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The Cost of Outsourced Bid Writing for Public Sector Tenders

Written by Thornton & Lowe


Feb 25, 2024

We have developed this article in order to inform businesses of the likely costs involved of outsourcing their bid writing, especially those who require support for public sector tenders. For context, we have provided why organisations choose to find external bid support services in the first place, and how this requirement can often be very different to that required in order to bid for private sector contracts.

Why do businesses choose to outsource their Bid Writing, especially for Public Sector Tenders?

Public sector tenders are contract or framework opportunities published by contracting authorities (organisations funded largely by the public purse) for goods, services, utilities and all other works. They give businesses the chance to competitively bid to central and local government bodies.

However, writing for these tenders is fiercely competitive, and requires specific skills and an in-depth understanding of public sector procurement in order to be successful. These tenders are also less based on relationships and who you know and more based on the tender response and supporting evidence.

There are often peaks and troughs in the number of tenders being published, which can make it difficult for many businesses to recruit their own dedicated Bid Team. As such, many organisations choose to outsource this to bid writers with experience and knowledge in this key area.

How is bid writing for public sector tenders different to private sector tenders?

Private sector tender requirements vary substantially, from a brief conversation which then requires a quote or proposal, through to a more formal response to a brief or specification.

Typically, there is more freedom when responding to a private sector tender with regards to layout and the information you can include. In comparison, public sector procurement has:

  • High levels of regulation
  • To be deemed open, fair and transparent - so requires systems to evidence this
  • Online procurement portals
  • Defined timescales and qualifying stages
  • Often more of a focus on Social Value, Carbon Reduction, Added Value and Innovation.

If you would like to understand more about public sector procurement please read our blog on how to find these opportunities and the benefits of being involved here.

For many of our clients, the Sales Team/Lead or Business Development Manager will be responsible for producing proposals to send to private sector clients. They have built a relationship with them already, there is trust and often when it gets to the stage of a formal proposal, the offer is already understood and the focus is often on price. A proposal template is used and tailored for the specific client and sent out. Followed by negotiation on price, negotiation on the terms and a deal.

Often the same team is expected to complete public sector tenders, as they already lead on proposals for the business. While they can be confident in the pricing and fully understand the solution, they can lack the experience, expertise and capacity to complete the lengthy requirements of public sector tenders. With tender responses typically ranging from 6,000 to 30,000 words, plus the supply of evidence, references, finances, procedures, plans and prices. They understand the expectations of the private sector but may struggle to know ‘what good looks like’ for public sector tender responses.

However, government contracts provide stability and are often longer in duration. There is also a renewed focus on involving SMEs in the procurement process with the current updated Procurement Regulations which are going through Parliament now. This indicates that businesses, no matter their size have the chance to enter the public sector supply chain through winning contracts.

How long do you have to respond to a tender?

Typically, you have 20 working days to respond to a tender - by the time you have found the tender, expressed an interest and got approval to proceed. This means that it is increasingly important to locate opportunities early and assess their suitability effectively to ensure you have the time to create a compelling proposal.

Being aware of upcoming contracts, through PIN Notices and careful monitoring of relevant portals, such as Find a Tender, is critical.

Having trouble locating the correct public sector opportunities for your business? Speak to our team now about our dedicated Search and Selection service to find out how we can save you valuable time and streamline your bid selection process.

How much do outsourced Bid Writers charge?

As a rough guide, outsourced or freelance Bid Writers will charge between £450 and £750 per day.

Complex, high value and highly competitive tenders of course require more of an investment than smaller tenders, with less competition, or more compliance-based frameworks which simply take less time. A Bid Writer will work on a day rate completing a weekly time sheet or agree a fixed fee for a specific role within the bid.

Depending on the role of a Bid Writer and the complexity of the tender, they could be spending anything from a day or two, through to multiple Bid Writers working in collaboration for the duration of the tender.

Many tenders open to SME bidders are tailored as such, requiring less bid information.

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What are the key factors that impact the cost of a bid writing quote?

Complexity of the Tender

We need to read the documents fully, and understand them, the scope and your solution to respond to the tender questions to the best of our ability.

Word Count/Page Count

There is, of course, a huge difference between a tender which has 5 scored questions of 500 words each (2500 words in total) compared to a bid which requires 30,000 words, plus supporting documents such as detailed case studies.

Competitiveness of the Tender, Sector and/or Opportunity

A lower value consultancy framework which may only attract 3 or 4 local SME bidders will likely (depending on the importance and the bid no bid decisions) require less refinement, challenge and therefore take less time in comparison to a Central Government high value consultancy tender, which attracts 12 highly skilled bidders.

At this level expectations are higher; your competitors will be investing more time and energy and you need to ensure a clear and effective strategy and plan.

The Amount of ‘Collateral’ You Already Have

Case studies, CVs, organisational charts, infographics, process flow charts, similar responses for more basic/standard questions which can be used as a starting point.

The higher quality, relevant information you already have in place, the less time it will take as a Bid Writer to tailor this, adding value and challenging what information you have and the relevance for this specific buyer, with their specific requirements.

Design Restrictions

Tenders which require responses to be directly copied onto a portal take away the time required to design up a full bespoke proposal document, so each requirement for design must be fully understood and taken into account.

What information will a Bid Writer need from a business?

A Bid Writer will require further information from a business to craft their bid response as effectively and accurately as possible. This information will depend on the bid requirements and the responses requested from the buyer but could include:

  • Organisational information such as processes, CVs, case studies, references, points of contact
  • Details of prior experience
  • Technical information specific to the solution you offer
  • Details of any industry body certificates you may hold/ insurances which are required by the buyer
  • Added Value and Social Value information such as contract-specific innovations, third sector and supply chain involvement and engagement, apprenticeships and environmental strategies.

How to get a quote from us

Ultimately, getting a quote is the best way to understand the cost of bid writing for a tender.

We will send a non-disclosure agreement so you have the reassurance that your information is protected and safe. We will either need access to the portal or the full tender pack, including clarification questions.

We will review the information, discuss your experience and any background information you can share, advise on any red flags or potential questions you may need to ask first and then provide a fixed fee quote, or a few options depending on the bid writing support you need.

Working on a current tender and require some support?

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