Pros and cons of spec work

So spec (speculative) work is in short:

“Any kind of creative work rendered and submitted, either partial or completed, by designers to prospective clients before taking steps to secure both their work and equitable fees.”

Mostly associated with field of design, but more or less seen through entire marketplace. It is common in communication consulting as well.


I’ve got to tell you – I’ve done spec work and I’ve done quite tangible amounts of it. The thing is when you are new to the field and professional suite word of mouth and portfolio comes with a cost. And since you are fresh and naked you don’t have much to spend. In fact your sole asset is time.

That being said there is spec work and there is the process of creating you portfolio and promotion. In both fields (design and communication, and as I presume – in many more fields) the distinction is either ownership rights or “bragging” rights. Or both. You see, especially politicians are really shy about hiring consultants[1]. It is often one of the first paragraphs that contains non-disclosure agreement. Well, I had non-profits insisting on NDA as well.

I do understand the risk of hiring fresh designer or consultant. I really understand the fears behind NDA and property rights. Being inexperienced and bitching about those things really comes from sense of entitlement. But, everyone want to get paid for their hard work and talent. That’s understandable too.


Spec work without both – pay and property rights (and bragging rights) has it’s different name: exploitation. There is none for you to get from this kind of agreement. If you are young or just new in the field the more time you put (and can afford) into getting your portfolio pitch perfect the better. As long as you don’t actively turn off money propositions. Get big client under your belt. Do few spec jobs perfectly well then collect the goods.

Client service jobs/careers/fields are more of marathon than sprint. And the longer you can wait with your finish (without being lapped) the better your finish will be.

–          Przemek Kucia

Like and share if you liked it! And tell me: Did you ever done a spec work? What is your opinion on this issue?

[1] Yes I know it’s more complex than that, but for professional growth of young consultants non-disclosure means a hole in portfolio.

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