A documentation proposal is a proposal with most of the characteristics of a proposal, but with some additional characteristics that enable it to achieve its primary objective—getting a contract or getting approval to do a documentation project. See the chapter in this online textbook on proposals for discussion and examples of the common elements and design of proposals.

Like proposals in general, documentation proposals can be internal or external. Within organizations, documentation specialists may have to write proposals to establish the need for documentation to accompany a new product. Addressing external organizations, freelance documentation specialists write proposals to win contracts to develop documentation. It's this latter context that the following discussion addresses.

Components of Documentation Proposals

The following describes the individual sections to consider for inclusion in your documentation proposal. For your specific project, some may not be necessary; some may be better combined with other sections.

Format for Documentation Proposals

Like proposals in general, documentation proposals can be lengthy, bound documents or they can be a business letter under ten pages. For a lengthy, bound proposal, use the standard design of reports. Use transmittal letter, covers, title pages, tables of contents, abstracts, headings, lists, tables, graphics—the works!

If you're a freelancer, you'll probably use the business-letter approach to documentation proposals almost exclusively. Within the format of that letter, you use headings, lists, tables, graphics; but everything is on a much smaller scale.