My sister-in-law recently started her own freelance business. It’s been a learning experience for her. As with all new businesses, she’s made a few mistakes. I’ve had the chance to chat with her and help her identify a few of the problem areas. She’s worked out many of the kinks, and I walked away with a blog post idea:
How to Write an Effective Bid
One of the big issues my SIL worked through was meeting client expectations. She did the right thing by writing up a formal bid for each job, but there were a few areas that needed tweaking. Here are some ways to clarify your bid to make sure you and your client’s expectations are both being met.
- Make sure your services offered are detailed. Don’t just say you’ll build a website or edit a book. Explain exactly what you’ll be doing. Instead of saying you’ll perform an edit, say you’ll do a line edit, which will look at correcting continuity problems, wordsmithing, improving the natural flow of the piece, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
- Don’t commit to a rate. Usually you send a bid in response to a request for more information – how much will it cost to have you proofread my book? My proofreading rate is $0.02/word, but I’ve often received manuscripts that need more help than a proofread. I don’t commit to a final price until I’ve had a chance to review the book and see what the client needs. You can do the same thing in any freelance industry – give an initial quote, but make it’s clear that you won’t have an actual price until you’ve talked with your client to discuss exactly what’s needed/wanted.
- Don’t commit to a finish date. Suppose you’re building a website. You can do it in three weeks, but only after you’ve received all of the content, photos, and logos you need to complete the task. If you tell your client you can do it in three weeks, they may expect you to finish it three weeks after talking with you! Once you’ve both agreed that you can do the work, then you can specify an exact finish date. Until then, use your bid to give an estimated time frame and leave the completion date open.
- Specify the terms. Make sure you’re specific regarding what you need from your client. If you agree to do a three-hour photo shoot, does the three hours include time to get ready or does your client need to show up ready to be photographed? Formatting, licensing, permissions, timing – all of these things need to be discussed in the bid so no one is surprised later.
- Insist on an agreement. Make sure you have everything before you start a project. Even if your client is your best friend, you never know what will happen that will leave you unable to finish a project or render your friend incapable of paying. Put the details in writing so you know how to handle a worst-case scenario.
Hopefully you’ve noticed a reoccurring theme throughout all of these tips: be specific! Don’t expect that other people will know what you mean, and don’t rely on them to ask questions – they don’t know what they don’t know. Make sure everything is clear in your bid so there won’t be any surprises once the work begins.