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How to Customize a Simple Business Proposal Template in MS Word

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Business proposals are an important part of your business. No matter what type of business you own—whether you run a design studio, marketing agency, or service another niche—your business proposals should look professional.

Using a good proposal template can save you hours of work. More importantly, the professional presentation you achieve as a result of using a template could give you the competitive edge that wins a client's business.

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to craft an effective business proposal. I'll also take you through the process of customizing a simple business proposal template with MS Word 2016.

We'll be using the Sleman Clean Proposal Template, which is a a business proposal template from GraphicRiver. This modern proposal template comes packed with a number of predesigned business page layouts, includes eight color choices, and it's easy to customize all the included graphic and text options.

Business Proposal Template
Simple business Proposal Template, available in Word and InDesign formats.

To customize the business proposal template I'll use the fictitious company, "Business Name Inc." Follow the steps below to create your own customized business proposal. But first, we have a special offer for you...

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Note: All examples given in this tutorial are fictitious and do not represent real people or real organizations.

Elements of a Good Business Proposal

A business proposal outlines the products and services you provide for potential clients. It outlines the client's needs and describes how you will meet them.

An effective business proposal contains the following elements:

  • eye-catching design
  • a place to describe your company
  • a way to highlight past successes such as a portfolio section and testimonials
  • complete information about the proposed project including a timeline and pricing
  • terms and conditions
  • contract page for signatures

The Sleman Clean Proposal template has all these features and more. There’s even an invoice page for you to use when billing your client.

If possible, the appearance of the business proposal should reflect your business style. You can do that with this template, as it's easy to change the design. After you download the business proposal template, you're ready to customize it for your project.

Here is a guide to help you use this business proposal template.

1. Gather Information

It may seem like a tedious first step, but creating a business proposal is a little like doing your taxes. It can take a lot of time to gather the financial information and details you need. But, getting that info together now saves you time later on.

Here's is a list of the project information you need to create an effective business proposal:

  • complete contact information for your client
  • an overview description of the work
  • a detailed description of the work
  • an itemized list of your pricing for the project
  • pricing options for the client
  • due date of the project
  • timeline for the project, including milestones
  • business terms agreed to
  • payment information

Take your time and make sure that you understand the information above before you start your proposal. If you’re unclear about something, ask the client. It’s better to get a clear understanding of the project now.

You'll also need some information about your own company to include in the proposal. Here is a summary of what you need:

  • complete contact information for your company (name, address, phone, email)
  • photos of your team and photos that represent your business
  • description of your business
  • case studies of successful projects
  • client testimonials

If you want to learn more about writing business proposals, Tuts+ has some excellent tutorials on the proposal writing process. Here are two:

After you have the information you need, you're ready to open the proposal template.

2. Open and Rename the Template

The proposal template is in a zip file with eight subfolders and a help text file. Each folder name indicates the color of that template. Inside the folder you can select files based on paper size and editing tool.

We’ll be working in Microsoft Word 2016, so be sure to choose a file with a DOCX extension.

It’s also important to rename the template file. That way if you have any problems, you can return to your original template

Now that you've opened and renamed the template, you are ready to install fonts.

3. Installing Fonts

The business proposal template uses three free fonts:

All the font files for this exercise have the TTF extension. If you do not already have these fonts, you need to install them now. Here's how:

Step 1: Install a Font from Google

To install a font from Google:

Click the link for the font you want to download. Then click the checkbox next to the styles you want to use. Now click Choose on the right lower area of the page. 

Download font style

Now click Add to Collection on the next dialog box and select the download arrow that appears in the upper right corner.

In the dialog box that displays click the words .zip file that appear in blue.

Now follow these steps:

  1. Save the zipped font file in any folder.
  2. Double-click the zipped file to open it.
  3. Double-click the folder with the name of the font and double-click the font file.
  4. Click Install

Caution: Be sure to open all variations of the font. Each variation (such as bold, italic, etc.) must be installed separately.

You also have fonts to install from a couple more sources:

Step 2: Install a Font from Font Squirrel

To install a font from Font Squirrel:

  1. Click the link for the font you want to download.
  2. Click the button labeled DOWNLOAD TTF.
  3. Save the zipped font file in any folder.
  4. Double-click the zipped file to open it.
  5. Double-click the name of the font. Click Install.

Step 3: Install a Font from FontSpace

To install a font from FontSpace:

  1. Click the link for the font you want to download.
  2. Click the button labeled Download.
  3. Save the zipped font file in any folder.
  4. Double-click the zipped file to open it.
  5. Double-click the name of the font.
  6. Click Install

4. How to Change Text

Now you are ready to start changing the text throughout the proposal. Let’s start with the cover page on the sample business proposal template. Here’s a look at the cover page before we modify it: 

Custom proposals template cover - before

Tip: Note that the cover page includes a Valid Until date. Always set an end date for your proposal. If you don’t, a client may ask you to honor old prices that are no longer competitive.

To change text:

  • Click any area with text so you can see the text box.
  • If you want to make the text box larger, drag the sizing handles.
Customizing proposals template cover -text box
Sizing handles are hollow circles that appear around a text or graphic box.
  • Now, click within the text box.
  • Select and highlight the text you want to change.
Customize proposal template cover - highlight text
  • Type your information over the highlighted text. 
  • If you want to change the font size, right-click the highlighted text. And the font dialog box displays.

Here is what the sample business proposal business proposal template cover looks like after I customize it:

Customized business proposal template - after

The process for changing text is the same throughout this simple business proposal template. Use it anywhere you want to replace the proposal template’s default text with your own information.

Next we’ll discuss updating the header and footer information.

5. Customize a Header or Footer

The business proposal template has a header and footer for all left pages and another header and footer for all right pages. The process for customizing a header and footer is basically the same. In this template, we'll focus on changing a header.

Now we'll customize both the right and left header and footer with your own information. First scroll down to page 2 (a left page). Notice that the header area is grayed out while the body text of the proposal is not.

Customizing the header area
The header area is grayed out.

Double-click in the header area. The header area is no longer grayed out. Now change the header text as described in the instructions for changing text (see part 4).

Edited Text
The header area after text is applied.

The new information now appears on every left page throughout the whole business proposal.

Tip: It’s a good idea to include your phone number and email address in the header or footer. That way, if the client has questions, they don’t have to search the proposal for your contact information.

The default information still appears on the right page. To change it:

  1. Scroll down to page 3 (a right page).
  2. Repeat the process described above for the right page header. The new information now appears on every right page throughout the business proposal.

To customize a proposal footer instead of a header, double-click in the footer area instead the header area. Follow the process above to update the footer text.

Next we will look at changing images throughout this simple business proposal template.

6. Update Photos and Pictures

Attractive images strengthen your company’s brand. Including the right pictures in your business proposal is important. This business proposal template allows you to add graphics or pictures in the following sections:

  • About Us
  • Our Team
  • Our Portfolio
  • Portfolio Detail
  • Case Studies

Here are two Tuts+ tutorials to help you get better photos:

Let’s start by updating the photo on our sample About Us page. The gray box is a placeholder. To replace it with one of your own photographs double-click on the gray box until you see graphic sizing handles.

Business Proposal About Us Handles

Now right-click the graphic to display the popup menu. Then select Format Object > Fill. The Format Shape menu displays on the right side of the page. Right-click the graphic to display the popup menu. Select Format Object > Fill. The Format Shape menu displays on the right side of the page.

Business Proposal Template - Word Format Shape

Now select Picture or texture fill. The gray image temporarily fills with a texture. In the middle of the menu you see the option to Insert picture from. Your options are File, Clipboard, or Online.

For this sample business proposal template we are going insert a picture of a group working. Here's how to insert a photo:

  1. Select File. Windows Explorer opens. Go to the folder where you have your photo saved and select the photo.
  2. Click Insert. Your photo replaces the shape with textured fill. The photo retains the shape and size of the placeholder. You can resize if needed.
Business proposal Word template - image addition

You can replace any gray placeholder box in the proposal template with your own photo or image. 

7. Updates to Graphics

You now know almost everything you need to know about customizing this simple business proposal template. Nearly all your information can be added to the proposal using the steps above.

However, there are a few specialized pages you’ll also want to update. The Market Map page is one of those pages:

The Market Map page before customization.

The Market Map is a good way to show where your clients are located if you have an international client base. Each graphic bubble represents a market share for that location.

To update the map to show where your own clients are located you need to do three things:

  • move a graphic
  • change the size of a graphic
  • change the text in the graphic headline

I’ll walk you through those three tasks using our fictitious company.

Step 1: Move a Graphic

Let’s start by moving a graphic bubble.

On the current map, the largest bubble represents the United States. I want it to represent South America instead. 

To move the bubble, first click on the text (the numeral “1”). Then hold down the Control key and click on the circle image. Sizing handles appear around both the text and the image.

Move a graphic in our Word business proposal templates map page

With both the image and the text selected, carefully drag the bubble to the new map location. In the case of our example, South America.

Caution: Do not drag a sizing handle or you will resize the bubble.

Step 2: Change the Size of a Graphic

We are ready to change the size of a bubble. My example company has more clients in England and fewer in Japan, so I will change the size of those bubbles. 

Click the circle image you want to change and handles appear around the image. Note: You can only change one circle image at a time.

Bubble handle to customize graphics in map page

Caution: Be careful not to click on the text box since the text remains the same size.

Now click a corner handle and drag diagonally to make the bubble larger. Adjust the location of the text box by dragging it to the center of the circle.

Step 3: Change the Text in a Graphic

The final step is to change the text in graphic headings on the page. Now click the box where you want to change the text. 

Change text in graphic

Highlight the text you want to change, as shown above. Now type your information over the existing text. Here is the Market Map page after customization: 

Market map page after customizations

8. Change a Table

Another specialized page you’ll want to change is the Project Timeline. The Project Timeline is great way to view the project schedule quickly.

Change project timeline table
Project Timeline before customization.

The project timeline is actually a table. We’ll go through the process of adding a task to the table so that you can see how to modify the timeline.

We’ll add a “Proofreading task after the “Designing task. The new task adds a week to the project. Here is the process we’ll go through:

  • add a row and column to the table
  • adjust row and column widths
  • change the formatting of a table cell

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Insert a Row

We need to make the table larger to accommodate our new task.

Click in the table so that you see handles around the box that contains the table. Move the cursor down on the line below the “Designing and “Printing rows on the left. On this table, that is roughly beneath the “P” in the “Project Timeline heading. The row division is highlighted with a plus symbol on the left.

Insert a row into your table

Now click the plus symbol. A blank row that matches the “Designing” row displays. Type the title “Proofreading” in the new row. However, now your table is too tall for the space.

Step 2: Adjust Row Heights

To resize the table to fit the space, select the entire table. It is highlighted in gray.

Project timeline gray highlight

Now select Table Tools > Layout > Distribute Rows. Now type .3" in the Height box and press Enter. The rows in the table are adjusted to a new height and the table fits in the space.

Note: Depending on how many rows you add; you may need to enter a different row height. You may also need to adjust the font size.

Step 3: Insert a Column and Adjust Column Width

We need to insert a column for the extra week that proofreading adds to the project.

The process for inserting a column is basically the same as the process for inserting a row. The difference is that instead of clicking between rows we will click between columns. In this case, click between the columns for weeks “5” and “6” to insert our new column and click on the plus symbol to insert the new column.

If your table is too wide for the space, then highlight all the week columns. Do not highlight the column containing the tasks.

highlight colums containging weeks

Now select Table Tools > Layout > Distribute Columns. Type .5 in the Width box and press Enter. Relabel the last two columns “6” and “7.” Your Project Timeline now looks like this:

Design and proofreading rows identitcal

Notice that the Designing and Proofreading task rows are identical. We’ll have to change the table cell formatting to fix that.

Step 4: Change Table Cell Formatting

To change the formatting of the appearance of the Timeline, we need to change table cell formatting. We need to remove the color from a cell and add color to a cell. 

Click in the table box. Select the cell or cells you want to change. In this case it is the two cells in the row labeled “Proofreading.” 

Click Table Tools > Design > Shading > No Color. The red shading of the cells is gone. Follow the same process to remove the shading from the cell under the new column in the row labeled “Printing.”

The Shading tool pop-up
The Shading tool will pop-up.

To add shading to a cell in our new column select red instead of selecting no color. Red coloring is added to the cell.

A customized proposal timeline
A customized proposal timeline.

Use these steps to update any other tables in the proposal, as needed.

9. Export Your Proposal

You are now ready to export the proposal to a PDF file so that you can email it to your client. A PDF file protects your proposal information so that it doesn’t get changed while the client reviews it.

To export your proposal file to PDF, use the following steps.

Click File > Export > Create PDF/XPS.

Export your Business Proposal Template as a PDF

Click the Create PDF/XPS icon. The Publish As dialog box displays. Select the folder where you want to store the proposal.

Tip: It’s a good idea to rename your proposal and add the date. This helps reduce confusion if there is more than one version of the proposal.

Now click Publish.

Publish your Business Proposal Template as a PDF

You are ready to email the PDF file of your business proposal to your client. Good luck!

Business Proposal Template Examples

Here is a quick-fire showcase of five additional high-quality sample proposal templates—giving you a few more quality options to consider using. Each of these simple business proposal templates will help you create an effective and attractive business proposal. They are also just as easy to customize as the template we worked with in this tutorial. 

1. Full Business Proposal Template Package

This template has numerous page options, such as executive summary, about us, objectives, market analysis, project timeline, team, clients, case studies, services, estimates, and more. It's a clean design with multiple options. It's packaged with Word, Excel, and InDesign files.

Business Proposal Template Package - Word InDesign Excel

2. Simple Business Proposal Template

This sample proposal template is a clean and attractive template that includes icons and badges. It comes with 16 unique business page layouts in Word and InDesign formats. Chose from one of five color schemes.

Simple business proposal template

3. Clean Project Proposal Template

This comprehensive template includes 44 pages with fully editable graphs and charts. The proposal includes an edit guide to help you customize this proposal template for your needs. It can be edited in can be edited by Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Microsoft Word.

Simple Business Proposal Template

4. Business Project Proposal Template Word

This simple business proposal template included a number of project files to help you make the sale, such as project descriptions, timelines, budget breakdowns, project milestones, as well as project contract and invoice. Also, this template lets you create a business proposal with style. The attractive images you add will help you sell your product or services. 

Business project proposal template

5. Lupa Project Proposal Template

This simple proposal template makes a good use of color for an attractive presentation. You can easily change the color to suit your own taste. There are a multitude of page layout options which will help you close the deal. With this template, you can show a potential client why they should work with you. You can feature your services, processes, team, company details, case studies, and more. 

Sample business project proposal template

All of these simple business proposal templates can be customized in Microsoft Word to include your custom business and project information.

Get Started With a Quality Business Proposal Template!

A quality business proposal template helps you make an impactful impression and finalize deals with potential clients. It saves you time and will help you create a professional business proposal every time. If you know the steps to take, it’s easy to customize a business proposal template to fit your needs.

Graphic Credit

Documents icon designed by Garrett Knoll from the Noun Project.

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