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.

Manchester: the ever-evolving city

Manchester: the ever-evolving city

is  have lived in Manchester most of my life. I grew up in Stretford and now live in the centre of town. There is nothing unusual about living in the city these days, but during my childhood in the 80s, it would have been considered strange or even unfortunate. The Manchester of today is a million miles away from the city of my childhood and I often think about how much the Mancunian landscape (or Manc-scape perhaps) has changed.

The Manchester of the 1980s was gritty, dusty and frequently derelict. Trips to the city centre via Hulme on the 257 bus made me wonder who lived in this sad-looking jungle. The same area is totally different now, with a focused regeneration effort during the late 90s and 2000s. Manchester Metropolitan University’s Birley Fields campus has moved the area on again, diversifying the local population to include students.

By the time I became a teenager in the 90s, something serious and fundamental had happened. Built on the cultural tidal waves of music and football, Manchester had become the northern capital of cool and southerners wanted to come to university here. Suddenly it wasn’t so grim up north, after all. Manchester became Madchester and the city acquired something nowhere else outside of London had: brand. It was this Mancunian brand, along with excellent stewardship from Manchester City Council, which attracted the financial investment required to create the vibrant, exciting city of today.

The noughties saw the construction of some incredible landmark buildings, including the Beetham Tower and the Spinningfields development and this development is continuing well into the 21st century, with the buildings becoming ever taller and shinier.  

Manchester is famous for many things, including inclement weather, stroppy women, being the crucible of the industrial revolution (Cottonopolis) and the birthplace of Baby, world’s first stored-program computer. It is now becoming known for the quality of its architecture and is rightly a very popular tourist destination.

My only fear that we lose all of the city’s glorious industrial grime, swapping it for the glamour of glass and steel. The canals and Victorian areas around Dale Street and the wider Northern Quarter are amongst my favourite places and I would be sad to see these sanitised or glamorised. The perfect happy medium for me would to be seamlessly integrate the old with the new, whilst accommodating the needs of this growing city. I’d also love to see more trees, flowers and general park areas. As much as I love the buildings, sometimes views would benefit from being softened.

On a final note, I’d like to point out the irony of some of the greatest Mancunians not being from Manchester at all. They became Mancunian through commitment, excellence and devotion. But people like (and this list isn’t intended to be exhaustive) Alan Turing (London), Tony Wilson (Salford) and Alex Ferguson (Govern, Glasgow) have made an unbelievable contribution towards Manchester being the vibrant city it is today. I once read something about Berlin in that its population isn’t necessarily born there, but they become Berliners. I think it’s the same with Mancunians.

As for me, I’m looking forward to another 40 years of watching this magnificent city grow and evolve.

The tradition of topping-out ceremonies

The tradition of topping-out ceremonies

The pageantry and superstition of topping-out ceremonies has always fascinated me, taking place, as they do, in the no-nonsense world of construction.

The topping-out ceremony is held when the last beam or equivalent is put in place within the structure. Alternatives can include a ceremonial pour of the last section of concrete or laying the last block or brick. Essentially it signals the frame of the new building reaching its maximum height and while at this stage, much of the rest of the construction is still unfinished, an important milestone in the project has been attained.

The origins of the ceremony can be traced back many centuries across multiple cultures, including ancient Egypt and the Americas. However, most sources reference the Scandinavian practice of placing an evergreen tree atop a new building, in a bid to rehouse any tree spirits displaced when the required timber was lumbered. The tradition then migrated across Northern Europe and then the Americas.

Today the practice provides a great PR opportunity for the client, contractor, subcontractors and design team, as well as celebrating the achievement of reaching the highest point of a new building. Given that buildings seem to be getting ever taller, this is no mean feat.