The search for work: The deal with tenders

Feb 27, 2020

Finding work can be hard work in itself. There are only so many hours in a day, and rejections can be really disheartening. Luckily, across February and early March, Rebecca Roberts is here with some top tips to help us secure some clients!

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 they require 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. 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!
  • Drill the brief: It’s true, 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 to respond fully. If anything is unclear, be sure to ask the client quickly.
  • Use the format or template they ask for: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and challenge it. 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.

What are some of the 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 has a preferred provider and are just inviting more to make up the numbers
  • Ideas are 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/successful approach 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! 


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