the sky floor

August 4, 2021

Just Say No to Spec Work


Have you ever been in the running for a project, and the potential client asks you to do some work upfront to prove yourself to them? 

Just say no.

Here are some reasons you shouldn’t do spec work:

  • You won’t give it your all, because it is free.
  • You won’t be the only one being asked to do this. If you want your work to turn into a contest, join 99 Designs or Upwork.
  • Spec work is a clear indicator that the potential client doesn’t understand the value of what they are looking for. 
  • If you show you work for free, how can you expect to get the best prices for your future work.
  • The potential client views you as a commodity; you don’t want to be that. 

Speculative work infects the creative services like a disease. No one expects a CPA or lawyer to work on spec. Also, no one has ever walked into a McDonald’s to ask for a burger on spec, promising to buy if they like it. Your work is just as material as any other productive output in any other industry. 

If saying no loses you the job, greatOnward and upward. 

But frequently, saying no opens a conversation to define your value further, and the client may respect you enough to book anyway. 

Just say no to spec work; you will save yourself from free work and push the whole industry one more step away from expecting it. 

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