Creating Requests of Proposals that Get Results…

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 17, 2010 in: Business - Plain & Simple, Time Management Strategies, Tips in 10

As a business owner, you have lots of work to do. Hiring someone to work in your office isn’t always a realistic alternative and you can often get highly qualified offsite contractors and freelancers for less than it would cost you to have someone in your office. Not only that, you can put in just ten minutes of request-for-proposal effort and immediately start getting highly qualified professionals competing to work on your projects. Now that is an efficient use of your time!

In the previous article, I showed you a six step process about hiring freelancers and contractors in just ten minutes. Step three of the six step process reads:

Take ten minutes to post your project. You could Google the kind of person you’re looking for (“bookkeeper” or “copywriting” or “web designer”) but, frequently, the sites that appear high on those lists are informational or very high end or too broad for your needs. Instead, I recommend visiting a site like or On these sites, you can post your project within a specific category (there is a significant variety of categories so most of your business needs will be met) and you’ll have many freelancers and contractors submit proposals. Creating a project on these sites is free and fast, allowing you to take just ten minutes to do this part of the process… Once your project is submitted, sit back and wait. The proposals will start coming in from freelancers.

So that’s my starting point for this article: Use Guru or Elance to put your project out there and receive proposals back from a number of freelancers that you can then sift through to find the right one. (By the way, in this article I refer to “proposals” and “bids” interchangeably to mean the same thing: Responses from professionals about your project).

Tips on creating the right proposal

In steps 1 and 2 of the previous issue, you spent ten minutes thinking about what you want and then another ten minutes thinking about the details. Now it’s time to put those things into a proposal that professionals can understand and respond appropriately to.

Both Guru and Elance give you some options to select prices and dates, and select whatever you think is appropriate for you. For price, though, I’d recommend selecting “I don’t know” or “Private” as the price because I strongly recommend against setting a price if you’ve never worked with freelancers before. Even if you want to mention a price, I’d suggest mentioning it in your proposal instead of mentioning it in the earlier “details” section of the process. The reason is: Some professionals look at that initial price (or even use sort-by-price functions) and if they don’t like the number, they’ll move on without looking at your project. You want lots of qualified professionals looking at your project and bidding so you can choose the right one. So don’t push away many freelancers by filling in a price.

During the request-for-proposal process, you’ll have a chance to enter some text about your project and this is where the work you did from the last issue will come in handy.

First, write a brief introduction. You may not be allowed to give a lot of personal details (for example, your website will sometimes be removed) but I’d suggest that you say something like: “Hi, my name is Heather and I’m looking for a graphic designer for a series of logos I need created.”

This first sentence does three things:

1.    It makes you seem nice and approachable (and professionals who are really busy – and are the kind of people you want to work on your project – want to see that you’re approachable).

2.    It clearly and succinctly outlines the project. That way, someone who is a graphic designer specializing in website headers will see right away that they are not the right professional for you while a graphic designer who specializes in logos can see that they are the right fit.

3.    By giving your name you can also help to weed out people who submit standardized bids on projects without reading them. (This happens a lot). Good professionals should provide a customized proposal and many will say something like “Thank you for the opportunity to bid on your project, Heather”, which is an easy way for you to see if someone actually read your proposal. (Clarification: Not all professionals will use your name when submitting a proposal and if they don’t it doesn’t mean they didn’t read your proposal. But it is a good way to quickly scan and see who has read your proposal).
Next, talk about the big picture details (which you should have done in your step one work from the last Tips In Ten issue where you gave some thought to your overall project). So, to continue with my own example, I might write something like: “I’m looking to create logos for 3 ebooks. I’d like the logos to graphically depict the benefits that the reader gets when they read my ebooks and I’d like the logos to incorporate a specific set of colors.”

By writing this “big picture” paragraph, you’re telling the professionals what your intended outcomes will be. This is important and is missed by many businesses who look for professionals. When you tell them what you hope to achieve from the project, you’ll help to get a lot of proposals that bid on similar things (thus helping you with an “apples-to-apples” comparison) but you’ll also make sure that whomever you finally choose has a good understanding of what you want… Not just what their deliverables should be. (In other words, they aren’t to just deliver 3 logos to you; rather these logos need to accomplish specific things as indicated by you).

Next, give some details, which you’ve already outlined in the step two work from the previous Tips In Ten issue. A simple bullet point list is good. Your bullets should include details like preferred timeline, price (if you’ve decided to include a price), and subject matter. Subject matter is important and is frequently missed by many businesses with the mistaken impression that professionals can work within a variety of industries. That is not always the case. Sometimes, the best professionals specialize.

So, in my example I might write something like:

  • The ebooks are B2B ebooks about social media networking and marketing
  • I’d like rough drafts of the 3 logos within 2 weeks of project acceptance
  • I’d like to have 2 review cycles
  • I’d like final delivery of the logos a week after the second review
  • I’d like the logos provided in .png format

Here, you can see how I’ve included enough details for someone to be able to submit a proposal and it is clearly written in an easy-to-follow bullet point format.

You might invite them to show you samples but here’s my opinion on the matter: If they’re good professionals, they will show you their samples anyway, whether you ask or not.

Then submit! It’s that easy and can take less than ten minutes (if you’ve done the work from the previous issue ahead of time).

Now all you need to do is sit back and watch for freelancers to reply. (Note, you might be contacted with questions by freelancers and be sure to pay attention to those because they might indicate that you forgot to leave out an important detail which you can edit in later).

In the next article, I’ll talk about how you can pick the right freelancer in just ten minutes.

Bonus Tips:

Just a couple more points:

  • If they ask a question, be quick to respond
  • Create requests-for-proposals for each separate portion of the project rather than lumping a complex project into one proposal.
  • You don’t have to wait the entire period of time you set for the bidding process, but you should wait long enough so that you get a variety of freelancers that you can pick and choose from.
  • If no one bids on your project, take a look at it more closely. If you put in a price and timeline, perhaps they were too restrictive. Try taking it out and resubmitting. Or, have someone else proofread your proposal for clarity.

Heather Recommends:

I love working with coaches, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to help them become more successful. If you'd like to improve your business, find out how I can help.

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