Treat Designers Like Everyone Else

This week I was shown this video “What is Spec Work?” by a professor of mine, and it got me thinking.  Spec Work is cover language that means working for free.  The video makes a few good points on the topic, that I think all young designers should keep in mind.


The first is that you should never do free work for established companies.  If you are needing more material for your portfolio then start by finding smaller projects for family, friends, and local businesses, and do them for dirt cheap if you need to.  Most professional designers get paid somewhere between $80-$400/hr so asking for $30 bucks to design a flyer isn’t breaking anyones bank.

There are two common ways that companies try to get spec work out of designers.  One is by asking multiple designers/firms to create sample work.  The other is by holding contests.  Ideally you won’t ever find yourself in this position, because the best work is produced when both the designer and the client are working together to produce a final product.  In this way, you as the designer get to do great work and get steady income, and your client gets a design they can be proud of because their feedback was a part of creating it.

We talked about how to avoid this, and the power of the all-mighty contract.  Contracts make sure that both the designer and the client are invested in the project.  And makes both parties clear on exactly what is to be expected.  By taking this step you make sure that the work you create is safe, and that terms remain the same over the course of the project.

The point of all this is to take yourself seriously as a professional.  When you’re just start your career, understanding how to evaluate your own talents is crucial to establishing your brand.  Most of what we do as designers if fun, but you have to development some business savvy to go along with the passion for design.