Writing a successful project plan takes a purpose, organization, and commitment. Completing a successful project plan can be the difference in securing finances for a project or possibly losing a job altogether. A project plan is a comprehensive document that details your vision for investors, presents why the project should be funded, budgets how much money you will need to complete the project, as well as how much time you will need to accomplish it, and how you will allocate the funds you are requesting.
A project plan should be a personalized proposal that includes as many details as possible about the investors you are seeking your funds from. The more detailed and personalized the proposal is, the more likely it will be successful in being approved. Make a point to know everything about the audience you are talking to. You are asking someone to enter into a relationship and invest his or her money in your idea. Your project proposal should project a professional intimacy. The audience should feel like being invited into a corporate courtship, and not just hustled for funding.
Make your intentions clear, and leave no ambiguity as to why you chose the stakeholder to partner with. You didn’t choose their money; you chose their affiliation. Tell them about how you chose them because they were involved in previous projects that may have inspired the vision in your current proposal. The business world doesn’t run on feelings, but shared interests are valuable enterprises. Those are profits that return long-lasting relationships down the road.
Many projects can be envisioned, and many visions look amazing. However, the long-term success of a project resides in what purpose the project serves. The function of a project is the need it fulfills.
If sitting down and writing your proposal feels hard, know you are not alone. For many the hardest part of getting a proposal written is the writing process itself. Writing doesn’t feel like a natural fluid process for everyone. We live in a fast world, with stimulating devices that prey on our attention spans. Most likely, if you are submitting a project plan, writing should be in your job description somewhere. However, for some people writing a project plan may evoke awful memories of college term papers. In college you were not being paid to write, and now you are dependent on possibly keeping your job based on how effective you can sit down and compose a project plan.
Everyone organizes his or her thoughts differently. If it is the difference between writing a project proposal and not writing one, or just getting the thought out to reorganize, use a template first to get it down. Time is valuable, and the thought of starting some proposals can be an onerous process to overcome. The writing process is very different from the creation of the plan. A written project plan should exude as much confidence as possible. Trepidation of the writing process or stress in organizing ideas can project doubt in your written words. Using a template to get the ideas down quickly provides a rough draft to mold.
After the written product is complete and the details are fact-checked it is time to workshop your proposal with writers, mentors, or other colleague’s whom you trust for feedback. Getting professional feedback from people, you trust breaks the ice on going public with your idea and assuages the anxiety of any rejection of your project plan. Use only people whose feedback you value, but make sure you can guarantee full transparency from your test audience. Ask for feedback for strengths and weaknesses in your plan, and make sure your peer reviewers feel appreciated for their feedback. Don’t be defensive if they provide ways to improve your proposal. Treat them no different than you would your target audience. You will need future proposals read and reviewed. Use this as an opportunity to build a professional network of trusted editors.
Revise and edit your proposal as needed before officially presenting it to your potential investors. Remove ambiguous words and use direct language in your project plan. Avoid some of the lazy writing habits used in email and texting, such as abbreviating, conjugating, and misuse of punctuation.
If your project plan gets rejected don’t have a meltdown. It just means your plan needs more attention. Most likely you will receive specific feedback as to why the project plan was not accepted which will allow you to target the specific area of need with more revision. A good plan is still just a plan, and some plans take a while to develop. It may be that the plan is solid, but the investors chosen for the project were not a good fit. If this is the case, target a new investment group, research their background, and revise the plan accordingly.
Shopping a project plan is similar to online dating, you can construct a list of criteria for a potential partner, but until you have a date, you cannot measure any real chemistry. Usually, it takes several dates to decide if the prospected partner is a match or not, so even an initial spark can fizzle quickly. Don’t take this as a failure. It just means you are still in the market and fortunately there are a lot of suitors looking for a match. A courtship requires commitment but it also requires variety, avoid putting your eggs in one basket, and play the field a bit. Use professional networks to seek out other potential partners, or look online for investors who have a need for the solution you are offering. Don’t make any lofty promises or false claims just to secure an investor. Transparency is the foundation to every good partnership, and a smart investor will expose the flaws.
If your project plan needs more attention, don’t take it personally. Use it as motivation to take your idea to the next level. Have humility and reach out to your professional network for more feedback. Examine the limitations of your plan for ideas to subtract, and evaluate new variables that can add to the plan. Some of the most successful business ventures in the world were developed out of failure, and your idea may be no different.
Getting your project plan approved and securing an investment partner is quite an accomplishment, but it is only the first stage in the process. Investors will be partnering with you but they will also be seeking results. Like any relationship, this takes a great deal of maintenance. The initial commitment is wonderful, but maintaining the enthusiasm for your idea is what will see the project to its completion.
Keep an open line of communication with your partners, and use the transparency you have constructed your relationship on. Don’t be afraid of setbacks, stay confident, and assuage any doubts of failure by reminding your investment team why you are the perfect lead for the team. Be as gracious for your investor’s patience as you are for their money, and continue to produce even the smallest approximations of positive results, especially in times of distress. Don’t make excuses and always be forward-thinking.
When your project is yielding positive results, give credit to the investment team for believing in the solution, and don’t take credit for yourself. Provide positive reinforcement for all members of your team, and the professional network that saw the idea from its inception to its current success. A successful project plan gets a project completed, but a successful project can create more successful projects. Take the long view approach, and use every successful opportunity to create several new endeavors down the road.
Austin Hill M.A MFA
February 10, 2020