As a member of the Design Business Association, I thought I’d take the time to put their view (and ours) forward as to why speculative pitching or free pitching is wrong, and how clients end up paying in the end anyway.
Point 6 of the DBA Code of Conduct recommends: ‘Members should not take part in pitches, which require unpaid work. The level of payment for pitches should relate to the time and effort involved.’
Considerable time and effort is required to prepare serious design proposals for any project. Creative proposals prepared without payment for a competitive pitch involving several other consultants can only be speedily prepared, scantily researched and superficial. They cannot be based on a genuine understanding of the client’s business and objectives. In short, the proposals will not achieve the standards of professionalism to which members of the Design Business Association are committed.
Abuse of intellectual property rights
Design businesses automatically own all the rights in the work they produce. If creative work is supplied in a free pitch, the client has no rights to use that work until a contract is agreed. Inexperienced and unprofessional clients have been known to ask to retain creative work supplied by all the consultancies involved in free pitches. The clients then make that creative work available to the successful consultancy with the suggestion that some elements of each design are included in the final work. This is highly illegal and alienates professional design businesses from that client damaging the prospects of the client acquiring truly effective design solutions.
Design consultants are selling design talent and expertise. To give away creative work is therefore to give away all. This contrasts with other professions, such as advertising agencies, for whom the creative element of a project often accounts for only a small proportion of the total remuneration they can hope to gain by winning the pitch. They are sometimes understandably more willing to speculate with their creative work, although as we suggest above, the relevance and quality of that work might be open to question.
Clients pay in the end
Design consultancies are commercial organisations. They need to make a profit. If speculative pitching becomes widespread, clients would simply find the cost of speculative pitches being reclaimed through higher fees and charges throughout the industry. Continue reading