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Artist Tip: Writing a Clear Proposal

January 18, 2011

Digital art by Shellie Lewis.   Psittacines for everyone!!

The volunteer mural project for the children’s floor of a hospital is still ongoing here in Chicago.  I sent in a proposal with these two designs that I am willing to paint.  I would probably do the whole floor given enough time and paint; the project concept is compassionate and just plain fun.  I proposed these two designs to start with.  If there are blank spaces left, I figure I can absorb them later on.  People like the idea of doing volunteer work, but usually only a smaller percentage of people that express an initial interest in participating show up when the time comes to actually do work.  Call it “volunteer attrition”.

Digital art by Shellie Lewis.  Frog-a-rama? Frogs a plenty?

I wrote a formal proposal to have the designs approved.  I recommend sitting down and writing a clear proposal for a formal project.  In my case, I know that my audience is the administrators of the hospital.  Here are four points on writing a successful proposal.

  • Know your audience.  Don’t expect the readers to be “art people”, you have to show them everything.  If you refer to another artist in your proposal, such as a historical or famous personality, show the work being mentioned.  Clearly show the design(s) you propose.  Show sketches, miniatures and digital designs.  Do not expect anyone to imagine what you plan to create, lay it all out in front of them.
  • Be concise.  Use short sentences and short paragraphs.  Your readers just need the key information relevant to your design.  Unless indicated otherwise, the readers do not need to know everything you know or relate to the proposal.  I have had this indicated in one guideline for a proposal which stated the description and explanation of the proposed art or design to be 150 – 200 words total.  You are not writing something exhaustive or detailed.
  • Show your street cred.  Maybe your art style is not a good match for a potential client or maybe you are their perfect dream artist.  Let the client decide.  Show previous works you have completed.  Including a selection of images of your prior works shows you have completed works and have a skill set.
  • Do the math.  You need to figure out the cost of materials and calculate how much supplies you will need to cover the project.  In my case, I pulled out some previous larger canvases and a calculator to estimate how much paint will be needed to cover square footage of wall space.  If you are uncertain about amounts of materials, try to overestimate and you can clarify that any materials that were not used for the project can be returned for a refund to the client.  If you goof up and fall short on materials, the client may be understanding or have a tolerance for a margin of error, but it is more professional to buy what you need yourself rather than trying to push back the cost you failed to calculate on your client.  Add all of the costs correctly, double check your figures, and do not forget any needed expenses for taxes or shipping.  Date the costs and cite the source of prices in case the prices in the catalog or online retailer change before the project is executed.

I put my proposal as an MS Word document; using a .PDF format is also good.  You want people to be able to open the document easily.  A .PDF has the advantage that no one can modify or accidentally delete data from the proposal.  All of the images, text and costs of materials are in clear sections in my proposal.

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Categories: Artist Tips, Uncategorized
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