Developing a proposal can be a harrowing experience. We know! At SAS we’re constantly immersed in proposal work, every day; and after fifteen successful years in this niche industry, we’ve gotten very good not only at writing proposals but at managing the myriad ins and outs of the development process as well.

“Yes, yes,” you say, “But how much do you charge?”

Well, the short answer is, “It depends,” because most every bid is different and asks for different information. But in all cases, when we estimate a project, our costs reflect a complete start-to-finish engagement, with all fresh writing and an assumption of the management tasks involved. If you had to express it in a formula, it might look like this:

Cost = Time x Information(Complexity) + Deadline

Basically this means our estimates are based on time. We read through an RFP and determine how long it will take us, in hours, to generate the material and run that project beginning to end. The hourly count translates into a not-to-exceed cost based on a ‘blend’ of the billing rates of the people we would assign to the project.

So how do we determine how long a project will take? Even though the actual content of a proposal will differ from bid to bid, the factors involved in formulating an estimate are pretty similar across the board. Here are some of the things we consider:

  1. Amount of high-level or boilerplate content needed
  2. Amount of low-level / technical writing needed (i.e., info extracted from the client and turned into narrative; also influences who would be assigned to the project)
  3. Length and breadth of Scope of Work / Performance Work Statement (must be covered by technical narrative in many cases)
  4. Number of past performance references needed
  5. Number and type of Plans required (i.e., Safety, QA, Staffing, etc.)
  6. Number of subcontractors involved and info/materials needed from each
  7. Length of contract term (ties into scope of narrative, project schedule to be made)
  8. Extent of graphics and diagramming to be done (i.e., org chart, Gantt chart, workflow diagrams)
  9. Granular details for formatting, layout, printing, and assembly needed
  10. Proposal deadline

Every one of these factors, plus other subjective tasks that can’t be pigeonholed into a timeframe (like assessing how long it would take to improve a customer’s existing narrative, for example), take time to plan, write to, assemble, and refine over the course of a development project. None of them may be particularly difficult or challenging to address, but they all take time to address properly.