Free pitching has over the last couple of years been associated with open contests on pages like 99design and the like. I don't want to go there, enough has been said about that and all arguments are easily accessible online.
But there is another practice of asking for free pitches, where potential clients ask for unpaid design submissions from a few design studios and promising the job to the 'winner'.
I'm not implying that these clients act this way because they want to get as many as possible ideas without having to pay for it. At least not all of them.
I rather think it's because the whole process of sourcing and choosing a designer is a process too unknown and therefore scary or too time consuming for them. Some might even hope that they might gain more in-depth understanding on the design process on top on getting free samples.
So, what are the pitfalls?
In my opinion the biggest one for the client is an unsatisfying and uneffective outcome. Without a proper consultation, enough time for research and time for developing a concept, a designer won't be able to deliver a proper result.
Most requests for a free pitch come with a poorly written brief (if any) and it would be up to the designer to start guessing, trying to work out the context and any strategies the client might have in mind. And all of this within a short timeframe and - don't forget – all for free.
Designers - if they run a professional business - can't afford to spend unpaid time on projects they probably won't even get. A design business is not set up in such a way that these costs are factored in. Defining the business communication problem, developing the design solution and reproducing the design solution are all part of the costing. Having the reproduction part alone to finance development and design is just not feasible. Just imagine the margins that have to be factored in for the design business to survive.
A designer is not just a designer, but also a consultant. Without an intensive dialogue there are no effective results.
A professional designer will have a professional portfolio to show his experience and case studies. Most of them will be happy to provide referees. Most of them are happy to come in for an informal chat.
The Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) and the Design Institute of Australia have a strong opinion against free pitching and can assist their members and the public in any way. I am happy to send out a checklist to anyone who is in the process of choosing a designer as I am all in for a proper, fair and substantial selection process, a comfortable client-designer relationship and a fruitful outcome for all.
Contact me at design_at_astridwehling.com.au