Early in my career I communicated scope of work, deliverables, payment terms, and timelines as a bulleted list in an email. There’s nothing wrong with this approach…necessarily. It’s just not as professional as it could be. When my colleague Mike Russell introduced me to the bid letter, I finally realized, after years of using the list-in-an-email method, that there was a better, cleaner, more professional way to send bids: The Bid Letter! Let’s talk about what a freelance bid letter looks like.
What’s in a Bid Letter?
First, let’s define this bid letter thing. It’s not a legal document like a contract. Generally, you and the client don’t sign it the way you would a contract because the content of the bid letter should be included in your contract. The purpose of the bid letter is to clearly communicate the key logistical elements of the project, as you understand them, to the prospective client:
- Point of Contact: to whom you’ll be sending work for review; the primary decision-maker
- Deliverables: the work you’ll do and relevant details
- Schedule/Timeline: when you’ll do the work
- Payment terms: when and what you’ll get paid
- Process: how you’ll go about completing the work
- Project summary/understanding: brief recap of project motivations, goals
My sample bid letters below (adapted from actual bid letters I’ve sent), include these elements variously depending on specific relevance. The first one doesn’t include a timeline, for example, because the prospect just wanted to know my rates and what was included with the pieces. The second one was more fully baked, and a timeline was known in advance of the letter. They’re very simple and clear. I made these in a Word doc and saved them as PDFs.
What a Freelance Bid Letter Looks Like
When to Send the Bid Letter
The bid letter is basically a piece of communication you use to set clear project guidelines. If there are any miscommunications, the bid letter is an early opportunity to weed them out, and prevent you from wasting your precious time pursuing a path that may not be the right one.
Here’s the process of using a bid letter:
- Conversation with prospect about the project
- Create and send bid letter
- Make changes to bid letter per prospect feedback
- Roll info from bid letter into contract
- Send contract to prospect (consider going over, or calling out, key elements of the contract to make sure there are no surprises for the client)
- Get a signature
- Send your first invoice (find info about the magical invoice over here)
- Get to work
And that’s what a freelance bid letter looks like. If can look different than these, of course, but these layouts have worked great for me. I know many copywriters who use the bid letter, or the list-in-an-email method, to communicate this important information to prospects. Regardless of the method you use, don’t ever skip the step of getting clear direction and buy-in from your prospects BEFORE you start working. Ever.