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How to write a business proposal for startups


Beth Owens


May 6, 2024



read time

5 mins

How to write a business proposal for startups

A solid business proposal is your gateway to attracting the investment and customers you need to scale. We have business proposal examples, templates and tips.

Dive in:

  • 1. Types of business proposal

  • 2. What should you include in a business proposal?

  • 3. Business proposal and tips

  • 4. Business proposal templates

  • 1. Types of business proposal
  • 2. What should you include in a business proposal?
  • 3. Business proposal and tips
  • 4. Business proposal templates

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Many businesses find it tough to communicate what makes them unique. But speaking as a SaaS startup ourselves, there’s a good reason why emerging brands should invest time into hammering out the details.

A business proposal is an efficient way to do this.

A compelling business proposal helps you to request funding from investors, secure lucrative contracts or get approval from stakeholders to embark on exciting new projects. 

But what should a business proposal look like? A business proposal contains:

  • a summary of how the product or service works
  • the key benefits
  • use cases
  • why you’re uniquely fantastic at what you do

In short, business proposals can be key to successful selling and business growth – so long as you know how to create one.

Types of business proposal

Not every business proposal is alike, so startups will need different templates depending on the scenario (don’t worry: Lumin has you covered).

Formally solicited proposals

A formally solicited proposal is when a potential client approaches your business with an official request.

In this scenario, a business proposal will be tailored to the needs of that company and lays out specifics such as pricing or customer support. If this is accepted, it forms the basis of an official sales agreement.

Informally solicited proposals

Let’s say you’ve had an initial discussion with a potential customer or investor. They’re intrigued and want to know more about your solution. So they request an informal business proposal to evaluate your product or service and decide whether it’s a good fit. 

Because there’s no formal request, informally solicited proposals are more general in scope, e.g. tailored towards an industry rather than a specific company.

Unsolicited proposals

Unsolicited proposals are a proactive initiative by startups to attract customers or investors into their pipeline.

Because they target multiple prospects, an unsolicited business proposal is generic and can be used more than once. They form a key piece of collateral for lead generation campaigns or partnership programs.

What should you include in a business proposal?

A business proposal may be tens of pages long – or short and snappy to stand out from a pile of similar proposals on a busy investor’s desk! 

In any case, all business proposals should cover the following areas:

  • an executive summary of your business 
  • why you are reaching out
  • what problem(s) your target customer is facing
  • how your solution addresses these problems

If your proposal is being requested further down the pipeline, there may be additional information requested which is tailored to a prospective client or investor. This includes:

  • addressing specific requirements, and how your business plans to meet them
  • timeline/cost for the entire project/business plan
  • pricing and billing details
  • T&Cs/disclaimers
  • a page to seal the deal with your signatures

Business proposal and tips

Think about the purpose of your proposal.

For example, if you’re presenting about social media marketing services you’ll want to keep your proposal very visual, with plenty of space dedicated to mock-ups or campaign samples.

But this is a business proposal for an investor, you may need to reserve more room for quantitative data and an in-depth business plan.

Stick to your brand guidelines.

Consistency is key to winning over a skeptical client or investor! Keeping to your tried and tested colors and fonts builds brand recognition and helps your proposal stand out.

Present your proposal in PDF format.

An incompatible file type can result in your proposal never being read. A PDF is universally compatible, can be password protected to secure sensitive business information, and is easy to print or share electronically.

Designed to be fast and easy to use, Lumin helps with all your PDF editing needs. Whether you use Dropbox, Google Drive, or both – Lumin syncs up seamlessly.

You don’t even need to start editing with a PDF – you can convert Word documents, JPEGs, Excel documents and more with the convert tool. Click on the features below to find out more!

Find out more about the power of the PDF here.

Business proposal templates

As a startup, you’re probably sending out multiple proposals every month to investors or potential clients.

What you need is a go-to template that you can customize and update where needed. This frees up your team to focus on more creative and stimulating tasks – like your latest exciting updates!

At Lumin, we’ve been keeping documents simple since 2014. Our Template Discovery has you covered with thousands of curated business forms and templates. Check out our business proposal templates below to get a head start on your next project:

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