On the day I wrote this article, there were
19,749 coders registered with RAC - that’s a lot of people to compete with for a
project isn’t it? So, what can you do to improve your chances of being the
successful bidder? I’ve compiled some information on bidding techniques that I
hope you’ll find useful in your own bids.
Step 1 – Understanding the Bid Request
The key to successful bidding is to understand
what the buyer is asking for. We have to remember that a buyer is not
necessarily proficient at programming and may not be familiar with the
terminology. Given that, when preparing your bid, try your best to use
terminology that the buyer will understand.
Try to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and
ask yourself what the buyer really wants to accomplish. Many times a particular
platform or language is specified only because the buyer had heard of it at some
point in the past. It’s perfectly acceptable to politely offer alternatives to
the buyer – especially if you can do a better job in a different language.
Has the buyer indicated a tight deadline and if
so, can you reasonably meet it? In many cases, I’ve been able to convince a
buyer to extend their deadline. The best way to do this is talk about the
quality of programming – let’s face it, if we try to cram two weeks of coding
into two days, the buyer is going to end up with much less than if we’re allowed
some extra time on the project.
Step 2 – Researching Past Bids
RAC offers many different avenues for you to do
a little “pre-bid” research and I use these all time. The first is to look at
the buyer’s rating and any past projects the buyer has accepted. This will give
you a wealth of information about the buyer’s typical price range, past
problems, and how quickly the buyer accepts projects after they were completed.
Now is the time to start thinking about how you
will actually do the project. Make some notes about the project requirements
and think about how much time you’ll be spending coding. It’s a good idea to
try and compare the request to similar projects you’ve completed to get a handle
on the work involved.
Step 3 – Preparing Your Bid
Since most bids appear to be made in English,
we need to make an honest assessment here. If English is not your native
language, then be honest about this and explain to the buyer how you will
overcome this barrier – most buyers aren’t put off non-native speakers.
Another important aspect is providing samples
if requested. If the bid request asked for samples or demos, then include them
with your response. If you don’t, there’s virtually no chance you’ll win the
bid, because you’re basically telling the buyer that you can’t be bothered.
Never (and I really have to emphasize never
here) criticize the buyer’s bid request or appear judgmental about what the
buyer is asking for - this is the surest way to NOT be the successful
How you price your bid is entirely up to you,
but remember this - you have to be able to complete the project for the price
you bid. Your bid should reflect a number of items including:
· Changes – I’ve yet to do a
project where the buyer hasn’t expanded the scope of work. Generally, I
structure my bid to accommodate reasonable changes.
· Research – How much research
will you need to complete the project? For example, if the project’s goal is
to analyze stock market data, you may have to do some additional research on a
topic before starting to code it.
· Timeframe – How fast do you
need to turn the project around? Will you have to set aside other projects to
complete this one? It the project so large that you won’t be able to work on
Next, don’t forget to offer the buyer
incentives – if you want to win, your bid must stand out from all the others.
What can you offer the buyer to give yourself and edge? A couple of things that
work for me are free, ongoing technical support and a promise of daily
communication via email.
After writing your bid, make sure you do a
spelling and grammar check. If you have MS Word available, this is a good
choice for preparing your bid – then you can copy and paste it into the bid
comment box on RAC.
Lastly, always remember that your bid is a
personal statement about yourself and your abilities. Consider this - a sloppy,
poorly written bid may suggest to a buyer that your code will be sloppy and
poorly written as well!
I’VE WON! (Now What?)
After winning a bid, I immediately email the
client to thank them and to open a dialog about the project. It’s definitely
not a good idea to wait for the client to come to you!
Personally, I like to email every client at
least once a day with a progress report. I do this because it keeps the client
involved and using email certainly doesn’t take long. I like to think of this
as an investment. Many of my “repeat” clients come back to me as much for my
communication skills as for my coding abilities.
Probably the single biggest issue to arise during a
project is changes to the scope of work. This is where your flexibility is
tested to the limit, but - a little flexibility here will almost guarantee
repeat business in the future.
Although we all try are best, sometimes a project just
goes sour on us for no good reason, so make sure you’ve used the tools at RAC to
manage the project. Submit progress reports and code updates regularly through
RAC as this protects both you and the client.
Your goal at this point is of course to complete the
project and get paid. However, it’s not unreasonable to assume that something
may happen to keep you from completing the project. If you find yourself in
this position, I’d recommend not waiting too long to inform RAC and the client.
You’re less likely to get a really bad rating than if you wait until the project
In Step 2, I mentioned buyers who seemed to have
established a relationship with a coder. As with any other business, a happy
RAC buyer is a loyal RAC buyer. It’s not difficult to build up a base of repeat
clients at RAC – and believe it or not your coding ability only plays a partial
role in this. What’s equally important but often forgotten is just plain old
Customer Service! You have to develop a relationship with your client – a
relationship built on mutual trust, respect and understanding. This means
communicating with the client, understanding and responding to their needs as
well as delivering the best possible project, on time and on budget.
In the first paragraph I
mentioned, that there were 19,748 registered coders at RAC. In the hour I spent
writing this article, that number grew by ten more coders! I hope you find this
information helpful in placing your own bids and in your quest to be the number
one coder at RAC!
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