As a designer, I hate Spec Work. It’s so frustrating and it irks me that there are so many people still thinking it’s a good way of getting jobs. It’s really not. Spec work kills good design and opens up so many problems. And now I’ll tell you why.
Spec work stands for Speculative Work (Sometimes called Crowd Sourcing), where by a client will ask you to produce a design or a piece of work and if they like it they will buy it.
This is not cool. If I spend hours working on a design, I expect to be paid for those hours, not for the promise that I ‘might’ be paid if they like the work. Plus in the Spec Work environment you are usually “Competing” against potentially hundreds of other designers at any one time for a job in hand. Which essentially wastes my time, if I’m not awarded the contract. I’d much rather do the work for a straight up paying client off the top.
But the thing that irritates me the most is the fact that people think that they can push it with web designers and developers. You wouldn’t walk into a tattoo parlor and ask the Tattooist to make you a design and if you like it you might get it tattoo’ed. I guarantee that if you walk into any tattoo parlor and try that then you will likely be chucked out faster than you can say “Wait I was joking”.
Where as, as a web designer, I will get approached with concept ideas that people want me to do, with the line “But if we don’t like it, at least it’ll look good in your portfolio”. Well much like any Tattoo shop, every item in my portfolio is a piece I have either produced for myself or for a paying customer. You can’t play that card with me.
About the only people whom I would ever recommend do Spec work, are students with little to no portfolio as yes, they can get some designs out in the wild and they might get noticed, but once you start getting real clients that approach you with a budget, drop the spec work. Those clients are the ones you want. Mostly because if you do a good job they will give you repeat business.
This is a pretty hot topic in the design world, and it always will be, but I make my stance, spec work is evil. Don’t do it.