Ask the Expert

Landing a first job following a career as a Construction Writer

Question by: Michael Willoughby

Hi, Holger –

Firstly, thanks for taking the time to be part of this service!

I am a 47-year-old freelance content writer and journalist with significant construction expertise who is moving into the bid space.

I do have a lot to offer since I know a good deal about building projects (including writing tonnes of award applications). At the same time, there’s lots to learn about this new area.

I already have one client on retainer and am gaining some experience there but it’s a small operation.

In the meantime, I am connecting with bid managers at UK construction firms but I am not quite sure what to ask for or offer as I gain more experience and target a full-time position…

  • Freelance interviewing/writing/editing skills to support their bids;
  • The same for free in exchange for gaining experience in the process, or;
  • A work experience placement in to.

Could I walk into a job as a bid writer or would it have to be a trainee bid writer or a take a role as bid co-ordinator and get promoted?

Thanks again for your time and support and if I can help or support you in any way, please let me know.

Best wishes

Michael Willoughby


Hi Michael

Thank you for taking the time to drop me a question, for which I’m pleased to give you my thoughts.

If you’re seeking a permanent employed role – assuming that’s what you mean by ‘…target a full-time position…’ – I don’t think starting as a trainee or co-ordinator is necessarily your only avenue (but they’re great roles through which to soak up bidding and learn fast). Of course, individual prospective employers’ stances on applicants from outside the bidding arena will ultimately determine how warmly your applications are received. I’d say applications from people with experience in bidding will be more likely to make it to the ‘For Further Consideration’ pile, but there are ways you can mitigate the risk of not being taken forward. If a recruitment lead is genuinely entertaining the widest range of applications, with a view to considering a future ‘best fit’ as well as current experience, I think the following considerations will be of interest:

– Your understanding of the full bid lifecycle and the stages at which writing is an important requirement

– The extent to which you can demonstrate identifying the most important aspects of a campaign, commonly referred to as the procuring client’s ‘hot buttons’

– Your ability to ask insightful questions to tease out what matters most to the procuring client and to bid team colleagues

– Examples of breaking down a nested question or other requirement (one with multiple topics and sub-topics) to present written material in an easy-to-follow structure

– Examples of your writing that show how you’ve used topic themes as part of telling a compelling story

– Certification by APMP, the Association of Proposal Management Professionals, or your progress towards gaining Foundation certification or higher

– Examples of how you work with subject matter experts to gain information with which to construct convincing arguments on topics in which you’re not an expert.

As you suggest, you could initially offer your freelance services to generate a relationship, but I’m not sure that needs to be free of charge. Another approach is to offer to review one or two of the organisation’s past submissions so you can feed back ideas that could help make the writing more convincing, concise, and enjoyable to read. You’d probably be told to sign a non-disclosure agreement before being allowed to do that. If you use the latter idea, it probably would be better to offer it free of charge – but be clear on how many pages or words you’re prepared to consider.

I hope these pointers are useful and I wish you every success in your journey into bidding in construction, assuming you continue to target that profession. It’s a hugely interesting profession and it’s an honour to work with companies on bids that respond to the country’s infrastructure requirements.

All the best!