Yesterday, Phoenix Sullivan gave me some awesome information about the details of proposal writing, job expectations, and what goes into writing a proposal. Part II of our information divining session is all about what it takes to be a proposal writer and the one thing everyone wants to know about... the moolah!
As always, Phoenix is excellent at crunching numbers. Those who follow her blog already know exactly what mean. With that I relinquish the floor...
A proposal writer must be able to work fast and to produce stellar work under constant pressure. They must play well with others and know when to compromise vision and craft. And they must intuitively understand how to weave technical details into a sales pitch that can’t help but sway the customer’s decision.Okay... maybe tons of research, good communication and people skills, and 60+ hour work weeks are worth it; especially at that pay grade. Now of course I agree with Phoenix, there is a little bit of luck involved in landing the right proposal job with the right company, and you have to be willing to fight for the best positions by honing skills.
In larger companies, the proposal writer is often part of the sales organization and may be bonused for working on a proposal that helps close a deal. Bonuses may range from a small, fixed amount to a percentage of the overall commission on the deal. Depending on typical deal sizes and how many of the deals go on to win, a writer might receive up to $10,000 or more a year in bonus money. This on top of an annual salary that, on average, runs $40-70,000 depending on experience and – becoming even more relevant these days – location.
Many proposals are crafted in a “war room” environment, requiring all team members to be physically present. Larger companies may have the technology and mindset that allows proposal writers to work from home.
I worked for a large technology company that produced thousands of proposals per year ranging from deals worth $50,000 to $100 million and more. Because of the sheer volume, only deals worth $20 million or more got dedicated proposal writer support. My job was to craft compelling boilerplate copy that was plug-and-play into the under-$20M deals and only had to be slightly customized by writers on the larger deals.
Because I didn’t have to be present in the war rooms, I worked exclusively from home for the last 4 years I was with the company. I also didn’t have the frenzied pace of a writer working live deals (even though I often worked 60-hour weeks), but I did sacrifice commission-based bonuses in the trade-off. Still, between end-of-year bonuses and individual incentives, even in tight years affected by the economy, I received about $6-8000 extra, on top of a $78,000 salary. During my best-earning – and busiest – year, I took home $93,000.
Why did I quit? Because I retired this past January. At age 51. Not everyone will be in my situation – no partner, no kids, a home in a low-cost state, Texas – but my career as a writer in the corporate world allowed me to pay off my mortgage and save enough to tide me over till I can start collecting pension and social security in 13 years. So yeah, you can earn a decent living writing. It just takes hard work, skill and, as with most things, a lot of luck in landing the right jobs along the way.
I will say that being a proposal writer has perks and pitfalls as does any writing profession; even the potential lure of working in your jammies or birthday suit!
The true question would be for those interested in pursuing proposal writing: Is this the kind of writing I could do day in and day out?
What do you think?
If you missed Part I of The Proposal Writer post check it out here.
Next week I attacking: The Copy Writer
Also if you missed yesterday's post then you missed the links for Phoenix's blog and my all exuberant push for you to buy her novel Spoil of War: An Arthurian Saga. Definitely check out both and come back by tomorrow as I list my record breaking reading list for the month of June!