Free pitching
– is it a meal full of carrots?

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

“Pitch work” invariably leads to frustration for the client and encourages a sub-standard creative work from the designers pitching. The success rate statistics of winning are 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 and that we just been invited for a beauty parade of our ideas.


Good, creative design 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 for 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:

Doing Work on Spec by Andy Budd (Clearleft)
Don’t Design on Spec by Jeffery Zeldman (Happy Cog)
Why Speculative Design Is Wrong by Paul Boag (Headscape)


We would of course be delighted to show you how our best projects got off the ground, and how we could do the same for you. It is just that we value our expertise, talent and knowledge enough to apply this exclusively for our customers who actually appreciate the positive effect our services provide to their businesses.

So if you want us to ‘free pitch’ for your business we will decline no matter how big the carrot is. There really is no such thing as a free meal!