How To Become a Bid Writer (and Why It's an Excellent Career Choice for Writers)

Updated: Oct 27


We did a Facebook Live on our free-to-join Digital Nomad Writer's Club Facebook Group, where Tyler spoke all about her lucrative and rewarding career as a Senior Bid Manager. She told us all about the role, how she got into the game, and what qualifications are necessary (hint: you don't even need a degree!). Then we talked about how to land a job, what kind of tools of the trade are used, and what we all want to know -- how much you can make as a bid writer.


Unfortunately, there were some audio issues on the Live, so most of our followers had trouble hearing the interview. So Tyler was kind enough to provide us with her notes, which we are publishing here in a newly inspired series called...Choose the 'Write' Path for You.


1. OVERVIEW OF THE ROLE

  • Business to business sales – bid writers sit between sales and marketing within companies

  • Example of what a bid writer does - a company, let’s say Starbucks, spends £20m on business travel per year and needs a travel agent. They release a ‘request for proposal’ (RFP) to a number of travel agents to compete for the global contract. The travel agent’s bid writer is charged with responding to the RFP. Starbucks also spends £120m on temporary workers, £55m on legal representatives and £300m on construction of new stores. For each item it buys, there is a competitive tender process whereby bid writers are needed to submit proposals.

  • RFP responses usually include writing any mix of the following documents -

  • An executive summary

  • The RFP response itself, i.e. technical answers to anywhere between 20 and 300 questions posed by the client

  • A catalogue of appendices and supporting documents ranging from case studies to CVs, certificates and service configuration diagrams, etc.


2. QUALIFICATIONS

  • Quick history of the role - while businesses have been responding to RFPs for decades, only in recent years has it widely become known as a profession in its own right. Previously it was a bit of an admin role, but because the tendering process has become so competitive, there are now qualifications that exist which help entry level writers get their foot in the door

  • Certification – APMP (Association of Proposal Management Professionals) – globally-recognised body which offers three levels of certification

  • Education – in the UK market, about 75% of bid writers have an undergraduate degree but this isn’t necessary

  • Other skills – team collaboration and the ability to motivate senior management to meet deadlines, organised and methodical, critical thinking, work well under pressure, the ability to delegate, an eye for design


3. LANDING A JOB

  • Industries that need bid writers – construction, telecoms, health and pharma, recruitment, finance, IT, legal, government, not for profit (essentially any of the universally known industries)

  • What an entry level role looks like - I started as a bid assistant basically keeping the text library up to date for full blown bid managers until I learned the ropes. I progressed from there to a bid writer, bid manager and then senior bid manager.

  • Where to find job postings - LinkedIn is a great place to start: search ‘knowledge base manager’, ‘bid coordinator’, ‘bid writer’, ‘bid manager’ and ‘proposal manager’ either remote or home based

  • Other places for job postings – in the UK, Bid Solutions is great resource. They post jobs but also take a personalised approach to placing writers. There will be similar organisations in business hubs around the globe.

  • Remote working - most bid teams these days work remotely, although they largely work from the country they are employed in. Larger companies employ regional bid teams and allow writers to work from anywhere within the region. Virtual bid teams for global companies are becoming more and more normalised.


4. SYSTEMS AND PLATFORMS

  • Microsoft Office – Word, Excel and PowerPoint are used heavily

  • Adobe InDesign


5. SALARY EXPECTATIONS

*Diagram published by Bid Solutions’ 2018 bid salary benchmarking white paper

  • Basic salary plus annual bonuses, commissions and full-time employee benefits

  • Opportunity to progress your career based on win rates, skills and tenure


6. IN DEPTH LOOK AT WHAT THE ROLE ENTAILS

STRATEGY AND STORYBOARDING

  • Qualify RFPs received – by analysing their needs against your company’s services or products and understanding the existing relationship your sales lead has with that client

  • Research the client – news, annual investors reports, their website

  • Agree the specific solution based on the client’s requirements – systems, services, products, etc.

  • Work with sales and senior management – to agree win themes (why us, why not the competition?) and strategy (financial proposal, the value your company will bring based on the challenges the client is facing)

  • Work win themes and strategies into the RFP response – and build a story to use as the foundation of the executive summary

PROJECT MANAGEMENT

  • Identify where you’ll need other people in the business to contribute – including demonstrators and technical information, farm out with deadlines (keeping in mind the overall RFP deadline)

  • Dog ear where responses depend on co-workers - within your proposal outline

  • Track actions and owners - and chase / follow up

TECHNICAL WRITING, EDITING AND PROOFING

  • Plug in boilerplate responses – from your existing text library where possible, then start tailoring it to the client’s profile

  • Write new responses where needed – be concise!

  • Complete the full draft – and edit / proof it yourself, ensuring any word count limits are adhered to

  • Distribute to agreed review teams – with a deadline for actionable feedback

  • Incorporate feedback – and distribute a more final version for sign off / submission

DESIGN, CREATIVITY AND MARKETING SKILLS

  • Make the proposal inviting from the start - if the client receives ten proposals, you want yours to be read first which means that it needs to be the most attractive – does the front cover design and art work speak to the client’s industry, challenges and branding?

  • Create diagrams – the break up text and explain processes more efficiently than words

  • Use images that the client can relate to – helps them envision working in partnership with your company

Huge thanks to Tyler for joining us, and for taking the time to create these show notes for us too.


Now, we'd love to hear from you. Are you interested in becoming a bid writer? Do you have any specific questions for Tyler that weren't covered here? Let us know in the comments, and we'll be sure to get back to you!

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