Writing proposals is a fact of life in business. I’ve been cranking them out for the past thirteen years, eleven of those while building homes, and, with some overlap, the past four years building websites. I’ve used everything from specialized construction software to emails, Word documents to FreshBooks estimates, and finally Bidsketch.
Doing one thing well
Bidsketch exists to help you and me write proposals that get accepted by clients. They do this through an online SaaS application that makes writing proposals relatively painless, and they offer a plethora of sales advice in their blog articles.
The online SaaS application
The actual application itself is both polished and clunky, depending on your perspective.
The client’s perspective
Arguably the more important side of this app is what the client sees, and Bidsketch does that very well. The final product that the client views and interacts with works well and looks good. Don’t get me wrong – the content of your proposal is critical, and is something you should take your time writing and put plenty of thought into. But if that content is delivered in such a way that is shoddy and unprofessional, this will have an effect on how the potential client views you and what you are proposing.
To be fair, the Bidsketch app does what it needs to do to help you create your proposals, and you can get a good feel for that in the feature tour on their website. Still, and I have to be honest about this, the admin interface is clunky, and by that I mean it’s not as intuitive as it could be, not as polished as it could be, and it just feels old, as in it’s five years or more past due for a redesign. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by FreshBooks, the new Basecamp, Gmail, and even WordPress, but for $29/month I expect a better design. Try it for yourself and see if you arrive at a different opinion.
Speaking of trying Bidsketch, when you first sign up they give you 14 days to try it for free. Personally I think that 30 days would be more realistic, especially if you’ve sent out a proposal and are waiting to see what the client does or doesn’t do with it, but it’s their app and they get to make the rules.
A plethora of sales advice
When you consider how much sales advice is available in the Bidsketch blog and in their regular emails, should you choose to receive them, it’s obvious that Bidsketch wants you to succeed.
When I was writing my first proposal in Bidsketch for a fairly big project, I read through most of what was available, applied what I could, and it had a positive effect on my finished product and the way I presented it in the proposal.
However, one thing I noticed as I covered the time spectrum of available articles was that their advice has changed and evolved along the way, with the newer content being more valuable and relevant than the older content, in my opinion. The challenge for me was sifting through it all and piecing together what I needed to know and use for my situation. If someone were to go through all of the available content and carefully index and summarize it, that would be very helpful for us, the end users.
What I liked about it
- Variables/shortcodes for such things as client names, company names, and other details
- Pre-loaded with industry specific content you can use as a starting point for your proposals
- Sections in a proposal are modular
- Generates PDFs with customizable page breaks
- Tells you when a client has viewed a proposal, what their IP address was, how long it was open in their browser, and if they downloaded the PDF
- Electronic signatures 🙂
- Includes a simple sales pipeline in the dashboard
- Can include optional fees that the client can select and add to the proposal as they are viewing it
- Loaded with multiple templates, and custom templates are possible
- Integrates with FreshBooks, which means you can create an invoice in FreshBooks for an accepted proposal from within Bidsketch. It also means that you can sync your clients in FreshBooks with your clients in Bidsketch, which can be good if you do multiple proposals for clients over the years.
What I didn’t like about it
- Admin/dashboard is a little clunky and dated
- Admin fonts could be several sizes larger at least
- Section edit screens are small, though there is a full-screen option that didn’t always work well (in Chrome)
- Saving a section as a template while editing didn’t always work
- The list of available variables/shortcodes is not always there when you need them – you’ll have to go looking for that list
- Some of the tutorials and advice articles are dated and you can see a thought-progression from older articles to newer ones. Filter through these carefully to find what you need to know.
Despite its shortfalls, and there are some, I liked Bidsketch well enough to pull the trigger and offer up my credit card info so that I could keep using it. Templates and modular sections go a long way in reducing your writing time, knowing when, how long, and how often a prospective client views a proposal are good things to know, and electronic signatures with online approvals is a big plus.
I’m really hoping an admin interface remodel is in the near future, but if not, I can adapt to an old-school application that still gets the job done.
The fine print
Bidsketch offers a free year for an honest blog post review, and after paying for several months of Bidsketch I finally decided to take them up on their offer.