Well, first of all, what is spec work?

Basically, spec work (speculative work) is any kind of creative work, either partial or completed, submitted to a prospective client before the project is awarded.

So why is this not a good idea? Won’t it get me more business? After all, I want the client to see what I am capable of – I want to impress them and prove that I can take on their project and give them what they need.

There are several reasons this doesn’t work out well, not only for me but also for my potential client.

As the designer, I risk being taken advantage of.

After all, I don’t  yet know this client. Some clients may see this as a way to get free work  that they can use as they see fit, without fear of legal repercussion, since there is as yet no protection for either side in place by means of a contract.

It also diminishes the value of the contribution I can make toward the client’s project if they see the submitted work as work already done and therefore feel they should not have to pay for it later when a contract is drawn up.

As the client, you risk compromised quality. 

I can’t put as much time, energy and thought into speculative work as I would into a contracted project.
I can’t afford to – my time is worth something, and every unpaid hour I spend on spec work means I am not working on a project that will put bread on my table. This limited time factor also precludes the most important element of most design projects – the research, development, and testing of prototype designs.

“But how can I decide whetyher I like your work or not?” asks the prospective client.

Well,  let’s look at this idea in another situation.

Imagine doing this at a restaurant… “Before I decide what to eat, I’d like to order three different things off the menu that look good to me. Prepare them all and present them to me at my table, and I will tell you which I intend to pay for. I may ask you to make a new meal using elements of all three and only pay you for that one.”

That is basically what you are saying when you ask me to work on spec.

I have an online portfolio, and I’m proud of the work I do and have done. If you like what you see, you should not have to ask for spec work. And if you don’t like what you see, you probably won’t like what I do for you anyway.

And that is why I don’t do spec work.