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Free Pitching, Design Contests & Outsourcing

Updated 31 May 2021 (Published 18 February 2015) by Miles in Website design & UX

We take a closer look at some of the unsavoury and unethical behaviours that are negatively impacting a number of creative industries.

Free Pitching, Design Contests & Outsourcing

We recap a presentation delivered back in 2013 at the Edge of the Web 2013 conference by Bam Creative Managing Director Miles Burke, we take a closer look at some of the unsavoury and unethical behaviours that are negatively impacting a number of creative industries.

For further details of Miles' presentation, please see the slides below.

Free Pitching

So what exactly is 'free pitching' and why does it have negative implications for business? The term relates to the supply of unpaid creative submissions during periods of economic downturn or pressure - or in layman's terms "doing a bunch of work for no money in the hope of securing paid work".

The graphic design industry seems to be most affected, with anecdotal evidence in a number of design communities indicating 'free pitching' is on the rise. The practice of free pitching not only devalues creative commodities, but it devalues a number of design-related industries and increases business operating costs for associated companies. After all, time spent doing unpaid work isn't necessarily a strong business model.

There is a number of reasons to not free pitch:

  • It suggests creative ideas are not valuable.
  • A poor brief can result in miscommunication; wasting further unpaid time meeting requirements.
  • Free good advice isn't valued nearly as much as paid.
  • Free pitch situations are designed the play the market.

Think of it this way - wouldn't be great if we could call 10 plumbers to fix a broken pipe, but only award the work to the plumber who dazzles us the most? 

Winning new business needs to be evaluated through other means, including investing more time getting to know the client, submitting credentials, presenting a portfolio of past work and providing reputable referees.

Design Contests

Much like free pitching, design contests are another way companies solicit creative talent to compete for work, by asking for submissions without reimbursing for time and effort - only the winner receives any compensation for the work. 

The main argument against design contents is they trivialise the time spent that goes into a design, essentially devaluing the final product - unless of course they're happy with the end product. 

This can be seen as a way to get cheap labour, with the promise of potential compensation to entice a number of entrants to work for little or nothing at all.

The other issue involved with design contests extends to the final product, which is generally used by the organiser to make money. 

This presents a number of ethical issues; such as exploiting a number of creative industries through a financial loophole or downturn to profit. This isn't the case for most design contests, however reimbursement can often be less desirable than if the organiser had contracted a design agency.

It's integral to business to establish a relationship, working together to achieve a final product. Due to supply and demand, we've seen a surge in design contests mainly due to the number of designers willing to work for free - in turn hurting the industry they're trying to build and support.


I'm going to give you 3 main reasons why outsourcing needs to be carefully considered. There are key considerations which can help guide you in making the right decision, and I'll go through the factors you need to weigh up.

  1. Don't outsource competency - Don't give up control of your business and the inherent qualities that made it successful in the first place.
  2. Costs - Many companies in Europe and Asia provide services at a fraction of the cost in Australia. But have you considered the indirect costs of scheduling work for those in different time zones with limited communication? It may end up costing you the same as if you employed a local agency.
  3. Products or services -Outsourcing products or services you're promoting can have a number of implications on your business. If you're completely unskilled - you're bound to run into problems when service or product offerings are compromised.

Most outsource companies set up their operations to be generic as possible, in an effort to appeal to a mass market. Therefore the end result is generally less efficient than if you attempted it yourself. To ensure you're outsourcing to the right people, it's important you engage a company with inherent credentials, which also have a proven track record of success.

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