Tired of giving away your best work for free in the interview?

Blair Enns runs Win Without Pitching, a business development consulting firm for ad agencies and design firms that believe there is a better way to build a marketing communication agency. His most recent book, The Win Without Pitching Manifesto has just been published and is a must read for every architect who wants to be in business in the next twenty years, not to mention profitable. It is available online as a download, as well as in hardback. You can even read it for free online.

This succinct and beautifully written book clearly conveys what whole armies of consultants and self-help gurus have tried in vain for years to teach. You will learn something just by reading the table of contents; what Enns calls The Twelve Proclamations. I have spent 30+ years practicing the alchemy of matching the gifts and talents of creative people with clients who so desperately need them. During that time I have witnessed and even encouraged the growing tendency of creative firms to give away their best work for free to win new commissions. I knew there must be an alternative. Surely this strategy of mutually assured destruction could be replaced with something better. Never, until now, have I seen the secret shared so thoughtfully and so well in this (literally) little black book.

The message here is for all creative businesses who want to move away from being “order-taker suppliers to expert advisers” and want to forge “a more satisfying and lucrative way of getting and doing business.” The transformation begins with a willingness to focus and then articulate that focus through a consistent claim of expertise, working continuously “to add the missing skills, capabilities and processes necessary to support our new claim.” Enns first audience is marketing communications firms, yet the fundamental truths and lucid examples he shares are completely applicable to the creative enterprises I am most familiar with, architecture and photography.

Enns is clear about the difficulty of beginning and sustaining the transformation, both personal and business, that is required to move from a commodity provider forced to give away their best thinking for free in order to win new work to to expert adviser whose cost of sales is essentially zero. His insight into the hearts and minds of creatives and the culture in which we are trained and have practiced for so long comes from first hand experience. Sadly, he observes that “not everyone has the heart or stomach for revolution.”

The last proclamation, “We Will Hold Our Heads High”, is written with the conviction of a prophet, calling to his people at a crossroad: “On the one side, the process of design is finally being seen as the last great differentiator of business and economics; while on the other, the outputs are increasingly seen as commodities”. He invites we creatives to accept our unique mission: “We didn’t choose our craft; it chose us. And we were never in this for the money. Like all creative people we only seek to create, and in doing so, somehow change the world.” This manifesto provides the blueprint for building a sustainable business model that creatives of every type can implement to win the work they want, gain the respect they deserve, make a profit, and have more fun.