Everyone always says that alcohol kills brain cells. What they don't tell you is that proposal writing kills them, too.
I finished draft of a proposal revision for a potential client today. It took me the better part of 3 days to complete, not including the half-day I spent with our CEO/Lead Client Strategist about our approach. I used to share proposal writing duties with another person, but then I took it over completely about 18 months ago and the other person later left the firm. Since taking over, my goal has been to make proposals more concise and less consultant doubletalk-y. The writing process often includes creation of specific details, such as how we would roll out a education strategy and supporting boilerplate, like our organizational assessment methodology. As time allows, I've been reworking the boilerplate pieces so they are fresher and shorter. Which means that I've rewritten only the most urgently needed pieces and there is much that still needs work.
On this proposal, I decided not to use any boilerplate, not even any of the new versions. It's a revision of an initial proposal, so it needed to be a lot more specific than its predecessor as we've learned a lot more about the project since then. And the project itself is complex and high-stakes: delivering a combination experiential education/facilitated action planning session in multiple countries for the top 500 leaders of a $50 billion+ organization, including some decidedly funky quirks in the roll-out process.
The result? A nine-page document that includes a cover letter, detailed curriculum outline, roll-out sequence, project plan, and a summary of team members and what languages they speak. Each part is a separate document, with some pages being far from full, so saying it is nine pages makes it sound longer than it actually is. It might have the highest time spent to words produced ratio of any proposal I've written. It was a total bear and it will continue to be until we send it out on Friday, but I'm pretty pleased with where it stands. My brain is fried, but all in the name of winning the client, right?
Now I need to wait for the CEO to make his comments, pass it on to my boss for her review, and make any changes they request. Oh, and whip up a budget that includes estimated expenses. Anyone want to project costs for business class travel to about a dozen international destinations plus a completely unknown number of US destinations for an undetermined number of people over the next 18 months? No? I didn't think so.
Edited to add the CEO's comments: