TINSTAAFI: There Is No Such Thing As A Free Idea

TINSTAAFI - There Is No Such Thing As A Free Idea

You are probably familiar with the acronym TINSTAAFL for There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch from your high school economics class. It’s used to explain the principle that even if something seems like it’s free, there is always a cost behind it. While most people probably are familiar with this term, most people don’t actually apply it in business.

Whether it’s because of the lack of business accumen or not, this is often forgotten in the creative world. Creatives get paid for the ideas they produce, so I think we would all agree that a creative’s most valuable asset is their ideas. Because of this, you would think creatives would hold their ideas closely, but as someone who is more of a business mind in the creative world of video production, it is amazing to see how many directors and production companies are giving out their ideas for free (we are guilty of this, too). This is where TINSTAAFI comes in. The problem is, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE IDEA. Whether it is hidden or indirect, there is a cost behind every idea.

The crazy thing is, it’s a normality in most creative industries for people to give their ideas away for free in hopes of getting work, often to receive nothing in return because their idea was not liked. This happens all of the time in the video production industry. A client will approach a director seeking an idea for a video, and before a contract has ever been signed and sometimes before a budget has even been discussed, the director will spend hours putting together a concept, treatment, mood board, etc. And the result? More often than not, the client will decide they want to go a different direction with another director, leaving that director with nothing but wasted time and effort and nothing to show for it.

Most directors that you ask will just tell you that’s how the industry works. It’s true, it happens all the time and is almost expected, but when you sit back and think about it from a basic business standpoint, it makes no sense. Think about it: How many other industries do you know where customers order a company to give them their best asset for free? Business Development guru Blair Enns would put it like this, “A client asking for unpaid ideas in a written proposal is like a patient asking for a diagnosis and prescription from a doctor he refuses to visit or pay.”

What is really happening here is there is a power play going on between the client and the director. In the video production industry, often the power is given up completely to the client because, “it’s just the way the industry works.” This results in having our ideas given away for free. But what if we can take back that power of control? What if we can win without first have to give our ideas away for free?

At Gear Seven we are looking to disrupt the standards because we believe there is a better way. We believe that directors deserve to be compensated for their work, before the treatments are written and handed over to the client. All it takes is a shift in the mindset of the client and the expertise shown by the director and/or the production company in order to gain back this power.  At the end of the day, our aim as a company is to better serve our clients and our directors, and by following The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, we are out to create a more satisfying and lucrative way of getting and doing business that ultimately will be a Win-Win for the client and the director and production company.

If you are a director and you would like to learn more about how we are doing this and be a part of it, shoot me an email at brian@gearseven.tv.


Written by Brian Foster
Published October 11, 2016

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