Proposal Secrets: Scheduling for Success


Julie Marie Irvin

One of the most common mistakes in proposal management is poor scheduling. Tasks originally regarded as optional can become mandatory. With such high stakes, it is imperative that tasks are not rushed the day prior to the submission due date. Even a one-person, single-day proposal benefits from having a schedule.

“Mr. Murphy” has a role in every proposal, so plan on something going wrong. Expect and prepare to cope with changes. The following broad guidelines will improve your overall scheduling effectiveness:

  1. Consider the total time available, then deduct 10 percent for a reserve to handle unanticipated tasks and problems. Then schedule proposal activities in the remaining 90 percent of the available time.

Build a list of events that have to be scheduled. Schedule the major events first and then add the finer details or granularity later.

The complexity of the schedule depends on the size of the proposal and the number, expertise, and location of contributors. If at all possible, have a schedule available to distribute at the kick-off meeting.

Develop a Proposal Schedule Backwards From the Due Date

Always plan to deliver your proposal one day prior to the due date. If you deliver it that day, then congratulations on a job well done, if not, then you have a few hours to breathe. Late proposals are often eliminated and immediately trashed.

Items to take into consideration:

  1. Delivery – Will this be an overnight shipment via an international shipping service, via local courier or self-delivery?

Printing – Will you use an outside printer or will you print in-house?  If you plan to send your proposal to an outside printer, contact them as soon as your schedule is created, so they know to expect your print job. Waiting until the last minute to notify them, is not good; they may not have room in their production schedule to accommodate your “RUSH” request.

Reviews and Approvals – Who will be involved in the reviews and the approvals?  What else do these people have on their plates and how do other deadlines affect their contributions and input?

Weekends and Holidays – Avoid scheduling on and around these as much as possible.

Estimated Time Standards by Task

Use these time standards as a start until you develop standards for your organization. Requiring less time in your organization is neither necessarily excellent performance nor is taking more time a sign of poor performance.

Task Time
Writing : New Material 4 pages / day
Writing : Extensive Revision 8 – 10 pages / day
Writing : Minimal Revision 20 – 25 pages / day
Simple Graphic 1 – 2 hours each
Complex Graphic 2 – 6 hours each
Retouch Photo 1 – 2 hours
Complex Illustration 1 day each
Red Team Review 40 pages / day


Managing a proposal requires you to work with countless unpredictable components.  Will your contributors meet their deadlines? What if your CD burner goes on the fritz? What if a massive storm causes shipping delays? Solutions can be found for all of these challenges, but no matter how much of a proposal wizard you are, more time can’t be pulled out of a hat. By carefully designing (and sticking to) your proposal schedule, while building in time for the unforeseen, your proposal’s chance of success increases and your stress level decreases.


Julie Marie Irvin is Founder + President of Keystone Resources, Inc. You can reach her at

[email protected] or call 713-874-0162


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