Proposals Made Easier: Bidsketch Review

I have been consulting for over twelve years now. Countless hours go in to business development, and much of that time can be sunk into creating a proposal that makes or breaks a new relationship.

Along comes Bidsketch, with a SaaS platform that facilitates the proposal process for green freelancers and seasoned firms alike. Creating consistency across copy, templates, formatting and the approval process is simply good business, and Bidsketch bets that 29 bucks a month is well worth the investment for any size company. The company is targeting service verticals, including “design, development, marketing, advertising, SEO and similar agencies.”

Signup is easy, with a 14-day trial. The proposal walkthrough, for a variety of different types of proposals, is intuitive. The defaults that pre-populate each section of a new proposal are distinctly helpful for someone who has never done a formal proposal, and are an ideal way to start for the new freelancer.

Proposals are tied to Clients. I imported all of my Clients from Freshbooks, which is a neat trick. Conversely, you can create a Client in Bidsketch, and then populate Freshbooks with that information. There is also the option in Bidsketch to create a new Project in Freshbooks, but that did not actually populate, so I imagine there are a few kinks to work out between Bidsketch and any other services they integrate with.

The overall user interface is strong – clean and elegant. Advanced settings are often tucked away, easily accessible without cluttering. I can create Templates distinct from Proposals, and then assign a default or custom Template to a new Proposal. Template sections include pre-populated guide rails like “Recommendations For Your Company” and “Project Timeline.” Advanced settings are particularly helpful when you have multiple Users in the account ($20/month for each additional). This would be ideal for a biz dev team that needs manager sign-off.

Throughout the Proposal, shortcodes such as {client_name} can insert fields into the copy. If you’ve ever been mortified after hitting the Send button on an email, where you know a previous client’s name still populates a new proposal, then you know how sweet this little innovation is. And it is ideal for companies that throw out a big net, hoping to catch a few fish in the process.

Fees break out separately and can be easily inserted into multiple proposals. These fees fall into Project Fees, Monthly Fees and Yearly Fees, making the process trivial when always bidding on the same initial and support services.

One of a number of Designs can be applied to the Proposal itself, including logo and font, size and color for every element. Preview mode shows how it will actually print out, and a PDF can be created. Or the proposal can be sent via email.

The client’s activity can be tracked every step of the way, including Viewed, Postponed, Accepted or Declined. There is also a comment thread. When Accepted, Bidsketch handles the signature execution for vendor and client. Slick. And then you’ll have some data on outstanding bids, what’s been accepted, etc.

Some other things I really like:

  • Intuitive WYSIWYG controls
  • Expand to full-page editing
  • Ability to insert tables, images and video
  • Drag-and-drop entire sections
  • Subdomain pointing, i.e. proposals.yoursite.com

Two minor quibbles:

1) When you sign up for the free trial, you input your credit card information, in case you don’t cancel the free trial before it ends. That’s fine. However, Bidsketch does pre-authorize the card for $1, and they are doing it with a misspelled vendor name: “bidsketh”. My credit card company thought it was unusual activity and suspended the card, which is super-fun when you have to call the US from Thailand, where I am currently traveling. Notification that Bidsketch pre-authorizes or actually charges the card would be helpful, although I might have just missed that during the sign-up process.

2) The HTML button on the WYSIWYG controls shows a lightbox with a dark charcoal background color, making very difficult to edit the HTML (Chrome/Mac).

And a suggestion:

The digital signature interface is janky. Signing with a mouse creates a jagged mess of a signature. The ability to upload a PNG or JPG signature file would be a nice touch.

Overall:

Bidsketch is a no-brainer that will hopefully pay for itself almost immediately. If you or your business sends out at least a handful of proposals a month, Bidsketch is the newest tool in your belt, and one you’ll use frequently.

My disclaimer: Bidsketch offers a year of their service free if you write a review. I have found the service valuable enough the first week to want that full year of service free, so here we are.

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