29 June 2006

No spec

Like many creative people, I refuse to work on spec, and I wholeheartedly endorse the No Spec campaign.

Working on spec involves working for free for someone on the basis that I "might" get offered paid work if the speculative work meets with their approval. They are saying: "I'll give you a project or assignment. Let's see what you can do with it. If I like it, I'll use it and pay you. If I don't, I won't. But if I do use it and pay you, there could be more work in the pipeline for you."

I don't work for free. I, like many, need to earn a living - I have bills to pay, a shoe habit to feed, pub rounds to buy when it's my turn... I believe the quality of my work speaks for itself. I have many satisfied clients to prove it.

Granted, novice journalists, copywriters and editors may well need to work on spec to get a foot in the door or a step on the ladder. When you are starting out, it may be the only way for many creatives to get that first, important break. But even beginners usually have some unpublished work they can show to a potential employer or client that demonstrates the talent they have.

Working on spec could be compared to walking into TopShop, "borrowing" a pair of combat trousers and telling the sales assistant; "If they fit well and my friends tell me I look good in them, and if I wear them to a club or pub and I get compliments, I'll come back and pay you for them. And I may buy a trendy t-shirt from you to match the combats. But if the combats turn out to be less than flattering, I'll return them, worn (so you can't resell them), and I'll never buy anything from TopShop again."

Now, how daft does that sound? You can't take stuff from a shop on the basis that if it fulfils your needs or dreams you'll cough up later, but only after a trial run. Tesco would go bust in a week if their shoppers took food on spec!

Potential clients who contact me often want to know what I've already done. I send them my CV, if requested, and point them to my website, where I have links to some of the work I have done for satisfied customers, such as web copy. Then they can decide for themselves if I can provide for their needs. At which point we can discuss various approaches to the job required, cost estimates, time frames and so on. If we agree to work together, I ask the client to sign a contract and I usually operate on a draft basis - that is, I will draft the copy, we'll discuss any changes they want to make and I'll finalise the copy. A job may go through several drafts before all parties are happy. But I get paid for all of my time and creative energy. What I won't do is draft anything for free to see if they like it. My time is worth more than a promise.

On spec is no go.

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