Is Spec Work A Dead End?

spec-work-dead

Entrepreneurs and freelancers are often asked to work for free, under the pretense that paid assignments will be offered later. These free projects, known as “spec work” allow potential clients to test-drive your expertise and benefit from your hard work without having to pay for your time and effort. While many inexperienced entrepreneurs give away freebies – hoping to gain future opportunities, the more seasoned professionals agree that spec work should be avoided by anyone who wants to be taken seriously in their field.

Here are 10 reasons why spec work is a dead end:

1. It gives people the wrong impression. After all, if you have all this free time, you must not be as good as others who are “jammed” with work. -Steve Fisher

2. Clients that want spec work usually move on after they receive their freebie. -Justin Ellett

3. You may do spec work hoping to get a foot in the door, but a relationship never finds proper footing when it begins with giving your work away. Never. Walk away. -Deanna Harms

4. It just builds a vendor relationship. All agencies hate that kind of relationship with their clients, so independents should avoid it as well. However, if I’m being asked to participate in a pitch as a partner I offer a lot more leeway. As long as we have a contract in writing specifying what the payout will be should we win, I’m fine to work on spec when pursuing business jointly. This is how partners work together and that’s a relationship I can build on. -Bob Knorpp

5. Spec work devalues the contributions of the provider (consultant, designer, freelancer) and erodes their professional reputation. If you don’t think enough of your work to charge for it, why should a client pay? What might look like a good deal is probably not the best quality. I respect myself too much to work for free, unless it’s pro bono work for a charity. -Joellyn Sargent

6. The client never has the same commitment to making the project succeed. -Jo Murray

7. Spec work sets a bad precedent and unreasonable expectations. It also demonstrates a lack of respect for the professional’s time, experience and value. Spec work is not worth consideration. -Roland Reinhart

8. Spec work has a nasty ring to it and feels very one-sided in terms of the beneficiary. “Work” is no where near as important as a “strategic relationship”. If our firm meets someone shopping for work, we don’t do spec work. -Moira Vetter

9. Give away work generally never pays off. The usual scenario is that you do free work, get no thanks and the business pays big money to some second rate competitor for work similar to what you just foolishly gave them for nothing–never fails. Your work only has value if you assign value to it. -Pablo Solomon

10. Agreeing to spec work will just increase stress levels. It’s best to say no, and try to educate potential clients as to why. This eliminates wasting your time and theirs – as a small business owner the two things you often worry about are time and money. -Charlie Southwell

Related stories:
How To Avoid Selling Yourself Short?
The Pitfalls of Working For Free
Top Strategies For Landing New Clients

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