Why work for free?

The discussions about ‘free-pitching’ (rocking-up to a pitch meeting with a bunch of creative designs under our arm) go on and on in the design industry. Some designers choose to do it, some don’t. We don’t. But rather than just defending our reasons why and and leave it at that, we wanted to do something different.

So, we added-up all the time we might spend on working toward free-pitches in a year and we give that time to a charity. Isn’t that jolly nice of us. But this isn’t just a nice thing to do that makes us feel warm inside. The work we do in this way has benefits for us as well as the charity, and some of those benefits only became clear as we got stuck in. Our current charity is Stand Against Violence and we have previously worked with BIBIC (The British Institute for Brain Injured Children), Go Commando, Walk on Wales, Positive Action on Cancer.

For Positive Action on Cancer, we delivered an entirely new name. This was based on a number of things that came out in the early stages. The experience of cancer isn’t ‘positive’. What this charity provided wasn’t about physical ‘action’ such as campaigning, it was about safe and confidential counselling services that use the power of listening. And it wasn’t all about ‘cancer’ as the charity offers support to people with other life threatening diseases as well as to wider family, friends and carers.  We renamed them ‘We Hear You’ which shortened to ‘WHY’ and we used the speech bubble as the visual frame to hold the name – because their services were about beginning conversations. The charity now has more clarity, more uniqueness and is more modern, but the journey of that change was very significant for all of us involved.

The old identity was very personal to the people running the charity and the Trustees. The emotional connection to it was palpable in ways that don’t often arise in a business. With feelings running understandably high, changing the entire brand was an incredibly difficult decision for them to make. But we knew the change would be positive for them, and if we had been a paid-for agency our conviction about that may not have been as clear. Because we had nothing financial to lose or gain, the money didn’t get in the way. As a result of that, we pushed even more for the creative change we believed in.

So, we will work for free, but not just because we got an invite to free-pitch and not because it’s a nice thing to do. Because it gives us an opportunity to offer our services to charities that otherwise couldn’t afford us; because it provides meaningful projects where we have the creative freedom to make a significant difference; and because we learn valuable new things about working relationships and about charity structures. And this means when we do get requests to free-pitch, we don’t just have a point of view, we can explain quite clearly where that ‘free-time’ is already going.

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