2 years, 3 months ago 1
Posted in: Blog
Free pitching – is it a free meal?

Last night I went to my local restaurant and asked the chef to serve me all the dishes on his menu. I decided I liked one of his dishes and went home informing I would call him later to discuss which if any I would want to pay for. I also visited two other restaurants and sampled all their menu dishes telling them I would call back if I liked any and if I was prepared to pay for them.

All the dishes I tasted were delicious. Then I thought I could make a couple of those dishes myself.

I rang all three restaurant owners a couple of weeks later to tell them that I was going to cook the dishes I liked best myself. I also asked them to tell me their secret ingredients and that I may consider paying for those recipes once I had cooked the dishes.

All three restaurant owners hung up on me.

The above story sounds very familiar to many design agencies who get the request to pitch for potential business. It is a legacy left over from when large advertising agencies pitched for large accounts, unfortunately this has filtered down to small accounts and is now seen as the ‘way to do it’ by ill-informed clients.

“Pitch work” invariably leads to frustration for the client and encourages sub-standard creative work from the designers pitching. The success rate statistics of winning a pitch are at best 30% and less if you consider that it may be a five way creative pitch. In our experience we have often found that the work being pitched for is either spoken for, non-existent or we have just been invited for a beauty parade of our ideas.


Good design, creative and strategy is informed. This process only comes through research and collaboration with the client and a clear understanding of their market, business proposition and budget. A visually pleasing ‘best guess’ created up front as part of a sales tactic is never a good design. Anything created without being informed is at best a pretty picture.

Unlike advertising agencies, we are not in the business of selling. We have a passion for our creative work and we love showing off the diversity of work we’ve done – just take a look at our portfolio, but that’s because every project we produce for our clients is crafted with thought and research. By doing it this way we are respecting our clients’ business and not devaluing it. At Clear Creative we put all our resources into every client that engages us because we don’t need to save our best ideas, designs or strategies just to sell ourselves to potential new clients.

We aren’t unusual in our position on declining to partake in speculative or free pitch work. In fact the majority of good creative companies are declining to pitch freely. Here are some links to just a few respected industry colleagues who feel the same way, and why:

We’d be delighted to show you how our best projects got off the ground, and how we could do the same for you. This however comes at the cost of all our experience, talent, infrastructure and service.

So if you want us to ‘free’ pitch our creative, ideas and technical know how for your business we will decline.

There is after all no such thing as a free meal!

One Response

  1. Andrew Field says:

    Agree 100% – I think most of us would agree the way round this is for clients to pay for pitches (which would soon stop them asking for six or seven design agencies to give them free ideas), especially if the pitch cost is a small % of the anticipated spend.

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