Construction Industry

Top 10 Bidding Tips for Subcontractors

Top 10 Bidding Tips for Subcontractors

The bidding phase of a project is an important time for subcontractors. On average, subs have about 7-10 days to prepare and submit a quality bid to a General Contractor. They can also use this time to develop a relationship with the GC, which will help them win the job they’re bidding and position their company for future bid opportunities with that GC. Most projects are still competitively bid.

Below are some tips on how to leverage those bid opportunities to win more work and grow your company…


  1. Most GCs find subs to bid their projects by going to associations, builders’ exchanges and/or construction networks. Make sure you have a prominent presence in one or all of these places by promoting your company’s updated qualifications. This will increase your opportunities to bid projects.
  2. Open and respond to every “Invitation to Bid” as quickly as you can. If interested, let the GC know you’re bidding. If they don’t get immediate responses to their bid invitations, GCs often message more subs, which will increase your competition. If you’re not interested, let the GC know you’re not bidding. Being responsive, even if you decline to bid, will likely lead to another bid opportunity from that GC.
  3. Closely review the GC’s bid invitation and documents that they provide. Make sure the project is located in an area that you service, that you have enough time to prepare a quality bid, and that you are qualified to install the products specified. Sometimes the architect doesn’t specify a particular manufacturer or will allow an approved equivalent. This will enable you to bid your specialty product provided it meets the architect’s technical specifications. Also, review the other trades required for the project. There may be more opportunities than you were initially invited to bid.
  4. If the GC conducts a pre-bid meeting, make sure you attend. The meeting not only provides an opportunity to ask questions or express concerns about the project but it shows a commitment to bid that the GC will appreciate. Also, on bid day GCs favor subs that they know, so establishing a personal relationship may give you a competitive edge.
  5. If only one GC invited you to bid on a project, call the project’s owner or architect to request the complete list of “GC Bidders. Their contact information can usually be found on the plan cover sheet. If you take the time to prepare a bid, then you want to make sure that all the bidding GCs have your bid, which will increase your chance to win the job.
  6. When preparing your bid proposal, include information the GC needs to evaluate your bid – scope of work, alternates, unit prices, addendums, and product literature. It should specify the divisions or categories that you are bidding and identify any omissions or additions in your bid with an explanation. Always include the “Issue Date” of the plans and specifications that you produced your bid from in the event of any discrepancies. It’s also important to identify the expiration date of your bid in case a decision on the project award is delayed. That delay may affect the pricing you used in your bid. Lastly, include your company’s updated qualification form. That information may encourage the GC to add you to their private database, which will lead to future bid opportunities.
  7. Submit your bid no later than the day and time specified by the GC on their bid invitation. Typically, GCs submit their bid to the project’s owner or architect the day after they receive their subs’ bids. GCs need a day to review and evaluate sub bids so they can prepare their “General Contract” bid.
  8. Most GCs still accept subs’ bid proposals by fax or email (or courier). However, an increasing number of GCs are now requiring their subs to submit their bids into a private, cloud-based portal that was created for them. This technology not only centralizes bid submittals but it also eliminates the bid day frustration of failed faxes and emails, particularly emails with large file attachments.
  9. About 2-3 weeks after you submit your bid, call the GC to get an update on the project. Find out if they were awarded and, if so, when will they be awarding the subcontractors. If the GC was not awarded the project ask what GC was. That may provide you with another opportunity to win the job. While you’re on the phone don’t forget to ask about upcoming bids.
  10. Bid on projects that are targeted to your specialties, which will make your bid more competitive. To increase bid opportunities in your wheelhouse, provide GCs with your company’s experiences, qualifications, and certifications. The best way to accomplish that is by promoting your company’s profile in the industry’s most popular construction networks like The Blue Book Building & Construction Network®.

Competitive bidding is not easy. Most subs have to bid 5-10 projects just to win one. Employing the tips above should help your Bid-Hit ratio.


Ed Haege

Ed Haege is the Director and Product Manager of ONETEAM® at The Blue Book Building & Construction Network®. He began his career in the construction industry as a News Reporter for The McGraw-Hill Companies’ Dodge Reports before joining Dutch Boy Waterproofing, Co. as their Sales/Estimator. He later returned to McGraw-Hill Dodge as a Regional News Manager.

Ed joined The Blue Book Network® to manage the Research & Development Division and became the BB-Bid® Product Manager. His construction bidding knowledge and experience was instrumental in the creation and development of BB-Bid® (bid management system), as well as SyncWare (online plan room), Vu360 (take-off software), and Quick Quotes (RFQ messaging for equipment, materials, and products). His most recent project is ONETEAM®, The Blue Book Network®’s next generation bid management and collaboration platform. These workflow solutions are used by General Contractors, Subcontractors, and Facility Managers.

View Comments (4)


  1. Peter Crocker

    October 1, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Great article, Ed. I am presently a sub for 3 asphalt companies but as soon as the season dies down in November, I will be spending the Winter taking the necessary steps to learn how to do “takeoffs.” This article helps me going forward.

  2. Ed Haege

    October 12, 2015 at 2:41 pm


    Thanks for the kind words regarding my article. It sounds like you’re very busy right now, which is great to hear. If you would like information on how The Blue Book Network can help you find and win more work, please visit our website at or contact us at Good luck with your takeoff training this winter!

  3. Gary Morgan

    October 21, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Nice article Ed, strongest points, #2, most ITB systems allow you to note if your bidding or not, your correct, If we GC’s dont see trades getting covered, were sending more requests, let us know and you can better your odds sometimes by as much as 25%, #6, on a hectic bid day there are hundreds of bids to review with a limited staff, you may be low after checking overlaps and clarifying but you may be in the middle of the pack with your base number but if there is a one line price bid if its crazy, I am not calling you and you lost a job, give decent scope, review your standard quals on every bid and take the time to add and delete as needed, #9 Focus, I stress this to my subs, focus on the invites GC’s send who give you work and do the kind your good at, don’t just bid things cause someone asked you to, most important, #7, get you bid in on time! We may be the oddball here but we will not take late bids any longer, if you cant get the bid in on time why would I think you can get the job done on time? Also a day or two later people have a good idea where numbers are coming and I feel this is just a backdoor way to shop numbers.

  4. Ed Haege

    October 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm


    Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate the additional information that you provided from the GC’s perspective. I will be sure to share it with the subcontractors in our network.

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