How to Find RFPs for Creative Services

Small design, writing, programming, and consulting jobs are often awarded on the basis of an informal proposal or interview process. But larger projects often use a more elaborate Request for Proposal (RFP) approach. And in cases where the client is a public institution, these RFPs must, in most cases, be publicly posted and open to anyone who is interested in bidding on them.

Winning business through RFPs is tough, sure, but there are still a few very good reasons to keep up with the published RFPs in your market: They offer a good window into the state of the industry, can keep you abreast of new projects being launched by past clients, and may also reveal the occasional gem of a winnable project.

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How to Respond to an RFP

Crafting an effective response to a formal request for proposals (RFP) can be an overwhelming experience, especially if it’s not something that you do on a regular basis. Confusing instructions, multiple deadlines within a single RFP, unfamiliar scope descriptions, and limited opportunities for client interaction can all lead to various levels of failure, up to and including outright rejection of the response by the recipient before it is even considered.

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The One Question You Must Ask Yourself Before Responding to an RFP

What are the questions you need to ask yourself before deciding whether or not to respond to an RFP or RFQ?

That was what I had originally envisioned for this post. A list of questions to consider before you commit to expending the time (as well as covering the hard costs for travel, etc.) associated with a serious RFP response. Maybe even ten questions. After all, people do like lists.

As I got into it, however, I started thinking about how I have come to approach this decision-making process over the years. And I realized that all of the questions I had in mind were really just variations on one big question:

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Sample RFP Responses – Volume 2

Here’s another good example of a well-executed creative-services RFP response. This one was a winning proposal for a law school web project, prepared by Chicago-based Rogue Element and offered for free download by HOW Design Magazine.

Very thorough, yet concise, and has a flow that makes it clear that it wasn’t just pasted together at the last minute. Well worth checking out.

Sample RFP Responses – Volume 1

I know from watching the stats for this site (especially those associated with my recent post on How to Find RFPs), that there are a lot of people out there looking for samples of other firm’s responses to requests for proposals.

This isn’t surprising, of course, because there are a lot of things you can learn by looking at how other firms handle their proposals, even if they were prepared for a type of project very different from what you are pursuing. You can get some insight into how other people show project schedules, how much detail they include in descriptions of previous experience, what information they include in resumes, whether their scope descriptions are narratives or lists, how they organize their fees, and how closely they adhere to the technical requirements of the RFP.

Unfortunately, examples of previously produced RFP responses aren’t always easy to find. Even though most RFP responses for government/public projects become public information once they are opened, very few organizations have systems in place to make these responses available over the Internet. And even when they are available, it takes some creative searching (and a little luck) to find them.

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Guerrilla RFP Responses

Some RFQ/RFP processes are pretty involved. First, there are the qualifications. Then there’s a pre-bid meeting and/or site tour for the short-listed firms. Then the proposal. And then they want you to complete a “test assignment” and make a presentation. For these, there aren’t many questions about what you need to do. After all, they’re already asking for just about everything that you could do.

But what about the other end of the spectrum? The RFP that provides some background information, outlines a scope of work, and asks you to provide experience, team CVs, a basic work plan, and a fee. “Alright,” you think, “It’s about time I got an easy one.” (“Aboot time” if you’re Canadian.) Not so fast there, tough guy/gal. Remember that the goal here isn’t to get through the RFP, it’s to get the project. If that isn’t your goal, then maybe you shouldn’t be wasting your time with a response at all.

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