Responding to RFPs for Freelancers

(as presented to Freelance Camp Victoria #yyjfree)

Conference Info: Victoria Freelance Camp, October 24, 2011.

Key Terms

  • ITQ – Invitation to Quote, typically used for known products where only price is a consideration
  • RFQ/RFI – Request for Qualification/Request for Information, used for information gathering prior to a formal bid.
  • RFP – Request for Proposal, a formal bid for services where price and other factors are also considered.

In British Columbia, BC Bid is the primary source of procurement for the provincial government plus many munipaliteies, education instiutions and other public bodies.

Understanding the Process
Most purchases of any size require some form of procurement. Since ITQs are mostly for products (goods) not services, they won’t be discussed here. For the freelancer, you are typically looking for service oppourunties. If these are large then you can expect to see an RFP. I there is an ongoing need for certain skills (project management, document writting, ) this typically will be done through and annual, quarterly or ongoing RFQ followed by individual requests for bids to pre-qualifed bidders on an as needed basis. Completing an RFQ and getting on a bidders list is a good starting point for getting regular oppourtunities to bid on work. Most work involving bidder’s list require at least 3 bids and will be evaluated on price based on the assumption that all bidders are pre-qualified.

Responding to an RFP can be an extensive process requring a significant number of man hours to prepare a proper response. The costs of preparing the response is entirely the responsibility of the bidder and there is typically no option to recover these costs.

RFP responses will be measured on two factors; the mandatory requirements on a pass/fail basis, and the Desirable (scored) criteria. Any responses should clearly state that they meet the mandatory requirements. Example: if the mandatory is ‘must have a Business Address in the Province of BC’ then you should state the mandatory followed by your business address to show you meet that requirement. Just saying ‘Yes’ to a mandatory without stating how you meet that requirement leaves you at the mercy of the evaluator. If you fail to demonstrate you meet the mandatories then your bid will not be evaluated further.

One of the Mandatories is typically basic contract terms. By responding to an RFP you agree to enter into a contract based on the terms included in the RFP. It is important you understand the implicatons of the terms including things like Intelectual Property clauses, Waiver of Moral Rights, and Insurance/Indemnity clauses.

Desireable criteria are scored based on the stated criteria, one of which will be price. The other criteria are typically your business background/capabilities, the details of your solution, and references/examples of work.

Example:

Category Weight % Comment
Price 40–60% typically the largest factor
Capabilties 10–20% May be higher based on complexity
Approach 10–20% technical details, how well suited is the solution
References 5–10% May or may not be seperate, expect to give 3 client contact details of similar work

Tips and Hints

(no tricks – honest!)
Anyone may respond to a RFP..a vendor is any party (individual, business, or society) that is in the position of being able to sell goods or services to government

Procurements are designed to be open process so you should avail yourself of the oppourtunies to learn from any RFP process, even if you don’t end up submitting a bid. This includes asking questions. If there are areas of the RFP you are unclear of then you may send questions to the contact listed on the RFP document. In some cases questions will be addressed at a bidders meeting. In either case, your questions and anyone elses’s are posted along with any answers so everyone sees all the information. In some cases, the answer may be ‘we can’t answer that’ but there is no penality in asking. If there is a significant change as a result of questions or a bidders meeting then the RFP itself may be ammended. One of the common ammendments is to extend the date. An example would be if the results of a bidders meeting reveals details that significantly change your bid, then it is possible to ask for additional time. If there is sufficient reason or vendor request fot an extension typically a week or two might be added to the response time.