Raise your hand if you want to be a Proposal Writer!

One of the most common questions we are asked as kids is: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

If you asked me at any point between when I started to talk and when I completed my Master’s in Library and Information Science, I would not ever have put together the words Proposal and Writer. Most kids would answer doctor, lawyer, teacher, police officer, scientist, actor, chef, writer, astronaut. I’m pretty sure my answer was usually, “I don’t know, but I like to read.”

Who wants to be a Proposal Writer? No one I’ve ever met…yet.

Most people I meet have never even heard of an RFP (Request for Proposals). And most certainly have not heard the job titles Proposal Writer, Proposal Manager, etc. And I hadn’t prior applying for one of these jobs.

When taking my first role as a Proposal Writer, at a time when I thought I’d be working in a library, I had absolutely no idea what I would be doing. And yet I jumped in.

In fact, the first month on the job I did not enjoy a day shorter than 10 hours. But I really did enjoy the work.

In the second month, I remember spending the majority of Labor Day weekend in the office, frantically working on a very high profile proposal. We sat on the front steps of the office building on Labor Day, watching the sun rise as we waited for the courier who would ensure delivery by the deadline the next day.

Our company was slammed with RFPs because our target market was government. For companies whose target market is government or large corporations, RFPs are a what I like to call a necessary evil of business development.

I was so energetic about what I was doing because I knew my work was critical for the stability and longevity of my company. It was a young organization that was doing things a new way and making waves in the industry. We were all so passionate about giving everything.

I jumped in with both feet, not really knowing what I would be doing. Over time I learned that it was a role that allowed me to use a lot of the skills that made me a great student:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Project management
  • Writing
  • Creativity
  • Organization
  • Ability to interpret and follow complex directions
  • Research
  • Willingness to ask questions
  • Problem solving

These are useful skills for a lot of different positions, but especially proposal roles. How I’ve applied these skills includes:

  • Identifying the who, what, when, where, why and how of the RFP
  • Using this information to craft the Project Plan and Templates
  • Interviewing Subject Matter Experts
  • Writing and editing

Skills that I’ve developed since my first role as a Proposal Writer include:

  • Crafting value statements and developing win themes
  • Coordinating kickoff and touch base meetings with pursuit teams of 30+ colleagues around the globe
  • Setting up document collaboration
  • Navigating a variety of procurement portals
  • Developing or consulting on pricing models
  • Coordinating compliance and mitigating risk around business information required and legal review of terms and conditions
  • Navigating FOIA and similar state and local government transparency regulations to protect confidential company information and trade secrets
  • Contingency planning around proposal delivery, whether physical or electronic submission

Did I ever imagine being a Proposal Writer when I was growing up? No, I never did. But I am so grateful for the opportunity that came to me because I was a Librarian and Subject Matter Expert.

The skills I developed in Proposal Writer / Specialist / Manager roles have enabled me to begin my own business and help clients in a variety of industries manage their RFP responses.

I am so grateful for having fallen into a role that is unique and highly valued, while also widely unknown.

My company name is Once Upon an RFP. When you turn it into an acronym, OUanRFP, which has an irony that makes me smile.

My company name is also a filter. Most people look at me quizzically and say, “What’s an RFP?”

Those who know what an RFP is say one of two things:
“I know what an RFP is, but I don’t need you.” or
“I didn’t know there were people who specialize in what you do! Let’s talk.”

We exist for the professionals and organizations who depend upon RFPs as an avenue of business development. They struggle because their day jobs are C-Suite, Client Relationship Management, Service Delivery, or New Business Development and they don’t have dedicated proposal support within their organizations.

Does this sound like you?

Would you like to explore what it would be like to have proposal professionals to support your RFP response and proposal development efforts?

Let’s chat. Go to our Contact Us page to schedule your consultation. We can’t wait to meet you!

Originally published on LinkedIn

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