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Sat Dec 16 2023

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Spec Work For Graphic Designers: Everything You Need To Know About It.

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spec work for graphic designers

It is often asked to do spec work for graphic designers, so what is that? Speculative work is where the consumer wants to see samples or a finished product before deciding to pay the price. For freelancers, this kind of request for assignment is very popular and contentious. Why is this so? It is very simple for you to do your work and for the customer to reject it so that your work is not paid. You lost time to make money. It is as tempting as it is to embrace all the jobs you are doing, but it is better for you and your customers if you have a connection that suits you. In this article, we will discuss what is spec work and how you can avoid it.

What is spec work for graphic designers?

This term has been heard and is well known by many designers and artists. The work of the designer or artist in the hope of benefit is done for free.  The value of professional design is underestimated, given that the Internet is littered with designers who turn to websites and sites like Fiverr and can work for at a price of just $5. Think long and hard if this is the path you wish to take and how to build your brand or work before you as a designer or artist, turn to this place.

Types of spec work

Contests: Perhaps this is the most frequent type of spec work when a “contest” takes place in which freelancers compete for their jobs. Corporations also run a competition to develop a logo or a website. Designers are doing the job and expect to “win” the competition and earn pay. This can be especially appealing for designers who just start a business, hoping to get exposure and generate a fast cash flow so that they can take graphic design specs into account.

Work Bidding: A freelance bid will require a lot of work before a contract is awarded. Once again, it may tempt you to do whatever it takes to plan the offer if you are just beginning and would like to construct your portfolio, receive your initial contract or just need a cash flow.

Advantages and disadvantages of spec work

  • There is no good reason to free mock-up a corporation or business in the company to make a profit after building a decent portfolio of your work. However, not every unpaid work in the design is regarded as ‘spec work.’
  • Work was done free of charge or crowdsourced to pay for the work once the customer sees it and reviews it. You don’t get paid if the client doesn’t like the job. There are a lot of strong opinions about this, with crowdsourcing becoming increasingly popular.
  • Competition: There will be numerous art publications with artists’ competitions. You win when your works win. This is a great way to make your work look, but not as a way to generate income in the art industry.
  • Volunteer Work: Job performed for profit or experience, without payment expectations. You can develop your portfolio in a really good way. At the same time, make sure you clearly describe the conditions to which your work is applied.
  • Stages: A form of voluntary work involving education.
  • Pro bono: It is a type of voluntary work done for the benefit of the general public.

Not everything above is considered speculative work, and indeed for a variety of reasons, many designers choose to do unpaid work. The unacceptable practices of students and professionals may take a different approach to what is spec work. The designer and customer, however, take the decision and must accept the related risks in each case.

Spec work risks

The risk involved is summarized as under:

  1. The quality of the customers may be compromised. The most important element in most design projects and processes – research, and development, and testing of prototype designs – could not be considered long-term, energy-and-thought. Moreover, if the rights to use are not clearly defined, clients will risk problems.
  2. Designers and artists may benefit, and spec work decreases the true economic value of contributors to customers’ goals. Moreover, the designer works free of charge and with a promise for future employment, often misrepresented and over-inflated, or other insufficient forms of compensation are given. These glorified awards or “carrots” usually appear to be attractive to creative communicators right from the start, ending with encouraging examples such as “good for your portfolio” or “gain recognition.”

Why avoid spec work?

The community of graphic design, as well as other creators, consider this type of work to be widely unwanted and immoral. The designer needs to spend time and resources on a project to receive no returns. Creators often link the work with other professional and service professions. Would you order and only pay for a burger in the restaurant if you liked it very much? Do you ask to taste the oil in your car that the mechanic puts into your car? 

These scenarios can seem ridiculous, but your graphic designer service is as important for your customers. While customers may feel that they don’t want to invest until they see a job, designers shouldn’t have to show themselves worth a job. Instead, customers should select and build a working relationship between a designer and his/her product portfolio and experience. The customer and designer will only then see the best results.

Spec works are not good for the client

The designer’s spec work not only hurts the person who makes it but also the client who assigned the job. If potential clients ask one or more designers to demonstrate their work, a negative relationship is immediately established. They often ask many people to submit work with little contact instead of building a long-lasting relationship with a single designer, taking the opportunity to present the right design.

Final words

You can avoid spec work by merely saying that you are not going to do so. Customers can often not understand and consider the negative aspects, so it is also helpful to educate them. It is always important to remember to treat your job as a business. When informing a client why you are not going to work with spec work, do not engage emotionally. Find a way instead to connect your business to your position or find another way without sounding offended.

Explain your value as a designer professionally and what you can achieve in their project. Say that you can devote time and energy to the exact design of what they need. It will improve the end product and save them time and money. You will appreciate the points that you have made if you appreciate your work.


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