Experienced bid managers and bid writers can work as freelancers.
Bid managers are responsible for creating and overseeing a bid – a detailed, costed, persuasive proposal – on behalf of one organisation to gain a business contract or offer of work from another. A bid manager’s role is to ensure that bids are successful at a price at which their organisation can make a profit. Most bid managers work within the built environment sector, but they can work in any industry in which work is contracted out (such as within the social care, technology and transport sectors).
At a medium-sized or smaller organisation, the bid manager role might be a stand-alone position and involve undertaking the entire bidding process. At larger organisations, a bid manager may oversee a bid management team in which specialists undertake separate parts of the bidding process (a team may include bid coordinators and bid/proposal writers, for example).
As such, responsibilities will vary according to the sector, the size of the employer and the level of seniority, but typical tasks include:
- identifying opportunities on which to submit bids and feeding into the decision over whether to bid for the work
- devising a successful strategy for winning a bid, including pinpointing the unique selling points (key differentiators) of your organisation, knowing your company’s operating and profit margins and understanding the clients’ specific requirements (the client in this case is the organisation that is offering the work)
- researching, writing and/or checking proposals
- working with key members of the project team and the client organisation to obtain the information required to compile the bid (in the construction industry, members of the project team may include estimators, quantity surveyors, design managers and project managers)
- assessing and addressing the technical and commercial risks relating to the bid they are working on
- managing budgets or, at a more junior level, tracking costs
- negotiating with specialist suppliers and/or subcontractors
- researching current and future market trends
- responding to clients’ and other stakeholders’ queries before, during and after the bid has been submitted
- when more senior, putting together a team to oversee the bid
- when more senior, overseeing the team during the bid process and making sure deadlines are met
- if the bid is successful, briefing the teams who will carry out the project work.
For the most part, the work is office-based with typical office hours. Hours may be longer just before a bid is to be submitted.
It is usual for experienced bid managers to specialise in a sector or type of project; most recruiters ask for senior appointments to have a number of years’ experience of working on bids for their sector.
Bid managers can be employed by any company that submits proposals for contract work. However, the greatest number of vacancies can be found with:
- construction and engineering companies (particularly with contractors and subcontractors)
- facilities management and property management firms
- technology companies
- rail and bus operators
- companies offering cleaning, social care and healthcare services.
Experienced bid managers and bid writers can be self-employed and work on a freelance basis, either independently or through a specialist agency that offers proposal writing and bid management services.
In-house vacancies can be found online on jobs boards such as TARGETjobs, via careers services, through recruitment agencies and directly on employers’ websites.
There are a few entry-level and graduate programmes available, but most aspiring bid managers either start out as a bid administrator/writer or move into the role after working in a related profession, such as a sales account manager or (in the construction industry) as a quantity surveyor, engineer, site manager or contracts manager.
A degree is typically required. Employers usually request it to be in:
- a subject related to the sector the role is in (so, for example, a construction management, engineering or quantity surveying degree for construction, infrastructure or transport employers; an electronic engineering, software engineering or computer science degree for technology companies; or a property degree for property management companies)
- a business or management subject (as commercial awareness and a knowledge of business principles is important for the role)
- English literature or English language (as good written communication skills are essential).
It is possible for bid managers and bid writers to gain professional qualifications while working in the role. These could be with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) or with a professional body associated with the sector you are specialising in. For example, in the built environment sector, qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Building or the British Institute of Facilities Management may be helpful for career progression.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Creative and innovative thinking
- Problem-solving skills
- Relationship-building and influencing skills
- An interest in the sector in which your employer operates, coupled with a willingness to keep up to date with industry trends, regulations and legislation
- Commercial thinking
- Teamworking skills
- Attention to detail.