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How to write a construction proposal

Abstraction of a construction proposal | Proposals | Knowify

Getting started: Set yourself up for success

A great proposal is crucial to win business, especially for growing contracting businesses. By using a generic or unoptimized proposal for your bids, you could be leaving potential profit on the table. Learning how to write a construction proposal that stands out from the competition and conveys trust can help you win more contracts and improve profitability. This guide will teach you key elements that can help elevate your company’s proposals, and set yourself up to win more business.

What sections should I include?

Determining the right format and sections for your proposals will depend on your specific business model. No matter what trade you specialize in, every niche has its own requirements and information to lay out in order to successfully win business. Here is a list of common sections you may want to consider including in your proposal.

  • Introduction
  • Project summary
  • Project timeline
  • Financial investment
  • Next steps

24 hours

On average, a proposal could take 24 hours to complete, or about 17.5 minutes per question.

5 hours

The average turnaround time for small companies completing a proposal. 

38% win rate

The win rate of small companies – the lowest win rates of any company size.

Quality over speed

With high performing companies spending an average of 26 hours per proposal, it shows that speed does NOT enhance your chance of winning a contract.

How do I stand out?

  • Accuracy: Take your time to ensure the information you are providing is correct and fully addresses the questions or concerns your client may have.
  • Clear branding: While it’s tempting to create a proposal in Word or from a prefabricated template, this doesn’t create a memorable image for your brand. By taking a few extra minutes to alter the font, include your logo, add splashes of your brand color(s), or a mission statement, you’ll form an identity that distinguishes your proposal from others.
  • Ease of revision requests: Are you guilty of sending information in email chains and difficult to source links and files? This can create confusion, misunderstandings, and hassle for the client that may deter them from doing business with you. Make sure potential clients can review and request edits to your proposal in a central, secure location that’s accessible to any key decision makers.
  • Ease of signature: This may seem obvious, but if your contracts are difficult to understand, read, and sign off on, you’ll have a harder time closing the agreement. Consider switching to a platform with electronic signature for any important documents. This will also give you notification and reminder options to ensure the documents are sent and signed off on correctly.
  • Responsiveness: Not to be confused with speed of information gathered, the responsiveness of your team to questions, comments, and concerns can greatly improve your chances of winning a contract – or losing one. Be sure to check your inbox and voicemail daily and respond within 24 hours to any client communications, even if it’s simply to say you need a bit more time to source that information and will send updates as it becomes available. And wherever possible, create a firm date and time to which you will provide an update on the information requested. 
Screenshot of our e-signature portal | Proposals | Knowify | How to write a construction proposal

The first impression: Introduction

First impressions form quickly and can be lasting in business. That’s why it’s important to start every proposal with your best foot forward. Take the time to explain who you are, why you’re interested in the project, your company’s background, and provide referrals who can vouch for the caliber of your work. This can be done using all or some of the following sections:

  • Cover page
  • Cover letter
  • About our company
  • References or testimonials

How do I stand out?

  • Personalization: Take the time to do your homework. Who is the decision maker of this project? If you can’t find this information, find ways to incorporate their brand and specific details of the project into your proposal. By including things like brand names, the names of decision makers, and your point of contact’s name and information, you get one step closer to creating a strong working relationship with your potential client.
    • Bonus points: digitize your actual signature to insert into the proposal. You can easily create a digital signature by using a tablet, stylus, and free software online.
  • Tell a story: To convey trustworthiness, you’ll want to elaborate on why you’re the best person for the job. Have you worked on a similar project before? Share some project examples! Do your clients love the work you provide? Let them know with testimonials and former client references that they can contact. These actions show rather than tell that you are reliable and trustworthy.

Did you know?

Employee satisfaction is only tracked in approximately 14% of construction companies. However, satisfied employees correlates with higher win rates. So, if you want to improve your bid-to-win ratio, make sure employee morale and satisfaction isn’t overlooked.

The summary: Project details and description

Now that your potential client has an idea of who you are and your credibility, you can begin to explore logistics. With every construction project having unique requirements, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Understanding how to write a construction proposal summary depends on the type of project and work your team will provide. Here are some examples of subsections to include in your project summary section.

  • Project scope
  • Plans and permits
  • Expectations
    • Exclusions
  • Line items
  • Project examples
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Initial walk-through, evaluation, or inspection summary
Animation showing how to enter a breakdown of materials on a proposal | Proposals | Knowify | How to write a construction proposal

How do I stand out?

  • Be transparent: It’s just as important to say what you aren’t including in your scope of work as what is included. This can help you avoid potential disagreements or misunderstandings down the line.
  • Be detailed: If the project remains loosely outlined, it can easily veer off track. This is your opportunity to provide meticulous, properly vetted project details, steps, and deliverables, including who will do it, how they will do it, and what they will use. When in doubt, it’s best to write it out.

The timeline: Schedule and phases

With your scope of work fleshed out, you can begin to construct a schedule for project completion. This is where the old saying “under promise and over perform” can really come in handy. A fully fleshed out project timeline should include:

  • Phase overview with deadlines (if applicable)
  • Estimated project completion deadline

How do I stand out?

  • Give yourself plenty of time: According to KPMG, only 25% of construction projects have come within 10% of their original deadlines in the last 3 years. By building in plenty of time for unexpected delays or errors, you’ll create a track record of hitting deadlines.

The investment: Financial overview and expectations

Finances are a sensitive subject for many. And while it may be tempting to offer the lowest prices as a means of competing with other companies, this strategy can lead to fewer wins overall, as well as profitability concerns. Be sure to consider the following when building out your budget.

  • Material cost overview
  • Labor cost overview
  • Permits and fees
  • Contingency
  • Warranty
  • Insurance
  • Total financial estimate

How do I stand out?

  • Don’t undersell your services: Only 31% of construction projects came within 10% of their original budgets in the last 3 years. This can account for why nearly 60% of contractors are putting in higher bids for projects. 
  • Emphasize trust: A strategically placed testimonial following your estimate can help to remind potential clients about your prior project success, client satisfaction, and trustworthiness.

The close: Next steps and agreement

Great news – if your potential client has made it this far, you’ve already made it through some large obstacles. In order to move your contract from pending approval to completion, consider the following options. 

  • E-signature capabilities
  • Proposal summary with payment schedule
  • Terms and conditions section

How do I stand out?

  • Easy to understand payment details: To ensure there is no confusion regarding when you get paid and how, make sure it is explicit within your proposal. If these are laid out within terms and conditions, it may be beneficial to highlight the specific page or section in which this information lives. This will help your client easily track this information and provide coverage for your team’s billing and accounting team.


Learning how to write a construction proposal that’s thorough and memorable makes life easier for all parties involved. Taking the time to be clear, accurate, and personal can make the difference between a successful bid and one left unanswered. However, you don’t need to start from scratch when it comes to making proposals. Software like Knowify exists to reduce repetitive tasks and increase efficiency in all areas of the construction proposal and project management process.

Thinking of taking the next step to improve your processes through digital tools? You’re not alone! 40% of SMBs in the construction industry want to buy or upgrade their software in the next 12 months. Why not explore a complete, end-to-end construction management solution like Knowify?

Ready to learn more? Schedule a personalized demo today!