pitching for work

Creative Sales Pitches & Why I Don’t Do Them

Over the course of my design career, I’ve seen my fair share of creative opportunities. And I’ve mostly jumped on the chance to win a creative project.

We know that creative sales pitches offer clients’ the opportunity to decide who they want to work with. The client puts together a brief that is sent to 4-5 designers and agencies, and they then go away and spend hours on a proposal addressing those points. For most of these creatives, it will be a lost time they can never get back. But the main issue is that there is little left for the designer to discover or discuss. The client has already provided the discovery work and solution.

So let’s dive deeper and look at the reasons why this isn’t the right way to go about it.

A pitch needs a brief. But it needs discussing

As a creative, I often have to respond to a pre-defined client brief that tells me what they want, why and how it should be done.

So there is no opportunity to analyse, discuss or ask questions and to really see what needs addressing.

I would never go to my dentist and tell them what’s wrong with me and provide a detailed solution.

So, supplying everything beforehand provides little flexibility or creativity for the designer.

Here’s how I like to work

Rather than you proving me with a detailed brief, I like to chat with you on a video call. But why not face to face?

Don’t get me wrong, face-to-face is a great way to discuss a project… but not if we have never met before.

I don’t like wasting time and I wouldn’t want to waste a possible client’s time. Until we know we want to work together, it’s more time-effective to chat first on video or on the telephone.

I’ll ask you specific questions about what you do, what your goals are and why you need a logo/website designed.

At this point, I’ll offer a few suggestions on what we can do and what approximate investment would be required.

A pitch needs ideas. But not free ones

Some clients expect to get suggestions on how to fix their problem.

This can be in form of a written summary Or if creative, it could be some initial ideas for a re-brand or new website.

I think a lot of other creatives would agree with me that this isn’t right. Especially the ones who have an existing portfolio fo work.

For example, you wouldn’t expect a builder to build you your new house so you check that he can do what he says he can do.

Here’s how I like to work

I have no problem with providing 1-2 rough written suggestions on what would help fix a solution.

But I’d never go into detail or spend hours researching and writing the results until a contract has been signed.

I’d also never provide some free creative ideas for that same reason.

I have a good existing body of work and so I always refer new prospects to view my design portfolio first.

I also have a number of client testimonials. This provides real evidence that I can do what I say I can do.

Creative Sales Pitch meeting

Have a budget in mind

I’ll always mention money pretty early on in any new project conversation.

Why? Because it’s good to know if a potential client can afford to work with me. So there is no point in us both wasting our time if we are just too far apart on costs.

Most of the time, a new client won’t really know how much a logo design or website build will cost. So they won’t have really thought about how much they want to spend. And usually, the answer is: “As little a possible.”

That’s why I took the decision to put some information on my website for logo design prices and website design prices.

This saves us having an awkward conversation about the investment required to work with me.

So my advice would be to think about what value and impact a new logo or website might have for your business.

Know your customers

In some cases, the client hasn’t spent the time to identify their customer. This is a big mistake.

I’ve heard it many times… “we sell to everyone!” If you are not specific on who you sell to and why then you sell to know-one.

So I always go through the below to create the perfect customer avatar(s).

This should cover:

  • Their age(s)
  • If they are male or female
  • What they do for a living
  • If they have family
  • What hobbies/interests they may have

It may be that you need to create more than one avatar. In this way, it really does provide some valuable insights into who buys from you.

Conclusions

Pitching work is really to the benefit of the business, not the designer or agency. There can be a lot of time invested on the creative side but there is only one winner.

So as a creative, it really is your job to say thanks but no thanks to free pitching.

Instead, we should be either paid for our time or be judged on our previous work and client’s feedback.

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