Any bid writers out there?(7 Posts)
I think I would quite like to become a bid writer. I'm currently in my 6th year of a marketing career, in which my main job has always been writing. In previous roles, I have written a few bid applications but these were for retail or design companies and not the technical construction companies that so many bid writing jobs seem to be in.
So I guess my question is, if you work in this kind of role, do you like it? Does it pay well? And would it be totally impossible for me to retrain to do it?
I have a degree in PR but that's about it, apart from GCSEs and A Levels. I also currently earn about £26k and couldn't afford to take a huge paycut as we have a new mortgage.
I do this as a big part of my job, but in the voluntary sector, not industry. I started out working in trust fundraising and writing bids to charitable trusts and foundations, and then moved to technical tendering to government clients via some programme management roles. I'm now a technical specialist in my area.
I don't have formal training in bid writing as such but I do have a Masters in my specialist area (but did it while I was working) and also a research qualification. Most people I know picked it up on the job and don't have any particular qualifications. It does pay pretty well and the best people can demand very good freelance rates. Quite a few ex-colleagues are freelance and have more work than they can do.
So I don't know if you would retrain as such, but look for a junior role where you can develop into the role. A lot of it is about understanding how programmes and projects work, understanding the commercial imperatives, supporting the design- you rarely just 'write' and there is a strategy element too.
I know a couple of people who do this and are good at it. There is a distinct skill required, which is separate from any technical knowledge. One describes writing bids as "answering the exam question". In her field, the funders will spell out their aims and objectives and you have to address them, explicitly and point by point, in the bid. An ability to see the big picture, be able to see the trees in the wood (as it were) is required, along with the ability to structure your writing well and write in clear, unambiguous language.
Both people fell into it by accident: writing bids came out of working in whatever field they were in.
If you don't have technical knowledge you could provide a bid writing, or 'bid development support' service, to people who have the technical know-how but can't write successful bids.
I sort of did this, but in my case there was little input from myself in terms of writing.
Typical bid package would involve our formal quote generated from SAP, with product info and pricing etc. input by myself. Lead-time and shipping terms would be the only other things I'd write in. The SAP quote would pull in our terms and conditions. Next would be the product offering, generated by the Engineering team, then our product description, another generic document. QA would have to provide their spiel. Then you might have the legal dept's objections to their T&Cs. Lastly would be pulling together all sorts of random documents they might require (usually various docs for quality purposes or exporting requirements).
All of the above would be collated into a pdf.
Behind the scenes was where most of the work was. Reading through their RFQ's, ensuring we had met all their required info. Requesting bid deadlines, costing the product and applying competitive margins etc.
I really enjoyed it but it was very pressured as you would always have competing bid deadlines.
I'm not sure whether that's the sort of work you're talking about?
Bid writing is usually a team effort there should be technical people on the team. For example if it's for an architect company you cannot be expected to provide content for the design but for research, company information. There are usually lots of excel involved, maths, predictions, budget, etc so you need to be good at that. Some bids are absolutely miles long - hundreds of pages especially for IT or complex outsourcing bids. Legal will also be involved. Or if you work for a headhunting firm then it's a different bidding process completely. So it depends which industry you work in. I made over 40k a year in management consultancy bid support, but that was 10 years ago.
Also it's long hours, often hectic in pattern, with tight deadlines. I often worked through weekends and evenings if working together with international teams.
Some of the more random things we dealt with were, well, random!
1 company wanted us to provide a document specifying that the boxing/packaging would be easily opened and closed as..... wait for it.... the product was going into Columbia and was being shipped down some river where customs would be checking it periodically for smuggled drugs.
Another one wanted us to provide a document stating that the product contained no cyanide (an entirely metal product lol).
Another company, Nigeria I think, wanted the bid sealed by a royal seal. We had to ask for a concession on that.
I also recall one of our shipments getting taken over by Somali pirates (I kid you not - some very upset customers there!)
It was a very interesting role, but very pressured.
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