What is spec work?

Spec work - crowdsourcing - spec competitions

Working on spec is when a single designer or agency design for free in the hope of winning a project.

Example 1

Here's an example 99designs logo crowdsourcing

New logo for $700. Entries so far totals 1,133 with 5 days still to run. Potentially thousands of free design hours for the client, nice profit for 99designs and hundreds of disappointed designers. Who is winning here?!

Example 2

Client asks 3 design agencies to show what they can do for them if they want to win the £60,000 / $100,000 project. The agencies will spend a solid week, or longer, with many staff involved to prepare the perfect pitch. The pitch has cost the agency £6,000 / $10,000 and there is a 66% chance of losing. Client is 100% winning.

What other professions get involved with spec work?

None. Not that I can think of. If you can think of one please do let me know.

Dude, it’s ok for you because you're busy with work

It is tough for designers starting out. They have no money to advertise for work and they have a limited portfolio to showcase their design. Crowdsourcing websites know this and take full advantage.

Tougher still perhaps for design firms who have many overheads and staff. Ultimately this is why they resort to working for free in the hope of landing a gig.

You have options

You’re better off contacting a charity and designing their website for free to add to your folio rather than pissing into the wind at a crowdsource website.

Become an intern. Contact your local design agencies.

Freelancers and design agencies can explain to potential clients that they have a policy not to work for free. It is proven that clients can respond positively to the self-assurance that comes from an agency that isn't willing to sell their soul.

EDIT: More content soon.


1. Make the AntiSpec message clear and easy to absorb.

2. Gather thousands of designers to unite to help drive the message home.

Things I need to do, can you help?

1 » Automate process so folks can add themselves [COMPLETE]

2 » I need links to existing articles on the web regarding spec work and crowdsourcing.

3 » I need some copy written for this website. [IN PROGRESS]

5 » I'm considering the idea of having web badges of sorts that folks can add to their own websites to help spread the word and show support.

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