How to Write a Project Proposal?

A project proposal is a document that outlines the core values of your project and sells it to stakeholders. Put simply, it shows what the project is about, why it makes sense, what you want to achieve with it and how you will get there. Writing a project proposal is generally the first step in the project management process.

A project proposal can contain a list of activities or tasks that will be associated with the project. However, it does not go into as much detail as a project plan. Instead, the project proposal contains more marketing elements for the project.

Even if you have not established a suggestion scheme for projects in your company, there are many reasons why you should think about it:

  • to win a new customer,
  • to secure funding,
  • to convince management
  • to allocate resources to an initiative
  • to have a working document for a detailed project proposal,
  • and much more.

In any case, a well-written, clear and detailed document is the best way to approach a new project:

  • A project proposal helps you gain the approval of all stakeholders.
  • It creates clarity about the goals, priorities and requirements of the project.
  • It forces the project initiator to think through the project details before presenting the project.
  • And once the project proposal has been approved by all stakeholders, it forms the basis of the project plan.


Personally, I always like to do the preparation directly in Merlin Project, as I can process many results immediately afterwards.


Even if the impulse is to start straight away, preparation is extremely important. Research the project topic thoroughly. Build up your knowledge of the topic and try to find out whether there have already been similar projects to learn from. In this case, you can study the history and learn from the problems or even mistakes of others in the areas of time, money & content.

In Merlin Project, I create individual attachments to the project for the topics or sources learned. Whether these are links on the web or files containing my information. Everything can be easily attached in Merlin Project.

Collection of Topics

Now create an initial topic plan based on your research. This will by no means be a finished project plan, but rather a rough outline of the project topic.

In Merlin Project, you can either create a mind map or enter a hierarchical structure, depending on your preferences. Create initial resources and assign them to individual tasks or entire phases. This will help you in the next step.

Of course, you can also set initial dependencies and assign individual resources, if known. Feel free to discuss the first plan with others in the team. However, always keep in mind that it is only an initial, preparatory plan.


Even if you find out during your research that a budget is not planned, create one - even if only for internal purposes. Quite a few projects have been canceled during implementation due to incorrect calculations. Communicate the budget with your customer and make sure that the scope is manageable for everyone involved.

In Merlin Project, you will receive an initial budget if you assign an hourly rate to the resources. In the project costs, you will then see the value labor costs, with the amounts automatically calculated on the basis of the assignments. You also enter - very roughly - base costs in the phases.

Project Marketing

If there is one thing I have found to be very important, it is project marketing. Almost every project manager has experienced first-hand that a project, no matter how great, was rejected because the project marketing was poor or even lacking. And in its place, another - often worse - project was approved, which simply had better marketing.

So we collect project reports, testimonials and everything else that has already been successful in comparable projects. Emails in which project customers thank us for a great project are also always welcome as an attachment to the project proposal.

Write a Project Proposal

Until now, BBEdit was our default editor. This has changed with the release of adoc Studio. True to the motto: Eat your own dog food.

So we start with a new project in adoc Studio. In the document, which is automatically generated with the project, we simply write down the known information.


= Project Name
A short preamble to the project, i.e. a summary, which is sometimes also
 referred to as _Executive Summary_.

== Aim Of The Project
A few sentences that define the goal of the project. Define the goal as 
precisely as possible, but also in such a way that it is understandable 
for the customer.

== Project Environment
Include a section in which you go into more detail about the problem you 
want to solve.

== Delimitations
This is the place where the project is clearly delimited, i.e. the 
non-goals are listed. Adjacent projects that may be affected by the 
proposed project can also be listed here.

== Sub-objectives & Content
A few sentences introducing all the sub-goals and the known contents of 
the project. Describe here how you will bring the project to the finish 

== Resources In The Project
It has proven to be practical to create a table that contains all the 
people and any machines and premises available.

== Costs In The Project
The known and expected costs must also be listed in detail.

== Project Marketing
Attach anything to the project proposal that will aid approval.


Optimized Project Proposal

We can now optimize a few little things in the adoc Studio project:

  • With :toc: we can generate a table of contents,
  • The specification :toclevels: 2 defines the outline depth in the table of contents
  • With :lang: en we set the document language to English.
:toclevels: 2 
:lang: en

You can enter yourself as the author and the document date below the project name.

= Project Name
Name of the Project Manager 
Draft dated {docdate}

This gives us a good basis for your project.

Basic Project Proposal

Insert Project Data

To get the content from Merlin Project into the adoc Studio document, I have a great tip for you. Last year, we presented an AppleScript on our website that you can use to convert the content of any project into an AsciiDoc document. Download the free script from the website and install it. Start it from the File > Actions menu.

You will then find a file with the current month and year as well as the project name on the desktop. Drag this file into the project navigator of adoc Studio project. If the file is selected, you will see the AsciiDoc text in the editor and the interpreted version in the preview.

Now you can select everything that is of interest for your project proposal in the generated file, copy it and paste it into the project proposal. It could hardly be easier.

Insert External Files

Now to the topic of marketing. You have probably collected a number of important documents from customers and partners. We now want to insert them.

Insert as Images

The easiest thing first: the images, i.e. photos, videos and other media.

If they are available as files, drag everything into the media folder in the project navigator. Insert an image in the text as an image:: macro.

Insert videos from YouTube or Vimeo using the video:: macro.

If you do not have direct access to the images in the source format, you still have the option of taking a screenshot of them and then inserting them into the adoc Studio document.

Insert as Documents

The next step is also simple:
External documents in text format are included via the include:: statement.
To do this, the target file must be included in the project navigator.

Please note, however, that all external files with the extensions:

  • .asciidoc,
  • .adoc,
  • .ad,
  • .asc, or
  • .txt

run through the AsciiDoc interpreter in adoc Studio. All other file types are not included interpreted.

PDF documents can be included with the first page as image::filename.pdf[].

Extended Project Proposal

Further Details & Discussion

Of course, this is just the basis for your next project proposal. Many more details can be included.

We invite you to discuss this with us in the forum.

Merlin Project on the Mac and iPad

Your ideas, our magic – make projects easy! Test now 30 days for free.