Successful freelancing: Project bidding
By Michael Sharp
This article provides some information on project bidding techniques for freelancers that Michael Sharp suggests to use in your own bids to be successful in freelancing.
Step 1 : Understanding the Bid Request
The key to successful bidding is to understand what the buyer is asking for. We have to remember that a buyer is not necessarily proficient at programming and may not be familiar with the terminology. Given that, when preparing your bid, try your best to use terminology that the buyer will understand.
Try to put yourself in the buyer's shoes and ask yourself what the buyer really wants to accomplish. Many times a particular platform or language is specified only because the buyer had heard of it at some point in the past. It's perfectly acceptable to politely offer alternatives to the buyer - especially if you can do a better job in a different language.
Has the buyer indicated a tight deadline and if so, can you reasonably meet it? In many cases, I've been able to convince a buyer to extend their deadline. The best way to do this is talk about the quality of programming, let's face it, if we try to cram two weeks of coding into two days, the buyer is going to end up with much less than if we're allowed some extra time on the project.
Step 2 : Researching Past Bids
Freelancer.com (vWorker) offers many different avenues for you to do a little "pre-bid" research and I use these all time. The first is to look at the buyer's rating and any past projects the buyer has accepted. This will give you a wealth of information about the buyer's typical price range, past problems, and how quickly the buyer accepts projects after they were completed.
Now is the time to start thinking about how you will actually do the project. Make some notes about the project requirements and think about how much time you'll be spending coding. It's a good idea to try and compare the request to similar projects you've completed to get a handle on the work involved.
Step 3 : Preparing Your Bid
Since most bids appear to be made in English,
we need to make an honest assessment here. If English is not your native language, then be honest about this and explain to the buyer how you will overcome this barrier - most buyers aren't put off non-native speakers.
Another important aspect is providing samples if requested. If the bid request asked for samples or demos, then include them with your response. If you don't, there's virtually no chance you'll win the bid, because you're basically telling the buyer that you can't be bothered.
Never (and I really have to emphasize never here) criticize the buyer's bid request or appear judgmental about what the buyer is asking for - this is the surest way to NOT be the successful bidder.
How you price your bid is entirely up to you,
but remember this - you have to be able to complete the project for the price
you bid. Your bid should reflect a number of items including:
- Changes : I've yet to do a
project where the buyer hasn't expanded the scope of work. Generally, I
structure my bid to accommodate reasonable changes.
- Research : How much research
will you need to complete the project? For example, if the project's goal is
to analyse stock market data, you may have to do some additional research on a
topic before starting to code it.
- Time-frame : How fast do you need to turn the project around? Will you have to set aside other projects to complete this one? It the project so large that you won't be able to work on other projects?
Next, don't forget to offer the buyer incentives, if you want to win, your bid must stand out from all the others. What can you offer the buyer to give yourself and edge? A couple of things that work for me are free, ongoing technical support and a promise of daily communication via email.
After writing your bid, make sure you do a spelling and grammar check. If you have MS Word available, this is a good
choice for preparing your bid, then you can copy and paste it into the bid comment box on Freelancer.com (vWorker).
Lastly, always remember that your bid is a personal statement about yourself and your abilities. Consider this - a sloppy, poorly written bid may suggest to a buyer that your code will be sloppy and poorly written as well!
I'VE WON! (Now What?)
After winning a bid, I immediately email the client to thank them and to open a dialog about the project. It's definitely not a good idea to wait for the client to come to you!
Personally, I like to email every client at least once a day with a progress report. I do this because it keeps the client involved and using email certainly doesn't take long. I like to think of this as an investment. Many of my "repeat" clients come back to me as much for my communication skills as for my coding abilities.
Probably the single biggest issue to arise during a project is changes to the scope of work. This is where your flexibility is tested to the limit, but - a little flexibility here will almost guarantee repeat business in the future.
Although we all try are best, sometimes a project just goes sour on us for no good reason, so make sure you've used the tools at Freelancer.com (vWorker) to manage the project. Submit progress reports and code updates regularly through Freelancer.com (vWorker) as this protects both you and the client.
Your goal at this point is of course to complete the project and get paid. However, it's not unreasonable to assume that something may happen to keep you from completing the project. If you find yourself in this position, I'd recommend not waiting too long to inform Freelancer.com (vWorker) and the client. You're less likely to get a really bad rating than if you wait until the project is due.
In Step 2, I mentioned buyers who seemed to have established a relationship with a coder. As with any other business, a happy Freelancer.com (vWorker) buyer is a loyal Freelancer.com (vWorker) buyer. It's not difficult to build up a base of repeat clients at Freelancer.com (vWorker) - and believe it or not your coding ability only plays a partial role in this. What's equally important but often forgotten is just plain old Customer Service! You have to develop a relationship with your client - a relationship built on mutual trust, respect and understanding. This means communicating with the client, understanding and responding to their needs as
well as delivering the best possible project, on time and on budget.
In the first paragraph I mentioned, that there were 19,748 registered coders at Freelancer.com (vWorker). In the hour I spent writing this article, that number grew by ten more coders! I hope you find this information helpful in placing your own bids and in your quest to be successful in freelancing!