Why “Spec Work” Needs to Go

Rachel Harmon

You see an adorable lemonade stand on your way home from work on a hot summer day. Now, imagine denying those children their deserved $1.00 because you didn’t like their recipe. These down-on-their-luck kids represent a whole bunch of creatives battling spec work. They spend weeks putting together pitches for clients, all for the chance to get paid for their ideas. How productive can this form of competition be?

At Cristaux International, we specialize in custom and creative work. Although our design and consultancy services are free, we only collaborate with clients who agree to see us through to the end. We share the intention to make something unique together, all involved earning their rightful part. We exclusively work with clients who we trust to pay for their lemonade because we know we’ll make it just the way they want it.

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Spec Work Meaning

What is this elusive monster called “spec work,” and what does it mean for your business?

What Is Spec Work?

Spec work is short for “speculative work,” meaning work done on speculation or without pay. For example, advertising agencies pitch their campaign ideas to a client for free, and only one team wins the deal. Also, designers often face the brunt of spec work, investing time and effort into work that will never be commissioned.

Besides the lack of deserved pay, another downfall of spec work is the prevalence of stolen and unaccredited ideas. Imagine watching a Super Bowl commercial. You have an eerie feeling of déjà vu. Then, you realize that there’s your million-dollar idea playing out right before you, but you never got paid for it.

Is Spec Work Illegal?

No, spec work is not illegal. People don’t receive payment for their work and rightful ideas, yet someone can’t be trusted buying a lottery ticket at 17. Although it is legal, spec work is highly contested and looked down upon. This professional practice steeps in tradition, yet it has gained more haters of late. More and more creative professionals and agencies utilize new client agreements to ensure they get their deserved pay.

Why Is Spec Work Unethical?

Some may say this is up for debate. However, the Cristaux team believes spec work is unethical because it takes advantage of creatives, their ideas, and their time. It is not a sound business practice, allowing clients to abuse their power and discouraging creatives to do their best work. We support hard-working professionals and their entitlement to their intellectual property.

Why Custom Work Matters

Creative Meeting In Office

Creating custom work for a client requires incredible detail and personalization. Agencies and professionals have systems and tools they use to aid them in the creative process. However, the end result presents a special masterpiece made with only one client in mind. We do not make the same chocolate chip cookies every day. Instead, we create a new recipe for every client.

We deeply care about the quality of our work and have spent years refining our awards creation process. To ensure we perfectly capture each client’s vision, we’ve developed innovative and supportive solutions.

Our custom creations do not sit on shelves in a warehouse. Like all creatives, our best ideas have yet to be discovered. Once we meet and work with a new client, we bring forward new ideas and expand what we thought was possible.

18 Ways to Say No to Spec

Spec work is a big no-no, and you can find success without it. Now, it’s time to muster the courage to walk away and be better than spec.

  1. Hire a choir to sing NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye.”
  2. Keep saying “no” in German until they get it.
  3. Run away.
  4. Pack your bags for Bora Bora.
  5. Floor them with a stellar Terminator impression. “Hasta la vista, baby!”
  6. Tip your top hat and tap dance out of there.
  7. Throw a tantrum (terrible-twos style).
  8. Send them a bouquet of flowers arranged to spell out “NO.”
  9. Ask them if the sky is green.
  10. Ask them if the world is in the shape of a cylinder.
  11. Ask them if gravity has disappeared.
  12. Turn off all the lights. If you don’t get paid for doing your job, then no one else does.
  13. Rent a stretch limousine, park it outside your office, and drive away while waving goodbye through the sunroof.
  14. Ask them what two letters come after “m.”
  15. Put on a firework display and escort everyone out after the finale. Also, all the fireworks spell “NO.”
  16. Request their bank account information. You need your pay somehow.
  17. Put your hands on your hips, look to the ceiling, say “Beam me up, Scotty,” and blast out of there.
  18. Never consider spec work in the first place.

Do Not Enter Sign

It’s All About Re-spec-t

Nowadays, creative agencies find great success while practicing honesty and upholding high standards with clients. From the start, share your no-spec-work rule with confidence and clarity. Then, the clients you want to work with will stick around.

Join the Cristaux team and get paid to work.