The Abridged VersionLong before computers were on every desk, I used to submit articles to magazines for publication to supplement my teaching income. This was surprisingly successful and over a five or six-year period more than 100 of my articles, usually accompanied by my photos, were published. The checks were important, but, in a way, it was still not fully satisfying. Although the articles were good enough for the editor to pay for, there rarely was any feedback. Did readers find these pieces interesting, informative, or were they just filler? There was nothing at stake and no feedback.
Through a series of events, I progressed from teaching and freelance writing to full-time writer and editor. Then I “fell” into the world of serious proposal writing, first for an aerospace and defense market research firm, and then as a proposal writer for a series of major aerospace companies including Pratt and Whitney and Lockheed Martin.
First, every proposal is a team effort. My job was to take the technical data provided by the engineers and spin that into a story that would convince the buying agency that we had the solution to its problem.
There was something at stake—a successful proposal meant not just a win for the company, but continued jobs and no layoffs—which I had experienced. There was also the feedback. If our proposal won the competition, that was strong positive feedback, and I believe the “story” was important in selling the technology. So, beyond the satisfaction of getting the check, there was clear evidence of having written or edited a document that was read and absorbed by the readers sufficiently to be able to make a buy/no-buy decision.
And if we did not win the proposal competition, (1) the writers figured the technical solution was inadequate no matter how it was described, (2) the engineers figured the proposal writers couldn’t tell a decent story, and (3) we both figured that cost accounting had over-priced the bid.
Plus, of course, I appreciate that companies will pay me to work on proposals!