Spec Work and Free Pitches: #SayNoToSpec

Recently, we we’re asked to undertake some speculative work or ‘Spec Work’, for a potential new client. We politely declined their offer. In this blog post, founder and lead designer Quentin James explains why we don’t undertake ‘Spec Work’ and why we don’t ‘Pitch’ for new business.

Why We’ve Never Pitched For Work

Since founding Quentin James Design in 1998 we’ve been extremely fortunate in that we’ve always enjoyed a steady stream of new work and new clients. Sure, there’s been a quiet week here and there but for the most part, we’ve always been a busy and productive graphic design agency and website design company.

From time to time during those 18 years, we’ve been asked to ‘Pitch’ for work. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, a company will approach several design agencies and ask each one to fulfil a creative brief in part or full. On receipt of several options from several design agencies, the company will then select their preferred design solution and the design agency who created it will ‘win’ the contract.

Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

We Say No To Spec Work (and Pitches too)

“But surely you’re missing out on the chance to work on some amazing projects?” you may say. Perhaps, but one of the things that makes any project amazing is the positive reaction a client has to a great piece of new graphic design. Another aspect that makes design work fun and rewarding is the sense that our client truly values us and our input into their business. We want to work with clients who want to work with us – it’s that simple. If you want the cheapest, that’s probably not us. If you want someone to Pitch or undertake Spec Work, that’s not us either.

After all, you are the most important thing to our business. We want you to enjoy working with us in order to improve your business through better design.

If you want a design agency who will listen to your needs (really listen), and work honestly and diligently to find and create the best solution for your project, then that’s us. After all, you are the most important thing to our business. We want you to enjoy working with us in order to improve your business (and your sales) through better design.

What We Will Happily Do For Free

We’re more than happy to meet with potential new clients to discuss your design and marketing requirements. Visit us at our studio in Preston and the coffee and tea (Lancashire Tea) is on us. Give us enough notice and there may be cake and biscuits on offer too!

Whilst we’ve worked for clients in dozens of different industries, we always love learning about your businesses, some of which may operate in sectors in which we’ve little or no experience. It gives us the opportunity to learn new things and share some of our design experience gained in other industries, which could translate perfectly to your company.

We’re also happy to write and submit a project proposal for your forthcoming website design project, corporate re-branding or online/offline marketing strategy. Want a price for a new logo design and printed stationery set including letterhead design, business cards and compliments slips – no problem – we’re happy to source the best print prices and will gladly send the estimates through to you free of any obligation.

Sometimes it takes a couple of meetings, several phone calls and an exchange of emails for you to be 100% sure that Quentin James Design is a good fit for your business – and that’s ok too. We’re approachable, friendly and we’d love to hear about your business and any design and marketing requirements that you may have – just don’t ask us to work for free.*


*If you do ask us to Pitch for a design contract or undertake some Spec Work for free, you might find we react in a similar way to the people in the video below. The video was created by Zulu Alpha Kilo, a Toronto based advertising agency who have taken a similar stance to us when it comes to Spec Work and Pitches. The video shows an actor, approach real people in a wide variety of different industries and asks them to provide him with free products and services, to see if he likes them before awarding them a contract. We think it pretty much sums up how we should all react to being asked to work for free.