Started my day with reading and putting myself first. Got a business trip ahead of me, and moving towards prioritizing my own energy. During my iPhone cruise through the sea of articles, I’ve encountered two of them that really caught my attention, one was about “Spec-pitches”, and it related to the agencies, that pitch to big corporate clients, and the other one was about “Shadow Work”. Both pieces propelled me to think deeper about two topics that are very dear to my heart, my company and my self-preservation. However, due to my limitation of time, I will only cover my thoughts on the agency pitches.

The End Of Spec-pitches

When it comes to spec-pitches, I am a vocal opponent, but also a part of this is the fact that the size of my agency is limited, so we don’t have the luxury of going “out there”, and pitching against the larger agencies that do have the resources. Also I believe that pitching is seriously limiting your earning potential. As the article said, you are going out there gambling with your agency resources, at the expense of your existing clientele.
Personally I vowed not to enter into any kind of pitches that require more than just a pitch. If my pitch requires me, or my agency to do the work, than we will send you an invoice. My partners know that I begrudge doing even spec work for free, even when its outside of competition. If a client wants a detailed quote and projections of his results, he needs to pony up. Simple as that. My resources are static, and why in the hell would I want to waste it, as opposed to providing that resources to the clients that are happily paying for the results that we produce.
Running an agency and holding a full time job is extremely difficult. Yesterday I’ve completed a task for a friend that was doing sort of a spec pitch. We’ve got compensated for it. It was for another agency. The person that was on the receiving end was impressed with the work delivered. I am certain that a lot of spec-work was done as a marketing theatre in order to impress the arbitrary group of judges, more so than it is based on competency and data driven decisions. “Just make it sell!”

Why Pitches Are A Waste Of Time For Companies

When you organize a competition, you are simply put exposed to a lot of marketing. Instead of wasting your time to hear the perfect pitch that will sway you off your feet, it is better to invest some money into seeing what is the end result of the work that you purchase.
Every pitch will end up being quite expensive, as it will require two or three high profile employees to attend them and make a decision. Let’s assume that high profile employees hourly rate is hovering between $50–60, and that you have three employees participating, and your average spec pitch lasts a full working day, than it easily pans out to be an expensive undertaking. One day of spec-pitch will cost you $1500.
Than, there may be a follow up round that will cost you another $500, and might not net you the result that you want.
For $2000, you could have hired an agency to conduct sample strategy work, and you would get a data driven decision, on whether you want to work with them. From my personal experience, once we get paid, we treat client as a client. Whether we will keep working with them or not, we are tasked out and paid for an objective suggestion on how to approach the market. When the burden of getting paid or not getting paid is removed, the pressure of performing is removed from the shoulders of the agency, and as such is leading to a comfortable working environment.
As I am already paid, and I may be held accountable for the data that resides inside of the service provided, I am inclined to keep the strategy and recommendation realistic. Pitches are pushed for performance, and they tend to over-promise, hence the data obtained from any pitch is drastically skewed. Data presented during the pitch is designed to sell, as this is the ulterior reason for participating. The competition style pitch in an of itself is a conflict of interest.

The Pitch That I Abandoned, And Why I Don’t Settle For “Per Performance Services”

Previously I’ve applied for a job for a Portland real estate agency, and the owner inquired me to do sample work. This particular task was requiring around 20 hours of research, an investment into software and 20 additional hours of actual work. One portion of that work was supposed to be provided by the real estate agency, as me soaking in the cost of the creation of the framework required to scale the operation was astronomical. I was on the receiving end, where I’ve got an offer “if I complete XYZ”, as a part of the test. I am proud of my answer at the time where I negotiated to obtain a lump sump, outside of the job, in case I complete a task.
Obviously, as there was no incentive on the Real Estate Agencies End to pay for my services, they haven’t been inclined to provide me with a framework, and I wasn’t willing to invest my own resources into “winning the competition”. Providing value and spending time costs me other opportunities in life that are fully payable, at the expense of an elusive offer.
The follow up was that the tools required to do the job will not be provided to me. So the whole ordeal was a waste of my breath. There really are people out there that are willing to abuse their position and power in order to obtain free work. I guess when the economy is tough, the employers are used to taking advantage of the situation. Don’t Do It!

How To Grow The Business Instead?

Focus on providing the service whose results create so much traction that they will be your best pitch. Finding the right client that matches your business model and whose results can grow your retainers, will create for a much more sustainable business, compared to vagabond agency that goes from one pitch to the next in hopes of winning the pitch-roullete.