Pitching for free to get work is the creative industry’s unhealthy habit. It goes something like this: A prospective client sends a request for proposal, usually because they don’t know how else to start an agency-client relationship. They request a mockup or a documented idea without payment, outside a signed agreement, with nothing binding the client or protecting the agency.

This is wrong.

Clients typically request a free pitch to see whether the agency’s work or ideas meet their expectations. But isn’t that why agencies build portfolios, client testimonials, and referrals?

At Hangar we avoid free pitches (and we’re not alone—there are websites and even books dedicated to eliminating this habit). We help our clients understand that free pitches often lead to undesirable solutions. I call these Cheap vs. Cheat.

Would my mechanic fix my car for free if I promise I will use his services again?

The Cheap is the simplest answer to a free pitch request. Just knock off something quick to give the client an ‘idea’ of what it will look like, without investing research or thought. Why spend time on something that doesn’t pay?

The Cheat is to trick the client into believing that what you are proposing is something that you actually created, when in reality it’s a $50 template or a recycled or copied concept.

This is not how Hangar works.

I sometimes use a metaphor. Would my mechanic fix my car for free if I promise I will use his services again? Unlikely. And he’s not alone.

As service providers it is our responsibility to respect our profession and say no to free pitches. It’s not easy to turn down work, but it’s important to demonstrate that good work requires thought and research and that costs money. Giving it away for free doesn’t benefit the agency—or the client.