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31 Reasons why an agency should deny free work

Portrait of Aayush
Aayush Jain
Reasons why an agency should deny free work: Protecting value, avoiding exploitation, maintaining standards.
31 Reasons why an agency should deny free work


If a customer is intrigued by your work, you might invite them over lunch and discuss their projects in detail. Let’s say that the meeting goes fantastic and once you showcase your expertise and how it would transform their business, the client asks you to provide a customised sample. Once you agree with sending a sample and a proposal, your team starts to brainstorm and build upon the solutions for their problems. The proposal is sent to them, expecting a positive response. 

Even though you put unmatched efforts into preparing a sample, the chances of it getting accepted by the client are low. Now, where did the entire investment and efforts in creating the sample solution go?

This eBook will reflect upon the 31 reasons why providing a free sample to your clients should be a big 'NO'.

Prologue: A captivating opening to a story, setting the stage for what's to come.

What's the need?

The client is provided with all the required information and explains everything in-depth with the help of examples, case studies, and a company portfolio. So what is the need for any agency to invest their time and efforts into something which is not even necessary?

A woman holding a credit card while a man holds a phone. Illustrates the need for digital payment options.

In-depth demonstration is not possible

A single artwork or slide sample does not give justice to what any agency can offer. Designing is a process not a product & hence it requires customization. It is known to everyone that the true excellence of any service lies in its process. An agency is a lot more than just a slide and the clients can only get to know its vast expertise & skills once they experience what it can actually do to their brand.

Unable to provide detailed demonstration

Avoid misuse of service

No one wants their ideas to get stolen. There might be a lot of instances where people have taken your free samples, took ideas from them and not responded back. As you are running a business too, you might very well know how depressing it is to put your heart and soul into creating something and then someone takes advantage of it.

A man cautiously gazes at a computer screen displaying a warning sign, emphasizing the importance of avoiding misuse of the service.

Creation of unconscious bias

A sample may not demonstrate the company's efforts, skills, and creativity fully due to the unavailability of dedicated time and limited research. Its best potential is not portrayed in a sample which increases the chances of rejection by creating an unconscious bias in the client's eyes.

A step-by-step guide on creating a website with WordPress, highlighting the impact of unconscious bias.

To avoid commercial consumption

No brand should risk its work for a free sample.

When an agency provides free samples, it puts its ideas, style of designing out there in the market. Many times clients do not respond back and use the agency's samples in their work or the style of designing gets copied by other designers which affects the uniqueness of the agency's work.

Person using computer and tablet, focusing on work.

ROI Imbalance

At times it does not make sense to invest time into something where the anticipated return is very less. We had a client whom we were working with for a branding assignment and it also involved creating a tagline. The client asked for 150 tagline options to see if we are capable of working on their project. We gave 1.

Image showing a scale with money bags on one side and coins on the other, symbolizing ROI imbalance.

Finest team members are limited

Every agency has a handful of the best-skilled designers and content creators. These team members already have a lot on their plate as they have multiple projects to work on. So they usually do not have time to work on samples, which again does not portray the agency's best work.

A diverse group of people sitting at a table with a laptop, showcasing teamwork and collaboration.

The client learning curve is zero

In just one meeting and one sample, the client's requirements, tastes, and preferences are not understood properly as there is no opportunity and scope to change the thought process, ideas, and designs as per the client's needs.

Zero learning curve for clients

No value creation

Samples don't give out work of value because of two major reasons. Firstly, the samples cannot be demonstrated in the company's portfolio even though the company might have done the best of work in it and secondly your sample gets compared with other industry peers and may lose in the pricing battle even if it's the best work.

Empty white canvas with no visible content or value creation.

We have demonstrated expertise

There are enough case studies available because of the agency's extensive experience in multiple projects of different industries. These case studies are sufficient and work better than a sample to explain the complete process, journey, and outcome.

Experts at work.

Devalues creative industry as a whole

Designers are professional practitioners who make a living by solving problems through design. Many are educated having degrees in design or business or both. If we request a designer to be a part of a scenario wherein they deliver actual work without an actual fee then it denigrates the profession of design and all designers everywhere. The trend of free sampling and weeping freelancers for not getting paid after delivery is something we are completely against.

A man sitting at a desk with a laptop and a chart, symbolizing the devaluation of the creative industry.

Provides half-baked work

The prospects get presented with half-baked work that is not fully developed as designing is a process and it may not be possible to demonstrate it in one single sample because of the absence of the scope of any desired changes expected from the client's end. Also, sometimes the best of the talent is not available to provide the best sample.

Incomplete work with room for improvement.

It promotes crowd sourcing competition

Crowdsourcing competition is a toxic practice, which devalues creative work by mining for free ideas just like unpaid pitching. In this, the internet is used to attract and divide the work among the participants or the designers in this case to achieve cumulative results.

A promotional image for a crowd sourcing competition. Join now to showcase your skills and win exciting prizes! #crowdsourcing #competition

A freelancer and an agency are not the same

A client sees an agency and a freelancer in the same model but they are different. There might be a need to provide samples in the case of freelancers since they represent an individual face but in the case of an agency, there is absolutely no need. An agency can easily demonstrate its work with the help of multiple case studies and team portfolios.

Freelancer vs. agency: Understand the key differences between the two for your business needs.

Compromise on the agencies' growth

Every time company invests their time in providing free samples they compromise on their growth and development not only in terms of time, skills but also there is a loss of monetary resources which hampers the overall growth and development.

A man standing next to a stack of coins, symbolizing compromise on the agencies' growth.

Process innovation is not possible

In designing, creativity and innovation comes out with the proper understanding of the client's requirements, ideas, and the implementation of significant changes in techniques from time to time according to the client's needs. 

Process innovation is impossible.

Early-stage negative perception 

A negative perception is formed about the agency if the client does not like the sample. This happens because of not getting an opportunity to explain the designing processes further.

A person sitting at a desk with a computer screen and gears, symbolizing early-stage negative perception.

To avoid a future mess

You might realize after talking to a client, that they’re looking for something completely outside of your realm of expertise. So in that case it would be best they can go for paid drafts if they want to know your style of work. This will make both parties sure of what they want and if your style doesn't align with the client's requirement then maybe you can recommend them to a friend who specializes in that type of work/style.

A woman and a man having a conversation on a tablet.

Everyone's time is precious

These days, every resource, every asset, every service, and every human capital functions by investing their time to a certain amount of work, and a lot of time goes into working on free samples which might completely go to waste because of the uncertainty of the situation. We have ourselves developed 5-6 sample assignments for one of the largest FMCG brands with zero conversion & communication.

A clock with a dollar sign on it, symbolizing the value of time and the importance of using it wisely.

Everyone is a special customer

You are a special customer, but so are others. Agencies understand that they have a long-term and trustworthy relationship with their client, but they would be unable to leverage that factor to provide a free sample. They aspire to deliver their best to all their customers without any differentiation. This healthy practice not only balances their services but also benefits their clients.

A man and woman stand on a scale with a sign saying "the balance of power". Symbolic representation of equality and fairness.

Everyone deserves to be paid

Everyone who is adding their efforts to work should be paid for their expertise. Every team member is a professional specializing across diverse fields of design, content, creative management, servicing, and it is not at all fair to miss out on paying even a single person who is adding their efforts and expertise into their work.

A diverse group of people standing together, holding hands, with the text "Everyone deserves to be paid" in bold letters.

The service cycle gets extended

Agencies' service cycle gets extended as they might need to get other employees involved from other projects which delay their service cycle as a whole, nto something for which they will not be paid at all.

A man sitting on a chair with a clock on it, symbolising an extended service cycle.

Clients don't take the samples seriously

There is no guarantee that clients will take the samples seriously. Sometimes they don't even bother to take their time and understand the depth of it and make their decision just like that.

A woman standing by a trash can with a paper bag, clients not taking samples seriously.

Confidence level gets deeply impacted

Any negative response lowers the confidence of the employees. If in case any client does not like the samples then it can negatively impact the confidence of the designers and no good agency would want their designers to feel that way.

A woman sleeping on a desk with a laptop, showing the impact on confidence level.

Clients continues to expect free samples

Once people get free samples it makes them expect it all the time. They tell their friends and they start to expect the same.

This becomes difficult to deal with. Who will like to pay if they can get the best for free? If clients will become used to getting the best products and advice for free, then why will they pay for something that might not be as excellent as what they already have? 

A man and woman collaborating on a computer screen. Clients expect free samples.

Missing the chance of a big project

Many times bigger projects are waiting around the corner, but if any agency is spending their time on the free ones then they might miss taking it.

A man meditating on stacks of money, symbolizing missed opportunity for a big project.

Absence of collaboration

It is only when the clients start to interact, engage, and get involved with the agency when great creative work comes out.

A man and woman sitting on a white background with a sign that says "infinity".

The success rate of sample projects is near to zero

All those projects where so much time is spent to work on their samples mostly fail in the end. Either the clients go offline and do not respond, or our work gets stolen, or we get zero returns with respect to the resources spent on that sample. So it's better to stay away from providing free samples.

Sample projects have a negligible success rate.

A new project calls for a new training

Time and expense is spent on training and exposing designers and writers to processes, projects, and briefs for every new project. Now, for a free sample, clients may only see a smaller outcome while you end up investing time in learning about their brand, guidelines, colors, persona, and more.

A man and woman sitting at a desk with a laptop, engaged in a new project that requires training.

Customization is excellence

Agencies don't have one approach to fit the requirements. In designing, customization is considered as excellence. Every brand requires a different approach hence a different process of execution and delivery is followed every time to achieve excellence and meet that particular client's expectations in that particular industry. 

A vibrant cartoon showing a team collaborating on a project, showcasing the essence of customization and excellence.

Why not paid sampling?

When a paid sample can give you the best demonstration of an agency's skills, creativity, and process at a reasonable price then why go for a free one in the first place?

A person sitting in a chair with a laptop surrounded by money symbols. Illustrates the concept of financial success and online work opportunities.

A closure

Thus after going through these above-mentioned reasons, you might have now got a clear idea of how unfair it is to expect free sample work from an agency for its clients. As a client, one should have a reasonable expectation that the company will deliver on its promises. Of course, only a customer can decide what they like and the company's portfolio is enough to demonstrate that, and if they are still not satisfied, then maybe it’s best to go for paid samples. But asking for spec work will not be the right choice for both the agency and the customer. Trust on both ends is what one needs in order to provide exceptional outcomes.

A step-by-step guide on writing a good essay, including tips and techniques. Covers the topic of "A closure".

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Portrait of Aayush

About the Author

Aayush Jain - Crafting Stories from the Heart

As a passionate explorer, I see crafting the perfect story as embarking on a refreshing Himalayan journey. Every narrative is an adventure, a voyage of imagination, meticulously molded into captivating presentations. I'm here to guide you, ensuring your story becomes an unforgettable odyssey, with each creation as a vibrant landscape ready to captivate eager audiences.

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