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Design Talk.

Blurbs and rants about graphic design

Why Your Clients Ask You to Work on Spec

I was travelling by train yesterday and I was a little surprised to see the trainman remaining seated reading his… whatever it was, without even asking to see my ticket.

I sat down thinking “Oh well, who cares, I know I have it and he’ll probably stand up soon and check out the whole compartment.”

Next station a new railway staff boarded the train; he happily started talking to the other crew member. By the time I stepped off the train there were 4 of them discussing workshifts. I thought, “Well, if I didn’t have a ticket they wouldn’t have found out.” Then I thought that if no one buys a ticket there wouldn’t be trains and the reason why I was buying a ticket wasn’t to avoid to be caught.

It really is a matter of exchange. Money for the sake of it doesn’t have value. Money is something that allows one to get something for something he gave. If you use a service, such a public transport in this case, you need to give something in exchange so that the service continues to exist. This seems easy enough, however there are people who do not respect that and you need railway staff to demand it.

So why would a client ask you to do spec work? Because you do not demand, however politely, that this simple rule of exchange is respected with you.

Some clients understand this and do not ask you to do something for nothing. Other clients do not understand that spec work is getting something for nothing and need to be educated.

There is no railway crew in the graphic design profession. There is just you and the client. There is nobody who enforces your right to proper exchange aside from yourself. So how do you protect yourself from spec work? Educate your client while politely saying “no.”

Your work has value, your time spent in learning your profession, your expertise, your design should get the exchange they deserve. Don’t do projects before the client pays you at least a deposit and use a contract spelling clearly your rights and the client’s on any of the artwork and files used in the project. Not doing so could potentially end up in a rip off of your work, as the client might give your artwork to someone else who will “finish it for free” leaving you with no compensation.

Aside from what you can do with your clients, there are other ways to make sure people understand what spec work is and how it damages designers and clients, as they don’t get the best service they could get—you can join the NO!SPEC campaign, which me and 20 more designers have proudly started. More and more people are joining in and we are making a difference. The NO!SPEC site offers many resources not only about the anatomy of spec work but also about the correct way to conduct a design business.

You can contribute to the NO!SPEC campaign in several ways:

  1. Don’t do spec work
  2. Put a NO!SPEC logo on your site
  3. Contribute articles about the bad and the ugly of spec work to the NO!SPEC site
  4. Write an article on your own site and notify NO!SPEC so you will be featured on NO!SPEC
  5. Make a whole NO!SPEC page and let NO!SPEC know
  6. Help translate the NO!SPEC site in other languages

There are other ways too, so I advise you to check out the site to find out.
[tags]spec work, business[/tags]

Graphic Design

  • Edward Carreon

    This is happening across the board in all creative fields. Creative work is becoming commoditized.

    Those who have the greatest potential of thriving in the visual arts (as in my field of photography) will be those who are the most business savvy, the most inovative or the most talented or some combination of those qualities.

    I see the writing on the wall and although I can’t change it I can up my game by using my creative process in business relationships.

    Ed Carreon

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