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Free Pitching: how to respond

The Free Pitch. I try to avoid this subject because it never really changes (and will ALWAYS be an issue for our sector) but quite a few agencies have been asking me for advice around requests from clients to free pitch lately. So here are some thoughts which I originally posted on LinkedIn, on how best to respond:

1. The Design Business Association (DBA) stance is clear – we recommend that agencies do not free pitch. It devalues what you are selling. Don’t do it. Just say ‘no’.

2. Do not lambast the client. Either they are doing it because they do not know any other way (in which case educate them) or they are doing because they think it is a fast track way to choose an agency (in which case educate them).

3. A request to free pitch is an opportunity to start a conversation with a client. If they are interested in learning how to make a better informed decision great. If not, walk away. Their chances of getting a great agency are slim. If you work with them the chances of them being a good client are slim.

4. Do not use the argument about how free pitching is bad for the design sector (although it obviously is). Why should they care? It will not change their minds at all.

5. DO use the argument about how the client cannot find the best match for their business and their needs through a free pitch.

6. Explain the short comings of making a decision based on work created through guesswork with a lack of insight by agencies who either had free studio time (designers twiddling their thumbs) or who took designers off paid work to do it. Either way, as a client, would they want to work with agencies like that?

7. But most of all, choose not to free pitch because you have some self respect. You sell creativity for a living – what have you got to sell if you give it away for free before you even win the work?

Visit the resources section of our website for best practice guides for clients on how to buy design, plus templates, example responses, and case-studies on refusing free pitch requests.

I hope this hasn’t opened the flood gates and I get loads of messages pointing fingers at other agencies or complaining about certain clients. As an agency you can only impact what you are in control of. Concentrate on how you operate and leave the rest to themselves.

About: Adam Fennelow

Adam is the Head of Services at the DBA

Adam regularly speaks with design businesses about issues they are facing and how to overcome them. If you are a DBA member who would like to talk through your challenges, or if you are interested in becoming a member, you can schedule some time with Adam here.


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