Graphic Design Podcast :: The Deeply Graphic DesignCast

Saying Nope to Spec Work

Saying Nope to Spec Work

Do you like working for free? Neither do we. The creative field has always been plagued by the notion that what we do is somehow not “real” work, and should only be paid for upon approval. It has become increasingly common for potential clients to request designs up front, as a test to see who they deem good enough to hire. What’s worse, is they usually do this with multiple designers/firms at once, and only “award” the project to one. This type of thing doesn’t go on in other industries, so why is it so common in the realm of design?

In this episode, we have special guest host Nick Longo joining Wes and Mikelle to talk about the downside of spec work. And there are many… for us as designers, as well as for the very clients that request it. We talk about how to politely decline such situations, as well as how we can educate these clients about how it could adversely affect their business.  We then discuss the fine line between spec work and the art of pitching, and when it actually makes sense to spend time on designing for a pitch.

We also answer a listener question about how much you need to customize a WordPress theme, and if keeping it as-is would be considered a crime against design.

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Featured image credit: Glen Quintana Jr

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(6) responses


April 1, 2014

Love the show! But btw, the shutterstock code is only 20% off! Bummer!


Anthony Tabron II

April 2, 2014

I really enjoy your podcasts. I’ve been listening for the past year now and they have definitely been very informative and helpful. I want to thank you for mentioning the no spec website, due to the fact I’ve been considering whether or not to get involved with the design contest sites. Thanks again for all you guys do. Keep up the great work, it is very much appreciated.


Chris Payne

April 6, 2014

Another good show!!

Nick is a great addition to the podcast! Good energy and great knowledge!

It was interesting Nick spoke about designing for a restaurant being a dream job. As a designer I always think about dream jobs, and designing an identity (and everything that comes with that) for a restaurant is deffo one of my dream jobs too – it would be mega cool to walk into a cool looking restaurant, proudly knowing that you played your part in the visual experience of that eatery…. other dream projects of mine would include beer label / can design, wine label design and redesigning a logo of an English football (soccer) team (any team from the premiership to division 2). I would without doubt be the happiest designer in the world if one of those dream jobs came my way!

Maybe you guys could do a show on dream design jobs to take on, and why you think that they so cool, as well what makes them so cool.

Would love to hear Nick’s experiences in landing one of his personal dream projects, as well as updates on how it develops.




April 14, 2014

Hi guys,
I really enjoy the show, great work!
One comment on spec work being only in design world. It’s not actually true. My boyfriend
is a senior lawyer and he’s really good at it. However every big case that comes
on the legal market gets lots of bids from different law firms, which have to submit
an extensive proposal and compete with others. A good proposal include research,
analysis etc and may take hours. Too many lawyers, too many designers :-((



April 22, 2014

Your right its I have seen so many clients not just in graphic design but also in my work as a web design expect me to front huge amounts of work before any sort of price is aggreed

Its crazy… Ill say NOPE


Steve Wilkinson

July 11, 2014

Regarding starting with a theme template:
If the client does not have a fairly big budget (ongoing), I don’t think it is a good idea to heavily modify a template, as once that template gets updated (to add features, or more importantly, fix problems), they would have to have all that modification done all over again.

It would probably be better to be working with a theme framework that is designed to look just about any way which can be updated without having to be redone, or possibly use a child theme. But, at least be sure the client is aware that having a theme done is not typically a one-time investment… so if they are going custom, they have the budget for the ongoing expense.

Also, I wanted to mention that while I agree with the hosts about protecting the pricing within an industry (i.e.: 99 Designs they keep mentioning), that they be aware of doing that to other industries as well (i.e.: hiring the $10/hr coders to complete their designs).


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