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Get What You Want

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By Eric Rasmussen, Editor

On Speculative Work

Too often we get a client coming to us and asking for us to perform some services for them and to give them an estimate. As we begin to ask questions about the project it becomes increasingly obvious that they haven’t thought it through. They then ask for an estimate and a spec, a few sample ideas, if they like it and the price, they’ll pay for it. There are huge problems with trying to receive creative services on spec. 

Problem #1

This makes the designer’s creative process worthless. From the start a client wants a designer to skip research, analysis, and strategy development. Usually if the client hires the designer after a spec, the designer will end up tossing aside the work they did because they’ll need to start the process the proper way.

Problem #2

It costs the designer a lot in time, payroll, and expenses. Some might think that if the project is big enough then it might be worth it but designers have to think about how most clients, especially in the United States, don’t sign long-term contracts for multiple projects. Therefore, the reasoning is worthless, whatever it takes in time and money, they will be spending it twice, which if a firm gets in the habit of doing, it will only inflate their fees exorbitantly just to break even. I only suggest spec work if the relationship potential is high resulting in a long-term contract with high revenue. Both lose on spec work, the designer does everything twice and the client pays more.

Problem #3

Spec work also tells the designer that the client has no concrete idea of what they want and only desires to have several firms compete against each other on spec work. A client should do their due diligence when seeking design firms for creative projects. When a client approaches a firm for spec work, it is clear that the client has no certain grasp of what the desired outcome should be or how much it is worth. The client only understands that they want something amazing and for cheap. These clients are often times the worst because their satisfaction level changes like the stock market, spiraling down with small glimpses of hope.

What The American Institute of Graphic Arts Has To Say

AIGA believes that doing speculative work seriously compromises the quality of work that clients are entitled to and also violates a tacit, long-standing ethical standard in the communication design profession worldwide. AIGA strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project.

What Should You Do

Seriously consider what the project is. What do should the outcome of this project to be? Is it increased branding or twenty percent conversion? Is that realistic? A client must know what items are non-negotiable and what items can change easily. Provide examples and be specific, showing an ad or website and saying you want it like this doesn’t say anything. Do you want the same colors, same layout, same genre of design, same model, same photographer, same web features? All are valid concerns of any client and knowing as much as possible helps you get exactly what you want and enables the design firm to deliver on realistic expectations at a fair price. Never tell the designer to surprise you because you’ll be happy with what they do regardless. Sure it sounds posh and fun but rarely works out. You’d be surprised how many people say that. You don’t know what things your design firm and/or designers are exploring and giving them free reign rarely provides exacting, happy outcomes. However, if you must scratch that itch of being surprised, investigate what they are exploring to find out if they are inline with your standards.

What are your thoughts on speculative work?

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