Spec work, why I don’t do it

In the designer community, there’s a discussion about spec work. I was just listening to a podcast about it that was going on at SXSW 2009. Although a few guys from the audience are just be butt wipes trying to make a point, the initial discussion is pretty interesting.

Now, I can start a whole lentghy blog post dissecting sites like Crowdspring or 99designs, but I won’t. I’m just going to say why I don’t do spec work as a designer. I respect the people that do as well as the clients that create competitions on sites like these to get their work done.

Here’s why

I don’t do spec work because, in short, my time is too valuable, and it adds no value to my learning curve. Popping (no pun intended) out designs for a project that I might not even get to work on is not my idea on learning more about design, clients and skills. I design sites because I understand my client’s business.

Learning curve

“Throwing it against the wall and see if it sticks” doesn’t teach me anything. Sure, I can create web templates and post them on one of the sites mentioned earlier, but if I don’t win with that design, who will tell me the reason why it didn’t win?
That’s why I like The Web Squeeze. It’s a group of really talented people who are willing to help each other and really pointing out strong and weak points on designs. I’d rather design a template without a client (and no pay) and show these guys getting some constructive criticism than “trowing my designs against a wall” without feedback.

Value

Time is money, and although I value experience more than money, I have to make a living. Creating spec designs, hoping someone will “bite” is a waste of time to me. Ok, if I win every top-dollar competition on Crowdspring, it will bring in money, but it will not make me a better designer and it’s very unlikely to happen.

Clients are stupid

Before you say “Mark is an ass”, I’d like to say that I’ve heard this one time and time again, and I DON’T agree with it. Clients aren’t stupid at all (ok, some are, but those are exceptions). They probably, and hopefully, know more about their industry than you do, that doesn’t make you stupid, does it?
Why do I address this? Because most clients that use sites like Crowdspring or 99designs simply don’t know how to find a good designer, and assume they are getting their money’s worth by using one of these sites. Here’s where your marketing comes in. I could focus all my attention online, and trying to get clients online, but instead, I’m focusing on my local market. I’m trying to create a buzz locally, so I don’t have to use spec work. So far, all (except one) my clients are local and I got them through word of mouth. I was able to talk to them in person and really sit down with them to get the same vision as they have as for where they want their business to go. Because of that, I have happy clients who are willing to pay an extra buck or two for me to get their job done.

Your turn

How about you? Do you do spec work? Tell me why, or why not.

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5 Responses to “Spec work, why I don’t do it”

  1. Mark Silver Says:

    I do some spec work, but just about all of my clients are word of mouth and have stuck with me for a long time. I like to think the reason is that, although I am a designer, I can also give them a good level of input on their business from a different angle and present them with a way of looking at things they perhaps hadn’t thought about. It’s all about providing valuable design solutions that work, which means it is important to understand their business and ultimately what their customers need.

    That said, I do sometimes do spec work because in tough times I need to stay diverse and be able to adapt. Also there are sometimes great rewards in doing work for clients in a different country/culture, as you get the chance to learn about and adapt to the different design styles the other cultures have.

    Cheers

    Mark

  2. Daily Links | AndySowards.com :: Professional Web Design, Development, Programming, Hacks, Downloads, Math and being a Web 2.0 Hipster? Says:

    […] Mark Poppen » Blog Archive » Spec work, why I don’t do it Great read – no spec (tags: design) […]

  3. Kick-Ass Squeeze - May 2009 Says:

    […] Spec work, why I don’t do it – “In the designer community, there’s a discussion about spec work. I was just listening to a podcast about it that was going on at SXSW 2009. Although a few guys from the audience are just be butt wipes trying to make a point, the initial discussion is pretty interesting.” […]

  4. Web Design Articles, Inspiration and News - June 2009 - Creattica Daily Says:

    […] Spec work, why I don’t do it […]

  5. Carson Shold Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. You should take a look at my most recent post about spec work!

    Cheers
    .-= Carson Shold´s last blog ..Spec Work Is Killing the Graphic Design Industry =-.

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