How to Write a Winning Bid Proposal for Freelancing Projects

This post explains how to write a bid proposal for freelancing projects that gets you work more often.

What is a Bid Proposal?

Bid Proposal or just proposal is an offer by the freelancer in response to a project s/he is interested in working on. Usually the mandatory components of a bid are: the bid amount (hourly or fixed rate), detailed proposal and time to complete / turnaround time. Other things like file attachments (of samples) are usually optional but recommended. An experienced buyer will simply glance over aspects like your bid price and time to complete the project, but will focus more on how you intend to complete the job, your experience, followed by your ratings and certification or capabilities. It thus follows that the differentiating factor in your bid is the proposal. The more crisp and customized proposal you write, the better the chances of you winning the bid.

So here is how to write a winning proposal.

Read the Project Description

Before you begin writing the proposal, read the project description in detail. Download and view any associated files the buyer has uploaded to understand the requirements. Obvious, isn’t it? But in the experience of many service buyers who were surveyed, more than half of the bidders just don’t read the requirements completely. Interestingly, nowadays experience buyers add a sentence like “Enter the words ‘xxxxx xxxxxx’ on top of your proposal.” This requirement will be placed either at the end or somewhere in the middle to ensure you have read the entire project description. There is nothing more annoying for a buyer than having to waste time discussing a project with freelancers who have not understood the requirements. The description should give you an idea of how much effort is required and hence the amount to bid. I wrote “should give an idea” in the last sentence, since not all buyers can articulate their requirements well. If you don’t understand what they want, ask. That is why the PMB is provided. You should be able to frame questions like – Is the rate that I quote within the budget of buyer? Are the earnings on this project worth my effort? You don’t want to bid so low just to win the project and then realize that it is too much work. You should also examine if there any implicit requirements i.e. those which the buyer has assumed that they are well-known in the business and so didn’t bother to explain – but your understanding may differ from what they want and so will require different effort & time. e.g. if a buyer says, “I want a standards compliant website”, they may mean that the website should pass 20+ parameters, whereas you would say that it should be only 15. Again clear it up with the buyer.

Do your Homework

This is where you try to read the project buyer’s mind. The buyer may post links to websites s/he likes. Someone else may have given a sample data entry for contact info of accountants, or a consultant has given some logo concepts she has in mind…you get the idea. Study the websites, samples etc. and if a small sample or design composite can be given in short time of say, 30 minutes, do it and attach it with the proposal. This will instill confidence in the buyer about you.

Tailor the Proposal

Many buyers just delete or ignore meaningless bids like “I can do it” or 10,000 word long canned (template) responses. The logic is – if freelancers don’t have time for crafting a comprehensive bid proposal for the project, the buyers will assume that the work will also be short of the effort required by them and so the buyers too will not have time for such freelancers. Period. Moreover, no employer will go through lengthy proposals for a low budget project. As a freelancer, you must appear interested in the project. This is done by addressing the requirements and may be even recommending an alternate solution or pointing out some discrepancies. If the buyer is new to the freelance marketplace, walk them through the process – be helpful in providing information without expecting any rewards. Sometimes, these small touches help in bagging the projects. Tell them how you intend to program that software, or what camera you will use to get those photographs and other resources which you will use for the project. Again, for the sake of repetition, go with the intention of getting the project and customize each bid accordingly – and don’ t give up this practice even if your bids are rejected. Have patience…your time will come too.

Provide details of Relevant Skills and Experience

Instead of tooting your entire resume, just mention those skills that are relevant to that particular project you are bidding on. So, a simple line like ‘I have over 5 years’ experience in photography, I use XYZ camera with ABC lens and I am proficient in post-production using software.’ will be enough. When listing experience for say, designing WordPress blogs, don’t send a list of 50 WordPress and non-WordPress websites you have designed. Just 6 to 8 of your best projects will be enough to gauge your ability. This is not limited to website design or programming, but is applicable for all categories of freelancing. A word of caution – Be careful of sending data (e.g. Research Reports) that may be confidential. If in doubt ask the former clients if the data / sample can be shared. If you are worried that your files might be misused, use a watermark (it can be your or company name) on the graphics and also use a low resolution image. You must mention this to the buyer in the bid that the attached image sample is low resolution and has a watermark.

Answer Employer’s Questions

Many buyers ask questions in the project descriptions. Be sure to answer them appropriately in your bid. You should remove all their anxieties. Remember that you maybe communicating with a potential client half-way across the globe. So it is natural that they have worries about their money and deadlines just as you do about getting paid for your efforts. You should preferably bullet-point the answers to separate each of the queries so it is readable and easily understood. Make it easy for them. If they have over 40 bids and each bid takes them 3 minutes to read, it will take those two hours just to read. The buyers will then need to analyze the best possible fit. So, if your proposal makes it easy for them, it will definitely stand out.

Mention Deliverables

Be very explicit when you specify as to what you intend to deliver finally to the buyer. Specify what the deliverables entail e.g. logo in JPEG, GIF and AI format (for designers) or research article with online references only (for writers) etc. If the buyer does not understand some aspects, explain it to them – this will save you a lot of frustration later and possibly even avoid arbitration or unpaid invoices.

Project Cost and Payment Terms

Specify whether the bid price is tentative or provisional (which you will confirm say after getting certain clarifications from the buyer) or final. Also mention whether the price is fixed / flat or hourly and the currency in which you expect to get paid (if there is an option). Try and convert it into the approximate local currency of the buyer (http://www.xe.com/ucc/ is a good converter). e.g. if the buyer is from Australia and the marketplace allows transactions only in US Dollars, then convert the total cost to the buyer in Australian Dollars (AUD) as well as USD. You must also mention the payment schedules and terms like what is the amount you expect the buyer to place in escrow (full or partial after each stage of the project), and at which stages of the project you expect it to be released e.g. 25% at the beginning, 40% at pre-approval stage and balance when the project is delivered. Also mention what out of pocket expenses that you incur for the project may be required to be reimbursed by the buyer later (you may have to pay for licensed stock photos, music etc. initially)

Timeline or Project Schedule

Inform the buyer as to how much time this will take. If the project can be broken into various stages or milestones, you should do so and explain that to the buyer. e.g. first website design draft or composite within ‘x’ days, changes to the design within ‘y’ days (for each change), slicing the design (upon approval) within ‘z’ days and so on. This way, the buyer knows what to expect when and also understands that the freelancer knows what s/he is getting into.

Courtesy

Last but not the least. Greet the buyer especially if they write their name – use a simple “Hello Greg” or “Greetings Mr. Smith”, rather than “Hey There!” Also, use professional language – please don’t use slang / SMS lingo or such language- leave out all “gr8″ and “lol” for your WhatsApp buddies. Use simple language that focuses on the buyer and their project. And yes, do run a spellcheck for correcting any typos.

This might seem like a long bid proposal, but once you put it into words, it will be just under 500 words. Of course very small projects merit a simpler proposal. Likewise for a large project your proposals should be tailored with detailed project plan – in fact I recommend you to send the proposal in a separate file (e.g. PDF) detailing everything mentioned above and also cover other aspects including technical details. There are many project plans available on the web or you can search for RFP (Request For Proposal) which you can fill for your bid. A good place for this is http://docstoc.com.

By now you know that each project buyer will receive many proposals. And one of the reasons s/he is outsourcing the project is to save time. So it is logical that s/he may not have enough time to read all 10,000 word proposals. Make yours stand out.