The world of fashion is huge and international, and it includes many different types of businesses.
There’s the design group: businesses that design patterns, fabrics, notions, accessories, makeup, and lines of clothing.
There’s the manufacturing group: businesses that create and package all those items. All those goods have to move around the planet, so there are specialists in importing or exporting clothes and accessories.
And then there are specialists in showcasing and marketing fashions, such as catalog companies, modeling agencies, fashion show production professionals, fashion experts at magazines and on television, photographers, makeup artists, and hair stylists. Even a few niche businesses are included in the fashion realm, such as costume design and makeup for movies, collectors of vintage clothing, and even doll clothes and accessories. The list is endless.
The competition is endless in the fashion world, too. So if you’re in charge of one of these businesses, you’re always looking for new clients and new projects. How can you beat the competition and land those contracts? You need to learn how to write a business proposal. This is true whether you need to impress a potential client, secure funding to grow your business, or even sell your business or find a partner.
Writing a business proposal doesn’t need to be a daunting project. After you understand the standard structure and focus of a proposal, you’ll be able to fill in the pages pretty quickly. And when your first proposal is complete, you’ll find it much easier to write the next one, and the next.
The first and most basic idea you need to master is that a good proposal is not focused on you. It should be focused on your prospective client or partner–the person who will read your proposal. That reader might be the loan officer at the bank where you’re applying for a business loan, the designer whose clothing line you want to manufacture, the production company you are pitching your services to, or the retail chain you want to sell clothing to. Throughout the proposal writing process, put yourself in that party’s shoes and consider what they want from you at each step.
All good proposals follow this structure: introduction, client-centered section, description of proposed goods and/or services, and supplier-centered section. The pages in the last three sections will differ depending on your business and what you are proposing, but this sequence of sections should remain the same whether your proposal is four pages long or twenty.
What would you, as a prospective client, want to see as an introduction to a proposal? A Cover Letter, of course. When writing your cover letter, be sure to answer these four questions for the reader: Who are you? Why are you sending this proposal now? What do you want the reader to do next? How can the reader contact you to get more information or accept the proposal?
Next, provide a Title Page, which is precisely what it sounds like. Just give your proposal a logical descriptive name, like “Fashion Show Proposal for QRX Design Company” or “Fabrication and Shipping Services Proposed for West Coast Shops” or “Proposal to Establish a New Consignment Clothing Boutique.”
If your proposal has a lot of pages and details, next you might want to include a Client Summary (a one-page summary of the most crucial details you want even the busiest reader to absorb) and a Table of Contents. That’s all you need for the Introduction section.
On to the client-centered section: this is where you need to prove that you understand your potential client. Provide all the information you know about their needs and requirements for this project. If you’re writing a proposal to get a loan, this section could be as simple as a list of requirements you know you must meet. But if you’re writing a complex proposal, this section could be much longer. For example, if you’re producing a proposal to stage a fashion event, you might write pages about the client’s need for a venue of a certain size and type, the need to hire models, makeup and hairstyling experts, specialists in lighting and sound, possibly videographers and photographers, the need to notify and invite the media, and so forth. If you’re proposing to sell your clothing line to a store, you might discuss their sales seasons, advertising needs, packaging and shipping concerns, and so forth. As well as detailing all the desires of the client, write down any constraints you’re aware of–budget, special needs of any kind, deadlines that must be met, etc. The goal of this section is to prove you understand what the client needs. At the very least, you’ll need a topic page labeled something like Needs or Requirements or Specifications. But if the project has many different aspects, you’ll need many more topic pages to cover what the client is looking for.
After the client-centered section, write your description of exactly what you are proposing and what it will cost. Do you plan to open a new hair salon? Are you selling jewelry to compliment a clothing line? Are you providing marketing services for a product launch? Are you proposing to design unique evening wear for the wealthiest clients? At a bare minimum, this section should contain a list of Products or Services Provided, a description of Benefits, and a Cost Summary. But the odds are that you will need many more topics, such as Style, Trends, Lifestyle, Concepts, Aesthetics, Accessories, Materials, Venue, Personnel, Schedule, Equipment, Options, Specials, etc.–include all the topics you need to explain about the goods or services you propose to provide. At each step of the way, describe how what you are offering will meet or exceed the client’s requirements that were described in the previous section–in other words, how your goods and/or services will benefit the client. If you offer a Guarantee of satisfaction or a Warranty on your products, include that information, too.
Now, in the final supplier-centered section, it’s time to persuade the client that you are the best choice for the project. This section should have at least one page explaining Company History or Experience. If you are the star, this section might even include your Resume. Keep in mind that it’s always more persuasive to let facts or third parties demonstrate your qualities, so if you have lists of Clients Served or similar Projects you’ve done, special Training or Certifications, Awards, or Testimonials from satisfied customers, by all means add those. If you have helpful Alliances or Contacts that would be useful, include those, too.
If you need appendices, such as sketches, maps, photographs, charts, or lists of suppliers, etc., those will go at the end, but otherwise, you’re finished writing your proposal.
But you’re not quite done. This is the fashion world, and you have competition, so take the time to be sure your proposal is error-free and looks good, too. This means careful proofreading and formatting. Special fonts, colored titles or borders, logos, and unusual bullet points can add visual appeal. Remember that you want your proposal to represent you at your professional best.
After every page has been perfected, print the proposal or create a PDF file and deliver it to your prospective client in whatever way is likely to impress that party (email, upload to your web site, print and mail, etc.). It might be worthwhile to hand-deliver a proposal package or pay for a special delivery to make your offering stand out above the competition.
While your first proposal might take awhile to create, you’ll learn that all subsequent proposals will be faster, and you can re-use some of the same information in each. But remember that a good proposal should always be client-centered, and this means that each proposal will be customized to the particular client and project.
It’s possible to create a business proposal with any word processing system, but to speed up the process, you should consider using a pre-designed proposal kit. A kit will come with hundreds of topic templates including all of the those mentioned above, scores of sample proposals, and even contracts you can adapt for your use. Each template has instructions and examples to guide you as you write, and the sample proposals will show you what a finished proposal might look like and include. You can find kits in a variety of graphic designs to represent your organization’s style, or you can use your own company logo. A ready-made kit will give you a big head start on writing your proposals, and a big jump on your competition in the fashion world.