Are External Agencies the Future of Successful Bid Design?

Why design matters

From major, multi-month infrastructure bids to small project proposals, design plays in important role in the success of a tender.

On a smaller proposal, a well-designed document shows that you’re taking the engagement seriously and are willing to spend the time and effort to prove it. On a larger document, good design aids clarity and ensures the key messages aren’t lost.

While some public sector bids still have strict limitations on the format of the submission, many ITTs leave it to the bidder to determine the design and format their document will take. Even when the ITT specifies the format, a well-written proposal can still be let down by sloppy alignment and inconsistencies.

Design standards for professional documents are higher than ever before. What was perfectly acceptable and professional even a few years ago can look old-fashioned today, in part due to an ‘arms race’ in design – when the proposals hit the desk of the buyer, you want your submission to stand out for the right reasons, not because it looks dry and clunky compared to your competitors. Companies and organisations putting out an ITT have come to expect a slick and polished response. First impressions do matter.

When approaching a new bid or tender, how do you ensure that your final submission will live up to these standards?

Many bids use either one or more freelancers or in-house designers – or a combination of both.

There is a third option: an outsourced design agency has the flexibility and quick response of a freelancer, with the speed and scale of a larger team.

Here are three reasons why you should consider engaging an external agency for your bid design.

1. An agency is faster

One common complaint about in-house teams is the lead time sometimes required to book them, when they may be busy on other work. This is one advantage to using a dedicated freelancer, who may be working on-site with the bid team and able to take briefs and requests from them directly. However, if the freelancer is already busy with other work for the bid, they may not be able to start new requests quickly. They are also limited by the hours they work in a day.

An agency with onshore and offshore support can provide the in-person responsiveness of an on-site freelancer, but with multiple team members able to immediately pick up a request and overnight support available so the writers are never held up waiting for a formatted document or completed graphic to be sent back.

2. The team can scale at crunch time

Even the most hardworking freelance designer in the world is limited by how much they can achieve on their own in a single day.

By engaging an agency, you ensure that no matter how much last-minute work is needed, there is capacity to get the job done for the deadline. An agency will be able to bring more designers onto a request at short notice.

3. An agency can be cheaper

It may come as a surprise to some, but an agency can often work out as cheaper than hiring a freelancer or expanding an in-house team.

An outsourced team is scalable and flexible: work billed on hourly rates means that you only pay for as much as you use, rather than paying a day rate for a freelancer that isn’t always busy.

Using an agency with an offshore team for routine and overnight work usually means lower rates than teams or freelancers based solely onshore.

Do you agree with our list? Are there any key considerations that we’ve missed? Get in touch with us at if you’re interested in hearing more about how we help bid teams.