NO SPEC WORK! Optional Alternatives

Posted by | April 30, 2014 | Freelance | No Comments

My Brief Beef

It’s been said time and time again in the design industry that Spec Work should be illegal. What is Spec Work? Offering your services/designs/creative abilities for free with little or nothing in return. Back when I was in college — years ago — I was told never to do work for free, never take out the trash before your paid, always work diligently with a contract and make sure there is mutual respect between the client and the designer.

Companies like 99 designs suck — literally suck the creative life out of people that thrive of the hope that their creativity will get the recognition it deserves but only after the work is done and looked at, jugged and then denied — then realizing they have been gipped. With only one winner — there are many designers left unpaid for their efforts.

BUT What happens when you have to feed yourself and have to turn to working with hope you get paid, where this may be your only option. You have no money for education or advertising. How do you get past this crap called spec without going hungry, and transcend these sites that degrade the creative field, what options are there?


Ive made rules for myself. And yes, I have worked for free — and I mean ‘free’ in the sense that there is no money transfer involved. BUT that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other optional payments. Below are some other ways you can negotiate payment if there is lack of funds:


Wether it is to 5 of their closest colleges co-workers and friends who may have businesses where my work can come in handy to them. Write me a recommendation on LinkedIn. Take some of my business cards and pass them out.  A recommendation is worth it’s weight in gold.


Advertise on the piece I designed for a discount. Also a great source of broadening your clientele. Especially if the piece targets your industry.


If your company has services that may be of use to me I would be willing to trade my work for your work. In this case there should be a contract and terms of what each person is entitled to and be sure both parties agree with the trade.


If your designing a package or a product that would be of use. Why not trade service for product. Life time supply of soup anyone?

There is also PRO BONO work. When doing work for either charity or non for profit organizations. It’s a nice way of working to better the community. This obviously can not take a huge chunk out of your time as you still have to pay the bills but this is a good way to give back.

The options are endless and no one should give in to free work. There is always a friendly way around it and can benefit you in the long run. I am also feel strongly that there should be a mutual respect of professionals. No one goes into a dentist office expecting a cavity to be filled and once it is done debates on paying the dentist. So I feel educating, teaching and informing people with businesses, entrepreneurs, clients and people alike about it’s negative implication on the design community at large is very important. And although this is only skimming the surface of how deeply complex the topic can get — a great resource where you can read more is at:


What do you think?  Any other options I missed? I would love for you to share, so please write a comment below.  — Like what you read? Sign up for the Avid Creative Newsletter here.

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