Last updated August 2022

No matter what you call it, Spec Work, Free Pitch, etc the concept is the same. I’ll get a handful of designers or studios to come up with a handful of concepts for my website, and the winner gets my business.

Great concept? No! There are no winners when it comes to the monster called free pitch.

What’s in it for the client? They get to pick and choose amongst mediocre designs, which you can bet your shiny crayons haven’t been well briefed or developed. Why? I hear you ask – well, why would you spend much time on the prospect of possibly getting paid down the track?

This recently happened to me – in fact, the offer was given to me, but I turned it down. Sad part of this whole affair was the prestigious nature of the prospect, who, being a university, should really know better.

Free pitching devalues your work

Why would I want to pay for your time, if you are happy to give some of it away free?

Free pitching hurts all of your clients

Someone needs to pay for your time and materials, and there is no doubt you’ll make all of your clients pay for that privilege.

Free pitching produces crap work

You aren’t going to go through the entire scoping and discovery process, when you aren’t getting paid. Nor is the client going to spend that amount of time with five of you, knowing they will kick four of you out soon enough.

Free pitching makes the client look stupid

The client deep down knows it’s a dumb idea, just like it’d be a dumb idea to allow me to obtain a degree from them, and if the education ‘works out’, I’ll pay for it later.

Free pitching hurts the entire industry

Cowboys who are willing to ignore all sensibilities and continue to do this speculative work encourage others who aren’t as well educated to compete, by doing the same. Great! An entire industry of free workers.

Free pitching is a big sign saying ‘We’re going broke’

If a client isn’t willing to pay for your time now, why would they later? What is the actual reason they wont pay? Is it because they are teetering on implosion, or do they honestly think it’ll save them a few bucks? Do you want clients who penny pinch anyway?

Free pitches encourages less planning

Encouraging you to spend a couple of hours whipping up some pitch concepts means the client doesn’t want you to actually explore what their communication goals are, what their requirements ultimately dictate or any of that ‘boring stuff’. They just want to see the ‘shiny things’ and throw all professionalism to the wind.

So, the end result of our recent ‘opportunity’? Well, alongside my own firm turning them down, there are rumours that a number of other Perth web companies did the same. Good work team – we don’t need these cowboys telling us our work is not worth charging for. Let’s pray they don’t teach their students to ask for free work.

Want to read up further on the monster called free pitch? There’s a great site called No!Spec and Australian Graphic Designers Association have a great article in PDF here

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