The best time to hire a grant writer

December 21, 2021

If I was a CEO, when would I hire a grant writer?

Whilst I like the intention behind “fail early”, there are surely some lessons we can learn that mean we are more likely to “succeed early”. I have been writing grants since 2009. What if I were the tech entrepreneur or CEO – when would I hire an experienced grant writer? 

Early-stage / Pre-revenue / Seed Funded / MVP / Accelerator

Value-for-money is everything with very limited budget that has to be shared between development, market research, advisors, wages (maybe!) and fundraising. The best way to reduce the cost of hiring a freelance grant writer is to have submitted an application, scored very well and have encouraging feedback – but not secured the grant at the first attempt. Redrafting, addressing feedback and boosting the score of a grant application is great work for a grant writer.

So, the trick is getting a very good score in a grant application you have to write yourself. A few quick tips:

  • Engage with the grant funder / read the grant guidance / Attend the webinars
  • Contact the funder and check what support they offer in writing a grant
  • Ask around in your network and see if someone will share a successful grant application to the same grant fund
  • Consider engaging a freelance grant writer for 1 day (£350-£1200 / €450-€1600per day depending on experience) to give you 4 hours at the start and end of the writing process.
  • Copy and paste all questions and guidance into an online shared doc. Assign questions to members of your team and set a deadline for the first draft.

Assuming this all goes very well, you won the grant and the rest of this blog is irrelevant! Otherwise, you have your high scoring, but failed, application.

If you have the funds, £3,500 / €5,000 should be enough to get a good grant writer to re-draft and go again. I would risk this money on the chance to get £100k-£250k / €150k-€500k grant funding for product development. Chances are you are also seeking further investment and a grant covering 70% of your R&D work means keeping more precious equity when that investment comes in.

There is never a guarantee you will win an R&D grant, competition is high and budgets are capped. If you do win one early, it isn’t just the funding that is useful. The grant application content can be reused in further grant applications, business plans and pitch decks. The fact that you have won a grant from Innovate UK or Horizon Europe or Eurostars or EIC Accelerator, improves your chance of winning another grant. 

Prototype / Funded

Execution is the watch word here – customers and tech development in parallel. It is reasonable to think about a £350k-£500K / €360k-€2.5m grant now. Of course the process outlined above is totally valid here, but if you are pushed for time then hiring a grant writer on a part-up-front fee + part-success-fee basis makes sense here. In this position, if I had some experience of grant writing in the team, I would definitely write one more grant using the internal team before engaging a grant writer. 

For £5,000-£25,000 / €5.000-€25.000 + 5%-10% success fee, a grant writing team will provide a full service. The process of engaging an experienced grant writer to lead on developing a grant application can be very beneficial. Those team profiles you never got round to, the risk register, snappy descriptions of your unique selling points, etc – many intangible assets. I would still be negotiating hard on fees, in a nice way of course. (Grant writers are people too!)

Give the grant writer reasons to propose/accept a lower fee:

  • Offer to produce a broad response to each question as a start point. This is only likely to take your team 1 day and is very helpful for any grant writer.
  • Offer to share any past successful grant application content.
  • Offer to put together a 2pager on the project. 
  • Offer a higher success fee – if that makes sense for your business.

Revenue-generating / Scale-up / Growth

As the CEO of a technology business at this stage, my time would be very precious.

If I were to hire a grant writer, I would be looking for experience and flexibility. The fees are affordable, in fact offering more as an up-front fee and removing/reducing the success fee makes sense in balancing risk/reward. 

The grant writers role here is more about translation and thoroughness. You can provide business plans, pitch decks, financial forecasts, patents, past applications, product roadmaps, market research, pricing, etc. The grant writer takes care of all the information and produces a high-quality grant application. £500k+ / €500k+ in grant funding is all about scaling the business – very valuable approaching a big funding round.

Quick summary

Grant writers can help you secure significant amount of funding for your business. Hopefully this blog gives you some insight into when and how to use us to win-win. These are rough thoughts and by no means conclusive.

If you’d like to have a more in-depth discussion about anything mentioned above, please do get in touch!


Alex has over 15 years of experience in founding and running businesses, the most recent company having raised over £50m in funding for businesses based across the globe. He has a thorough knowledge of business funding options and can draw on many successful consultancy engagements to bring impetus to venturing. Alex has now set his focus on working with entrepreneurial teams looking to make a positive impact on the climate crisis and the broader UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Contact Alex