How freelancers can handle tenders

Rebecca Roberts gives her top tips on how freelancers should approach the tender process.

Prospective or existing clients may often ‘go out to tender’ and get several submissions and quotes, often requiring a pitch or follow-up meeting, before appointing a provider. 

Large agencies are often well-placed to respond as the process requires time, people, and often resources. As a freelancer it can be a risk to plunge too much time into a tender, but equally the rewards, if appointed, can be significant. Here are some key things to consider:

Right fit

Does the tender fit with what you can offer as a freelancer? Do you have capacity to deliver it? Don’t waste time on the process if you answered ‘no’ to either of these!

Make sure you are clear what they are asking for and what work is required

Drill the brief

It’s true that not all clients know what they want, but when it comes to a tender process, before you jump in, make sure you are clear what they are asking for and what work is required. If anything is unclear, be sure to ask the client.

Use the client's template

They’ll want to compare like for like and may ask you to provide a response in a certain template and request a breakdown or costings in a particular way. Don’t lose points by ignoring this.

Checking client tender selection criteria

Maximise your chances

Make sure you have responded to each point they ask to ensure you’ve addressed the selection criteria. Check it through – would you be able to score on everything?

Right referees

If they’ve asked for referees make sure you have the right ones lined up, or save up some supporting endorsements you can use when asked (and be sure to notify referees if they are likely to be contacted).

Read it at least twice

Check how your response comes across, and check for typos/errors.

Checking response to tender

Get it in on time

Sounds obvious, but often tenders can take time to prepare for so be sure to hit the deadline.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Tenders can take time, money and effort. You may have some gaps in the picture provided so it’s worth asking if anything is unclear.

Issues with the tender process

Some of the most common complaints on tenders I hear from freelancers (and agencies alike for that matter) include:

  • Being asked for creative, specific ideas and/or solutions as part of the tender process
  • A client already having a preferred provider and just inviting more to make up the numbers
  • Ideas being taken and delivered in-house and/or via chosen provider

While there are no easy solutions to tackle these, decide whether you can give a taste of your solution without giving it all away.

Ultimately, it’s a good process to try if you’ve not done so before – just weigh up all these factors to inform your approach, and good luck!