Originally a software developer, Ruben Gamez bootstrapped Bidsketch while working full time and was quickly able to grow it into a profitable business. He spent several years working for a billion dollar payroll company. There he helped build and manage a custom proposal system that was used to regularly win seven and eight figure deals.
Bidsketch was originally founded as single person company in south Florida on November 2009.
Since then, it’s grown to help over 1,000 paying customers win millions of dollars in new business and save thousands of hours in the process.
Bidsketch is a web application used by freelancers, consultants, and agencies to create professional looking client proposals.
MO: How did you come up for the concept for Bidsketch?
Ruben: I was helping a friend prepare for his first client meeting as a freelancer at the time. He had some questions about what he should bring to the meeting, so naturally the subject of a proposal document came up.
Proposals can be extremely time consuming to create but they’re necessary if you want to land high paying clients.
I remember jumping on Google to see if I could find some examples for him. During that search I came across a downloadable software application that helped people create proposals, but couldn’t find any web applications that did the same thing. This was what lead me to building Bidsketch.
Of course, before I started building, I made sure to find out how much demand there was. I did this by using the Google keyword tool to check that freelancers and consultants were searching for terms related to proposals.
MO: Can you talk a bit about the development process and any early challenges that you faced?
Ruben: Bidsketch was built on the side while I worked a full time job. When I first started, I was doing everything myself: blogging, early customer research, creating the design, and writing code. Needless to say progress was slow.
After a few months I decided to completely change my approach and started over again, but by outsourcing the design and code this time. The budget was small so only about half of the code could be outsourced; I had to write the other half. Still, several other things were outsourced so this was a huge help, and I was able to get the first version out in about four months.
Not only did outsourcing help speed up the launch of Bidsketch but it also was a great way to keep myself motivated. Seeing things get done while you sleep (or work) is an amazing feeling.
MO: Can you share some of the compelling results you’ve had with pricing experiments?
Ruben: Customers pay a monthly fee to use Bidsketch. When I first launched I had experimented with pricing by increasing the price on each plan until it stopped making as much money as the previous pricing point. That was how Bidsketch was priced for a couple of years.
Moving pricing up this way seems like a good way to go, unfortunately it’s only as good as your messaging and plan design are. In my case, both the messaging on my marketing site and the plan design were too broad. So about a year ago I went back and did a lot of customer research to find out which segments were getting the most value, and what was most important to each segment.
Using this information I raised prices and redesigned each plan. By clearly identifying our main customer segments and designing plans specific to each of them, we were able to immediately (and permanently) increase growth by over 300%.
MO: What are some of the Bidsketch features that you’re most proud of?
Ruben: One of the main things people struggle with when creating proposals is having to come up with persuasive content. We spent a lot of time creating example proposals so that every new account starts off with real content they can use. This dramatically cuts down on the amount of time customers spend creating proposals.
Our main goal is to reduce the amount of time it takes to create and deliver a proposal. That said, customers love using the electronic signature feature. We’ve looked at our data and found that on average, it helps customers get their proposals accepted 11 days sooner.
The other feature that directly affects how much our customers make has to do with the way they present their fees. Customers can include optional fees in their proposals to increase approvals by more than 36%.
MO: What are some tips for writing a better proposal?
Ruben: Most people are too focused on themselves and their companies. It’s not about you, your company, or your products. It’s about what you can do for the client. So a proposal should be entirely focused on the problem that you’re solving for a client.
Another common mistake found has to do with pricing. It’s usually the first section a client will look at when reviewing a proposal. The problem is that most people don’t offer clients any options when it comes to pricing. Want to dramatically increase the amount of clients you get with your proposals? Have clients choose between two to three options. This turns it from a yes/no decision into one where clients are deciding on which level of service they’d like to receive.
MO: How do you plan to keep the momentum going?
Ruben: We’ve got a lot of exciting new things coming up. I can’t talk about most of them, but there are a few things I can mention. So far we’ve helped customers earn over $200M through Bidsketch. This number is growing faster than ever because we’re growing quickly and we’re always working on increasing the number of clients our customers get. Bidsketch is being completely redesigned to take advantage of everything we’ve learned since it’s been live.
The other exciting change has to do on the content side. We’ve seen great results from investing in both proposal and educational content for our customers. So we’re doubling down on this over the next few months, and we’ll continue to invest in the things that help us make our customers more successful.
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