Whilst it happens less now than it used to, sometimes briefs and requests for tenders still ask for creative concepts (in other words, designs) to be supplied with the tender / quote.

There are a few reasons why this isn’t a good idea and why The Web Guild strongly advise against it.

You shouldn’t ask people to work for free

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. The design of a website is a huge amount of work – and if you ask someone to do it before they know if they’ve won the work, they’re doing it for free. And that’s not fair. You could state in your brief that you’ll pay anyone a stated fee if they provide designs but you don’t choose them – but lets face it, you don’t want to do that. So it’s best not to ask for it in the first place.

From your point of view, you’ll be reducing the amount of people who will quote for the work because anyone super busy, or who doesn’t agree with working for free, won’t submit a proposal. You might only get proposals from the less experienced, less in demand people with plenty of time on their hands. And they might be great… or there might be a reason they’re more desperate for work.

Your brief probably isn’t detailed enough

Unless your brief includes a decent res version of your logo, any stock imagery / docs around your design requirements, details about absolutely everything you definitely want featured on your home page – there isn’t enough to go on to do a design. I’ve walked into a creative pitch (and won it) without design concepts and explained for 20minutes how I didn’t know enough about the client, their project and their hopes and aims for the website to do them a spot on design. Even with a great brief and fantastically creative imagination, sometimes you just need to chat to the client to try and get a feel for their tastes.

Years ago I did deliver a creative concept in a pitch – and we didn’t win it. Apparently it was a close run thing but they preferred someone else’s design. But maybe – just maybe – if I’d had opportunity to talk to them about what they liked I would have hit the nail on the head. A pitch shouldn’t be a case of giving the work to whoever gets the closest to something you like from a cold start. A pitch should be about what the company can offer, their ideas and plans for the website, their expertise – and yes, their creative style.

So what can you do?

Established companies will have portfolios. Ask to see examples of design work they’ve done and get a feel for the sort of work they deliver. Personally, our design portfolio is quite varied so a client can see that we can adapt to whatever style they want. Sometimes it can even be helpful for an agency to show websites that they didn’t design but that they think you might like, or would like to discuss with you – just so you can get an idea for what they’re thinking and vice versa.

How a website looks is just one part of the puzzle. Don’t miss out on the best all round agency for your project just because you ask for free design work upfront.