Federal Proposal Formatting

Apr 20, 2020 3:04:43 PM / by Anna Rose

This article was last updated on May 10th, 2023

Once a business locates a solicitation that aligns with its capabilities, the task of crafting a well-structured response in the form of a proposal begins. If you find starting your proposal challenging, you can connect with experts who can guide you.

Crafting a federal contract proposal is a significant task, and mistakes are easy if you're not careful.

The instructions to the offeror, often outlined in the solicitation document, provide important guidance that shapes your proposal. These instructions are not merely suggestions; they are a mandatory roadmap for creating a proposal that aligns with the contracting agency's expectations. Ignoring these instructions could result in your proposal being denied outright, regardless of its other merits.

Here are ten common errors contractors should be aware of and avoid:

Ignoring Instructions: Each solicitation has specific instructions, including formatting guidelines (font size, margin & page count) and submission procedures(how and when to submit your proposal). Ignoring or overlooking these instructions can lead to the disqualification of your proposal.

Insufficient Detail: Proposals must be detailed and thorough, providing a comprehensive response to all solicitation requirements. A lack of detail can lead to the perception that you do not fully understand the project or contract.

Poorly Defined Scope: A well-defined scope demonstrates that you understand the project and can meet its needs. A vague or poorly defined scope can raise doubts about your ability to deliver.

Ignoring the Evaluation Criteria: Each solicitation outlines the criteria that will be used to evaluate proposals. Not addressing these criteria in your proposal is a common mistake that could impact your chances of winning the contract.

Lack of Proofreading: Typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes can create a poor impression and suggest a lack of attention to detail. Always proofread your proposal multiple times or have a second set of eyes review it before submitting.

Late Submission: Missing the submission deadline is a surefire way to have your proposal disqualified. Always plan ahead to ensure you submit your proposal on time.

Overpromising: It can be tempting to promise more than you can deliver in order to win the contract. However, this can lead to problems down the line if you're unable to meet these promises.

Lack of Customization: Each proposal should be tailored to the specific solicitation. Using a generic, one-size-fits-all proposal can lead to the perception that you don't fully understand or care about the specific project.

Inadequate Pricing Detail: A common mistake is to provide a lump sum price without a breakdown of costs. Providing detailed pricing information shows transparency and helps the evaluator understand your pricing structure.

Ignoring Past Performance: Past performance is a key evaluation factor in many solicitations. Neglecting to include details of your past successful projects can be a disadvantage.

Back to Basics
Once you have formatted your proposal properly, you'll need to submit it to the government. The most popular way to submit a proposal is through email. 

This may seem easy; however, an improperly formatted email can leave a bad impression on a contracting officer. When formatting your proposal emails, prepare a professional subject line that includes the solicitations number and your company name. 

In the body of the email, address the attached proposal and ask for a confirmation of receipt. Sign your email with a professional signature that includes your name, title, and phone number. 

Did You Know?
US Federal Contractor Registration (USFCR) created a solution for starting your proposal's layout called the " Master Bid Template." This template provides the initial outline for our clients to format their federal proposals properly. It includes elements such as: 

  • Cover Page
  • Signature Page
  • Index Page
  • Price Proposal 
  • Technical Proposal 
  • Capabilities Statement 
  • Past Performance

If you want a copy of the Master Bid Template, contact USFCR's Registration & Contracting Specialists at  (866) 216-5343 and ask them about access to the Advanced Procurement Portal (APP). The Master Bid Template can be found in this app. 


Tags: USFCR Academy

Anna Rose

Written by Anna Rose

Anna is a USFCR Training Coordinator and the host of the USFCR Academy. She has worked with thousands of businesses to help them get into and succeed in federal government contracting.