RFPs: A Field Guide for Designers

This field guide will show you how to add large amounts of revenue in just a few hours a week.

The key is to not waste time on parts of the RFP process that have almost no impact on results. We'll walk through some ideas for how to cut down on things like: finding them, designing proposals, and following up.

🛑   Are RFPs worth it to you? 🔢   ROI Calculation: Making $30k+ a Year with RFPs ✍️   Writing Your Proposals 📑   Designing Your Proposals 🚀   Sending Your Proposals and Beyond 🍀   Conclusion and the Key to RFPs

🛑 Wait are RFP's even worth it?

Ahh, the elusive RFP. Unless you have a lot of experience responding to them, they can seem down-right intimidating. But even the top design agencies in the world reply to them. For example, Mike Monteiro at Mule had this to say...

"There are many good organizations that have to go through an RFP process to hire anyone. And those are good jobs to go after. People who tell you they don’t go after RFPs and people who tell you they don’t have meetings are both lying to you."

Mike Monteiro

Mike Monteiro
Co-founder, Mule Design

So although it’s better to get work by referral when you can - simply responding to 1-2 RFPs per week can mean thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in added revenue (over the course of a few years).

Better yet, you can do this with not that much extra effort. And with the right approach, you can even reduce the intimidation and time it takes substantially. This guide will show you how - and it will help you create a system that takes just 1 – 2 hours a week to manage.

You’ll be able to reply to projects (with realistic budgets and great people at the helm) no matter how busy you are. So let’s get started.

👨‍🔬 ROI: $30k a year with RFPs

RFPs suck because they’re time consuming. Often there’s not a lot of feedback involved in the process (or you don’t take advantage of the feedback available) and you’re left feeling like you just did a ton of work for no reason.

Failed proposals feel particularly pointless because after a few you start to wonder if you ever had a shot in the first place. Are all of these carefully crafted proposals being sent to a black hole? Nobody got time for that.

Yet, the truth is quite a different picture. Most RFP issuers I’ve interviewed received less than 30 proposals total.

That means if you do some simple math, your chances are actually pretty good.

If you’re just average at sending proposals - and respond to one a week - you’re guaranteed to land a couple gigs every year.

With the average budget size of 30-40k for an RFP, that’s not a bad ROI as long as responding to one RFP a week doesn’t make you hate your life.

So let’s talk about how to make the process way easier.

📎 Writing Your Proposals

The truth is most RFPs ask for the exact same 6-8 things.

RFP specifications are so similar in fact, you can apply to 90% of them with almost an identical proposal.

Instead of wasting time re-making a proposal from scratch, you can create a great proposal once that you re-use again and again.

So what are the elements you should have ready to go?

7 things to have ready to go...

We analyzed over 500 RFPs, here's a list of the most common requests. Create these once and have them ready to go to save a ton of time.

✉️ Cover letter

Introduce yourself in a friendly and concise way. Add something unique to the project you're applying to.

💅 Bio

Share with clients who's behind the proposal. Have a bio ready to go that tells them why you're awesome.

📞 Contact Info

Make it clear what the best way to contact you is. Ideally, include this info on every page (especially the last).

🍻 Team members

Define roles for members on your team. Let the client know who else will be working on their project.

📊 Solution

What are you proposing? What's the benefit? You'll be surprised how often you can re-use "custom" solutions.

💰 Price

How much is it going to cost? Create a few packages you can offer for any budget range.

🙋‍♂️ Questions

Most RFPs have a Q+A process baked in. Always have a couple of questions ready to go for any project.

📑 Designing Your Propsals

My recommendation: don't waste time with designing your proposals, use a proposal app. Why? Surprisingly, the design of your proposal has almost no effect on the outcome. Instead, things like your persuasive copy is where you should focus.

That’s why we recommend that instead you drop these common elements into proposal software and be done with it. This will make it stupid easy to drag and drop elements to create 100% customer proposals in minutes.

There’s a few options, so I’ve taken the time to highlight a few of my favorites.

Our favorite proposal apps...

Are we missing an awesome proposal app? Let us know

Top recommendation:

Bidsketch is the only proposal software we've used extensively because it does everything you need. It creates proposals, stores templates, and allows you to require a signature.

What makes Bidsketch particularly great for RFPs is that they have re-usable templates to start from that emphasize benefits and not features.

Starts at $29/mo

❤️ Not an affiliate link.

Another option: I recently came across an app called Cushion which looks great, especially if you need to track time and visualize your schedule.

Starts at $5/month

For markdown lovers: Remarq is also a solid option. I've heard great things from numerous consultants about using Remarq.

Starts at $19/month

🚀 Sending Your Proposal and Beyond

Now that you can create proposals in a snap, it’s important to make the most of then. You do that by communicating.

Following up and asking great questions plays a huge role in this. It can also get cumbersome.

You will likely forget to reply to an email, follow-up, or otherwise let some opportunity fall through the cracks if you don't have a system in place.

In the confrontation between the rock and the stream, the stream always wins. So follow-up.

Ok I added that last part. But what Buddha was trying to say is that taking action beats sitting still. When it comes to RFP's, value consistency over perfection.

That's why you need a system. I'm going to walk you through some ideas for the sort of stuff you can incorporate in your system.

... but remember, you're just trying to send one proposal per week - that's it. Look at it as a numbers game and don’t sweat it when your don’t hear back.

✅ RFP System Checklist...

Some ideas for how to automate your RFP process further

Don't waste time looking for RFPs, do this instead

It can be really time consuming to find RFPs. The problem is they’re usually isolated. Companies post them on their website and share them with a few people they know. That can make them hard to find. Luckily Folyo does the hard work for you so you don't have to worry about finding RFPs.


Use a CRM to keeping track of everything

You'll be amazed at how quickly sending one proposal per week gets disorganized. My favorite recommendation for keeping it all together and tidy is Highrise.

Use an Email App to followup

The best way to lose a proposal is to forget to followup. Apps like Bluetick make that impossible by automating your followup.


Pick up the phone

If an RFP starts dictating button colors, pick up the phone. It’s a cry for help and your opportunity to create mutual understanding. Speaking directly to a designer may be what they need, much more than getting 325 replies to a badly-formed RFP. Remember, not all organizations who send out formal documents have to.


Always include options in your proposal

No matter what the budget is or how the scope is laid out, giving potential clients options in your proposal will double or triple the chances you've hit the spot for them.

Ask a question with your proposal

Remember that there's people behind the scenes. Use the Q+A system built into most RFPs. Ask them a question to build a relationship. A good starter: "I know you have a spot in the RFP for questions, but I wanted to quickly check-in and ask if you already have a firm in mind to handle the project?"

The problem with most RFPs is that they’re written by people who are as irritated that they have to write it as you are that you have to reply to it. That’s also the key to handling an RFP. Find out who wrote it.

Most come with a contact number in case you have questions. Call it. Make friends with the people who wrote it. They may have even heard of you. If so, you’re golden. Strike up a conversation with them and get as much detail as you can about the organization involved.
Mike Monteiro

🍀 The key is to get lucky... on purpose

With RFPs there’s always going to be some luck involved. However, you can also create the opportunity for luck to strike by putting yourself in the right position. Be consistent.Followup consistently. Send 50-100 RFPs over the course of a year and measure the results. Suddenly, you’ll find that you get a lot luckier.

This guide was created by Folyo

Folyo members get the best RFPs on the web delivered to them. They get a head start on this entire entire process and get $10k+ UI/UX design projects sent to them daily. You should sign up for a free trial today!