Project Proposal: A Beginner’s Guide

Let’s get started and manage a project! Wait, before you can even plan for a project, you must propose one. Then get that proposal approved. You can be the most skillful project manager on the planet, but if you can’t sell the idea, then you’re nowhere.

What you need is a project proposal. This document is the seed from which a successful project will eventually grow. It is full of useful information outlining the project’s goals and deliverables, the timeline in which you’ll have it completed, with the resources and estimated budget you’ll require to do all that.

Why Is a Project Proposal Important?

The most obvious answer is that a project doesn’t exist until it has been proposed and given the go-ahead. A proposal won’t be accepted until you do the research and show why the project is viable. In a real sense, this is the great work of any project. Once you’ve started, then you’re mostly implementing what you’ve already proposed and responded to issues as they arise.

Therefore, the project proposal is of paramount importance in that it is presented to your stakeholders as a means of explaining exactly what you are going to do, how you’re going to do it, and what the results of that process will be. You’re showing them the benefits, the funding and resources required, and then, if you’ve done your job right, you’ll get the okay to start.

Related: How to Fund a Software Development Project

Not only does it get you buy-in and allows you to kick-off the project, but it begins the formal communications between yourself and your stakeholder, a dialogue that will continue for the length of the project. The project proposal is an in-depth documentation of everything you can imagine you’ll be needing to complete a project, so it’s your blueprint from which you build success.

The proposal is also your first step at coordinating all the elements of your potential project. This is your first step in managing all the tasks, equipment and other materials you’ll need and align them with a feasible schedule to achieve the business objective that will sway your stakeholders. In other words, you’ve beginning to structure what the project will look like when it’s up and running. Your early focus on goals and objectives is what creates success later.

The Project Proposal Format

While it’s likely you will be the one who writes the project proposal, there is also the possibility that the project manager will be hired once the project has already been approved. Either way, you’re going to work closely with this document, so you need to know its components.

parts of a project management proposal


Executive Summary

The executive summary is the introduction to your proposal, the elevator pitch, so to speak. You’ll want details, but not minutia. So, you’re going to outline the history, vision, goals and timeframe for the project. You want to be engaging, really hook the stakeholders, to fully sell them on the idea at this point.

Related: Free Executive Summary Template


After you wowed them, you want to anchor your project and put it in context. That means writing about the organization and how your project fits into its overall strategic objectives. Note other projects in the works that might conflict or complement the one you’re proposing. Here you want to be as through as possible. If you leave anything thing out that will spark a question from the stakeholders, then you’re going to have to respond to that, which means the actual project’s start date will get pushed further out.


Here you’re going to address the business problem your project is addressing and resolving. Maybe it’s an opportunity you see that you want to exploit. Whatever the reason, identify it clearly and detail the reasoning behind your decision. What is the problem or opportunity, how long will it take to resolve or exploit this matter? Get the details, which should support your case for the project.


Okay, you’ve got the reason, the why, now you must explain the how. Write out your solution clearly, explain the scope and how you’ll deliver it. Keep it narrowly focused on the solution to better communicate your idea and avoid getting sidetracked in work not leading to the reason for your project. Before you start the project, you’ll also want to figure out the risks inherent in it. Even as early as the proposal, you’re going to need to identify what risks are likely, what you’ll do if they show up in your project and who will lead that initiative. Some of the last things you’ll need to address when you propose a project is the prospect of a stakeholder turning it down. Yes, you should create a sort of rebuttal, where you address the questions and concerns that they might have before they do. That gives you an opportunity to prove you’re aware of the risks and how you’re going to avoid them.

Writing the Project Proposal

We’ve outlined the format of a typical project proposal, and our free template link above will make this so much easier, but let’s talk through some of the specifics of what you’ll want to address as you write the proposal. Remember, you are going to need metrics to chart the progress of your project, so while you’re drafting your proposal, be thinking about what success looks like once the project is completed. This is more than just a paperwork trail for stakeholders. It can be your guide to a successful project, so be exacting in listing what you’re going to achieve.

  • Deliverables. The deliverables are the good or service that will be completed and produced over the life cycle of the project. They can be anything, really, from a document to software. But whatever they are must be detailed in the project proposal.
  • Timeline. The project has a beginning and an end. Those two points make up the timeframe of your project. In-between are the various project phases, made up of milestones, which are then broken down into smaller tasks. The time it takes you to go from start to finish is your timeline.
  • Resources. To get from one point to the next on your timeline you need to have resources. Resources are anything you need to get the project done, from team members to equipment. You’ll want to have a detailed list of the resources that are needed for your project, which will play into the next part of your new project.
  • Budget. This is where you calculate the amount of money needed to pay for all those resources. Make sure that you show the return on this investment, which is the whole reason for the project in the stakeholders’ minds. Also, define who’s responsible for what. That must include everyone in the project, from the top on down, including the stakeholders. They have a role to play, and a cost, too.

Some other areas you’ll want to tackle are reporting. You’ll have to generate reports to show that progress to your stakeholders. How are you going to deliver that crucial data? That decision needs to be made here. Speaking of progress, how do you measure it? You’ve already developed a metric to measure the progress of the project, now you must have an instrument in place to note when you have achieved whatever goals you set out for the project.

When your project proposal has been approved, you’ll want to have a point person to authorize the project as it moves through its various phases. Also, you should have an appendix to your proposal to attach all your supporting documents. This provides the backup when you’re making the proposal, showing that you’ve done the due diligence, but it also gives you historic data that can be tapped if you are proposing a similar project in the future.

That’s how you write a project management proposal. It’s a lot of work, yes, but if you put the effort into the front-end of the project, you’ll find that things run a lot smoother once you’re executing it. There are different struggles once you’re working out your plan in real-time, of course, but you can rest assured whatever is thrown at you, you’ve prepared for it.

All the moving parts that you’ve outlined in your project proposal are going to have to be planned, tracked and reported on. With, a cloud-based project management software, you have the tools to manage each phase of the project in real-time, giving you the most accurate picture of your project’s progress possible. Try it for yourself by taking this free 30-day trial.

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