Speculative Work

Logo to No!Spec (Speculative Work)

Spec Work?

I want to take a moment and write a blurb about something called “Spec Work.” (Aka Speculative Work).

Anyone who has worked in any creative career has probably come across
 Spec Work (Speculative Work) and has either done it or did it without realizing that they had.

I am a person who has done Spec Work, and I used to be ambivalent about it. Not so much anymore.  

When you are already employed, doing Spec Work isn’t a big deal as many times a project can be abandoned midway for many reasons. It’s also not bad as it helps conclude a project if something is or isn’t working, or you may find that the work is suitable for another purpose (and there is nothing wrong with repurposing your work as long as there are no copyright infringements involved).

When Spec work is wrong, a prospective client or employer expects a candidate to create work for them to figure out whom they want to hire for the job. That’s what a portfolio is for! If an employer cannot be bothered to look at a portfolio beforehand, then they don’t deserve anyone in the talent pool. Asking a candidate to create work for them as a ‘test’ or in the guise of a ‘contest’ (when the candidate will not be compensated for their time or effort) is unethical and, quite frankly, disgusting. Even worse is when a candidate does it, and that work is put into production, but they never hire the candidate. Employers like that think they are slick and believe that the candidates will never find out.  

However, if the candidate honestly feels that they would be a good fit for the position they applied for (despite the request for Spec Work), you could still create the Spec Work, but under certain conditions. 

What are my conditions? 

I create the work in a resolution that would look terrible if they tried to use it, with my watermarks and signature embedded in a flattened image. They’d have one hell of a time trying to reuse it. It would be more work for them to steal it than it actually would have been to hire the person that created it.

So, if you are an employer looking at my website, I will make this abundantly clear… do not attempt to get me to do anything for you (unless you hire me!) If you don’t like what you see in my work, move on, as I will not be doing any ‘test,’ ‘contest,’ or ‘pro-Bono’ work for you. I am not a charity. 

However… if I have done Spec Work previously and retained the files… I will use whatever I want in my portfolio.


Julie Finley

March 16, 2022.