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The 5-step guide to mastering how you respond to an RFP
You’ve received a request for proposal (RFP) from a potential new client. Congratulations! It’s always exciting when someone wants to work with you. But things aren’t quite set into stone yet. In order to secure a freelance contract, you need to figure out how to respond to an RFP.
It’s important to write a compelling response that convinces your client you’re the best consultant for their project. If you’ve never received an RFP before or have never successfully landed a contract from your response, you’re probably wondering just how to respond to the RFP to land the job.
Here’s everything you need to know about writing a great RFP response, including a sample RFP response letter that you can start from when writing your own.
1. What is an RFP response?
Requests for proposals (or RFPs) are especially common for freelancers working in the B2B space or the public sector. An RFP usually tells you everything you need to know about your potential client’s needs: details of the project, estimated budget and timeframe, questions they need answering, and more.
So, what is an RFP response? Think of your RFP response letter as a type of freelance proposal. Each freelancer or consultant who is interested in working on the project will typically send one, outlining how they plan to tackle the project and answering all of the client’s questions.
- The client will go through the submissions and narrow down a list of their top choices.
- These “finalists” are usually then given the chance to ask any questions they might have, and the client may come back with additional questions about their response.
- You might then have to submit a final proposal for consideration.
2. How can I receive RFPs?
As you can see, RFPs are a great way to find more, better freelance clients; but, you can’t write an RFP response if you’re not actually receiving RFPs in the first place! So, how can you make sure you’re being sent RFPs from companies that you want to work with?
There are two main ways that you can make sure you’re receiving RFPs. The first is to reach out to big players in your industry, or any company that you’d really love to work with, and simply ask to be included on their RFP distribution list. Be sure to come prepared with relevant work examples and a strong elevator pitch if you want to be taken seriously.
The second method is to identify third-party RFP management companies in your industry. Big and medium-sized clients, in particular, will often outsource their RFP requests to these companies, so get in touch and find out how you can get on their contact list.
3. How to write an RFP response
Now that you know what an RFP response is and how to make sure you’re in the right position to submit one, you’re probably wondering exactly how to write an RFP response. Much like any freelance proposal, your RFP response needs to be convincing, help you stand out from your competitors, and clearly answer all of your client’s questions.
Bonsai was specifically created to help freelancers like you run their business with more ease, with tools that help you generate RFPs (or proposals) and send invoices in the click of a button. Sign up for a free trial today and see how much time it can save you when writing your next RFP response.
Read on for our tips to follow when figuring out how to respond to an RFP in the right way.
3.1. Make sure it’s worthy of a response
It’s normal to get excited when you receive an RFP, but bear in mind that responding may not actually be worth the time and effort involved. Carefully evaluate the opportunity before starting your response. John Boyens of the Forbes Council recommends only responding to an RFP if you have an at least 50% chance of winning the business.
When evaluating an RFP opportunity, look for common red flags or things that might work against you, like:
- The RFP arrived completely unsolicited
- You don’t have an existing relationship with anyone at the client’s company
- The RFP is extremely detailed and demanding
- You don’t have enough time to pull together a good response
- You don’t have the resources you would need to meet the RFP’s requirements
3.2. Get very clear on what’s in the RFP
It’s important to spend time carefully reading the RFP so that you have a clear understanding of what your potential client needs. If you skim read, you might miss important details or questions.
Review each of the RFP’s components one by one and write down each question being asked to make sure you answer them all. A good practice is to create a checklist for yourself when going through the RFP so that you know exactly what to include in your proposal.
3.3. Know what sections to include
Every RFP response will be a little bit different, but it’s important to cover the basics in your RFP response letter. A good response always includes the following things:
- General information on your company (like your name, location, staff and contact information)
- A reiteration of the client’s problem as you understand it
- What makes you better than other applicants
- Your ideas for the project in question, and your planned approach
- Answers to any questions laid out in the RFP
- Your pricing
- Any relevant references or testimonials
Take a look at Hubspot’s excellent proposal formula for more tips on how to include these crucial details in your cover letter, executive summary and more.
4.4. Be strategic in your pricing
While you should always be transparent in your pricing, especially in your freelance invoices, when submitting your RFP response it’s best to group things together as much as you can. Giving a lot of detail in your pricing breakdown opens you up to scrutiny and gives the client more points to negotiate on.
Don’t break everything down line by line. For example, if you’re applying for a design project, you’ll likely want to break down how much time and cost will be spent on the logo versus the website design. However, you don’t need to tell them how much each website page will cost, or how much time it takes to create a color palette.
Also, be sure to never quote your lowest price, and don’t rely on your pricing to differentiate you from other applicants. Your RFP response should show a good mix of a reasonable price and proven skill. If you’ve already quoted your lowest price and your client comes back with a counteroffer, you won’t be able to accept it. So, always give yourself some room in your pricing.
4.5. Show off your previous success
Keep in mind that this client may have never come across your work before, so they need proof that you can actually do the things you say you can do. Dedicate a section of your RFP response to a success story you’re particularly proud of. Just be sure that it’s relevant to the project at hand.
Social proof can be the only thing standing between you and your next freelance contract, so find out how to ask for testimonials from your previous clients and get in the habit of including them in your RFP responses and other proposals.
5. Have an RFP response letter ready to go
Now that you know how to respond to an RFP, it’s time to get prepared. RFPs are notorious for having tight deadlines, and you sometimes only have a matter of days to pull together a convincing RFP response letter. Plus the average company spends a whopping 20-40 hours on a single RFP response! To make it easier, we suggest having a template on file that you can personalize to each project.
Be sure to strike a balance, as you don’t want your client to think that you’re reusing the same information for each RFP response. Your template should only include 70-80% of the information, while the additional 20-30% should be unique to each RFP and project.
You can even create and save your template in Bonsai’s freelance proposal tool for easy access. Check out our free trial and you can see just how easy it can be to do your day-to-day freelance admin in the click of a button.