Most screen printers are always looking for new business opportunities. While there are multiple ways to bring in new screen printing business from direct sales or contract work, you should also look into expanding your client base with municipal, school, or nonprofit work. Many screen printers are scared off of these good revenue sources because of the bidding process. This post is designed to offer a guide and “how to” for effectively navigating the bidding process! Become successful with these bidding practices.

Many places are legally required to solicit bids for work valued over a certain dollar amount. Typically, these are specific projects – a marathon, employee uniforms or camp shirts. Sometimes, the bid will cover multiple projects or a set time period. Make sure to read the entire bid before proceeding. You do not want to sign up for something you didn’t intend to.

Once you establish that you want to win this screen print bid job, follow a few simple steps to maximize your chances of winning those bids!

Regarding the Bid Application:
  1. Do Good Research! Completed bids are usually available to the public for inspection. Ask to see bids from previous years to familiarize yourself with the competition. Make note of prices, delivery agreements, and add-ons that you might need to include on your own bid. Don’t limit your research to the client you hope to work with; approach similar clients to expand your knowledge of the type of bids that win printing projects.
  2. Meet The Deadlines! Late submissions are never accepted. Leave yourself plenty of time to work on the bid, gather information and make changes as needed.
  3. Fill Out The Entire Bid! This might seem like common sense, but bids can be discarded immediately if they are missing requested information. Even if an item doesn’t apply to your bid, drop a ‘not applicable’ next to it to show that you have addressed the item. This is a good for formal bidding practices.
  4. Neatness Counts! The bid paperwork might be the first contact your potential client has with your company. Make a good impression by presenting a bid that’s clean and neat. Spell check written portions and keep papers in the proper order. Address envelopes clearly to ensure they reach the right person – often an organization has multiple projects out for bidding.
  5. Introduce Yourself! Include a concise introduction of your company on letterhead with your bid. Let your potential client know what kind of experience you have to offer and how long you have been in business. Note similar projects you have handled. Keep to the most basic facts – your client has a lot of information to process and they don’t need your full biography, but a short introduction can create an air of confidence in your work and make your bid stand out from the crowd.
  6. Include Samples! Many bids require samples of your work. However, make it a standard practice to provide them with every bid. Let your work speak directly to your potential client!
  7. The Personal Touch! Deliver your bid in person when possible. Taking the time to do this shows a potential client how important their job is to you. It also allows you to make sure your bid arrives on time to beat the submission deadline.
How to Price Your Bid:

Pricing is the trickiest part of any bid. It’s very easy to lose money on a bid trying to be the lowest bidder. Most bids will be within pennies of each other, so your bid needs to stand out in other ways. Remember – Your client wants the best job at the lowest price, but not necessarily the cheapest printer.

  1. Know Your Costs! Unless you are donating the work, you must at least cover all of your costs. This is the base number you will start your bid with. Make a list starting with the most obvious items – the cost of the t-shirt and the cost of the ink. Calculate the time it will take to complete the job and include labor, consumables, freight and overhead. Compare the cost of operating different machines in your shop. If you plan on bidding projects frequently, create an hourly cost reference sheet for yourself to save time.
  2. Rely On Your Partners! Your suppliers can be a source of cost savings. Talk to your distributor about a specific discount for the supplies you will need to complete the job. Just a few pennies in savings can push your bid into winning territory.
  3. Break Down Your Numbers! Some bids will require one bottom line price for the entire project. Others will allow you to offer pricing options. Having your costs broken out by item will help you craft the most attractive bid.
  4. Offer Alternatives! Your client is not in the t-shirt business. Often, they are familiar with only one brand of shirt and will specify that brand on their bid. Give them what they ask for, but if you have a better alternative, offer it up. Include an extra sheet describing the specifications and pricing of a different brand that might save them money.
  5. Be Alert For Hidden Opportunities! Is your client flexible on delivery time? If the project is due in the busiest part of spring, would your client be willing to have the work done in the dead of winter for a lower cost? Keeping your print shop busy during a down time has value to you, and frees up time later for regular jobs.
  6. Discount Your Discount! Offer a discount for prepayment on bids. Most institutions will expect net terms. On particularly large jobs, you might have to factor in the cost of borrowing the funding. You could offer that amount to your client as a discount in exchange for payment up front. It will cost you nothing, but the client will perceive it as an extra savings.
  7. Leverage Freebies! ‘Free’ is the best price of all. Bids are usually awarded on multiple factors, with price being one of the most important. Service, quality, and delivery all play important roles as well. Experiment with adding costs into your final pricing – for instance, if freight costs you a nickel per garment increase your garment price by a nickel and offer ‘free freight’. This makes your bid look more attractive while still covering your costs.

The bid process can be intimidating, but remaining organized and flexible is key to winning contracts.

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