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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Speculative Design Work? Eh, No Thanks!

We received an invitation to tender this week from a company we'd really loved to have worked with. They were looking for a new website with the possibility of also developing an intranet and we were well placed to give them what they needed but for two issues, their budget was about half of what was realistic (doh!) and the real deal breaker;

"On submission, we would want to see example mock ups, suggestions and ideas of how a new website for our firm would look."

For us this is nearly always a deal breaker because it means giving away our hard earned expertise for free. After all, creative people including coders and marketers only have their ideas, strategies and intellectual capital for sale, why should they give it away free?

So Why Do Companies Think It's OK?

To be honest the design industry's only got itself to blame (mostly). In the early days agencies pitched for work by doing it, but there's more to it. It used to be the case, in the days of Mad Men, that ad agencies would pitch for work by showing their clients roughs and storyboards. The client came in, you blew them away, they went off to think about your creative ideas.

If you won the work it was likely worth £££££££'s so it was worth your while pitching.

However, the creative ideas stayed with the agency, if the client wanted a second look they came back. In short it was difficult to take an agency's ideas and copy them. Not so today.

Digitally whizzing spec work to a client today means it's possible your ideas could be combined with another agency's ideas and put together by a low cost third party or in-house copyist, and it happens all too often, look at the recent debacle over the Olympic cauldron design.

The Numbers Don't Add Up

Going back to the opportunity we rejected here's what the numbers looked liked.

Their budget for the entire project was £3500. Nowhere near enough for what they were looking for. But putting that aside for a second, let's assume we did want to take a punt at it and create something within their budget. Let's say we spent 25 hours working up some ideas, refining them and making them into mock-ups, at our current rate that's £1375.00 and close to half the total budget. Effectively we'd spend £1375 of our own money to win £3500's worth of work. Make sense? Nope!

Furthermore, to arrive at the website a company needs, as opposed to the website they think they need, is an involved process, at least if you do it right.

To expect a designer to simply look at an invitation to tender and create something, even a mockup, that's close to what they really need is plain daft. It wastes everybody's time.

A Better Way Forward?

If you can't decide if a web design company is right for you based on their client portfolio and a conversation the chances are they're not. Speculative work isn't the answer and we're not alone in thinking this. The guys at No!Spec agree.

If you think about it, it makes no sense. Established (and probably pretty good) companies will turn you away (mostly) meaning all you are doing is exploiting the desperate.

So What's Reasonable to Expect?

Agencies are more than happy to give their time freely for exploratory chats, big picture stuff and general getting to know you time. I spent around £400 this week flying to London to do just that, it's how it works, it's the only way it can work. However the line should be drawn at actually doing tangible work, nobody should work for free, and thankfully only the desperate tend to, the good guys have woken up and smelled the coffee.

In my view agencies should reject these offers and clients should stop expecting agencies to oblige; I wouldn't be surprised to see a case in the Human Rights Courts on this very subject (minimum wage and all that).

In Conclusion

I wish the guys who submitted their invitation to tender well and hope they get a good outcome. I know we could have done a stonking job for them and it's a shame they precluded us, and no doubt other competent agencies, with their antiquated approach.

We land new business daily and we love talking to prospective new clients so don't hesitate to get in touch about your web project, assuming you like the cut of our jib.

Once you hire us we'll ask probing questions, create amazing mockups and make sure your company gets the right result, a result that adds value to your bottom line. Park the idea of spec work and engage with agencies who, like us, take a grown up approach to web design. You'll be glad you did.

Give us a call or an email