about three examples of your work that are relevant to your prospect’s specific needs. Group information into more digestible bits.

White Space

Have you read War and Peace? I’m sure it is an incredible tale, but it’s also just so overwhelming from page one. Not because of the sheer thickness of it, but because the text pours into the margins and there’s no space to relax your eyes on. Properly utilizing white space is key in a proposal. And no place is stared at more and in need of more white space than the Pricing Page. You want to offer your client options, but you don’t want to overwhelm them with a confusing page cluttered with numbers. When applicable, create optional drop-down pricing tables that allow your clients to choose packaging options without having them look at a dizzying spreadsheet. The resulting pricing table reflects the choices they’ve made, but nothing extra and distracting. If you are selling a product, feel free to include images, making it a sort of catalog. But don’t stop there. Balance each section with a large photo on one side or across the top and text at the opposite, making use of whitespace to make your proposal more reader-friendly.  


Organization is key. Make sure to include a table of contents at the start of your proposal and then easily mark each page and/or section within. Be direct and clear, especially with your call to action. With every step of your sales quote, make sure you’re steering everything towards the end goal of signing. Place your call-to-action button in a prominent place, preferably on each page, even positioning it to follow the readers as they scroll down, so that every move is toward closing.  

Don’t Design for You, Design for Your Clients

Everything you do should be done with your prospective client in mind. Don’t add anything trendy, flashy or extra without a reason to move toward the close — which only happens when you focus on client needs. Does your client love everything cutting edge? A flashy online proposal might be perfect for them. But if you’re appealing to a more old-school client who you just know will print your proposal out in black and white on an inkjet printer, take that into account; don’t use a lot of color and use a proposal software that allows you or your client to easily convert your quote into a printed PDF. Design is a wonderful, creative experience no matter what you’re doing, but you aren’t going to grow your business if you don’t focus each step on your clients’ needs.   Jennifer Riggins is the community builder and content manager for two SaaS — Quote Roller business proposal software and PandaDoc — for assembling, negotiating and eSigning documents, along with your favorite apps. Based in Barcelona, she’s also written about more than 100 Spanish startups.

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