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.

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.