Free Pitching for Design Jobs Don’t Make the Mistakes I Did

Warning Sign for Free PitchingLike anyone, in the course of my freelance graphic design career I have made some mistakes, one of those being that in my earlier freelancing days I did some free pitching (won a few lost a few). It’s something I haven’t done for a long time now and I wanted to explain why, so you don’t make the same mistakes that I did.

5 Reasons Why Free Pitching for a Design Job is a Mistake

1. You need to increase your prices by 3 or 4 times

Let’s face it if you are free pitching you probably won’t know how many people you are pitching against, but at a guess it’s a minimum of 2 others. So the odds of you getting the job are 1 in 3, which means that in order to make as much as you would for doing normal paid work you need to charge at least three times more.

2. Winner doesn’t take all

Because winning one job doesn’t mean you will get all the rest of the work. I have pitched and won a job, but the majority of the rest of the companies’ work was done in house.

3. No one may win the work

Just because a company have asked designers to free pitch does not mean they will award it the work to anyone. In the past I have free pitched and then the client has decided not to go ahead with the job with anyone. Of course it was no skin of their nose as they hadn’t paid anything to any of the designers/design agencies who took part.

4. You can’t necessarily give your best work

If you are quiet a free pitch seems like it’s not a bad idea as you have plenty of time to spend on it. So what happens when you get a few paid jobs in? You then have a choice, put in a second rate effort with the time you have or pull out of the free pitch last minute (I have done the latter) neither of which look good on you.

5. Your work might be copied

Imagine you have done your free pitch, but unfortunately you didn’t win the job, there is still a chance elements of your work may appear in the final design. I don’t even mean through total plagiarism, but perhaps the client liked some of the elements you used in your design or the colours or fonts you used, chances are they will somehow incorporate them into the final design however innocently (or not).

I haven’t done a free pitch in a long time and if you are thinking about it BEWARE. The only way I can see when Free Pitching could be a viable option would be if it was to win all of a companies’ design work and not simply one job.

What do you think about free pitching? Have you done it yourself? Would you do it again? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

Other articles from around the web on the topic of free pitching

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  1. Posted March 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I give free pitches all the time… if a customer doesn’t like my work, then they don’t pay. I haven’t had a disappointed customer yet – touch wood.

  2. Posted April 1, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you. In the first months in my career, i have made same mistake, say free pitching. The most negative effect of it: It damages your talent, because you dont really give enough effort.

    A look to the past, i have gained many experiences…

  3. Posted April 1, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Hi Scott, Do you mean you are given the job but then if the client likes it they don’t pay? What I am talking about is when a company puts a brief out to several design companies at one, and only one of them with get the work (that’s if it goes ahead.

  4. Posted April 1, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Hi Salih, thanks for sharing your experience

  5. Posted April 3, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Good advice. It’s easy to get intimidated into practically giving away one’s work when the competition’s tough and the outcome’s uncertain though.

  6. Posted April 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Quite the awesome checklist… I really like the idea of the topic, thanks for sharing yo.

  7. Posted April 5, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Free pitching will definitely gain you lots of experiences but then most often than not some companies would only take advantage of you. But if you think it’s not working for you then better to stop early.

  8. Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I never knew what to look out for when free pitching but these are great tips. I also didn’t know that plagiarism was an issue until you brought it up. Number 4 is also a favorite tip of mine. Thanks for the heads-up!

  9. Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    So we don’t repeat the same mistakes next time.Thanks!! for sharing

  10. Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    i thing that it’s more to star by low price than to do it for free! it’s just my thought that may be not avalaible in your case! take it just as a piece of advice as many others!

  11. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:41 am | Permalink

    “So the odds of you getting the job are 1 in 3, which means that in order to make as much as you would for doing normal paid work you need to charge at least three times more.”

    I made that mistake for a long time when I was doing freelance work.

  12. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree. Its not just the problem of not winning the work, its the fact that they may use the designs after, create copies and you could get nothing for it. and whos to say if you do win the pitch the client is willing to pay well.

  13. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi PipsDesign, I hadn’t even thought about the cleint not paying if you win the work – good point.

  14. Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi Khono, I think you have to be careful pricing very low as people undervalue your work and its hard to increase your prices afterwards

  15. Posted April 15, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    As much as I hate free pitching, I can’t avoid it. Even regular clients tend to do it time to time. I have noticed that usually companies that offer such “deal” don’t really know what they are looking for. It’s like working with a blindfold in terms of briefing and pricing. And I agree: most of the time if your proposal hasn’t been picked, you will always find some of your ideas in the final art done by an other designer (usually in house). My advice for free pitching: Be very clear as what the terms and conditions are. And that your ideas are not “free” to use (technically what is not paid for is not bought and remains your property).

  16. Posted April 16, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your input on free pitching Claude

  17. Justin B
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I find it funny that everyone who is against free pitching has done it in the past to get work. So it was ok for them to start their business or freelance career, but now they are set up, suddenly it is a really awful thing for other designers to destroy the creativity of our industry through poor and often rushed pitching.
    I am totally against it, so those that have done so in the past, shame on you…

  18. Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Hi Justin
    I am saying that it wasn’t productive for me. I didn’t get any long term work via free pitches and I spent way more time than the money I earned doing them. I did far better through blogging to attract work and simply writing letters to design agencies/marketing companies.

  19. Claude Bonnaud
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Justin: I think you are missing the point here. Like many designers we experienced the pitfalls of free pitching at the beginning of our careers thinking it would be a good way to get a project. I think we all speak openly about our experiences not judging any one who is free pitching or companies requesting such brief. Any one is free to try it and with some luck make it work for themselves. The specific points in Tara’s article are actually very important and may give some food for thought to someone not familiar with free pitching.

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