Freelance Bidding Tips - Top 10 Ways to Win the Bidding War

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Rejection is part of the business of freelancing. Here's how to limit it.

Are you throwing your hat in the ring and getting it tossed right back at you? Frustrated that you can't seem to get the bites you deserve? Well, rest easy, here's the scoop on what makes a solid bid.

But before we get to the tips, there's something so important that I want to make sure you keep it in the front of your mind -- It's not about you. That's right. The bid isn't about you, it's about them. What you can do to meet their expectations. The only person that cares about your bills, or your sick cat, or your drive to make a million is you. Remember that bit. It puts you ahead of half the freelancers out there.

Now, let's get out in front of the other half...

  1. The informed question. No matter what you heard in school, there are bad questions. Questions are great when they open dialog, but they stink when you just fake them. A good question to a client gets them thinking two things. The first is the answer to your question - it should help clarify the project in their own minds; the second thing it can get them to think is, "This guy/gal really knows the subject area" This last is the most powerful. You want to ask informed questions, questions that show you know what they want and that you know how to deliver it.

Good question: "Your website seems to be directed at B2B clients, have you considered adding a case study to the mix, along with the material you'd like me to rewrite?" This shows you've tracked down their website, looked at the material, and that you have ideas of your own to bring to the table.

Bad question: "Do you expect me to work on the weekend?" Bad because it focuses on you and your needs and it raises an issue that shouldn't be an issue.

  1. Opening dialog. The purpose of a good question is to open a conversation with a potential client. It's a little dance that gives each of you a chance to see if this is a match. When you include it as part of a good bid, it helps move past the sometimes-awkward hiring phase and right into the "we are already working on this" phase.

Now that the door is open, don't close it by acting unprofessional or forgetting the client-freelancer relationship. Avoid being too friendly, too quickly. Keep your jokes and jibes to yourself for a while. Stay on track and work to firm up deliverables. Without a financial commitment, your time is wasted.

  1. Giving access. Business relationships rely on communication. Your bid should include any access you are willing to provide clients. Let them choose between phone, email, Skype or other. Later, once the deal is done, you can express your favorite method or just start using that. Make it stupidly easy to contact you.
  2. Transparency. When you are placing a bid, make it clear what you are going to do, how you intend to do it and any skills you bring to the table. Do not lie and do not use hyperbole. Think the old Dragnet phrase, "Just the facts ma'am." When you get questions, answer them. You will be surprised at how mellow clients can be when you are up front about your work experience (or lack of it).

This will lose you some contracts. But you will be better off for it. When you are dishonest, you set up false expectations. Yes, you may get away with it, but part of a good bid is finding not just a job you can do, but a job you will do well. You are just going to have to rely on the judgment of the buyer sometimes and not just your own.

  1. Price is secondary. Although a bid entails an estimate of what you will charge, understand that price should not be your main selling point. Sidestep this as much as possible until the buyer shows interest in hiring you. If they are hiring strictly based on getting the lowest possible price, they are unlikely to meet your needs. Better is to price some portion of the project accurately and offer extras with the implication that you will be charging more for additions.

The temptation at all bidding sites is to think you aren't getting jobs because you are bidding too high. You have to overcome this idea. Work on being the best provider for the project and forget what others are bidding. They've fallen into the trap of thinking they have to underbid to have a chance.

  1. Three styles: Concrete, teaching and advice. A concrete bid is a, this-for- that affair. The job description is clear and the price is usually set. There's not much wiggle room, it is what it is. The teaching style happens when someone is unclear or just inexperienced in placing a project posting. They need a bit of leading by the hand to ferret out what they need. Your bid will include some "flavor" where you bend the posted job into a mold that you prefer. It may include a list of objectives with associated pricing estimates and generally requires some back and forth to clarify matters. You are teaching someone the ropes and translating their loose language into terms you can understand.

The final type is when you pretty much understand what they are asking for but you have better ideas. This requires some care, but when you nail it, it is a very powerful technique. When done well, you come off as a willing and helpful expert, capable of guiding them.

  1. Mine your past. When you have something strong that fits their project in your profile or sample set, push it. Don't expect clients to dig too deeply. Put it in the bid. This can include testimonials, previous successful projects (related to theirs) and links to past work. This can even take the form of some offline anecdote... "I remember how hard it was when my mother had a stroke. This will give the piece the benefit of personal experience." There is a fine line-you don't want to drift into too much about yourself, but if you have something that clicks, go for it.
  2. Make realistic promises and keep them. Buyers are naturally suspicious when you make performance claims that exceed the norm. It may be that you can produce twice as fast as the next guy, but let that be an over-delivery instead of an upfront boast. After you are awarded the contract, keep your promises. This is so critical, I'm repeating it.

Buyers can vacillate, they are paying the freight. You have to give them some slack. But your word should bind you.

  1. Don't waffle. During the back and forth of bidding, keep business matters straightforward. If there are requirements (contract, NDA, W-9) keep it professional. When it comes to money, make your payment terms clear. This is not the time to equivocate or avoid the subject.

If your culture or upbringing makes money a tough issue to mention, you are going to have to overcome your reluctance. Remind yourself that this is business. If you doubt this advice, read over some of the forums at brokered sites. You'll see that many of the complaints have their roots in just not being clear about money.

  1. Don't be afraid to offer more. You will often see projects that could use talents you don't have along with what you'd like to provide. Don't be afraid to offer other services you think a client needs. You can do this by having a background network of freelancers you trust. This adds value to your bid. Mention what you think is best done by another provider and offer to make the connection.

Other tips Spelling and grammar are important, not just for those in the writing game, but everyone. Clients want to see that you will be able to communicate with them if they award something to you. Use subject matter specific terms if you know them - avoid them if you do not. "Fulminant" means one thing to a doctor and quite another thing to a chemist.

Watch out for British versus American English in your bids. When it matters, it really matters. Best is to skip any variants if possible.

Concise wins over wordy. When a proposal calls for a long, detailed, point-by-point bid, give a summary and attach specifics as a separate document. Remember, you don't want to overwhelm someone - stick to your best stuff and be done with it.

Finally, do your best to keep anxiety at bay. The only cure I've found is to put in a bid and start right out working on something else. There's no sure remedy to overcome "bid angst" but there's no point in getting all wrapped up in "ifs" either. Do it, move on.

Of course you can register at 4eHire Freelancers to advertise your services and look for projects that fit your skills. You can sign up as a 4eHire Freelancer here.

 

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