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Some creative firms choose to participate in spec (speculative) work to bring in new business. Other firms view spec work differently, and we are among those firms.

When you hire professional design studios, photographers, illustrators, musicians, and other creative firms, they are experts in their professions. Their training and background has prepared them to do good work. And like any professional, they will work toward developing effective, tailored, solutions reflective of those years of training and experience—it’s their job to do so.

So, when a client asks for spec work (when a client requests partially completed or fully completed work before agreeing on the fee), they are endorsing free labor, a practice that takes away from a creative firm’s opportunity to earn a living. Sometimes spec work is asked for in a “crowd sourcing” event when multiple people or firms are asked to give away, at no cost, the most essential part of the work they do on a project—their ideas.

But how many of us would want to go to work without knowing whether you’d be paid? Not many people I know can sustain that. That’s why spec work harms not only the creative firm—it harms the entire creative services business. It also often detours a client from achieving what they had hoped for—to turn out stellar creative, successful projects, and the chance to build a long-term working relationship with a talented studio they can rely upon.

We pride ourselves on building relationships with our clients. We want to invest the time and energy in our clients so we can bring our best ideas to the table—to deeply understand their needs. This is why spec work is not for us

So, if you are looking for a creative firm, start by asking people you know for referrals. Chances are that someone you know may have worked with a creative team whose work resonates with you. Referral resources can provide important insight about a firm’s capabilities and their personal experience in working with them. Where you find great client loyalty towards a design studio, you will also find a great design partner for your project. Once you have identified a few that appeal to you, meet with them, and review their portfolios. Your interviews will likely lead you to select the best firm for your project.