On Selling, Pitching & Ensuring Good Work Sees the Light of Day

Jun 19

Part of my job as a professional designer is doing good work. Excellent, appropriate, on budget, in time design and web solutions for clients who are trying to accomplish something in the marketplace or non-profit space. Clients who, with great aspiration, are trading their dollars for my knowledge and skill, hopefully to the betterment of their endeavor.

But that’s only part of my job.

No matter how good and appropriate pitched work may be, there’s still the matter of convincing the client that it’s good and appropriate. Often good, appropriate work doesn’t stand on its own as obvious because the people with the ability to say “yes” or “no” to it don’t have the skills to know what they’re voting on. After all, if they possessed those skills, maybe they wouldn’t need you in the first place.


Image credit: Drew Dernavich

The oft-quoted saying “graveyards are full of indispensable men” comes to mind. The world is littered with the discarded bones of great designs that never made it out of a conference room to live and move and interact with people. Sometimes good work just dies.

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.
David Ogilvy

Ogilvy was a consumate salesman (I highly recommend his 1983 book Ogilvy on Advertising—I keep a copy on my desk). He helped create the modern art and industry of advertising, and clearly knew a thing or two about selling products and services to people. But he also understood the other part of our job—selling our work to the people who are paying for it first, before we get the chance to sell it to the public.

So How Do You Do That?

If you do good work that constantly gets shut down before people interact with it, let me (humbly) recommend a few options:

  1. Get better at selling your work1.
  2. Find a partner/compatriot who’s better at selling it for you.
  3. Start asking a lot more questions—namely, “is my view of the value/quality of my work accurate or over-inflated?”

90% of the stuff made for public consumption is terrible. As designers (developers, business folks, what have you) we have a chance to contribute and grow the 10% of things that are good, useful, beneficial, well-designed and well-intentioned.

But doing the work is only part of the work.

1. Some great books to help you learn how to pitch better (and give me an Affiliate kickback if you’re so inclined to buy): Design is a Job, The Art of Woo, All Marketers Are Liars, and It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.

Make a Comment