Write On! interviews Bid Writer and Write On! page editor Holly King.
Holly holds a First-Class Degree in English Literature and a Masters in Creative Writing. She has written proposals for international businesses across four industries, for both public and private clients, promoting various products and services.
When she turns off her work laptop, she switches on her personal one to edit and introduce Write On! Monday Moments. Sometimes she gets around to writing short stories, the occasional poem and drafts of that evasive first novel she’s been muttering about for years.
WO: How would you describe your work to someone new to it?
HK: Bid writing is essentially sales proposals ensuring your company wins contracts with other companies. Bids are essential for most businesses, and can range from food deliveries to schools or restaurants, security services in supermarkets and at events, employee benefit systems, IT infrastructure in companies, and even light displays in Oxford Street for Christmas!
The bid process ensures that the winning company has won fairly and has provided the best offering to the client. Really, it’s an extension of persuasive writing we did at school; clearly, I never wanted to leave education!
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your current work/role?
HK: My role begins with getting all tender/bid documents from the client, reading them to understand the criteria and service requirements, and writing the submission. Bids will include a number of qualitative questions that we need to answer about the business, ranging from how we will deliver aspects of the service, to how we train our staff, to our Business Continuity Plan and IT security. Often these will be capped by word or page limits so, you have to find really creative ways to get all this great information in.
I work with people in all departments to understand their specialities and then create a well-worded answer. These people may be experts in their field, but the person reading the answer may not be, so the client needs to understand in simple terms! This is the best part of my job, learning new information and finding ways to best present it, to sell the business.
Once I’ve drafted answers, my boss reviews them and sends them back for editing before I collate all the answers into the return document and send it back to the client. The average timescale for bid submission is four weeks, but I’ve written an entire bid in 24 hours before (and won the contract!).
WO: What inspired you to pursue Bid Writing in the first place, and what inspires you now?
HK: I had just finished my Creative Writing Masters and desperately needed income. I was thrilled to see ‘writer’ in the title of a job, but had no idea what it entailed. Bid Writing has the balance of structure (timescales, specific questions, word limits), with creativity for me. I can look back at a question I answered six months ago and find a completely new way to present it. Sometimes the restrictions or the industry I work in makes answering something persuasively quite tricky, as we need to make sure we stand out against competitors. However, the trickier the situation, the more creative the solution.
My core reason for writing is the desire to communicate with people and to find ways to better communicate. This is the reason for my personal writing and my work with Write On!, as well. I also love to learn, and my role allows me to do that every day while meeting lots of people. Any excuse for a chat.
Bid writing gives me the opportunity to create and build relationships, understand how a business operates, prioritise, and be a part of a team. You need to constantly plan ahead while building in enough flexibility to work around other people’s schedules.
The current issue of Write On! explores the theme ‘Keep Going!’ – creating with perseverance and courage. With that in mind, what markers have defined your writing journey? Tell us about where you’ve had to dig deep to keep going.
HK: A deadline always helps. It’s really the only difference between me submitting my bid and Write On! work … and me never finishing/submitting my personal writing!
Also having a team working towards the same goal. It’s great to sit with my bid team or the Write On! editorial team and discuss the project, get the creative juices flowing and be collaborative. This, of course, can also be applied to individual writing projects by finding groups of people to write with. I have mini writing sessions via Skype with a friend where we catch up and then write from 30-60 minutes on our own projects. It’s short enough that I don’t feel it’s a burden, while also allowing me to socialise with my friend.
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring bid writer?
HK: Learn how to sell yourself, and answer the darn question! Even if you’re bidding for a grant (like an author might), you need to persuade the person offering the contract/finance why you above anyone else are going to help them achieve their own goals by winning this contract/grant. There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and sometimes the only opportunity you have to get in front of the client is through your bid; so, get someone to read through your submission to ensure it reads as you intend it to.
Also, don’t take critiques too personally. I am passionate about writing, which means there have been times when I’ve felt crushed by harsh comments from a boss or client. But, just as in creative writing, I have learned we writers need to have a strong internal meter that can ascertain what critiques are objective, and which are subjective.
WO: Question from @grasshopper2407. What do you think the single most important thing is in writing a successful bid?
HK: Haha – like any writing project (or anything in life really), you can’t boil success down to one aspect. There are a multitude of variables inside your control, and some outside. Eventually, the outcome is out of your hands in some way. You just need to make sure you do all that is in your control to make it the best outcome.
Having said that, people generally want their question to be answered in the way they’ve posed it. So I’ll say that having a clear understanding of what your Unique Selling Points (USPs) are, and how these will benefit the client over what your competitors can offer. Of course, even if you do know your USPs, you need to be able to write them clearly and concisely – thus the point of a bid writer!
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
HK: I’ll be speaking at this years’ Readfest about Bid Writing and how authors can position themselves when writing for grants. Readfest is online this year, so grabbing a ticket and tuning in is easy.
On a personal note, I’ve written a couple of short stories, am constantly glancing at my elusive first novel out of the corner of my eye, and am trying to find new writing pies to get my fingers in. As always, Write On! continues to go from strength to strength, with each Monday Moments seeing varied and unique submissions, so do check my page out!
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
HK: Sully from Monsters Inc. Imagine how cuddly he would be and, as someone who just falls just shy of 5”5’, he could help me reach the top shelf.
You can find out more about Holly and her work with Write On! here
Connect with Holly on Twitter: @kinghols
I have learned we writers need to have a strong internal meter that can ascertain what critiques are objective, and which are subjective.