You’ve spotted that your local authority is looking for creatives like you to support them on a project. Before you can get stuck into creating commissioned art or working with members of the community, you’ll usually need to bid for a tender. If this is new to you, the language and long pages of requirements can be a bit of a mystery. In this blog post, we share our insider tips on how to write a successful tender application as a creative freelancer or small business.
- Be enthusiastic
When you first discover the process of submitting a tender, it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed. But remember why you want to apply to be a provider in the first place.
Working with local authorities can be a great way to meet new people, gain credibility in your area and secure much-needed funding to do what you do best. Keep your eyes on what you can get out of the project to stay motivated.
- Check the requirements
It’s great to be excited about a potential new project, but it’s also vital to check what’s being asked of you before you begin writing. This will make it worth your while.
Is your business eligible to bid for the tender? Sometimes, authorities will specify that providers must be of a particular size, have a certain number of years’ experience or hold specific certifications in areas such as cyber security or diversity.
Make sure you also check the formatting guidelines. There’s little more frustrating than completing five pages of a tender bid only to find that the limit was one side of A4. Write down the word limit and font size on the page that you’re drafting your bid to remind yourself to stay on track.
- Respond closely to the criteria
Always answer the question asked – not the question you think should have been asked!
A tender document will usually be very clear about what’s needed from providers. Take the time to read each of the responsibilities that you will be required to hold if successful. Can you think of ways to demonstrate you have the resource, infrastructure and experience to meet these?
Also be mindful of the outcomes that the authority will want to see. If they’re looking for you to help a specific number of people in the community, can you work out how you would reach this audience? If they’d like you to produce a tangible piece of art or physical production, how can you show you’re capable of doing so?
Potential provider: business or company completing the questions
Economic operators: other businesses
Economic and financial standing: information on accounts and cashflow
- Get your online security and data protection in order
These days, robust cyber security and compliance with GDPR are prerequisites of bidding for local authority tenders.
Before you begin working on a bid, first educate yourself on the basics so you understand the language used in the tender document. The National Cyber Security Centre have a useful guide for freelancers on their website. We’ve also discussed their small business resources on our blog.
Next, you might need to secure a Cyber Essentials certification, or similar, to prove that your processes and systems are not liable to a data breach.
- Align yourself with the local authority’s values
If you’re asked to demonstrate the social value that you will bring to a project, it’s useful to first find out what the authority are trying to achieve in the local community.
North East Lincolnshire Council, for example, have a guide to their policies and strategies on their website. From improving housing conditions to making digital services more accessible, you’ll want to see what the authority are ultimately aiming for so you can show your suitability.
If you’ve worked on projects that fit with the council’s objectives or have used processes which match their policies, this could be ideal evidence for marking yourself out as the right partner.
- Make the most of the support available to you
If you’re in the Grimsby region, we highly recommend you join the Spark Grimsby programme. This rich network of creatives, mentors, students and business leaders is a hub of useful information and knowledge sharing. Many of the members will have been in similar situations before and can discuss what worked well.
Our associate, Malcolm Warrington, is currently delivering a series of workshops specifically designed to help creatives work on tender bids. He uncovers the language of tender documents and gives insights from his years of experience on how to convince authorities that you’re the provider for them. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see what other support is on offer for small businesses in the North East, please see our programmes page.