This is a conversation I had with some douchebag that was “interested” in having me develop a logo and identity for his company.

Douchebag: I like your work. I would like to see what you could do for me and my company.

Me: Sounds good. I’ll send you a questionaire and a contract and we’ll go from there.

Douchebag: Whoa, wait a minute. I don’t think you understand. I am asking for you to submit a logo and then I would choose from a group of submissions from other designers. Feel free to send more then one submission.

Me: Oh I see. So basically what you want me to do is spend my billable hours working on a logo for you, which I may or may not get paid for. Sounds like a great idea! How many other stupid designers did you get to agree to this?

Douchebag: I can sense your sarcasm. Hey, don’t do me any favors. I was simply providing you an opportunity to do some work, get paid, get exposure, expand your portfolio and potentially work with us on future projects, but if you don’t need the money that fine with us.

Me: Wow I never thought of it that way…FUCK OFF!

I am a huge believer in burning bridges, that way assholes like this can’t get back to you. Better yet, burn the bridge with this guy on it.

Spec work

Spec work is when you do work for a client. That client has other designers doing the same thing. He then chooses from a number of logos and that one person is the lucky one, the only person that will get paid for their work. If this sounds good too you then you will love this post, 5 reasons why you should do spec work.

1) Exposure Exposure Exposure

If your design is choosen think of all that exposure you will get. Everyone (soccer mom to corporate ceo) knows who the designer is. Like that guy who designed the home depot logo or those guys who did the starbucks marketing, they’re practically household names.

2) Get paid for what you like doing

…but only if the design is choosen. Look on the bright side though, if the design isn’t chosen all that time you spent on research and design is like personal development time. You’re sharpening your skills. I have a dentist who is homeless, he is so passionate about his job that he refuses to accept money for his hard work.

3) Expand your portfolio

This is a great way to get more work in your portfolio. Clients love seeing work that was never used and when you tell them that you did it for free, you may just score that new client, but the bad news is they can’t pay you, good news, at least you’ll have a portfolio piece.

4) Future Work

So you do this work for a client, they love it, you’re the only designer out of a group that gets paid for it. Now the client needs something else and guess who they call? That’s right, you get another opportunity to submit a design for their approval, which you may or may not get paid for.

5) You get to work with douchebags with high expectations and tight wallets

This is the best part. You get to work with people that have these extremely high expectations and will occupy most of your time. I don’t know about you, but I love spending time doing stuff that I most likely willl not get paid for.


Spec sucks! Don’t forget to subscribe because I drop knowledge like gravity be dropping apples. PEACE!



Filed under Daily Grind


  1. seattlegraphix

    HAHA WELL SAID!!!!!!!!!

    I had a similar conversation with a new prospect today. Good to know i’m not the only one who believes being bluntly honest is the ONLY way to deal with these people.

    Keep it up!


  2. michael brito

    Thanks J.,

    i use to be really sarcastic and get into these long drawn out conversations about how stupid they were for expecting me to provide my services for free, but i just don’t care anymore.

    related is clients that want a lot of work for very little. i had a potential client tell me when i quoted him on a website “wow, thats a lot of money. my partners nephew is in high school taking graphic arts and he will do it for a fraction of that”, i responded “go ahead. waste your money, potentially damage your companies image and give me a call when you want it fixed”. he called me the next day. sometimes you have to be brutally honest.

  3. In principle this is a nasty way to do work.

    There are times when working for free though is the right thing to do. For example. We accepted a project two days ago for an unnamed (cuz that nda is a bugger and they could take my company) wireless device company, who we have wanted as a client again for a while. The amount of money for the expected deliverable is completely out of proportion – so much so that by our standards it is free – we are going to take a loss on it (it’s not just our time – we pay people to do stuff). But it is a foot in the door. I have one designer who recently joined our team that I really like. I asked him if he had any experience doing ui for device and he said no. I told him that we already have an experienced designer on the project, but if he was interested in getting a little experience to see if he liked that style of gig, I might be willing to work with him and make it a practice project. No pay, but a hell of a brand on one’s portfolio and it would be half a day + my time and mentorship. I may be stupid, but I think that would be a great deal for someone still bootstrapping. I know I would have jumped at it early in my freelance career.

  4. michael brito

    @shane: I think that when you are starting out and you want to build an impressive portfolio then its okay to take a loss, but i think that you shouldn’t rely on that business as a foot in the door. say the client desides to use you again, they will expect the same great deal you offered them last time. you could refuse and tell them that your rates have increased due to demand or whatever, but bottom line is that they won’t be happy. now if they agree to the higher fee they are not going to expect the same excellent service that you provided last time, they are going to expect a whole lot more.

    i like all my clients right now (i have become very good friends with some). i also tend to work with smaller companies because i like to help them become profitable (it’s an ego thing). i also have a lot of friends (really, i may be an asshole, but people still like me) who are designers and i would never want them to do work for free. so if i do spec work, i hurt everyone in my field. it also tells people that my craft is not valuable and i think i have a responsibilty to everyone in my profession to say no to spec work.

    great comment shane, i probably wouldn’t do it (don’t tempt me), but it’s great to see it from somebody else’s point of view. oh and would you mentor me (i really need a mentor)?


  5. Check you out with the sexy new banner! LOVE the look. Love it.

  6. michael brito

    @Naomi: thanks. just a photo of the tracks near my crib (thats right, i’m straight street). maybe one of these days i’ll stop being so lazy and actually design my own theme (and while i’m at it get a domain).


  7. Hey, man. Calm down. Don’t go all crazy and shit.

  8. In the programming field (which I do very little of any more because my poor little brain is all tired and fuzzy) I’d regularly get folks with an OFFER I COULD NOT REFUSE.

    All I had to do was write the program they wanted, they’d sell it, and we’d share in the bazillions of dollars that it would make!


    And I’d always counter with “No, let’s go with you pay me now and you keep all the money later, ‘kay?”

    For some reason we never found common ground. I have NO idea why 🙂

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