Freelance In 40 Days [Day 13]: How To Win Projects And Influence Your Piggy Bank

Posted: September 16th, 2009

Photo by Only Alice (Flickr)

Photo by Only Alice (Flickr)

This is Day 13 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll learn the tricks of creating a winning project bid.

When on the job boards and bidding on projects, freelancers have the tendency to save time and create a single bid template. Then they use that same template for bidding on all projects they come across.

Big mistake.

Tailoring your bid to suit the project (and employer) will go a long way in helping you win a much higher percentage of the projects you bid on. Its not rocket science nor do you have to be an expert writer either. It is simply taking steps to make your bids stand out from the rest.

Let’s say for a moment, put yourself in the mind of an employer looking for a freelancer. You probably have to look through anywhere from 50 on up to 100 bids and they will probably fall under one of three types:

  1. The Canned Response: A single universal template for all bids unchanged for any project and not at all personalized to the employer. Odds are about 99.9% it will be deleted and laughed at.
  2. The Typical Response: A bid which gives the usual details… Hi, I’m interested in your project. Here is my experience and contact info and this is what it will cost. Bla bla bla. It probably is a little wordy from detailing all your experince and just doesn’t stand out from the fifty others just like it.
  3. The Winning Response: The one that gets the project, not by luck, but by telling the prospective employer exactly what he wants to hear and in as few words as possible.

So what exactly does make a winning reponse? Let’s go back to the propective employer’s mind again and imagine him reading your bid but after reading another fifty beforehand. You can bet he is not going to read it like an action thriller, but rather scan it through for a few seconds. Then if it strikes him as a viable candidate, he will probably read it again slowly.

Add to this the fact that bid selection isn’t a face to face interaction and you can see that anything done to make your bid stand out will greatly increase your odds of catching his eye and winning the project. There are several steps that can make this easily happen.

The Essentials of a Winning Bid

  • Use bullets (ahem… like these). Rather than write out paragraphs, utilize bullets which forces a read-through.
  • Be concise. You can summarize your experience but you do not need to go into detail of any previous work. That’s what your portfolio is for.
  • Mention ONLY the skills you have that are needed to complete the project. More than that becomes wordy.
  • Sell yourself. Briefly give reasons they should hire you or expectations they will have of you (bullets work here too).
  • For complex projects, explain your solution. Briefly explaining your methods of completing a project in a short paragraph reinforces the fact that you will know how to get the job done.
  • Give a cost estimate. Sometimes project details are too vague to give an estimate but I’ve noticed that it does help to have this, even if it is a ballpark figure or a price range.
  • Ask questions. It’s important to ask (smart) questions if any details are unclear, but it also initiates communication with the employer which can give you the upper hand on other bids if the employer answers back.
  • End the bid by giving your email, an instant message, phone number and location. The likely contact will be by email but by giving the impression you are easily available and are, in fact, a person, you won’t be so anonymous as the other hundred applicants.

Your Homework For Today

Go back to those job boards you created a profile on, look for projects and submit a bid on them. Remember to take the time to tailor your bids to the project. It will be slow at first, but you’ll get the hang of it by, oh, the 20th bid or so.

Also, refer back to the sample bid used in the previous tutorial.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

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