Turning Down Spec Work

Nov 5, 2012 | For Design Students, Tips & Tutorials

Spec Work

I personally feel that spec work is an unfair practice that takes advantage of designers. Spec work is when a designer does work with no guarantee of payment from a client. Not all unpaid labor falls into this category, such as internships, volunteering, or pro bono work. However, if an established company requests that a graphic designer do the job before they can decide to officially hire them, that is considered spec work. That means that if that company doesn’t like what they designed, they won’t get paid for their work or the time invested in the project. Rarely do we see this happen with any other professions.

When someone reaches out to me about doing spec work, I respectfully decline, and I offer them different ways in which they can get an idea of my design style and work process. Below are some of my suggestions on how you can do the same.

Things You Can Do To Show your Design Style & Process


Show Your Portfolio

Having an online portfolio of recent and past work is the best way to let potential clients get a glimpse of your style, ability, and talent.


Describe Your Work Process

Let potential clients know what they can expect by clearly describing your work process, both on your website and in person.


Provide Testimonials & References

Provide potential clients with testimonials from previous customers and references they can call who will share a bit about their experience working with you.


Sign An Agreement

An agreement that clearly outlines the project’s scope and expectations, the deliverables, and the payment breakdown can provide peace of mind for potential clients on what they can expect for their investment at every step of the project.

I believe that showing project samples, detailing your work process, providing references, and having an agreement should be sufficient for potential clients to get a clear idea of your design style and of what to expect when working with you. What are your thoughts on spec work?

Nothing on this blog should be taken to constitute professional advice or a formal recommendation. Please read the full disclaimer.


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