Anyone who knows me will be aware of my opinions on speculative work. It’s a strange practice that seems to be accepted in our industry for some even stranger reason. I’m personally in an odd position, because although I don’t take part in pitches when approached by private clients (I prefer to politely refuse and give my reasons for doing so), it’s not uncommon for me to work on them as part of my coommissioned work. In those situations my reasoning behind it is that I’m being paid to do the work, so if the hiring agency chooses to free pitch, then that’s entirely their decision. Some agencies have built themselves up from nothing using the free pitching model so it’s not my place to chastise them, but personally, it’s not for me. It's not as if I can look down from a position of smug superiority as there have been times in the past where the lure of a great client has been too much to ignore and I’ve dumped my principles at the side of the road and jumped in with both feet. A failing I’ve addressed in recent times.
However, pitches aside, the thing that’s been concerning me more and more lately, is the increase in people not only asking for free work, but trying to convince us that they’re actually doing us a favour. Seriously, I get at least half a dozen emails a week from companies asking me to spend time and effort on the basis that it will be a great opportunity for me to bolster my folio. Really? Sorry but if I want to bolster my portfolio, I’ll do some personal work. It’ll be completely driven by me with no input from anyone and will be my vision – not theirs.
Then follows the promise of exposure. Why didn’t I think of it before? I’ll do some free work for a small startup company, then more small startup companies will see it. They’ll then ask for the same thing and at some point it'll all pay off because eventually, somewhere down the line, one of them might actually pay me half what the original fee was worth. It's foolproof.
Anyway, how many companies have you seen telling anyone who'll listen that you did the work for them? If you want exposure, ahem… expose yourself.
During one masochistic moment a few years back, I saw the 'opportunity' to design a new, exciting magazine on a creative community site. I emailed them to ask for more details and find out what budget was attached so I could make an informed decision on whether to apply or not. The reply I got back was that there would be no financial rewards but it was an “exciting opportunity to see your creative work in print”. They wanted concepts, research, art direction, layouts, style sheets, production and artwork for free, but wait, I'd get to see it when it came back from the printers! Hold on, isn’t seeing my work in print just the end product of me doing my job? Well, sometimes it’s screen based but you get the gist. It’s not a perk, it’s part of the process.
Out of respect for the site that hosted the project I won’t mention any names, there needs to be greater care in what is allowed to be placed under the banner of an opportunity.
The sooner creatives realise that doing these projects just proliferates the notion that spec work is acceptable, the better. Between spec work and crowdsourcing (don’t get me started on that), we’re digging our own graves. Time to throw away the shovels.
Published by: stevenbonner in Articles