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The Better Way To Bid For Contract Work

Source | FastCompany : By Ted Leonhardt 

Requests for proposals (RFPs) are the worst. Still, they’re the way many businesses and independent workers alike score valuable contract work—particularly for creative services.

Even though everything from corporations to government agencies and nonprofits all issue RFPs, I can’t help but hate what they do to those of us who respond to them: They standardize us, or at least try to. For creative workers, there’s a bitter irony in that; meaningful, high-quality, world-changing creativity is unique by definition, and the standard RFP usually asks for the opposite.

Here’s how I’ve learned to bid for those projects successfully.

1. Change The Rules In Your Favor

The standard RFP usually says something like, “Be sure your response is in exact accordance with the requirements.” That’s exactly what you shouldn’t do.

First, a confession: I built a sizable design firm and worked on multimillion-dollar global assignments, so I’ve seen my share of RFPs. And while I’ve hated virtually all them, when I did decide to pursue one, I certainly didn’t hate the work they brought in.

My personal rule is to only complete an RFP if at least one of these three conditions applies:

  1. You have an inside track: You either helped the potential client write it, or you have an advocate inside the organization who’ll support you.
  2. Your expertise makes you the only logical choice.
  3. You have absolutely nothing better to do and need the money.

That sets a high bar for plenty of creative agencies and freelancers—and that’s the point. Before you even consider bidding for the project, you need to know it’ll be on your terms. In order to test whether at least one of those conditions applies to you, do a quick check. Ask yourself:

  • Do I know these people or the company?
  • Is the project interesting?
  • Does it fit my expertise?

If you you can’t answer “yes” to any of those questions and aren’t desperate for the income, walk away. But if you can, then settle in and read the RFP closely, jotting down questions—questions you’ll ask them before putting in any effort beyond reading.

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