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Dr. Jim

Spec work for freelance bids? Your thoughts...

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Just curious as to the general consensus these days on doing spec work for freelance bids?

You know,...the cattle call of "We are looking for a designer to do X, please submit reel, resume and boards or style....etc".

 

Seen some of this going around lately in various job posts.........

 

Personally,...I think it sucks. 1 - Its work for free. 2 - The creative process is compromised greatly,...absent is the more typical information process you go through when you actually have a project,......

 

 

Thoughts?

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There's no question that free pitching has unfortunately driven down the value of agencies (and talent) these days. I think you are asking/referring to freelance bids/spec pitching, which I have not personally been involved in. It's pretty straightforward, freelance designers/animators should absolutely get paid for their work and labor. Spec work for freelance bids? Eh.

 

Design agencies are a slightly different story.

 

I've managed agency reviews that have been both paid and unpaid pitches (obviously due to the resources provided to me by my client). The best thing I can offer an agency is full creative and production disclosure on the project. A full creative/strategic brief, clear understanding of what the project entails, estimated budget, production timeline, client expectation, and selection criteria to judge the award. A fair review/transparancy of the account should be what we always aim for when companies are pitching new work.

 

If at that point, a design company wants to pitch for a rebrand, title sequence, or promo, they do so with a great deal of information in hand. They can make their own decisions, based on current production load, desirability of client/project, and other factors that are taken into consideration. They can say yes, they can decline. They can request more information if it's available.

 

The point I'm trying to make is information is king. When someone's asking for "free" or "low pitch fee" work, the very least clients should provide is as much information available.

 

I'm probably answering the wrong question (spec work for freelance bids vs free/paid pitches), but I thought I'd give some of my perspective.

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Correct,....I am unfortunately waaaay to familiar with what agencies ask of design firms. It's quite sad these days.

 

But my post was not to that area of the industry.

 

I just notice more and more that companies are asking freelancers to do spec design while bidding....as opposed to a demo reel/portfolio being enough.

In this instance it is very hard for a designer to put his best work forward when given limited info, no real collaboration/feedback process and no money for the effort as well.

 

Again,..referencing online job postings for freelance work that used to just ask for reel/online portfolio,...now you email them and they also want spec work as well.

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Thanks for the clarification in your original question.

 

Demo/reels and portfolios should be enough. Asking freelancers to do spec design while bidding?

 

Absolutely not. Sounds like a recipe for a bad working relationship.

 

Correct,....I am unfortunately waaaay to familiar with what agencies ask of design firms. It's quite sad these days.

 

But my post was not to that area of the industry.

 

I just notice more and more that companies are asking freelancers to do spec design while bidding....as opposed to a demo reel/portfolio being enough.

In this instance it is very hard for a designer to put his best work forward when given limited info, no real collaboration/feedback process and no money for the effort as well.

 

Again,..referencing online job postings for freelance work that used to just ask for reel/online portfolio,...now you email them and they also want spec work as well.

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On fxphd they talked about this a little. If you are doing a spec job you should still bill the client as if it were a real job then at the end give them a 100% discount. This method give the client an idea of what they are getting and what they would have paid for it. I personally think it is lame that we are asked to do spec work or blink pitches to get jobs.

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I don't like the idea as well, but I need to say it started to happen a lot in London in the last year.

It is getting more and more difficult in this area... people dont want to pay full rate, want pitch for free... It is the new generation of work and I think it will get worse.

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I'm doing this now.

I had a meeting with a producer about a tv show pitch, pre-pilot, and they wanted some ideas for ways to handle certain scenes.

Ones that would 'grab the network's attention' during their pitch, so they can win the job for the pilot.

He even mentioned being 'on board' with them, investing my time to help win the job, so I could be involved in the full show later on.

 

I nodded, and smiled, and then told them that basically I'm down, but I have to at least be compensated an agreed flat rate for the initial creative, boards, motion tests, all the legwork.

 

What I didn't tell them is that I have no interest in 'gambling' or 'investing' in their hopes and dreams to sell a TV show. This is a business,

and people get paid, period.

 

Spec is bullshit. It's all a poker game, and they're waiting to see who folds first. I think you just have to approach every job with the

comfort that you could lose it simply by asking to be paid. Otherwise it's a vicious cycle that never ends.

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Spec is bullshit. It's all a poker game, and they're waiting to see who folds first. I think you just have to approach every job with the

comfort that you could lose it simply by asking to be paid. Otherwise it's a vicious cycle that never ends.

 

Absolutely. Unless it's a massive project/campaign, a client should be able to tell from your boards and reel if you're the right fit for a job. If not, your work isn't selling itself, your client isn't worth your time, or a combo of both.

Edited by drnz

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I don't like the idea as well, but I need to say it started to happen a lot in London in the last year.

It is getting more and more difficult in this area... people dont want to pay full rate, want pitch for free... It is the new generation of work and I think it will get worse.

 

Just say no.

 

I've had about three or four different shops ask me as a freelancer to do this in the last year and I have said 'no' to each one of them.

 

My education wasn't free. Neither are any of the things I need to live, like food, shelter, clothing, etc.

 

The more freelancers that say no, the less it will occur when people figure out that no one is going to work for free.

 

If an agency or shop wants to do a free pitch for a client and cover it with their in-house staff or in the case of one and two person shops, cover it themselves, then that's their business. Even then, it's still a bad idea on their part in my opinion.

 

I'd also like to take this opportunity to encourage freelancers to READ ANY AND ALL WORK AGREEMENTS presented to them thoroughly and not allow themselves to be pressured or rushed into signing anything disingenuous, authored by some shop and delivered by some producer or pa who wants you to hurry up and sign so you can be screwed and they can file it.

 

Beware of clauses in contracts that state the 'client' or in this case, the shop, has to 'like' what you produce in order for you to be paid. The wording for these type of clauses will vary from shop to shop, when they are present in any agreement, so read carefully. This is BS no matter how you try and spin it.

 

C

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I guess it comes down to ethics and setting a standard as a designer, either staff or freelance. As a staff person it is hard to say no to working un-paid overtime and being asked to work weekends. As a freelancer you can bill for that time, but to get the job you need to do free pitches and spec. I think the motion graphics community needs to set up a code of working. I think someone posted something from AIGA. Maybe AIGA need to expand it charter more to work with motion designers more. I know the VFX society is working on creating a union, similar to the writer, screen actors, scenic, title, electrical and editor unions. Maybe one day instead of "no" we can say it is against our union regulations.

 

http://www.graymachine.com/v3/articles/33-...n-designer.html

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Guest Sao_Bento

Just to put it in context - The whole spec thing originated with agencies trying to steal each other's clients. Agency 1 has Client A's business, so Agency 2 begs the client to let them show them how they could do it so much better. If the agency wins, they get big bucks for a tiny investment - low risk, potentially giant reward. If they don't win, the cost of doing the pitch wasn't enough to hurt them because they're already paying all the people on staff who did the work, and they have many other clients. Over time, the big clients learn to expect this and openly invite several different agencies to pitch for their business.

 

Take that down to an individual level, where it's not a whole company doing a spec pitch, but an individual, and you're now in a situation where the risk is significant, while the reward is usually not. It's a model that can work for companies that are large enough, but on an individual level, it's insanity.

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In 10 years, I know only one designer who landed a job doing spec.

The rest are all horror stories.

I never did spec, but worked (for pay) for producer's spec projects.

It was painful taking their money when they lost out on the job.

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When I was agency side I had no problem with putting the extra effort/time to pitch spec work. That's because as an employee I knew that if we won the business I would reap the benefits. As Sao Bento pointed out, that's a facet of teamwork that's nonexistent in the freelance realm. In fact I once worked strictly on new business and would only produce spec work, for a few years my shit never made it past a meeting room, but I got paid for doing it. As a freelancer, I don't mind working within the constraints of a minuscule budget, sometimes it's fun to work in that environment; but I always get paid. I maybe a whore, but I'm no slut.

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I recently turned down the chance of doing some broadcast work as the pitch work was wanted for free and under an NDA I wasn't even allowed to use the boards I created on my site. No way hosé. I have done free spec work inthe past and won't whore myself out again - I've never gained a thing from it and it makes you look like a walkover.

 

We need a new kitchen so I'm going to ask our builder to knock through to the lounge, skim, plaster and paint it for all free and if I like the work he can do the rest of the kitchen. Reckon it's a goer? :lol:

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I am not happy to do a free pitch. They used to pay me a day or so, but This year I got 4 calls already for free pitch.

If the project is really good I don't mind to some boards to try to get the work, but I think they need to pay at least a small amount for pitchs.

I think it is the same problem with day rate. A lot companies are trying to bring it down. It is a lot people working for less, we need a kind of union, stick together.

I am trying to develop the idea of a Mograph/Animation meeting in London, but it is so difficult to get people involved. In the end, nobody cares... everyone talks but doesn't do anything.

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My left hemisphere usually does a lot of spec work for the right one, there is never any money involved, and a shitload of work.

In the end, more often than not, you hear the "we went with another idea".

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Yeah, there's a lot of this going around with the current economy. What amuses me is how some agencies/ clients act like your rate is tied to the housing market or something, and expect a massive discount "since it's a recession."

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I am not happy to do a free pitch. They used to pay me a day or so, but This year I got 4 calls already for free pitch.

If the project is really good I don't mind to some boards to try to get the work, but I think they need to pay at least a small amount for pitchs.

I think it is the same problem with day rate. A lot companies are trying to bring it down. It is a lot people working for less, we need a kind of union, stick together.

I am trying to develop the idea of a Mograph/Animation meeting in London, but it is so difficult to get people involved. In the end, nobody cares... everyone talks but doesn't do anything.

 

Would be interested in a London meet up Guera...

 

I don't work freelance, but have you found designers are lowering their rates en mass in London to accommodate these companies?

 

Wheres the line between a few boards and a full blown pitch? If I was thinking about going freelance I'd probably bend a little just to get myself set up, but if I were established I wouldn't waste my time with it and I'd probably feel dirty and used.

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