As a general contractor, your income will rely on landing clients. And landing clients requires a well-written, convincing proposal. 

To help you do just that, this guide will offer some advice for writing proposals that will win bids. Specifically, we’ll cover these topics:

  • What is a general contractor proposal?
  • What to include in a general contractor proposal. 

What is a general contractor proposal?

In the UK, private companies compete to win construction contracts by submitting proposals, outlining their business credentials and plan for the project. 

A proposal should persuade the client that you’re able to complete the project to a high standard, at a good price, and on time. 

This process is called bidding, or tendering, and it works in two ways depending on whether the job is for a private or public sector contract. They both send out ITTs (invitations to tender) and then choose a contractor based on the proposals they receive. 

Private sector contracts

The private sector doesn’t often advertise their bids. Instead, they’ll usually send out ITTs to a number of contractors they’ve worked with before, or contractors they know by reputation. 

For this reason, it can be difficult for beginners to secure private contracts. You may have to build up your reputation first before you’re invited to bid. 

Public sector contracts

Public contracts work differently. The government advertises all public construction work and allows any contractor to submit a proposal. 

There are a number of ways to find public contracts. First off, HMRC has a service called Contracts Finder where you can find information about contracts worth over £10,000. 

With contracts finder, you can:

  • Find contract opportunities in different sectors.
  • See what projects are coming up in the future.
  • Research previous tenders and contracts.
  • Create an account to get email updates and save your searches. 

You don’t need to create an account to search, but it will help you out in the long run. 

Aside from using contracts finder, you can also find public sector contracts by looking into:

  • The Department for Education Portal.
  • Find a Tender Service (FTS), an online service where all UK public and utilities sector contracts over £118,000 are listed.
  • Individual public sector websites.
  • Newspapers and industry publications.
  • Business intermediaries, like the chambers of commerce and trade associations.

After submitting a proposal, the client will decide who’s best suited for the job. Competition is often quite fierce for large contracts, particularly when they’re publicly listed, so you may not hear back. Alternatively, you might receive a follow up interview, or questionnaire, asking you to elaborate more on your proposal. 

As a general piece of advice, especially for newer contractors, try to apply for jobs that have received fewer bids. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to compete with the resources and reputation of larger companies.

What to include in a general contractor proposal

The key to writing a successful proposal is showing your capability. You want to convince the reader that you’re right for the job.

Every part of the proposal should provide evidence that you can complete the project better than anybody else. Below, we’ll list the essential points you need to cover in order to persuade the client that you’ll be able to deliver. 

Show you understand the job

Look at every part of the request and explain how your skills apply. 

If you have any specialist knowledge, highlight how that will add value to the project. Address any potential risks, and how you plan to mitigate those risks. 

Tell them how you’ll do the job

This part is about making the client feel confident in your ability to deliver the work on time, on budget, and to a high standard.

To help break this down, it’s a good idea to create a flow chart, summarising what you plan to do at each stage of the job. It’ll help break down your process in a way that’s easy to understand, inspiring confidence in the reader. 

Demonstrate your capabilities

Contracts are usually given to the company whose capabilities best match the requirements, so think about your main strengths, and how they’re applicable.

Don’t just list them, mention specifically how they’ll add value to the project and reduce risk. 

Prove your relevant experience

The key word here is “relevant”. The client needs to know you are capable of handling the specific project. For example:

  • If you’re applying for a smaller, local authority project, provide evidence of similar projects you’ve done in the past, and how you’ll apply those same skills to this one. 
  • If you’re applying for a non-standard construction project, highlight your knowledge about environmentally friendly build and practices. 

Remember to highlight particular skills of key staff members that worked on those projects too. It’ll show you have an experienced team that’s ready to tackle the job. 

Resources

The client needs to know that you have the right amount of resources to complete the project, whether its people, materials, or money. 

Give them a detailed list of your resources, and how you plan to allocate them. Also, provide a back-up plan, explaining what action you will take if something doesn’t go to plan. 

Clients will often ask for evidence of your financial accounts to prove you have enough funding to deliver on the project. 

Along with the accounts, explain exactly how you plan to fund each stage of the contract. 

The important thing is to provide realistic projections. There’s no point claiming you can do it for far less money than is possible, only to disappoint later on. 

Demonstrate your management system. 

This part is about explaining your operational practices. For example, how do you approach things like health and safety, and quality assurance. 

Give specific examples of the measures you’ll take, how they’ll reduce risk, and ensure productivity. 

References

Provide references for previous clients you’ve worked for, including their contact information. 

Get in touch with your referees beforehand, so they have an understanding of the project you’re bidding for and can highlight the right skills and accomplishments. 

Again, proposals are picked on capability. Don’t just pick your best client, pick the most relevant ones.

Sell yourself as good value for money

Pricing isn’t about doing the job for the lowest amount of money. Instead, it should be about the best value for money. 

If your bid is on the pricier side, highlight the hidden value of your price by mentioning as many benefits as possible. 

If your bid is slightly cheaper, explain how you’re able to cut costs without sacrificing quality. 

Manage your expenses with accounting software

When it comes to contract proposals, there’s a huge amount of evidence placed on funding and resource management, so you’ll need to have a full understanding of your finances. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.