How to Make Your Bid Stand Out From the Rest

Check out these tips for what to include in a proposal.

J. T. Bradley has very definite ideas about what a good written bid should contain. As president of Bradley Builders in Carmichael, Calif., Bradley obtains new remodeling work in two ways: through direct calls from prospective clients as the result of referrals, and requests for bids from architects, who typically have submitted plans to at least two other remodeling contractors.

In the first case, Bradley will walk the project with the client before preparing a bid. If the project is small in scope, he'll design it with the client and draw up plans. For larger projects, he recommends architects he has worked with. For either type of project, he recommends including the following elements in a bid proposal:

  • A complete line-item breakdown of trade-specific tasks and costs. The bid should contain as much detail as possible about the tasks and costs of all materials and all work to be done on the project, including any work to be done by subcontractors. "I try to be as open and honest as possible so my clients know exactly where they stand," Bradley says. "I also show my overhead costs and anticipated profit."

  • A professional appearance. The bid should be typewritten on your firm's letterhead. It should contain accurate information on the project, including the full name of the client, his address, the address of the job site and the completion date.

  • An all-inclusive proposal: Change orders only if the clients change their minds — not if your firm belatedly decides to make a change. Explain how much of a deposit is necessary, and provide a payment schedule for the balance. Bradley also includes line items for services that other contractors often fail to mention, such as disposal of wastes, cleanup and the protection of the rest of the home.

  • The completion date: Tell his clients upfront when you expect to complete the project, but include a contingency clause regarding factors not under your control, such as bad weather and delays in delivery of specified materials.

  • A timely submittal: Submit bids on or before the due date. Timeliness is a reflection of professionalism.

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