How to write a killer RFP / RFI / RFQ for your eLearning needs

DISCLAIMER: No eLearning courses were harmed in the making of this blog post.

It’s very interesting the way life works. Just when you believe you have solved a problem, a new one emerges as a result of that solution. And when you solve that little bugger, guess what, a new one just pops right out. In the words of the one and only, Mr.Frank Sinatra: “That’s life.”

So you have internally figured out you have some problem that education can fix. Hip hip hooray! Not only have you detected a problem (and that’s always the biggest and hardest step in the journey toward a solution), but you have also figured out how to fix it! But then, somebody asks, ‘Okay, but what kind of education?” Little bugger indeed, a new problem is here. But hey, you weren’t born yesterday, you know your answers. eLearning, you say! Attaboy! Attagirl! You solved that problem too.

But…a new one is on the horizon. How do you choose an agency that will help you out with that? By issuing a Request for Information (RFI), Request for Proposal (RFP), and/or Request for Quote (RFQ) specifically tailored for eLearning.

And how does one go about writing the best RFI, RFP or RFQ the world has ever seen?

Let me help you with that.

My name is Giovanni Giorg… no no, sorry. That’s a Daft Punk song. Let me try it again. My name is Martina Osmak, and I’m the COO / CSO at eWyse agency. The number of RFIs, RFPs, and RFQs I have read and answered over the last 6 years is…well… impossible to count [says she modestly]. So, I do know a thing or two about how to write them in a way that covers all the details any agency needs to provide a proper time and cost estimate. This will save you a lot of time, and greatly minimize back-and-forth communication with potential vendors, while providing you with precise guidelines on the do’s and don’ts.

So, let’s get started.


If you’re in the early stages of the process and are only seeking information to help you refine your idea, then create an RFI. Make vendors aware of what you need because you don’t want them to overcrowd their submissions with things that are not relevant to you at this time. You also don’t want them to waste their time on things you’ll just skip because you don’t need them. Be a fair player. 🙂

If you’re waaay past the RFI stage and know you need eLearning, then request either a proposal or a quote (RFP, RFQ). What you request depends on your preferences, but I would always suggest opting for a full-blown proposal. You want to know the way the vendor operates, thinks, and creates, and not just the final price.

2. DEFINE COMPLETION DEADLINE (never be optimistic with deadlines)

Regardless of what you request in your RFP/RFI/RFQ, provide potential vendors a reasonable submission deadline.

Please understand that writing a proper response takes time and a considerable amount of internal resources. If you give too short of a deadline for submission, you risk only attracting agencies that have excessive free time and resources. Having excessive free time and resources in an agency can be a potential red flag.

In addition to that, reputable agencies require sufficient time to prepare something they can be proud of and confidently stand behind. We have rejected requests from some major organizations when the deadlines were too short for us to complete them with the desired level of quality. Consider three weeks as the bare minimum timeframe. Why? Because our sales team needs to review and qualify your request – is it something our company wants to pursue or not? If the answer is yes, they start working on the proposal. However, they need input from various members of the team to ensure its accuracy. Ideally, a meeting with a client is needed to get all the details right. They need to contact Learning Architects, Instructional Designers, Project Managers for the timeline, and seek approval from Upper Management for the pricing. It’s important to note that all of these people already have other tasks and deadlines, so squeezing your RFP/RFI/RFQ into their schedules becomes an ad hoc process. And then, it all needs to be designed, so ample time needs to be allocated for that too.

Naturally, life happens, so sometimes you find yourself in a huge rush and cannot allocate three weeks. In such cases, make sure not to ask for too many details and keep the process as straightforward as possible.


This is probably the most important part – what to write and what not to write in your RFP/RFI/RFQ.


Don’t spend too much time, energy, and pages writing about your company history and other general information that is not relevant to this request.

I have seen numerous super short RFPs, some as short as three pages or less, that “wasted” the whole first page by discussing the founders of the company, its history, and so on. Don’t worry about that – any reputable agency will conduct their due diligence by visiting your company website, and referring to various business sites to gather information about the number of employees, fiscal stability, growth trends, and more. So, utilize your time and your pages wisely by focusing on writing things that we cannot know without your input – specifically, details about the project, rather than general information about the company that are not relevant at this point.

Don’t ask for the personal information of eLearning agency employees

At least, not in the first round of selection. This is a big red flag for us. Usually, when we see a request to provide the names and full CVs of our people, we decide not to submit a proposal. Why? GDPR, my dear people, GDPR. We are protecting the privacy of our people and won’t share their personal information around willy-nilly, no matter the size of the business and project we’re talking about. Our people come first. Requesting such private information in the initial round makes no real sense – we might not even end up working together, yet you expect me to disclose the names, year of birth, school, and years of experience of our people? If you ask me – it makes no sense at all, no matter the round, as agencies evolve, and new people may come, potentially working on your project several months down the line.

Take your time and thoroughly vet the company. Request their financial records for the last several years and that will be all the reassurance you need. Also, feel free to inquire about the teams in general, including role descriptions, responsibilities within the company and their specific involvement in your project.

Think twice before asking a company to do a free sample/demo

Asking an agency to provide a free sample/demo is indeed a two-edged sword, both literally and figuratively. While you may believe it showcases the quality of work you can expect and the agency’s willingness to deliver, the reality is quite different. Let me elaborate further.

Imagine this. You go to the tailor and tell him you want a wedding dress. Or a tuxedo. Whatever you need. But to find out if the tailor is good or not, you refuse to take a look at the other dresses and tuxedos he has made before, but you want him to do a free, quick sample of what he can do. A wedding dress created in 2 days. A tuxedo made in 3. What could possibly go wrong? And based on that, you will judge if this person is able to make you a perfect wedding dress, or a perfect tuxedo. Do you see why this approach doesn’t work? It doesn’t allow for sufficient time for design, measurements, fitting sessions, feedback incorporation or the possibility of ordering new materials… plus you expect this tailor to create a sample dress/tuxedo, super quick, while they are already busy making stuff for people who have actually ordered, and he has other deadlines and responsibilities to manage.

Asking for a sample/demo does not necessarily guarantee that you will receive accurate information. You will not get an accurate representation of what the agency can do because you haven’t provided the agency with sufficient input or time. Also, testing the development process becomes impossible, as you only ask for a final demo. You are jeopardizing your entire RFP / RFQ / RFI process with that because some agencies are too busy and they just don’t have the time to accommodate such requests. Read number 2 again.

If you are dead set on asking for the sample/demo, that’s fine. However, ensure that the scale of the project (the one for which you’re searching a vendor) is significant enough to justify the disruption and mayhem caused by requesting them to create a demo within a 2-3 day timeframe. Because if the project isn’t large enough, the agency may choose not to proceed, as the cost-to-benefit ratio would not be favourable for them.

Don’t reuse some old RFP / RFQ / RFI that wasn’t prepared for eLearning

I remember that on several occasions we just couldn’t answer a request from the RFP because it wasn’t possible. Then we realized it was a used one, a template, which was custom-made for something completely different and it made no sense in this case. If you’re not sure how to create a good Request for Proposal for your eLearning needs, hire a consultant to help you out. It might cost a bit of money, but it will shorten your RFP process as you won’t have as much of confused emails coming from the agencies as you normally would. And that will save you money in the end. Crazy, I know.


Define the volume of the RFP/RFI/RFQ:

  • How many courses do you want to develop in total
  • If you have a budget in mind, share the information
  • Is there room for more work after the scope of this RFP/RFI/RFQ is delivered

This helps the agency to understand the value of your RFP/RFI/RFQ during the qualification process, enabling them to decide whether to submit a proposal or not

Explain the current state of your raw materials (what you have on the topics you want to create eLearning out of):

If you have raw materials ready:

  • Define the format in which you have them (PPT, Word, video…)
  • Define the number of screens of those PPTs, or pages of those Word documents, … (this is super important as this is one of the common ways of figuring out the cost of your future eLearning)

If you don’t have raw materials ready:

  • Define if you are working on them and indicate when you anticipate they will be finished
  • Give an estimate of the length (in screens or pages) of those future materials

If you don’t have raw materials and don’t plan to develop them but are expecting an agency to create content from scratch:

  • Explain that you don’t have subject matter expertise on your side and are expecting an agency to be a subject matter expert and to create not only the finished eLearning but the raw material too
  • Define the topics you want to create
  • Define the preferred length of the course in minutes
  • Define the preferred ownership of the authoring rights – do you want to be the owner of the intellectual property over the content or the subject matter expert who created the knowledge for those courses

Explain the interactivity level desired for these courses

This is super important as it affects the price. If you’re unsure about the desired the level of interactivity, make sure to provide a detailed description so the agency can figure it out by itself. Check out how we did it to help you get started.

Make sure to write all of the things that you know your future eLearning courses need to have

If you know you want Voice over narration – write it. If you know you want a bunch of quizzes or calculators, write it. Do you have your heart set on gamification or VR? Let the agency know.

If you know you want translation in several languages – write it. Make sure to specify the languages required and indicate whether you want Voice over narration. Clarify whether the new VO will be recorded in all the new languages, or if you just plan to have subtitles in those languages. If you’re not sure about the number of languages or which ones, it’s okay. But make sure to mention that you are considering doing it.

Explain the LMS (Learning Management System) situation. Do you have it or do you plan on hosting the courses on your website? If you need assistance with uploading those courses to the LMS, also let the agency know.

Be clear about the logistics for this RFP / RFI / RFQ

Write all the necessary dates: the deadline for sending questions about this request; the deadline for submission of the proposal, the deadline for your decision, and the award of the contract. Make sure to give those deadlines while mentioning the respective time zones.

If you have a strict deadline for the delivery of the project, make sure to specify that too.

Make sure to be clear on how to submit a proposal. If there is a specific system, provide instructions on how to use it. If submissions are made via email, make sure to share the email. Also, you can specify the preferred format in which you would like to receive the proposal.

Define what you want to receive in the proposal

It can be a company description, case studies on projects similar to yours, an explanation of their development process, their Project Management process, and so on. Bonus points for you if you share the percentages of your evaluation criteria.

Basically – write what you want to see in the proposal. If you have any specific questions, make sure to ask them.

If you have the time – provide the opportunity for the agency to schedule a call and meet with you to discuss the details of the project

Agencies are also vetting which Requests they want to submit proposals for. The option to have a call is a huge plus on the side of accepting the request. If you’re not able to provide a call, at the very least, ensure the possibility for the agency to ask questions is available.

And that’s it – the mystery behind a great RFI/RFP/RFQ revealed. Voilà!

Good luck with writing your request and finding the agency that will work wonders for you!


Author: Martina Osmak


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