Writing Successful Job Bids
The bids you write will be the foundation of your new freelance business. A good bid can make all the difference between winning a project and constantly sifting through low-paying, uninteresting jobs that no one else wants to bid on. Here are some important tips to help you generate the best bids and attract the most attention.
Projects You’re Interested In
First, whenever you do a search for new projects, try to start with ones you have a special interest in. If the niche is near and dear to your heart, you’re more likely to spend a lot more time on these bids and provide more information and better reasons for the client to hire you. You’ll want to maintain that level of quality with all your bids, so priming yourself with projects you really want is a great place to begin.
Tracking Your Success
You need to keep a record of all your bids so you’ll know what worked and what didn’t. Keep a notepad or a Word document on your computer and record all the jobs you receive a message about. Mark any of those projects that you are actually awarded, but record every project someone asks for more information on or says you’re in the running for. If your bid caught their interest, you want to keep track of it.
Using that data, try to identify look the factors that are consistent in all of your successful bids. Then model your next bid after the prior successful ones.
Setting a Quota
Set a weekly quota and bid constantly. Too many times, freelancers start riding those peaks and valleys of work and end up in valleys too often because they are not working on replenishing their work stash. The key is to be realistic about timeframes.
For example, if you currently have two projects that you’ll finish within the next 8 days, don’t wait until those 8 days are up to bid on new projects. It can take anywhere from 2–7 days for someone to determine who to hire after all the bids come in. Some projects are never awarded, and you should never assume you’ll get any of them, no matter how good your bids get.
If you bid with only five days left, though, the longest you’ll have to wait for decisions is five days. And rather than overlapping work, just offer a slightly longer timeframe. You can even say something to the tune of “I’m currently finishing two projects and will be available to start on March 5th.” This way, they know when you can start and exactly how long it will take from that date.
The important thing is to keep bidding every week and never let your workload get down to zero. We all have valleys in our work, but our goal is to reduce those as much as possible. Later, when you have repeat clients, you should be able to remove as many of the valleys as possible. For now, you have to do a little juggling.
Don’t Use “Canned” Bids
NEVER write canned bids! You’re severely underestimating the intelligence of the client if you try to copy and paste a bid that has no specific information about their project. Always mention at least two facts about the project, even if the project’s description is something as simple as “I need 30 articles” with no other details.
I’ve seen writers and designers increase their average bid response rate by as much as 30% simply by writing original bids for every project they bid on. Such a high increase in response rates more than justifies the extra few minutes it takes to write out a response.
The Bid Itself
A good bid will depend almost entirely on the project you’re bidding on. I find that short bids work well in some cases while long bids work better in others. To start with, you should always read the project description carefully. Even if it’s a small thesis and you’re trying to bid on 20 projects at a time, you must take the time to read it over.
You may find something in there that removes you from the running such as low budget, location, or specific experience. In addition, you’ll learn about the project and the client so you can cater the tone of your bid to their needs.
If the potential client’s project description is very short and to the point, keep your bid short—they’re probably in a hurry and don’t want to read a lot of extra words explaining how great you are. If they are quippy and funny and ask you for creativity in your product, be funny and creative in your bid. Even if you’re not a writer, you can relax a bit and keep it straightforward.
Here are some more tips on how your bid should be written:
- Professional – Write every bid as professionally as possible. This is not an email to your best friend. It’s a bid for a project. Treat it like a job interview. Would you show up for an interview in cut-offs and a t-shirt? Then don’t write a shoddy bid. And always proofread every bid.
- Short Bids – For short bids, make sure you touch on every important item. The three vital pieces you should hit on are timeframe, cost, and experience. Attach samples directly to the bid, even if you have a portfolio. People in a hurry will rarely go to the portfolio unless you’re especially interesting.
- Long Bids – For long bids, you should use at least three paragraphs. The first should introduce yourself and your expertise in the niche. Don’t just tell them how long you’ve been in the niche. Say how you are suited for their project, when you worked on something similar, and how it turned out. In the second paragraph, outline your work process. For large projects like eBooks or website development where budgets are large, outline the milestones you will use, the timeframe for each, and how you handle editing and revising. This shows that you are organized and responsible. Finally, for the third paragraph, get to the details. Tell the client how much and how long, and show samples. I suggest following this format with any project that’s more than $400. Unless you already know the client or suspect he or she is in a hurry, the more specific details you can offer the better.
- Offering Advice (When and When Not to Do It) – Every now and then you’ll run across a project where the client is just learning how to use the Internet or has not built a website before. In these instances, you can clinch a job by offering simple advice or detailed outlines of how you work. When someone is new to the Internet, they cling to any help they can get. If you can not only write their articles but give them advice on how to format them, where to post them, and how often to post them as well, they will usually pay you as much as double what another writer would ask for. That said, you should NEVER offer advice to anyone who has more than three projects on the site and who clearly understands what he or she is doing. These clients know their business and want someone who will follow directions, and nothing more.
- Confidence without Arrogance – Like in a job interview, a bid is your chance to show off a little bit and tell the client how you’re perfectly suited to their project. But don’t be arrogant. Sometimes bidders will speak negatively about other providers, make wild boasts that can’t be true, or come off a bit full of themselves. This is not good. If you really want to write bids like this, do it using humor. And even then, be careful. This is still a professional forum.
- Specific Examples and Knowledge Demonstration – Always offer specific examples and ways to demonstrate the knowledge you claim to have. If you’re bidding on 20 articles about dog training, discuss other articles you’ve written about dogs, books you’ve read, or the dog you own that you trained yourself. This does two things. It shows how you’re qualified, and it assures your client that it is not a canned bid.
- Asking Questions – It’s fine to ask questions as long as they’re real questions, not just an excuse to contact someone on the message board. On sites like Upwork, though, sending message board posts is a great way to get attention. Most clients have message board posts directly forwarded to their inboxes while new bids are just left to be reviewed later.
How you write your bids is extremely important. It will have a tremendous impact on how effective your business is in the long run. Keep track of what you do right and wrong, adjust it constantly and with enough practice you will eventually master the process.