A man walks into a restaurant. A waiter takes him to his seat and gives him a menu of the dinner choices to look over and leaves him to make his decision. After a few minutes, the waiter comes back and asks the man if he has made his choice. The man shakes his head no, and says to the waiter “That won’t be necessary. Bring me one of everything on the menu, and I will pay you for the dish that I like the best, if I like any of them at all”. Of course this wouldn’t happen in the world of fine dining. Unfortunately, many independent professionals are asked for free sample services. This is called working on spec, and it’s a major no-no.
In the beginning of my freelance design career, I was asked to create few logo ideas to compete for a job. I really wanted this client, so I spent a few days going through the process and sent the files to the potential client. A couple days later I received a call asking for a few more. Irked, and after already spending much of my time doing unpaid work, I told them (nicely of course) that if they wanted more of my work they needed to sign a contract with me and pay for my services. I was told that if I didn’t do more for them that they didn’t want to be my client. Reluctantly, and even though I really needed this particular job, I walked away.
A couple of months later, while browsing their website I ran across a familiar graphic. Low and behold, there was one of the logos I had created for them. Later, I found out that they had taken my files to another designer and had them “redraw” the logo and change a few colors – for free of course. By not protecting my work I left it wide open to be stolen, and wasted my time and resources on an unpaid project. This was not the way I wanted to start my business, but it taught me a valuable lesson: though it might be tempting to do so, never work for free.
No matter what your business is, you should never be asked to provide a free service, and you should never do any work without a contract in hand. When you decided to become independent, you gave yourself the choice of who to work with, and who to turn down.
To learn more about the dangers of working on spec: https://www.no-spec.com/