A person going over a project proposal on their laptop at a coffee table covered in paperwork


Put together a compelling project proposal in 4 steps.

A well-crafted proposal will help ensure your next project sees the light of day. Build a successful proposal step by step with Adobe tools.   

What makes a good project proposal?

A project proposal is a document that: 


  • Explains the project process
  • Identifies key stakeholders and audience members
  • Covers crucial project details from timelines to budgets

Think of it as a project plan that showcases the path to success that any approver needs to see. 

Think of it as a project plan that showcases the path to success that any approver needs to see. 

Three pillars of good proposals.

No matter the type of project you’re working on, it’s good to know  the process of pulling together a good proposal. Knowing the ropes will dramatically improve your chances of getting the project approved, especially when you’re working in a professional or academic environment.


Before you actually start outlining and writing, consider three important questions before doing all the necessary work to get your project off the ground. 

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1. Does the project have a defined target audience?

It’s essential to understand who you are writing to for approval when creating a proposal. Knowing your audience will give you a framework for your document. Ask yourself these questions about your audience, team members, and decision makers:


  • How familiar are they with the project or problem?
  • What do they already know?
  • What do they not know?
  • What do they want to hear? How will you get their buy-in?
  • What do they think project success looks like?

Considering the knowledge levels, expectations, and backgrounds of the audience you are writing for will go a long way toward success.


For example, if you’re writing an academic paper proposal, you can often assume that your audience is familiar with the basics of your topic, so you can summarize pertinent details, and then dive into the meat of the project faster.

2. Does it consider problems and issues?

The classic quote is, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” But as every proposal seeks to solve some problem, your project is likely attacking an issue from a new angle or perspective. However, your project probably shares similarities with others that came before it, so acknowledging the scope of the problem you seek to address — and giving answers on how you’ll deal with roadblocks — is a best practice to adopt. This can include pricing, project scope, and possible obstacles to milestones.

3. Do you have research and supporting data?

Add as many relevant insights from research, figures, graphs, and charts as you can, as this will provide validation and credibility for your proposal. Compelling arguments and pitches are often all the more convincing with the right numbers to back them up. Make sure to keep it concise, however. This is a proposal, not a full research report.

4. steps to outlining and writing your proposal.

Once you’ve cleared the conceptual hurdles above, you’re ready to start creating your roadmap — writing your project proposal outline. 

1. Define the problem and project background.

Whatever the problem you’re hoping to solve, you want to identify exactly what it is in the first few paragraphs of your proposal. You might have received a RFP (request for proposal), which sometimes does the work of telling you what the problem is beforehand. Centering your audience with a high-quality introduction will make acceptance of your proposed solution much easier. This is sometimes referred to as an executive summary. Think of this as your elevator pitch section.


Let’s say there are large fir trees around your place of work, and those fir trees drop tons of needles, clogging your gutters. You want to petition your workplace to install screens over the gutters to protect them from the needles. You could start by identifying the problem of your labor and repair costs to constantly clean out the gutters, before rolling right into the next step.

2. Present your solution.

Once you’ve identified the problem, you’re ready to jump right into how you’re going to fix it. Be clear, concise, and explicit about how the problem you’ve identified will be solved. In the example above, mesh screens are the solution, as they protect the gutters from the fir needles, but allow rainwater to pass through.

3. Define success, deliverables, and project budget.

Depending on what your proposal is for, success can mean different things. You could finish the task, or gather enough information to lead a new project. Regardless of what success looks like, you want to define your goals.


If success comes in tiers or parts, establishing what the deliverables are is essential in the proposal. Returning to the gutters example, there might be multiple stages to the project. First, you must clean and repair the gutters, and then you need to install the screens.  Finally, you must evaluate how effectively they’re working. These kinds of project details are key in this section of the proposal.


In this process, you have plenty of opportunities to incorporate additional resources like graphs, case studies, metrics, and other details. Clean, concise formatting will ensure that your audience gets the information they need about the project timeline. Adobe Acrobat Pro allows you to seamlessly move documents from word processors to PDF format, complete with tables and chart support.

4. Edit and proofread.

Once you’ve created your proposal, make sure that it’s ready for prime time by egiving it a final edit and proofread.

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Adobe tools for project proposals.

No matter the type of project you’re working on, Adobe Acrobat has the tools you need to make a stunning proposal that will get you the approval to work.


When you’re building the proposal itself, you might need to combine disparate elements, like charts, photographs, graphics, and text. With Acrobat features, you’ll be able to manipulate the pages of your proposal in seconds.


  • Merge PDFs: Merging documents together is easy with Acrobat. Take spreadsheets, individual graphics, and other documents and convert them to PDF format so you can combine them all together with the Merge tool. Instead of a series of related attachments, you can put together a single, cohesive followup to your proposal that provides all the necessary information in one tidy PDF. You can also use the Reorder and Organize Pages tools to ensure all files are in the right order and are properly aligned to ensure the most professional-looking PDF.

  • Compress PDFs: Once you’ve collected your combined proposal just the way you like, you can compress a merged PDF so it’s easy to share with any key stakeholders or project approvers.


Once shared, the Edit PDFs with Comment tool helps you collaborate and incorporate feedback from others — a collaborative way to start making your project a reality. Get ready to propose and create a successful project.


If you need inspiration for a proposal, there are hundreds of project proposal templates for dozens of types of project proposals available in Adobe Stock for you to source. You can build an excellent-looking presentation or proposal with professional graphic design as the foundation.

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