Requests for Proposal (RFP) and contracts are vital communication tools widely used to attract and engage vendors, independent consultants and freelance contractors. Often these documents are created as standardized templates that have been approved by key stakeholders, such as legal, compliance, procurement and human resources. As a result, they may serve your internal requirements, but fail miserably with your intended audience.
Typically, the focus of RFPs and contracts is to communicate your requirements and minimize your risks. However, if the process and contractual requirements are overly burdensome, high quality independent consultants may elect not to participate. You can attract the right audience and save time on the back end by using the following tips to create clear project documents up front.
Clearly state your goals and vision for the project
Providing context in an RFP will invite more thoughtful responses from bidders. It will also frame exactly what you expect to get at the completion of the project enabling bidders to provide specific solutions to your problems. Describe your organization and give information about what led to you to seek a solution to this specific problem.
Ease the response process
Have a clear and simple process that makes it easy for independent consultants to participate. For example, allowing digital submissions of proposals and contracts will expedite the process and eliminate the burden of printing and delivering paper copies.
Do not write documents in a silo
Get input early from other stakeholders. Understanding how the implemented solution will impact end users and other business units can help you to clear barriers to success for selected independent consultants.
Use plain language
Corporate jargon and confusing language can unnecessarily complicate the process of finding and engaging an independent contractor. The best rule is to write to be understood. Using simple language will not only facilitate clear communication, make it much easier to compare answers from multiple independent contractors. If you are using an RFP to find a website developer, be specific about requirements and the timeframe.
Prioritize your needs
Some organizations approach RFPs and contracts with an "everything but the kitchen sink" approach. This will result in documents bloated with unnecessary elements that invite confusing responses and a protracted process. When writing RFPs and contracts, prioritize what is most important. Eliminate low priority items and requirements and focus on what is most critical to your organization. Your documents will be sharply focused and you will save time weeding through unessential information.
Conversely, vague details can lead to confusion about needs and expectations. Limit your documents to highest priorities, but provide detail that makes it clear what you are asking of your independent contractors. For example, in an RFP, if it helps to communicate your vision, include visuals such as charts and graphs to supplement your text.
Begin with the end
Your end goal is not to write an RFP or contract that your internal committees will applaud, but to find and engage highly qualified independent contractors that will produce your desired results. Keep your documents as concise as possible with a focus on your end goal(s). If you don't have the internal experience with producing these documents, seek outside expertise. Seek advice from companies that have successfully engaged independent consultants in your industry.
Need to know information for any individuals or companies hoping to engage independent professionals in the 21st Century.
MBO Partners developed a calculator that quantifies what we can: the IRS component of the risk. Our legal team scoured the IRS code and assembled the possible penalties into a single easy-to-use calculator.