Work Life Week 2019

Work Life Week 2019

October 7 to 11 is National Work Life week. Although the focus is on working families, there are some takeaways for those of us working in bid environments, where the concept of a work/life balance can feel like the ultimate troll. As bid professionals, we are so driven to ensure wins for our clients or employers that down time, or self-care, is the first thing to go out of the window. I speak from bitter experience when I say this is a mistake.

Preventing burn-out 

Being freelance has enabled me to gain more balance and prevent burn-out – cooking from scratch, swimming regularly and getting into the hills for a hike as often as I can. Brain rest is as important as physical rest in my view and I have done a lot of work over the past 18 months implementing and sticking to boundaries by not responding to emails or phone calls in the evening, unless it’s prearranged. I also switch off my laptop and deliberately do something else, even if it’s just watching TV!

This summer was exceptionally busy, with three really major pieces of work that required more than a few 14-hour days, but to counterbalance this, I made sure that September was quieter and I went to Scotland for a few weeks. I have come back feeling refreshed and ready to meet the demands of a full diary until Christmas.

Technological solutions 

Over the past couple of months, I have been learning more about the impact that technology will have on the bidding environment, including project management tools, information libraries and programmes to reduce graphic design re-work. Having said this, I am yet to really see a technological solution to reduce the writing burden, so I’m interested to see whether a solution for this crops up at some point.

What about you? 

Do you feel like you have a good work/life balance? Do you recognise the signs when you need to re-assess? Have you got any advice on how to do this? I’m sure other bid people would love to hear your ideas, tips and tricks.

You can find out more about Work Life Week on its website

 

World Architecture Day 2019

World Architecture Day 2019

October 7 2019 is World Architecture Day, established in 2005 by the Union International des Architects (UIA) to promote the role of architects and architecture. This year’s theme is Housing for All and is a clarion call for architects to come together to contribute their creative energies to improve housing across the world. 

Architects are essential to the world around us – designing the infrastructure that enables us to live our lives, including houses, shops, schools and colleges, hospitals, and the buildings we work in and around. They also have an important role in delivering social justice and equality, creating quality environments for all sections of society. This is particularity true of housing. 

I’ve loved buildings from being a child, but it was an architect that sparked my interest in the built environment as a career. I’d watched them develop a scheme into a completed bricks and mortar building from the earliest of feasibility sketches on their drawing board. The sense of wonder I felt as I witnessed this evolution has never left me. I’m also constantly amazed by the ability of architects to combine the aesthetic with the technical, although I doubt it’s as easy as they make it look.

For those wondering why I didn’t follow a more technical career path, it’s because I’m definitely a language person – I can’t count for toffee, so any building I’d designed probably wouldn’t come out straight.  

So on this World Architecture Day, let’s celebrate the architects we work with and appreciate the contribution they make to the world around us.

You can find out more via the website and follow the hashtags for the day: #WAD2019 and #HousingForAll. 

International Podcast Day

International Podcast Day

Today is International Podcast Day. First established in 2014, the day is a celebration of the power of podcasts. It’s a day for connecting with podcast listeners and creators and discovering new podcasts to listen to and share.

I listen to a lot of podcasts over a range of subjects – it’s a great way of learning and obtaining new information, as well as catching up with current affairs. I like listening to content rather than reading it – it feels relaxing after a day writing content for bids. As time goes on, I keep discovering new ones, especially if they are recommended to me.

To mark the occasion, I’ve curated a list of podcasts I listen to regularly.

Bidding

The Red Review Podcast

There are not enough bidding or construction marketing podcasts around, so it’s great to hear Mike Reader and Jeremy Brim interviewing various bid people who work across multiple industries, to hear about their experiences, careers and challenges. I’d love to hear if there are any other bidding podcasts out there that I should be listening to. 

Freelancing

Freelancing can be a solitary life, so podcasts can provide a really worthwhile connection with other people going through the same things. Freelancers are delivering diverse services, but their experiences are very similar and it’s interesting to hear how other people have dealt with similar challenges. Some freelancer-related podcasts I’d recommend are:  

Being Freelance

I’ve learnt so much from listening to this podcast – the experiences of other freelancers have so much resonance, even though we all deliver very different services to clients. I’d recommend any freelancer devoting some time to getting through this back catalogue – there are so many tips and ideas to pick up.

Deliberate Freelancer

I have recently discovered this one, after connecting with Melanie Padgett Powers on Twitter. This is a really well-thought out and researched podcast series with plenty of useful information for freelancers.

Politics

Politics really is my passion and has been throughout my life. I am an interested observer rather than wanting to get too closely involved. There are plenty of good podcasts out there at the moment, and some I would recommend are:

For the Many

This has been the runaway success in terms of political podcasts over the past few years. The contrasting thoughts of Iain Dale and Jacqui Smith make interesting listening.

Brexitcast

It has taken me a long time to get into this – I sometimes find it very raucous to listen to – but it does provide a good summary of the Brexit fiasco we are all living through. I am not enjoying its transition to TV though and will continue to listen as a podcast.

Political Thinking

I enjoy Nick Robinson’s long-form interviews that explore the backgrounds and political influences of various political figures. They really explain the experiences that have made the person, politically.

Hypnotherapy

I’ve been developing hypnotherapy skills this year and practising on my friends, with really powerful results. I’ve come across the Absolute Mind podcast recently which has some great content.

What are your thoughts?

I’m always looking for new podcasts to listen to, so if you have any recommendations, I’m all ears. I have a lot of train travel coming up over the autumn, so I’ll have plenty of time to listen to new stuff.

If you’d like to know more about International Podcast Day, head over to the website

 

Punctuation Day 2019

Punctuation Day 2019

It’s punctuation day on 24 September, and although the day is an import from the US, I wanted to add my own thoughts within the context of bid writing.

Why is punctuation important?

Writing clearly is the bid writer’s raison d’être and punctuation supports the transmission of the message by creating scorable, succinct copy that answers the question. Knowing the basics helps the first draft to get on the paper quicker, as well as speeding up the review and editing process. However, language is changing and slavishly enforcing the rules is becoming less appropriate or even irrelevant.

How I’ve seen English evolve

I have seen business English evolve significantly over the past 16 years I have been writing to win work, morphing from widely-recognised formalised structures, to a more fluid approach with shorter sentences and fewer punctuation marks. This is driven by reduced attention spans, people being busier and needing to speed read more (with a proliferation of punctuation marks slowing down reading speed) and the increasing influence of text speak.

For example, one convention that has disappeared in this time (at least within the sectors I write in) is the ‘bulleted list’, using semi-colons at the end of each sentence, with the penultimate sentence being marked with ; and, and rounded off with a full stop. This has been simplified to bullets with no end punctuation, other than a full-stop completing the last point. 

Everyone has their own opinions and it’s about developing your own writing style you are comfortable with. I worked with an editor who felt I used too many commas to divide up clauses, so I took their feedback on board and reduced them. Bid writing has made my own writing style very blunt with few extra words or punctuation marks – this has been necessary to meet often very demanding page limits.

How I’ve developed my knowledge 

Strangely though, English grammar isn’t something I really learnt at school, although I did learn the complexities of the French and German languages by rote. My knowledge has developed during my working life – absorbing the rules laid out in writing style guides and working with some superb editors during my freelance bid life. It’s worth noting that no two writing style guides are ever the same, confirming my point about rule enforcement being less relevant. As a writer, I just flex my writing to meet each style guide’s requirements.

What are your thoughts?

How do you see good punctuation? A necessary evil or something to master? I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

Managing conflicts as a freelance bid writer

Managing conflicts as a freelance bid writer

I was reading the background information for a professional services framework that will be published over the next few months, and I was surprised to read that bidders were advised to make sure their bid writer didn’t have any conflicts of interest. This was the first time I had ever seen bidders’ advice stating this, and wondered what had driven it. 

What is a bid writing conflict of interest?

As a bid writer, a conflict of interest may arise if two separate clients have approached you to work on the same bid. Although I’m sure this may happen to other writers, it has never happened to me in the five years I have been independent. I have however, written for clients bidding for different lots and services on a framework, and the last time this happened, I was successful across three different lots, so had three happy sets of clients and no conflicts of interest.

Any independent writer who values their reputation will proactively minimise conflicts of interest so they don’t present their clients with issues. My business is built on my integrity, so there is no benefit to me of working with different clients on the same bid – apart from anything, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

How I manage conflicts 

To minimise the potential for conflicts, I work with a range of businesses across the construction industry, each one with its own sectoral specialism and therefore pursuing totally different projects. If I were approached by two potential clients for the same bid, it would be a case of first come, first served, or whoever provides me with a purchase order number first. I also make clear in my contracts that I am not engaged by any other party to bid this opportunity or lot on a framework. 

How to avoid them 

My advice to other freelance bid writers is to work with a wide range of clients and avoid direct competitors – ie businesses that offer the same services in the same sectors. If you are approached to work on the same bid by two clients, be open and explain your situation. It may be you have loyalty to one particular party and so would prefer to work with them – but make sure you are covered if they decide to no-bid the opportunity, leaving you with no work at all.

Personal ethics

I take ethics very seriously, and I never share written content (my contract specifies that I don’t own the copyright once the final invoice is paid), never gossip about conversations and never say who I am working with or the specifics of what I am working on – unless bidders are a matter of public knowledge which can be the case on large infrastructure bids.

How do other independent bid writers and bid managers manage their conflicts of interest? Do you find that it’s much of an issue?

I’m back from London

I’m back from London

The last couple of months have been intense – I’ve been working on an infrastructure bid in London and spending three or four days a week there. I’ve really loved being there and working with such a talented, motivated team that the bid was a dream to work on. I will share my thoughts on London as a city in more depth in another post.

Now that I’m back home, I’m thinking about what the next couple of months will bring, both for me personally and for my bid writing business, which will be five years old this summer. Top of the agenda is updating my website and online presence in general, and I’ve been working with a couple of other freelancers to help me to do this. Their expertise has been invaluable as I plan how to use social media for business a lot more.

Over the past five years, I have combined big bids with smaller ones. Typically, the bigger stuff requires me to travel all over the UK and even the world, while the smaller stuff generally allows me to work from home and have a more balanced lifestyle. For the next few months I will be focusing on smaller bids and other forms of bid consultancy, such as bid libraries, standard information, reviews and audits, so if this sounds like the kind of help you might need over the summer, please get in touch.

In the meantime, you will be seeing a whole lot more of me online, blogging about bid writing, freelance life and everything else in between. I look forward to connecting with you all more.