To Bidsketch or Not, That Is the Question (a Bidsketch Review)

Part of my glamorous life as a freelancer involves writing proposals. I’m admittedly not great at it. Proposal writing takes time – time that is “wasted” if the proposal isn’t accepted – and is frankly one of my least favorite administrative tasks.

In a perfect world, I’d do business on a handshake and receive fair compensation for a quality work product. My clients and I would slide down the WordPress rainbow to our waiting unicorns and ride off into a perfect sunset with nary a proposal on the horizon.

Yeah, whatever.

Proposals are Part of Business

I can’t get out of writing proposals, so what I went hunting for was a tool to help me in the process – something that would give me a better starting structure, a more professional appearance, and a way to manage proposals online. The two proposal writing tools that stand out in my business space (freelance web development) are Bidsketch and Quote Roller.

I did the free trials for both products and ended up selecting Bidsketch for two reasons:

  1. Better “boilerplate language” to get my proposals started
  2. Impressive and helpful drip email content with quick, actionable tips

In all fairness, this is post is not a comprehensive comparison between Quote Roller and Bidsketch – it’s just the impression I gathered after two weeks of trying them side by side. And, just so I have something nice to say, I’ll tell you that their website is a lot prettier than Bidsketch’s.

My Bidsketch Review

Prior to using Bidsketch, my workflow was this: Find an old proposal that most closely matched the new project, open it in MS Word and make all necessary edits, save it as a PDF, and email it to my potential client. (Hey, at least there were no fax machines involved.)

This process is flawed for many reasons, but top among them were inefficiency, a semi-lame looking document, and no good system for following up on an accepted proposal (i.e. getting signatures).

Here’s how Bidsketch addressed these pains…

A better starting structure.

All in all, it took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and start writing my first proposal.

In Bidsketch, you create a client first and then a proposal. At the start, you choose a template (don’t think design, think “web design project template” or “social media marketing project template”) and the sections you want to include (i.e. Company Overview, Goals & Objectives).

The Bidsketch Proposal Process

There’s an entire library of sections you can mix and match to customize your proposal, but each template type starts you off with a recommended sections.

From there you can customize and compose the language of your proposal (I always start with the boilerplate language provided and then edit from there – you know how I love canned responses!), set your fees and outline services, timelines, etc.

It’s a guided step-by-step process that walks you through the entire proposal writing process. The focus and structure save me time, big time.

A more professional appearance.

After writing the proposal, you pick a design and can preview the proposal as a PDF (note that you can move forward and backward through the process at any time to make edits or preview).

Bidsketch Timeline

The designs are all low-key and professional – no crazy colors or MS Word clip art (thank goodness). You can create a custom design, but I’ve never bothered as the stock designs suit my purpose just fine.

All the sections chosen during the writing process are formatted according to the design you pick and look really sharp.

What really sealed the deal for me was having a client tell me that of the several proposals he received for his project, mine blew the others out of the water in terms of professional appearance and delivery (I’ll talk about that part next).

There’s a lot of noise and competition in the web development space, so being a standout at the proposal stage is a nice advantage.

A smoother way to accept proposals.

Once the proposal is complete, I can distribute it to my client via the Bidsketch system. This trumps email because of the analytics that come with it. I can see when a client viewed a proposal (how many times and for how long) and whether the client downloaded it. This gives me good data I can use to follow-up with a potential client (not creepy big brother, but “Hey! Now that you’ve had a couple of days to go through the proposal, I’d love to answer any questions you have and discuss next steps…”).

Proposal Activity

Once a client accepts a proposal — this is the cool part — they can digitally sign the proposal and send it back, all via the Bidsketch system. I’ve operated for years without collecting signatures (again, I do love those verbal handshakes), but the longer I’ve been in business, the more importance I see in a signed agreement – it a positive thing for both me and my clients.

When I talk about everything going “through the Bidsketch system”, I mean that clients view the proposal (and sign it) online. The default URL they’ll visit is yourcompany.bidsketch.com. You can use a custom domain for branding purposes, but I haven’t made it that far.

Is Bidsketch for you?

There’s a definite tipping point in terms of how many proposals you write in an average month. If it’s just one, you might find Bidsketch’s $29/mo Freelancer Plan a bit steep (I actually wish they would charge per proposal as I don’t generate a ton). BUT, if that $29/mo helps save you a few hours in writing proposals AND increases your odds of winning a bid, that cash is well-spent.

I’d suggest trying the free 14-day trial. You don’t even have to enter credit card info.

Even if you decide it’s not for you, I’d highly recommend going through their articles (this is in addition to the email content they send). It’s a goldmine of knowledge and they give some great, actionable tips to help build your proposal writing skills.

For now, I’m making my life marginally simpler by Bidsketching. Now to tackle a more efficient method for invoicing and payments…

29 thoughts on “To Bidsketch or Not, That Is the Question (a Bidsketch Review)”

  1. Looks like BidSketch offers a $19/month “Starter Plan” too which allows 1 user and up to 25 clients (fine print below the pricing table). I’ve been toying with the free trial and it looks pretty awesome. It also integrates with FreshBooks, which I’m *definitely* going to be purchasing after my trial is up.

  2. Great review Carrie. I am in the beginning stages of the trial right now, and so far, it looks pretty good. I too will be awaiting the integration of Quickbooks, but until then, I plan on using the freelancer plan for my proposals.

  3. Thanks Carrie – I’m in New Zealand and needed a better bidding system. I use the Xero accounting system for invoicing etc etc – it’s pretty mazing (they are based here and becoming global) which apparently integrates with Bidsketch. Here’s the search page if you are interested: http://tinyw.in/pkzn

  4. Not sure why I would pay for Bidsketch when there are better free alternatives like Bitrix24 or any of its clones that have free invoices, quotes, CRM, projects, planning and client mangement

    1. Bitrix24 (along with 17hats, etc.) do many things “ok”. I think a service like Bidsketch has value in that it does one thing really well. I appreciated the boilerplate language to help me create better contracts as well as the ability to see customer activity (i.e. when they viewed the bid, how much time they spent, etc).

  5. We’ve used BidSketch for a year or two now. It’s _way_ better than nothing… but the visual editor drives my absolutely insane. It refuses to let me create a mix of unordered and and ordered lists… it’s constantly indenting and adding tags in ways I don’t want.

    I’ve been plotting a move to PandaDocs, but haven’t actually migrated anything or taken it for a spin yet.

    1. Yeah, I eventually outgrew Bidsketch for similar frustrations and moved to Proposify. I have not tried PandaDocs, but would be curious to hear your experience if you do try it.

  6. Hi Carrie, would be interested in an update with how you have found Propsify.
    We have used QuoteRoller for several years now however after several requests recently I found the Customer Service basically said no more updates were going to happen at QuoteRoller!!! Apparently they have been bought out by someone else (?pandadocs).
    However I am now very concerned using a software that is not going to evoke..
    Cheers
    Alison

  7. Bidsketch is sexy looking and great BUT when you get free quotes and invoicing from Bitrix24 and other vendors, it may not be worth it. Especially since B24 gives you free time tracking, free online payments, free project management. I understand the article is written in 2014, but if you plan an update, consider adding new free tools that do a better job.

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