For many designers, the idea of pitching for work is something that terrifies them. If you want to land big projects, though, you're going to have to bite the bullet and pitch alongside other interested agencies. That's fine if you're a confident public speaker; the rest of us could use some encouragement and tips, however.
Pitching isn't something that comes naturally to most designers; you might be able to create an inspiring mood board with ease, but when it comes to presenting your work to a room of strangers (or more likely at the moment, a video conference) you could find yourself flailing. With practice, you'll become more relaxed about every pitch, but to help you get there here are seven copper-bottomed tips that'll set you in good stead.
01. Do your research
Whatever great tips you pick up for delivering irresistible pitches, there's no escaping the fact that if you want to get it right, you're going to have to spend time up front doing your research. You need to know everything about the client, its product or service, who it's targeting, who its competitors are; all of that and much more before you can properly start building your proposal.
There's no shortcut here, but doing your research properly will pay off handsomely; you should come out of it with the best possible understanding of what you need to do, and when it comes to the actual pitch you'll be able to confidently answer any questions the client has for you.
02. Get the right tools
Now more than ever, having the right tools to hand is an essential part of the pitching process. While you're putting your pitch together you're bound to need prototyping and moodboard tools, but what's really going to matter when it comes to the actual pitch meeting is having a presentation tool that can show off your ideas to best effect.
Bear in mind that if you're pitching right now it's almost certainly going to be over a video conference rather than in person, and a well-prepared presentation is a must. Remember, though, that if you're presenting online you should take the time to familiarise yourself with whatever video conferencing platform you'll be using so that when the time comes you can share your presentation easily. Nobody likes to sit around awkwardly while someone's frantically trying to figure out how to make screen sharing work.
03. Go off-script if you need to
Clients often think they know what they want, but you're the expert and you might well have a better idea of what they actually need. If you feel that the solution that would work best for a client goes outside of their brief without affecting the budget, make a case for it within your pitch; it could be the idea that tips the decision in your favour.
And when it comes to the pitch itself, be prepared to deviate if necessary. Once you're talking with a potential client, their questions might suggest directions that you hadn't previously considered, even if you've done the most thorough research. If you can think on your feet during the pitch and throw out fresh solutions that aren't part of your prepared presentation, you're again demonstrating your suitability for the job.
04. Don't pitch for free
It should hardly need saying, but in the current climate it needs reiterating: don't pitch for free. Budgets are likely to have taken a hit in these uncertain times, but the bottom line is that if you're preparing a pitch, you're putting in the hours to provide clients with creative solutions, and you need to be paid for your work.
If a client's insistent that a free pitch is going to be worth it for the opportunity, you need to ask yourself if they really value your work and whether you really want to work with them. In most cases you should just walk away.
05. Forget about the opposition
Chances are that a client's going to be talking to other agencies during the pitching process, and knowing that, you might start to worry about who the competition might be and what they're coming up with. That's only natural; all you can really do, though, is put it from your mind and concentrate on generating the best pitch you can.
As Michael Johnson told Computer Arts back in 2013, "I used to get obsessed with who I was pitching against. The downside of that is that you start to second-guess how they would approach their presentation. You need to be like Arsenal Football Club. Arsenal will play like Arsenal – they won't change the way they play depending on who they're up against." Do your own thing rather than focusing on the other guys.
06. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
When it comes to the actual pitch you have just one chance to make the best possible impression, and to do that you're going to need to rehearse. If you've spent ages writing up and fine-tuning your pitch you're going to feel that you already know it inside-out; however if you want to turn your well-chosen words into a winning presentation then there's no substitute for rehearsal.
Merely reading out your pitch is a dangerous game, especially if you're nervous about public speaking. You'll constantly have an eye on your written words and you won't be engaging with your audience. But if you take the time to read your pitch out loud, over and over, you'll soon become much more comfortable with its rhythms and you'll be able to deliver it in a much more confident and conversational manner; you'll also be able to deal with the inevitable questions and interruptions without feeling flustered.
07. Don't get disheartened if you're turned down
Even when you've done all the research, prepared a set of top-notch materials and delivered a cracking presentation, there's always the possibility that a potential client prefers someone else's pitch. And while nobody likes rejection, it's all part of the pitching business; you can't win 'em all. Don't take it personally; take it on the chin and move on.
Also, don't feel that all your work's been wasted; keep everything on file because you'll almost certainly get a chance to re-use some of it in future pitches. Along the way you'll have generated ideas and approaches that could fit equally well with other clients, so make sure you have them to hand when the time comes.