Speculative Design Work, Yes or No?

When I first started to freelance in college, it was tough having to work for peanuts because  clients didn’t know value of design then, and now. Plus, I was from a design college. And funny how real life experience bites you in the ass when it happens, since you never did learn it in college.

My freelance work always went through the same process, somewhat:

  1. Ask client a few questions.
  2. Provide speculative design.
  3. Finish website.
  4. Collect money.

Yes, at the time, being a newbie, I never did collect a deposit. Until it bit me in the ass. In addition, clients always requested speculative design work before a project began.

Thinking back about it, I’m wondering why clients requested it?

Was it to gain my confidence?

Both designer and client have something to risk. If the client won’t have faith in me, how could they hire me? But we can argue, if the client doesn’t have faith in my work, then why approach me in the first place?

Was it to borrow my ideas?

This nightmare or horror story has been told by all designers. The client liked it but didn’t buy it. However, you later kick yourself in the nuts because the client used it. Bummer.

Was it to disrespect me?

Okay. Maybe this is crossing the line. But it is possible right?

Whatever it was, I’ve replaced speculative design work with website references. Personally, I’d only do speculative design work if I’ve worked with the client before, or if I feel confident and comfortable giving them speculative design work.

AIGA (formerly an acronym for “American Institute of Graphic Arts”) backs designers in the decision to politely decline requests of speculative design work and to educate clients on the reasons behind it. And, they even now provide members the rejection letter templates for to use!

Although you and I may not be in AIGA, I believe it’s a healthy practice at best to discourage clients when they request speculative work. Otherwise, you may want to suggest charging them a “preview” fee for a taste of your work. LOL!

But to do speculative design work, yes or no?