I have been getting a lot of these requests lately so I thought this would be a good time and place just to state my peace in a professional way.
At least once a week lately I have gotten invitations to create work on spec “for the opportunity to get great exposure/more future work/for the promise of royalties, commissions, or other bonuses when the company takes off”. And I get a ton of request that say something to the effect of “We reviewed your portfolio and think you’re design is fantastic, we’d really like you to join XYZ’s logo design contest where you could win $100.”
I DO NOT do work on spec, ever. And not because I don’t respect your company, or think I don’t have a good chance of winning. But because I respect myself, my talent, my time, my work ethic, and that of the other professionals in my industry. I DESERVE to be paid fairly for my time, talent, and hard work. And, just for the record, all of you students or newbie designers out there – YOU DESERVE to be paid fairly for your work. Please do not devalue this industry, someday you may want to make a living at it too.
I look at it this way. Say I need to have the roof redone on my house. I can’t call 5 contractors to take their time and people to come over and do a section of my roof with the promise to only pay the company who’s work I liked the best. They’d laugh me right off the phone. And no matter what business you are in, if I did that to you, you’d think I was nuts too. So, what do I have to do? Wield an ax or to get respect? Just like the roofer, you should consider my bid, my track record, and samples of work I have done in the past in order to decide if I am the person you would like to work with.
Occasionally I get someone who likes my samples, bid and track record but asks “Can you tell me what you would do for my logo based on the information I have given you?”. I cannot tell you what concept I have for your logo before starting the project – even if I do have ideas it’s too early to place my bets on them. The honest answer to this question is: I will thoroughly research your name, industry, and review the information you provide. I will give your project my undivided attention, 110% of my effort, and use all of my left and right brained superpowers to devise what I feel are the best solutions to your design problem. Plus, I will conduct myself and present my work in a professional manner, treat you with respect, and advise you along the way so that you can understand the process and make informed decisions. I want to do a great job for you, I want you to be happy with the outcome and successful in your business. I can only do that when I’m given a fair chance to do so.
Cousin to the “spec work” request is the one where companies ask “Please give me your lowest/best/discounted price for this job and you will be first considered for the gazillion other projects we have.” I used to fall for this one, but the truth is that NOT ONE of those “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” clients ever delivered on their promises even though I always received stellar feedback. So as a general rule, I don’t discount first time clients or work.
What I focus on is offering quality work at a fair price. My clients say they feel they get a real value with me. I don’t just design. I take time to answer all of their questions and concerns, I educate them, and work with them to produce the best results. When we build a relationship together I do occasionally offer a discount on projects as reward for their loyalty, referral or repeat business. It’s a good feeling when you have mutual respect for one another. And as I always say, we can achieve much more if we just work together.