Frequently Asked Questions

Does Once Upon an RFP handle government contracts or corporate?

We work with a mix of both. It depends on what industry our clients focus on. For example, in the healthcare industry, it’s usually a good mix of corporate and government, whereas, in other industries, it’s primarily government.


Can you explain the roles within your proposal team?

Most of our client delivery team have earned professional certifications from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) or are working on their first certification. The following Role Descriptions are from the APMP Body of Knowledge, which standardizes terminology. 

Proposal Manager is responsible for proposal development (e.g., written, oral, and demonstrations), including maintaining schedules, organizing resources, coordinating inputs and reviews, ensuring bid strategy implementation, ensuring compliance, resolving internal team issues, and providing process leadership. 

Proposal Writer is responsible for creating and maintaining content for proposal sections. They often interview SMEs and organize content. They work on new content and past performance, resumes, and reusable product and service descriptions. 

Proposal Coordinator is responsible for all administrative aspects of proposal development, ensuring the security and integrity of all proposal documentation, coordinating internal flow and review of all proposal inputs, coordinating schedules, and directing submission of the final master proposal to production. 

We assign a dedicated Proposal Manager or Sr. Proposal Specialist, depending upon the complexity of the RFPs you respond to. When required, we will pull in multiple resources in the roles listed above and below to ensure we get a 100% compliant, 100% on-time, client-focused, and compelling proposal across the finish line. 

The most complex proposals with multiple volumes will require additional specialists. We evaluate every opportunity individually. Following are some of the other resources we may pull in: 

Production Manager is responsible for planning and directing the printing, assembly, and final check of proposal documents. This may include both traditional print and electronic versions. 

Proposal Editor is responsible for ensuring the writing structure and words used in the proposal convey the offer to the customer. The Proposal Editor edits for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, clarity, readability, consistency, and persuasiveness.

Proposal Desktop Publisher is responsible for designing, formatting, and producing proposal templates, documents, and related materials. 

Proposal Graphic Designer is responsible for developing customer-focused visual information highlighting an offer’s features, benefits, and discriminators. The Graphic Designer communicates with other proposal/bid team members to conceptualize and create visual elements to persuade the customer. Graphic Designers may develop multiple deliverables, such as proposals, presentations, sales collateral, and brand identities. 


How big is your proposal team?

We currently have about 20 full-time employees.

Most of our team is employee-based, and we collaborate with a few well-trusted, vetted subcontractors. When you’re working with solo contractors, there’s a risk that they stop showing up.

Our model mitigates risk by assigning a qualified backup to support every opportunity as the peer reviewer. Should life happen and the assigned lead become unavailable, the peer reviewer can step in and take the lead in getting your project over the finish line.


Where are you based?

Once Upon an RFP is headquartered in Chicago, but we are a 100% remote team working across the United States.

Can you source and help us search for RFPs/grant opportunities within our niche?

We offer our search service on a weekly or monthly basis. Our specialists have access to various resources, databases, and networks that may not be readily available to you. With our personalized approach, our team will narrow down the search and present you with opportunities that are highly relevant to your business. With our service, you will gain a competitive edge over other organizations that rely solely on their internal resources.


If there are forms involved, is that an area you can support us in?

Yes, our team can support you in filling out and finalizing forms. We use Adobe Acrobat DC Pro to complete forms and request signatures. We cannot sign forms on your or your company’s behalf, but we can support the rest of the effort.

If wet signatures are required for a physical submission, we’ll coordinate with you to get the forms to you and back to our team on time for production and shipping.


Do you offer support with visibility into some RFPs and ever work with your clients?

Yes, we have access to tools to align you with the proper grant/RFP opportunities. Our retainer clients benefit from our customized grant and commercial RFx search services.


Can you look at our previous RFPs and give us feedback?

One of the best ways to win more business is to learn from your wins and losses. Our four-step process—Review, Evaluate, Report, Strategize – gives you the intelligence and strategy you need to bid better and win.

We can review one RFP-based proposal that was a hard loss. We recommend examining five proposals, both won and lost because comparison is revealing.

Each proposal review will average one week. How long the review takes will depend upon the complexity of the RFP and the resulting proposal. 

When we have completed our review, we will provide you with a report that includes: 

  • An Executive Overview of the findings.
  • A summary of results for each proposal
  • Insights regarding overall: 
    • RFP Compliance 
    • PMP Compliance 
    • Brand Guideline and Proposal Style Guide Compliance 
    • Client Focus 
    • Spelling and Grammar 
    • Results in specific recommendations for improvement


Can I work on some of the project myself and hire you for the rest?

The complexity of an RFx and the associated response level of effort frequently differ from the value of any resulting contract.

There is also a cost associated with internal resources working on the project. Your costs may even increase if executives and client delivery resources are the primary resources who will work on it.

Rest assured, we only charge for hours worked. If the project takes us fewer than the estimated hours, we will only invoice for the hours we worked. We deliver a time report with every invoice and track progress against estimates.


Can you help me with our content library?

Hurray, you have a content library! 

Does it make you happy? Do you love the content in it? Does it serve your clients and your business? 

It probably does if it is up-to-date, client-focused, and represents the value you deliver—and features, benefits, and discriminators. Well done! 

It is time to change if you constantly update your content for each new proposal and dig into more recent proposals for better content.

Delivering proposals that make your clients feel you understand their unique problems. However, it also conflicts with optimizing proposal development with reusable content, consistent messaging, and meeting corporate compliance requirements. 

Like our Proposal Assessment services, we have a review, Evaluate, Report, and Strategize process. You and your team can implement the content improvement strategy, or we can do it for you. 

We specialize in helping you craft your story so that your content is as ready as you are when you throw your hat in the ring.


What other services outside of RFP writing can my business benefit from?

After connecting with thousands of small businesses that win work through RFx-based proposals, we noticed common gaps. We developed the Once Upon an RFP D.R.I.V.E Program (D.R.I.V.E) to address them strategically. 

Through D.R.I.V.E, we work with small businesses to implement and maintain your business development support system, including strategy, content, and collateral, vendor registrations and certification maintenance, business development strategy, looking for RFx for you to bid, grants to apply for, as well as managing and writing the proposals.

With D.R.I.V.E., you get private access to a proven team with 100+ years of RFP excellence and business development experience, and help you transform your business. More information here.

We have an RFP; what are the next steps?

When you engage us for support, we will ask you to send us the RFP, we’ll carefully review the submission requirements, timeline and complexity, and estimate hours.

It’s a rough estimate because we don’t know all the content, especially the first time we work with you, and we don’t have institutional knowledge yet. However, we consider the data we’ve collected from the past five years of estimating projects.

With your sign-off on the project estimate, we will introduce you to the proposal manager, who will lead the effort. Frequently it’s just one proposal manager who also writes the RFx response. We also assign a peer reviewer.

For a larger effort or quick turnaround, we will likely assign someone to lead the effort in the Proposal Manager role, with one or more supporting writers.

After initial introductions, we’ll schedule a kickoff call. Before the kickoff call, our proposal writer, manager, and writer will shred the RFP and assemble a project plan, compliance matrix, templates and forms. We will establish the submission protocol, whether by email, via a portal or hard copy delivery.

From there, we review provided collateral and meet with your team to discuss the next steps.


What is the best way to collaborate if we have frequent RFPs?

We recommend working with us on a retainer basis. Then you can have a dedicated resource that will be your primary resource each time. Building that rapport and institutional knowledge, enhancing the writing process and turnaround time.


For live collaborations, what platforms do you use?

We’ll do live collaboration as much as possible. We have subscriptions for MS Teams and Zoom meetings. For clients who prefer Google, we’ll ask you to set up virtual meetings. Whichever platform you prefer, we’ll work with you to leverage the best tool.

What are your win rates?

We consider the win rate yours, and the reason why we consider it yours is that it’s your client relationship. Your company builds rapport with your clients and owns the solution, pricing and contract negotiations.

We calculate our win rate based on submitting 100% on time and 100% compliant RFx-based proposals, which means your proposal always makes it to the next phase of the deal. 


What is your customer retention rate?

Our customer retention rate is 96%.


Can you share more information about the benefits of working with your team?

Our team includes professionals with backgrounds in commercial and government contracting. The diversity of our team makes for solid proposals because we aim to partner you up with the best fit. 

It’s not necessarily just about the experience but also about finding the right collaborator for you. When you collaborate well with a Proposal Manager/Writer, you build rapport, facilitating long-term partnerships between our respective teams.


What is your turnaround time?

This depends on the submission date and agreed-upon timeline during our discovery call. You can expect our turnaround time to be 100% on-time and 100% compliant.


Can you provide examples of past work?

We sign Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreements (MNDAs) with all clients and ensure 100% confidentiality to our clients.

Our case studies and blog areas are great resources and tend to represent our voice and style preferences.


Can’t I just hire a copywriter at a lower cost?

While copywriters are less expensive, they lean on you a lot more. Our Proposal Professionals do more than write, they help you manage proposal risk, strategize with you around your solution, features, value, benefits and help to mitigate risk. 

Because of the greater scope of service our team delivers, you and your team get time back on your calendars while engaging on proposals where you are needed most. When hiring our team, you get more than just one copywriter; you get a village!


I’ve hired proposal writers in the past, but they weren’t helpful. How would hiring your team differ?

We completely understand – not all proposal consultants are the same. We have also worked with proposal professionals in corporate roles and as consultants who weren’t effective. 

The way that we are different is that we have standard processes that all of our team members follow when working with you. 

We have internal SLAs that team members must meet. In addition to standards and SLAs, the Proposal Professionals we engage have the support of a team for advice, to request additional resources, and for accountability. Risk management is a key aspect of how we are so effective in this work.


I want to hire you, but I believe I need to hire an expert in my niche industry.

We understand the benefit of having a Subject Matter Expert (SMES) to support your proposals. However, SMEs are experts in their industries – not in proposals and RFP responses.  

Because we work with different clients all the time, we’re very effective at writing proposals for most industries. This is important because SMEs can use such specific language around your products and services that they don’t communicate exactly what you offer effectively to non-SMEs. 

When it comes to RFP responses, they can help you craft your solution and answer very technical questions effectively. However, they don’t manage RFP compliance. We have 100% on-time delivery and 100% compliance rates, which means our clients’ proposals always receive consideration and depending on the number of phases in the selection process, to the next phase of the deal.

What does the client’s responsibility entail during the process?

Once Upon an RFP plays a critical role in our clients’ business success.

That said, you are the expert in the work you do. It’s your business, your solution, and your client around which we develop proposals. You also determine your pricing and are responsible for reviewing contract terms in each RFx.

Your responsibility is to define and communicate the solution you wish to propose in a format that we can leverage to craft a proposal in response to the RFx.

We’ll ask you to provide an overview of your solution during the Kickoff Call, as well as provide documentation outlining it. We offer a template to help you with this process. You may continue to adjust the solution until a defined date, at which point the proposal receives a final review and editing.

Having clearly documented solutions, and related pricing, allows our team to focus on what they do best – crafting a compelling, compliant proposal on time that gets you to the next phase of the deal.

In our experience, providing – or not providing – your solution directly impacts our team’s level of effort and your company’s investment in our services for each opportunity.

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