Assumptions in the Freelance Proposal Business

One challenge I encounter when I do freelance writing for solo entrepreneurs, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations is an assumptions gap. This gap can create problems early or later in the relationship, depending on how quickly the problems arise.

For example, someone might hire me as a proposal writer and then assume that I know everything there is to know about the proposal business, including how to write for their business. This is a risk because the proprietor or hiring manager assumes–wrongly–that I will be able to set up a proposal operation on my own with little or no guidance…or worse, without any information from them to populate those proposals (“Can’t you just make it up?”).

This is why it is important during the interview process to ask questions about the employer’s business:

  • How large is their operation?
  • How much autonomy do employees (contract or otherwise) have in pursuing their work?
  • How many proposals have they done in the past?
  • Do they have any boilerplate language written that explains to prospective funding organizations who they are and what they do?

In addition to the content side, you need to understand their process, including how much autonomy you’ve been granted to do the work:

  • Are you expected to research opportunities and pursue them on your own?
  • Are you reporting to someone?
  • Are you empowered to “speak” for the company?
  • Are you allowed to establish the language for how the organization talks about itself?
  • Are you allowed to set the goals for business development?

There are other questions, but both sets of bullets or questions like them should be asked up front. Otherwise, you could find yourself hired without any ground rules established and disappointment arising on both sides of the relationship:

“Why didn’t someone call me and tell me what to do?”
“Why didn’t you just start working?”

The more clarity you get up front, the less stress you’ll have once you’re hired. Trust me on this.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
This entry was posted in audience, business writing, clients, freelancing, proposal writing, workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

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