Love it or loathe it, pitching for clients is part of life as a designer. Here’s how to do it better.


No designer or agency can survive without new business, and growing one’s client roster is one of the stiffest challenges any creative faces. Bringing new clients on board is a multi-faceted process demanding time and money, as well as creative and inter-personal knowhow.

It’s one of the most rewarding processes in design – both personally and financially – but is an area riven with pitfalls.

One of the most problematic aspects of pitching is the infamous ‘free pitch’, which continues to be one of the most hotly debated topics in design: the very mention of it can raise the blood pressure of many designers.

“Free pitching is something I‘ll never do,” says Mark Tomkins, creative director of Hemel Hempstead-based Aubergine (www.aubergine262.com). “It completely devalues the design industry. The culture of industries asking design agencies to produce work ‘to see if they’re any good’ is offensive. You wouldn’t ask a plumber or carpenter to fix a tap or make a chair before you engaged them.”

It’s a view shared by Stocks Taylor Benson (www.stbdesign.co.uk), a 28-strong design agency specializing in print, point of sale and packaging. Managing director Joe Bakowski says clients who use free pitching tend to be “lazy and ill-informed”.

He adds: “It’s a beauty parade of who’s created the prettiest picture – a charade of how the real design process works. To do a proper creative job you need to sit down with people, understand their business, understand what they want to get out of the process, and you also need them to understand how it is to work with you. It’s very rare in free pitch situations that the client’s got the time to dedicate to that.”

But Bakowski admits that free pitching is a fact of life. “Having worked client-side on a non-creative basis, I can quite understand how clients think it’s a good way to go.”