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Resourceful Designer podcast: Offering tips, tricks and advice for starting and growing your graphic or web design business.

Using Pitch Work to Grow Your Design Business:

Today, I discuss growing your design business using a nifty little technique called pitch work. Not to be confused with dreaded spec work.

Spec Work = NO!

What's Spec work? Spec work, also known as speculative work, is when a client asks you to design something, and there's only a slim chance you'll get paid for your services. For example, an organization offers a contest to design a logo, and only the winner walks away with a paycheck. Or a potential client might pull the classic move of saying, “Design something for us as part of your proposal so that we know what you're capable of, and if we like it, we'll pay you. If not, tough luck.” That's spec work. Just say NO! to speck work.

Pitch Work = YES!

Pitch work, however, involves you presenting work that the client didn't even ask for. I know it sounds counterintuitive. But trust me, it works like magic. Picture this: you're tinkering with a new font or some cool design assets you snagged from a place like Design Cuts. Instead of just playing around, why not create something worthwhile and present it to a client as a gift? That's what I did, and it led to some incredible stories and the growth of my new business.

Pitch work by offering it for free.

I was fooling around several years ago with a new font I acquired. I experimented with it by designing new podcast artwork for my buddy Wayne. His existing self-created artwork wasn't that great, and I saw an opportunity. So, I took this snazzy new font, played around with variations, and bam! I had what I thought was a killer design. Sent it Wayne's way, and he loved it. He immediately switched his old artwork for the new one and started flaunting it around, telling everyone about the design wizard (that's me) who hooked him up. I didn't wait for Wayne to ask; I just went for it.

Another buddy, Troy, partnered with Wayne, a fellow fan of the Green Bay Packers, and they hosted the Packers Fan Podcast. Again, the artwork wasn't great, and I couldn't resist. I designed some new artwork and pitched it to them, and they were over the moon. More chatter about my design skills, more referrals, and suddenly, I'm the go-to guy for podcast artwork with two great designs to add to my portfolio.

Pitch work by offering it at a discount.

But pitch work is not just about handing out freebies. No, there's strategy here. Picture this scenario: you're a designer wanting to pivot into a particular niche. Let's say the financial niche. But your portfolio screams eclectic randomness. Solution? Offer to design for the financial folks at a crazy discount. Tell potential financial clients you're on a mission to revamp your portfolio, and you'll design something incredible for a fraction of the regular price. It's a win-win. They get a great bargain price, and you get a killer portfolio piece.

Pitch work that your clients may not know they need.

And here's a little secret – it's not just about giving away stuff for free or at a discount. How about this variation of pitch work? You create an innovative design piece for a client, such as a cool doorknob hanger, then casually drop it to your other clients like, “Hey, check out this awesome thing I designed for this other client. Want something similar for your business?” This time, it's not about freebies or discounts; it's about opening your client's eyes to possibilities they didn't even know existed. They may have never considered a doorknob hanger until you pitched the idea, but now they also want one. More business for you.

Pitch repeatable services.

You can pitch actual, tangible services as well. Imagine you've crafted the perfect appointment form in WordPress for a medical clinic. You did it once and nailed it. Now, you can pitch the idea to clients who could use a similar appointment setup on their website. It's not about discounts; it's about saying, “Hey, I've got this amazing thing. Want it?”

Pitch Work is about playing the long game.

Now, let's tackle the big question: I talked about giving design work away. Why the heck would you do work without a guaranteed payday? Well, my friend, it's about playing the long game. Here's another example. Dave, a podcasting guru, casually mentioned not liking his logo on one of his podcasts. Lightbulb moment for me! I designed a new logo for him and sent it his way as a gift. Dave loved it, started singing my praises on his show, and suddenly, some of his audience became clients knocking on my door.

Sure, the first logo I gave him was free, but Dave returned for more. He hired me for two other logos and paid my rate, and the word-of-mouth referrals continued. Pitch work, my friends, it's like planting seeds. You water and nurture them, and eventually, you've got a flourishing community of clients.

Pitch work, works!

I get it; some designers might cringe at working for free or pitching ideas without a guaranteed payout. But hey, it's how I kickstarted my main gig, Podcast Branding. I went from a generalist designer to the go-to guy for podcast artwork. Pitch work is a powerful tool if you play your cards right.

So, in a nutshell, pitch work is your secret weapon for growing your design business. It's not about waiting for clients to come to you; it's about creating opportunities, showcasing your skills, and building a killer portfolio. Get out there, start pitching, and watch your design empire flourish. Trust me, it's a game-changer.

Until next time, keep creating and pitching your way to success!

Stay Creative!

CLICK HERE to download a PDF transcription of this episode. This transcript was created with the help of AI and transcription tools. It has not been edited for errors or accuracy.

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