Rocking a proposal for software engineers

Chances are if you're doing freelancing sooner or later you'll come across a need to write some kind of proposal to your potential customer.

Currently, programming is not the only skill that customers require from software engineers, things like good communication understanding of processes, fast learning, and good attitude sometimes are more important than the coding skills. Writing about your project not just with programming languages is a good skill you have, here is how it can help you to book a big project:

  1. you can grab new ideas easily,
  2. you actually were listening to what they are saying,
  3. you know what to do,
  4. you have a structured attitude.

Taking this into consideration here are some tips that might help you to rock a proposal for your customers.

Get to know your customers

There are two types of customers: the ones who exactly know what they want and the ones that don't, and both need your assistance in understanding the bigger picture of the development process. By minimizing the barrier between the technical language and business requirements you'll give the customer more perspective. Asking questions like "What problem you're trying to solve?", "What the end product (deliverable) should look like?" you know how to approach the process.

Do your research

We live in 2019. There are approximately 200+ CRM systems and 166+ HR SaaS solutions (yes, I counted them :) ). Trust me when it comes to online products there is more said and done then ever, and chances are that someone already built something similar. By reviewing already existing products you'll get a basic understanding of the processes you'll need to build and the functionality you customer might require.

Understand the business process

Having your research done, try to understand the business processes that are going on under the hood. Register in the competitor's platforms, read reviews (documentation, if any). For example, your customer wants to build an online store. What does it mean?

The product should have user groups like customers (the user that buys the store products), administrator (the user that view's reports on sales and see the whole picture) and operator (the user that adds new products to the platform). The product most probably will have payments, orders, wishlist, waiting list, online chat some kind of email communication, etc.

By understanding the business process you'll get the idea on how to organize your software architecture. This way you'll make more optimal decisions so the future development will be much easier.

Document your thoughts

Most people skip this or underestimate the importance of this step (but at the same time, as developers we always tend to complain about the bad documentation that we meet lol). Documenting the process always helps to organize your thoughts, lay down the main requirements, add the missing processes and it raises the questions that help to shape the complete birds-eye view of the project. The document doesn't need to be large.

Here is the template that I use, you can feel free to play with it.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/19zvHjGvzF5MWK08WAl2vwpdt7C4meR0fOh6iXJBUbQU/edit?usp=sharing

Rocking a good proposal is not hard, the fun part comes after that :)

Disclaimer: I'm a software developer, so my tips are mainly for the folks that want to up their game in selling their development skills. This method also is really good if your customer is hiring you to build a whole platform from scratch, the smaller tasks just are not worth this hype :)