Why is spec work bad?
What is spec work?
Spec work is any kind of creative work, either partial or completed, submitted by designers to prospective employers or clients before designers secure employment or equitable fees for their work. Under these conditions, designers will often be asked to submit work in the guise of a contest or an entry exam on existing jobs as a “test” of their skills. In addition, designers normally lose all rights to their creative work because they failed to protect themselves with a contract or agreement. The clients often use this freely-gained work as they see fit without fear of legal repercussion.
"Spec(ulative) work is a cancer within the design industry and all designers need to understand their role in fighting it." - AntiSpec Spec Work
Why is spec work unethical?
Designers have to commit time to work, with no guarantee of future employment, compensation; or are given other insufficient forms of compensation. Usually these glorified prizes or “carrots” appear tantalising for designers who are just starting out, accompanied by statements such as “good for your portfolio” or “gain recognition and exposure.”
Design contests encourage price undercutting -an act that is devaluing the profession.
The client or hiring manager is establishing a negative relationship by saying "I don't trust that you're good enough".
I don't do spec work for clients. I never plan to do spec work in job interviews. Not even for a high profile startup with loads of money. It's a negative trend, and a trend which is worryingly becoming more common. Needless to say, you can reply back to those asking you to produce work for free, hoping to provide some feedback on their promoted contest or hiring process instead.
If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to get in touch in the comments section below.