Spec work, short for speculative work, is a term used in the freelancing industry to describe work that is done on a speculative or “spec” basis, without a guarantee of payment or compensation. Spec work often involves creating a sample or a prototype of a project, with the hope that the client will like it and choose to hire the freelancer for the full project.
In the freelancing industry, spec work is a controversial practice, with many freelancers and industry groups advocating against it. The main argument against spec work is that it exploits freelancers by asking them to invest time and effort into a project without a guarantee of compensation. Additionally, spec work can also result in a race to the bottom, with freelancers underbidding each other in an attempt to win the project.
There are alternatives to spec work that can benefit both the freelancer and the client. For example, a freelancer can offer a paid consultation or a project proposal that outlines their ideas and approach for the project. This allows the client to get a sense of the freelancer’s style and approach, while also ensuring that the freelancer is paid for their time and expertise. Another alternative is to negotiate a project milestone payment schedule, where the freelancer is paid for each phase of the project as it is completed.