Great article from Andy Rutledge on RFP’s

01 September 2009

Andy Rutledge has written a great article – The Trouble with RFP’s in which he points out the shortcomings of submitting to RFP’s for freelancers and other web professionals. The article is written mainly for people looking to hire web professionals and is an excellent read not only in that it explains the shortcomings of hiring by RFP but also offers some sound advice on finding and hiring the right people for your job.

We’re occasionally asked why we don’t go in for council or government contracts and the answer is simple – Propeller have never involved ourselves with or submitted proposals to companies or organisations trawling the net far and wide by issuing an RFP, chiefly because as a small agency we don’t have time and if we did, our work stands very highly above the commodity end of the industry – this you cannot respectably deliver in an anonymous proposal. RFP’s render effective communication null and void.

When dealing with professionals, an RFP is less an instrument of efficiency and effectiveness and more a proclamation of slight regard and unsuitability

In our 5 years in the industry I have yet to meet a client who really knew what they wanted or how to achieve it and the process to finding this ground takes a little time, discussion and often compromise and this is only achievable through one to one communication.

We like to work closely and develop mutually worthwhile ongoing relationships with our clients and we produce great work to very high standards. Neither of these values are conducive to having our work treated as a commodity, which when all said and done, is what happens when you submit proposals to tenders etc. Or as Andy succinctly sums it up…

Professional relationships are built on mutual responsibility and respect. An RFP demands strictly one-sided responsibility (from the “vendor”) and indicates a measure of slight regard.

Beyond all this, from a common sense point of view, as Andy points out, no responsible agency could bid on a project based on an RFP as RFP’s rarely include sufficient information to make an educated and accurate appraisal – effectively putting the cart before the horse.

Almost all of our work comes from recommendation – people have seen our work or know someone who we’ve done work for – they know what they are going to get. Andy includes a section outlining what to do when hiring and I think this paragraph says it all…

Rather than invite the attention of every warm body within the sound of your RFP, pursue only the folks you already strongly suspect are right for your project. Do your research and know precisely why you want to work with the 1 to 3 agencies you have in mind.

For those who dont have time to read it, Andy’s suggestions can be summed up as;

  • Do pick your target(s) and know why you did.
  • Do call or email with only very basic information and invite follow-up.
  • Do have a candid conversation. Or two. Or three.
  • Do invite the agency to offer a bid.
  • Do respond by the bid response deadline.

Memberships & Affiliates