Let’s set the scene. Perhaps you’ve recently graduated with your humanities degree, or maybe you’re a respected businessperson looking for a mid-career change. You may have been trawling through Linkedin or Indeed searching for your dream job before landing on a career you’ve never heard of 'Bid Writer'.
If this sounds familiar, you are certainly not alone. Despite the importance of this career in winning work for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and multinational corporations alike, bid writing seems to be an elusive career that many people stumble upon by accident. It’s time to change that.
Here are 5 things I wish I knew before becoming a bid writer (and why you should become one too!)
1. What a Bid Writer is (and what they do)
In all truth, when I started my role as a Graduate Bid Writer I had no idea what to expect. The websites I had visited in preparation were full of procurement jargon and left me no closer to understanding the job I had applied for. Entering my career blindly, I was a mixed bag of nerves and excitement. Read on and I’ll let you in to what seems to be a closely guarded industry secret.
Putting it simply, Bid Writers help businesses win work. To do this, we read and respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) which announce contract opportunities. Working with clients to understand their business needs, their service delivery, and gain sector-specific knowledge, we carefully craft responses to the questions set out in the RFP that answer the needs of the buying organisation, whilst boasting about the additional offerings that our clients can provide. The aim of this is to convince the awarding panel that our client is the ‘Most Economically Advantageous Tender’ (MEAT) and write a response that scores the highest number of marks. The highest scoring tender (also interchangeably known as ‘bid’) wins the contract, our client wins the work, and we win the satisfaction of knowing that our writing has helped the business to grow. Easy (in theory).
No two days are the same for a Bid Writer. From client meetings to writing, providing support to the team, to research, one thing you’re never short of is something to do or something to learn.
2. Essential Bid Writing skills
Coming with the territory of always having something to do, transferrable skills are essential when bid writing. Below are 5 skills I have found most useful when completing my daily bid writing work.
Time management: Whether that is meeting deadlines, balancing projects, or not chatting to your favourite co-worker by the coffee machine for 15 minutes, time management is essential for ensuring that things get done on time and without undue stress.
Excellent written communication: I suppose that this goes unsaid, but a Bid Writer needs to be able to write. The best bids are written in plain English, so you can put your dictionary away. However, your attention to detail, fluency and proofreading skills must be to an excellent standard.
Interpersonal skills: Communicating with clients and interacting with the team are two very different, but equally important types of communication. For eager graduates looking to enter the workforce but with little professional exposure, fear not! You will receive full training from your team before being expected to lead conversations with clients, and you can ask around the team for any useful titbits of information on existing clients to help calm your nerves. This is a skill that can be learnt, but an understanding of professional communication and small talk will certainly go a long way.
Adaptability: Your workdays will be busy, and you may be working for three or four different sectors at any time. To overcome this and get the most out of your time as a Bid Writer, you will need to learn to be adaptable and receptive to changes as work prioritisation shifts. Flexibility and being amenable to your colleagues will help team members learn to depend on you, and in turn, create reliable relationships where you can also reach out to them for support.
Receptiveness to feedback: As with any new career, you will likely be doing many things for the first time. To really maximise the effectiveness of the training you receive, it is important to be willing to listen to and be receptive to feedback. I know that at times it can be disheartening to receive criticism on something you have put time and effort into, but always keep in mind that the feedback you receive is given to you with the best intentions. It is in the interest of you, the team, and the company to offer and respond to constructive criticism to help finetune your skills faster and speed up your internal progression.
3. The working environment what you make it
Some people may be discouraged by the perception that the procurement and business consultancy environments are characterised by men in suits and the requirement to work exclusively from the office. This is not the case at all.
Post-pandemic, many colleagues and peers re-entering the workforce have been reluctant to tie themselves to one option, having grown accustomed to the flexibility offered by working from home. With the rise of virtual meetings and digital workspaces, Bid Writing offers excellent provision for flexible working. This is a saving grace for commuters who are looking to cut costs during the cost of living crisis, parents with childcare needs and colleagues with additional needs who may not concentrate as well in the office environment.
Naturally, office spaces are not totally out-of-style, and most companies have retained relaxed office spaces for use without the corporate dress code.
4. Opportunities for professional progression
Before starting my career in bid writing, I had no idea what a job as a Bid Writer could lend professionally. Aside from transferrable skills, the opportunities for professional progression available to Bid Writers are plentiful. Given the amount of training required to ‘create’ a high-quality Bid Writer, plus the emphasis on working relationships established within the team, internal progression opportunities within the team structure come thick and fast. Being a highly-skilled, essential career that is integral to the growth of businesses across all sectors, bid writing tends to be one of the safer career choices that offer progression opportunities proportionate to the time and effort you put in.
5. The number of industries and sectors I would grow to learn inside out
Entering my career as a graduate, I was keen to begin a job that would offer excellent progression opportunities as well as satisfy my own research and development interests. This is where bid writing has truly exceeded my expectations. On any one day, I could be working on bids for the healthcare, construction, and agricultural industries. The fact that bidding applies to all industries and that each RFP is different keeps the work varied and supports continuous learning.
Where there are industries you begin to enjoy writing for, there are opportunities to begin to specialise and become the team ‘expert.’ I have learnt things I never thought I would, researched topics I had never considered to exist, and won bids for clients in industries I previously would not have thought possible. And, if you become a Bid Writer, you too can do the same.