I am messaged by a potential client on a network for showcasing and discovering creative work:
Client: Hi, how are you? We are currently checking all candidates. Could you invest some time into a small pitch so that we can evaluate your style of work and how it fits together with us? All best.
Me: Hi, I’m good thanks. Sure no problem, I can invest some time on the pitch.
Client: Hi, what a nice reply! Well, we are looking for designers who can help us, creating strong brandings for our projects/brands and building some guidelines for the apps we are developing…”
What follows is a detailed breakdown of two briefs, with links to presentations, examples, etc. It takes a long time to get through.
Client: What do you think?
Me: Both projects look interesting. Let me estimate how many hours I have to spend, in order to get the designs done for each one, and I’ll get back to you with an estimated budget tomorrow.
Client: Keep in mind, the first part is a pitch where we see how we fit together. For this we can only pay a very small “amount”, we don’t expect anything completely done, more some ideas, sketches, high-level illustrations to understand your work approach. If we like it, we can move on based on a regular basis.
Me: I understand. How much do you have in mind for the payment?
Client: It’s up to you.
Me: Ok. let me do an estimate and I’ll get back at you as soon as I get it.
I do an estimated budget, even very optimistically it still adds up to 37 hours.
Me: I am sending the link to the estimated budgets.
Client: Hi, as already said, this is in pitch for evaluating how we fit together. We have several candidates in place and at this stage, we are not able to pay anything. Are you able and willing to create some concept ideas without getting paid? It’s actually an investment in a potential cooperation and at this stage, it is actually unusual to get any money, as it is just a proof that your references are “real” and that you able to work on a professional level. Let me know.
Me: I’m not a big fan of test projects for work but I understand why some companies ask for it. The thing is that test projects are usually small tasks that the designers can get ready in a matter of 6 or 8 hours. The “pitch” you are proposing is way longer than a task you can get done in a few hours, it’s at least 20 or 30 hours of work and that falls into the category of speculative work, meaning work for free to win a “design contest” or under the promise of more work. I disagree with those kinds of proposals, I think it’s demeaning with my profession, at a personal level I find it offensive so I try to charge at least a small amount for my services, but you are not even willing to do that, so I have no reasons to trust you or your company. Asking for speculative work is also against [Creative Network]’s community guidelines. I have already reported your job offer and I am keeping a copy of this conversation. Goodbye.
Client: Your behavior shows me that you have no idea how things are going. I have clearly said from the beginning that we first want to see a test and you have agreed. Your whole reaction shows me that you are very unprofessional at this point, and that’s why we have our evaluation process – to select guys like you out in advance. Please save this for yourself as well.
Me: I agreed to a test, not to solve all your design problems for free. Speculative work is the oldest trick in the book, and what it shows is how unprofessional and cheap you and your company are. Again, I have a copy of this conversation. Trying to scam a designer is not illegal but it looks pretty bad, and I assume your clients are not going to like it if they learn about how you try to scam people into getting work for free.