We understand that hiring a graphic designer is a bit of a leap of faith.  That’s why clients sometimes ask for us to do work “on spec,” meaning they ask us to do a bit of an assignment for free, as a sample, so that the client can see what they might get.  We know why clients ask for this.  After all, our product is somewhere in our imaginations, unseen.  But here are the reasons you really don’t want creative agencies to take on projects in this way.

You Get the Worst of Our Work

Good graphic design requires time to research the client, time to discuss, time to brainstorm, time to tinker with ideas, time to fine tune … time, time, and more time.  The entire process is necessary to create fertile soil in which ideas can form, harvest the best ones, and shape and polish them into striking images.  There are no shortcuts here.  The basic structure of the Golden Arches might be a letter “M,” but the current logo obviously is much more than that.

If we were to work on spec, we wouldn’t be assured of payment.  This means that it doesn’t make sense to put too much time into the project.  After all, paying clients are our priority.  Therefore, spec work is rushed, and done with incomplete information.  The result would bring out the worst in us.  You don’t want that, and neither do we.

 We’d Have to Charge Everyone More

Our rates take into account all of our overhead expenses and the amount of time we have each day to cover them and then make our living.  That is, there is a basic target that must be reached every day or we would go out of business.  If we spend hours on unpaid speculative work, we need to charge our paying clients increased rates in the remaining hours to cover the day.  Put another way:  the more time we spend in a day working on paid work, the less we need to charge everyone.

Spec work increases the cost of work for all of our other clients.  This makes us less competitive with our rates and less stable.  If we disappear, all of our regular clients have to go through a turbulent period of finding a new designer and teaching them about their business all over again.  This is a pain in the butt and a big waste.

In conclusion, spec work is bad for us, bad for you, and bad for America.  Thank you and goodnight.

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