How to write a winning bid

It can be hard to stand out from the crowd, but follow these tips to write an attention-grabbing bid
7 minute read
Adam Smith @HomebrandAdam
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for How to write a winning bid

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These tips and tools will help your bid rise above the crowd

Maybe you're new to the Freelancer platform. Maybe you've been at it for awhile but have yet to be awarded that elusive first project. Odds are it's not your skillset that's lacking.

There's an artform to writing an attention-grabbing bid that makes you stand apart from the crowd and puts your considerable skills front and center. We're going to teach you how to do it.

What separates a good bid from a bad one?

Trust us. We see a lot of project bids. And there are a few common elements to bids that don't get selected. If you can avoid some of these all-too-familiar faux pas, your bid will rise above the noise.

Let's look at a poor bid and dissect what makes it subpar:

Bad bids are cut and paste

This is the cardinal sin in bidding. Don't just cut and paste a response and recycle it for every project you bid on. It looks spammy and it sends a message to the employer that you didn't care enough about their project to write an original bid.

In the example above, it's obvious from a glance that the bid is generic. It doesn't mention any project details or how the freelancer's skills apply. Copy-paste bids like this are an immediate turn-off for employers.

Bad bids are overly formal

Note the, "Dear sir/madam," in the example above. Being professional and respectful is important, but being overly formal comes across as stiff and impersonal. It also repeats the first mistake of bidding, which is making your bid appear cut and pasted.

Bad bids are self-focused

Read through the example above again and note how many times the bidder mentions himself versus how many times he actually addresses the project posting. There's no reference to the project itself, only to the bidder.

Bad bids are overly general

When they post a project, employers want to know that they can find a freelancer with specific skills relevant to the task. They want to see experience with projects similar to theirs.

Note how the example above has none of that. The bidder mentions, "Relevant Skills and Experience," but doesn't go into detail about what those skills are. There's no mention of previous projects, no mention of the current proposal, no mention of deadlines and no mention of how the task will be completed.

Bad bids come from unprofessional looking profiles

Profiles without actual photos (cartoon characters don't count) immediately look less professional. Take the time to upload a quality photo of yourself. It helps potential employers form a connection to you.

In addition to a photo, you project more trustworthiness if you take the time to verify your email and phone number, connect your Facebook and verify your payment method. This shows potential employers that there's an actual person behind the profile.

What details should I include in a bid?

We've gone through all the "don'ts" about bidding on a project, but let's focus on the positive. There are a few details you can include to give your bid the best chance of success. We'll look at a well-written bid as an example. Let's assume someone has posted this project proposal: “I will send you a set of lecture slides and notes and you will need to summarize and make them into concise notes.” Here's a bid with a high chance of success:

So what makes this a good bid? Let's look closer.

Personalized response

Note how the bidder addressed the employer by name. Right away, this sends a signal to the employer that you've actually read the project posting and aren't just blanketing every project with a copy-paste response. Moreover, as simple as using someone's name seems, it forms a human connection.

Information about the project

Include details from the original project listing to show you've read it thoroughly. Remember that this project is very important to the person who posted it. They wouldn't have taken the time to seek out a freelancer otherwise. Including details about the project in your bid shows employers that their project is important to you as well.

How your skills are relevant to the project

Be specific about how your skill set lends itself to the project. Mention previous similar projects you've worked on and what you've been able to deliver. If you're hired to produce a logo for a company, it's not enough simply to say you know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. Talk about your previous experience designing logos, and some of the companies you've designed them for.

The deadline you can commit to

Give the employer an idea of the timeframe you can finish the project in. While some projects may not be as time sensitive, it's still wise to address how quickly you can deliver. This shows the employer that you're prioritizing their project. The caveat here? Don't overcommit. Only commit to deadlines on which you can realistically deliver.

A link to past work

If you've done similar work before make sure to upload it to your portfolio and provide the employer with a link. The best way they have to gauge your abilities is to see what you've actually delivered in the past.

Some questions about the project

Try to ask one or two questions specific to the project. This serves two purposes. First, it shows the employer you've thoroughly read the project description. Second, it increases your chances of receiving a reply. Leave your question open-ended so you can start a dialogue with the employer.

How do I win a bid?

It's likely your bid will be one of many. You've written your bid carefully and set yourself up for success. There are a few final steps that can help get your bid across the line.

Read the project description carefully

We know it seems like we're repeating ourselves, but that's how important this step is. Once you've written your bid, re-read the project description to make sure there's nothing you've missed. Make sure you've specifically addressed the project and that you fully understand the details.

Proofread your bid

We can't stress this point enough. Spelling, punctuation and grammar errors make your bid look unprofessional and spammy. Re-read your bid to make sure you haven't made any typos. Use your computer's spelling and grammar check features, but don't rely on them entirely. If you're not confident in your spelling and grammar skills, have someone you trust read over it for you before you submit it.

Bid competitively

Make sure your bid doesn't price you out of contention. Pay attention to the budget specified in the proposal and tailor your bid accordingly. This doesn't mean you have to be the cheapest, or even that you're bound to the proposed budget. It does mean that you have to value your skills and time competitively.

Be clear about your terms

Be straightforward about what you can deliver and when you can deliver it. As we said before, you need to be specific about the amount of work you can deliver and the deadline you can meet. Don't over-promise. Employers can see through unrealistic promises, and even if you're awarded the project you risk a bad review if you don't come through for the employer.

Consider low value projects

You can gain some traction by writing quality bids for lower value projects that can be quickly completed. Some projects require you to have five reviews before bidding. A great bid on a lower value project can help you build momentum and pay big dividends in the long run.

What should I do after I’ve placed my bid?

Congratulations! You've placed a high-quality bid on a project. Now it's in the employer's hands. But that doesn't mean your task has ended. There are a few steps you can take to turn a successful bid into a successful project, and ensure yourself more work in the future.

Follow up

If you don't hear from the employer right away, don't worry. It's likely they're being inundated with bids. If the project is still open, don't be afraid to reach out with a direct message. While you don't want to come across as overbearing, a polite direct message can keep you top of mind.

Reply promptly

If the employer does award you the project, make sure to reply as quickly as possible. You want to set a precedent that you're easily contactable and good at communicating. Ask a few more questions to make sure you fully understand the project, and keep in contact to update the employer on your progress. You might even think about using the "Suggest a Milestone" feature to set 3–5 milestones throughout the project with clear goals.

Protect your work

Make sure any samples of work you provide to potential employers include a watermark or other identifying feature.

Exceed expectations

The best strategy for winning more bids is to do excellent work. If you over-deliver for an employer, they're more likely to leave you a positive review and to hire you again for future projects. Your reviews and ratings serve as a powerful signal to future employers. Winning your first bid is a major milestone, but it's the work you deliver that will set you up for success.

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