Thursday, January 24, 2008

no spec graphic design

okay, i start this blog out quite simply—as a graphic designer, we deal with this question all the time—"why don't you design some samples before i pay you or hire you."

no, it doesn't work this way. as a graphic designer, we are repeatedly asked to do this task. this is what we call spec work. spec work is when a potential client and/or company is possibly interested in hiring you, but they want you to design their logo, poster, ad, whatever before they pay you. if they like what they see from these specs, they will then hire/pay you.

guess what? it doesn't work like that. that's why, most designers will say no to spec work. this is why we have portfolios to peruse. so you can check out my work and see what i'm capable of. unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed. there might be a chance that the designs i come up will not suit your needs. but guess what? as a professional, i will try my hardest to get it done right for you. regardless. how could these potential clients expect us to honor such an absurd request?

for instance, would you go into a lawyer's office and expect him/her to do the legal work before you give him/her a retainer? or would you go into an architect's office and expect the architect to draft up some ideas before you give them a fee/deposit? of course not.

so why are graphic designers not held to this level? why are we constantly expected to do the work before we get paid? why are we not looked up as a professional? we're here to do a service, as well as create something for your business. it doesn't matter if i'm designing a house for you, or drafting up a will—we are still providing this service which involves our expertise. if you came to us in the first place, then i am assuming you're needing/wanting a professional to accomplish this task for you. so why would you not expect them to act as a professional in return?

obviously, i am not aiming my anger at you, per se, but to the public in general.

i wanted to write about this particular problem because unfortunately, it's just that—a problem within the design community. i hear designers in the field continuously saying that when they ask their client to give them a deposit and/or sign a contract to that effect, they complain. i don't understand this logic. maybe the client feels that because someone like myself—who is a freelance designer and technically has no overhead (i.e. employees, brick & mortar building, etc.)—is not worthy of such professionalism. i would have to disagree.

it's because that i am freelance that i would need to uphold the same requirements as an advertising agency. i am trying to make a living, therefore, i am running a business, just as much as the guy who is the principal of a large ad agency. no, my duties are nowhere near as complex as that guy, but guess what? i have to wear many hats as a freelance designer—i have to wear the hat of a marketing professional—because i need to figure out (on my own) how i am going to build my business and make it better. i wear the hat of office manager—because i am in charge of invoices, incoming and outgoing receipts, contracts, answering phones, etc.—i have to do all of this because i don't have an assistant or office manager working for me.

i wear the hat of art & creative director. because guess what? i don't have a team of creatives that i can bounce ideas off of, i have to bounce them off of myself. so when i'm having one of those days where i have no creativity flowing, i don't have anybody to collaborate with. believe me, this is a disadvantage because that's how these large agencies become so large. they have a creative team to throw ideas at one another until something is just it—it's called brainstorming, and i don't have anybody to brainstorm with.

i have to wear the hat of copywriter—because when it comes to ideas and/or taglines, i'm the one who has to come up with them. unless of course, i'm lucky enough to have a client who already knows what they want their slogan to say. but unfortunately, this doesn't happen often.

i am the IT person—because when there's a problem with my computer. i don't have an IT professional working for me. unless you count that apple care program on my new imac. otherwise, it's called troubleshooting. i have become an expert at doing this. i don't want to have to pay $45 to apple support every time i have an issue with my computer or operating system. i have to figure it out on my own.

i have to be the printer—because when it comes to proofs, i'm the one who has to be able to figure out what colors are going to work better in pms or cmyk. i can't take the chance of having my client spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars for printing, and having the color turn out like crap. this is my responsibility as a freelance designer. there is no production department in my business—especially since i work from home.

then there's the hat of the principal—because i am it! i am the one who runs the show. i am the one who does everything by myself. that's what freelancing is. it can get very discouraging, but it can be rewarding at the same time. nothing excites me more than when a client tells me they're so happy with my design and it's the best design they've envisioned for their business. because i came up with that design all by myself. no creative team. no brainstorming until 3 a.m. with other designers sitting around a conference table. just me.

and last, but definitely not least, i am my own salesperson—i am the one who has to convince somebody that they need my services, and not pay some putz who claims they're a graphic designer just because they know their way around photoshop. i worked my tail off in college so i can learn everything there is to know about not only graphic design, but the history of graphic design, as well. this in turn, makes me a more successful designer in the long run.

so yes, even though i am on my own, i need to be everything that everybody else is all rolled into one.

for more information on this subject, please visit this will not only educate you as a designer, but as a client, as well.



Carlo said...

I cannot believe that i am going through the same thing. I am also trying to start my own web design / computer repair business.

I enjoy working in design and fixing computers (PC, sorry). I finished comp sci YEARS back , when graphic design wasn't in the picture yet. but i worked for something that had nothing to do with computers, mortgage. So I quit my job a couple months back to start this. it has passed my mind if quitting my day job was a bad idea, but i do keep reminding myself that it wasn't. it is tough. alot of competition.

Good luck to us !


Thanks, Carlo for commenting.

I wish you nothing but luck in your web design venture. Since being laid off in December, it has been a struggle to find work. I am trying my very best to do freelance design from home, but nothing lucrative, I'm afraid. Perhaps these are bad times for everybody. I am just plugging along hoping that one day I will either find that perfect design job, or have enough freelance business to not only keep me busy, but pay the bills.

Thanks again and good luck!

Miss Details Design said...

What a wonderful post, you really said it all. I own my own home-based graphic design firm and have been building it slowly. At first I took any work that came my way even those who didn't really appreciate what my time was worth. Now I realize that my perfect client MUST understand the worth of my time and my ideas(priceless). I have had some people ask for spec work lately and I find that when I explain to them how the design process works they get it for the most part. Working on your own is wonderful and frustrating at the same time, and I take a little comfort in knowing that there is someone else out there who is doing it as well. Good luck with your business.