Miles on Free Pitching

Miles’ Blog: That monster called Free Pitch

No matter what you call it, Spec Work, Free Pitch, etc the concept is the same. I’ll get a handful of designers or studios to come up with a handful of concepts for my website, and the winner gets my business.

Great concept? No! There are no winners here.

  • Free pitching devalues your work.
  • Free pitching hurts all of your clients.
  • Free pitching produces crap work.
  • Free pitching makes the client look stupid.
  • Free pitching hurts the entire industry.
  • Free pitching is a big sign saying “We’re going broke”.
  • Free pitches encourages less planning.

Read the whole post over at Miles’ Blog.

Good one Miles!

Open Letter to CL (Craigslist) Administration

This letter was forwarded to NO!SPEC.
(Please note: Discussions are open, but inflammatory comments will be deleted)

Open Letter to CL Administration
Reply to:
Date: 2007-09-03, 8:34AM

To all creative professionals; please read this, and if you agree, please forward it in an email to Craigslist administration by sending them a note at this address;

Dear Craigslist,

I would like to take this time to bring a problem to your attention that you may not be aware of. It is a problem that is seriously affecting myself, my peers, and our clients… and it needs immediate attention!!!

The problem, in a nutshell, is freeloading.

You see, here on the creative gig boards (and, I’m sure, on many other gig boards, as well.) you will find a plethora of talented, hard-working, highly skilled professionals from many different fields. Designers, Illustrators, Photographers and more. These are not people who are hard-up, or starving. Some of us just seek the occasional extra bit of income to supplement our salaries. Some of us use CL as a primary source of that income. Either way, using CL does not, by any measure, define us as some sort of discount day-labor or bargain-basement boobs who will do anything for a dollar.

We are PROFESSIONALS, first and foremost, and expect to be treated as such.

This is generally not a problem, when dealing with serious, professional clients; True businesspeople who understand the value of hiring someone with specialized skills. They understand that their time is valuable, and so, then, should ours be.

Unfortunately, these clients are being driven out of Craigslist by an avalanche of “freeloaders”.

Every day, the CL gig boards across the nation are being inundated with posts seeking skilled, professional services for “free” or “cheap”. Some offer the “opportunity” to “build your portfolio”. Others offer payment “Once my project is sold” to a publisher, etc. Some are even bold enough to equate compensation with the chance for your work “to be seen” on their website/business card/letterhead/etc.

In short, they are looking for free work.

Now, I am not begrudging anyone’s right to ask for free work. But I am making you aware that, because of the hordes of these posts appearing on CL daily, it is becoming increasingly difficult and frustrating for myself and my peers to find serious gigs.

It is also forcing us to scrutinize what serious gigs we do find, to the point where, I am sure, many serious professionals are no longer willing to post on the CL gig board, for fear of being lumped in with these freeloaders. In short, it is hurting everyone but the freeloaders.

Now, I am not here just to bitch and moan. This is a problem we CAN solve, and I think I have an idea of how to do so… an idea, I pray, you will see merit in.

I ask you to create a separate, “FREE” gig board for these people. This way, they can post to their heart’s content, and be sure to reach their target audience, as only those looking to work for nothing will read this board.

Additionally, to further discourage them posting on the real gig boards, change the “pay” entry field to accept only numeric entries. (And restrict the entries from starting with a zero.) You could possibly also enter a “negotiable” choice, as well for those who do not want to offer a solid dollar amount.) Then, change the gig rules to plainly state that this board is for PAYING gigs ONLY.

This way, when we flag the non-paying ones, there will be no question whether or not we are in the right in doing so.

This is a fairly straightforward and simple solution to a plaguing problem. I urge you to take this action immediately. Myself, and my peers, would be eternally grateful!

* Location: All creative professionals, PLEASE READ!
* it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
* Compensation: FREE the FREE GIGS!!!

Original URL:

Dear Craigslist

Another interesting anon posting from craigslist

There are serious people looking for serious work here. For the most part, you can get very talented, highly skilled developers that can do just about anything, provided you are willing to pay for it or your compensation is reasonable. Furthermore, you will have a much higher success rate if you specify what the job entails as opposed to simply having no idea or worse, waiting until someone responds and then to lay the wammy on them.

These are gigs. A gig is a one time deal or something of short duration. It is not a job. People looking for “gigs” aren’t looking for a job, usually they have one and want to supplement their income or they like the freelance lifestyle afforded by completing “gigs”. Hopefully this will help you find the best person out there and someone who can also complete the gig within your timeframe.

Be specific as to what you need and then what you want. Many times the two are not the same. Experience with XYZ doesn’t tell anyone much. What do you want done with XYZ skills? Specifically.

Be reasonable about the compensation and your expectations for less than reasonable rates. Reasonable is usually a premium over what someone with a “job” gets. Since this is most often a short term or one time deal, expect to pay for someone to deal with that situation. If you want free help, say so right from the beginning and maybe you’ll find that person right away. If you are trying to barter or otherwise exchange service or goods for the work you need done, trying to trade your stuff at retail and get our stuff at wholesale isn’t going to work. We are IT, technology developers and experts, not stupid. For example, if you are hiring a database developer for something and it will take 20 hours, figure on $2500 worth of your goods or services, not inflated to take some advantage.

If you are a non-profit, please, everyone knows that a non-profit doesn’t mean no money. You are getting paid and so is most everyone else working there. You just can’t show profits carried over from year to year or pay dividends and so on. Don’t forget, the people you are asking to do the work need profit to eat and pay bills. We are not part of your non-profit business model, like you, we expect to get paid for our work.

In those situations where time is critical as in you need something done ASAP, qualify ASAP. It’s the “as possible” part of ASAP. That could be anything. It is tomorrow, next week, this month, next 6 weeks? That shouldn’t be difficult to state in the ad.

Help us help you. We want to solve your problems, complete your project and help your success. The more information you give us up front in the ad, the easier it is for the best candidate to contact you. You do want the best person and the best perfomance right? No one likes screening responses and talking to endless lines of people. By writing a great ad, you’ll cut down on the number of people you need to screen.

Here is the biggie: If you have all kinds of experience requirements, extensive workloads and short timeframes, you should expect to pay for it. Just because this is CL doesn’t mean bargain basement for out of work, hard up IT professionals.

Time is money and usually the people you can get on CL can do it right, fast and with class. We know what working on tight deadlines means and can usually accomodate you. Just please remember what you want when someone tells you to drop everything and do something right now. If you just take into consideration some of these things, you’ll get higher quality responses, better work/services performed and a better outcome that makes you shine.

Most of us are not looking to join your business or get a percentage of future revenue. It’s your idea and your baby. We can bring it along but we’re generally not into being your partner, free tech support or investor. There are people like that but that is in a different category.

Original URL:

As before, we have made an attempt at contacting the author of this post. We were successful the last time, and are hoping for the same. If you are the author, please, please let us know.

I Wish I Had Written This

To those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world

Every day, there are more and more CL posts seeking “artists” for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

But what they’re NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are “seeking artists”, let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? …none?

More than likely, you don’t know any. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be posting on craigslist to find them.

And this is not really a surprise.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Would you offer a neurosurgeon the “opportunity” to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him “a few bucks” for “materials”. What a deal!)

Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above, you’re obviously insane. If you answered “no”, then kudos to you for living in the real world.

But then tell me… why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a “great opportunity” for an artist to have his work seen on your car/’zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a “great opportunity” for YOU to have their work there.

2. It is not clever to seek a “student” or “beginner” in an attempt to get work for free. It’s ignorant and insulting. They may be “students”, but that does not mean they don’t deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a “student” once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition it JUST as stupid.

3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it’s one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their “portfolio”. They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It’s not compensation. It’s their right, and it’s a given.

4. Stop thinking that you’re giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

5. Students DO need “experience”. But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the “experience” they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother’s house when they were seventeen?

If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to “submit work for consideration”. They may even be posing as some sort of “contest”. These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the “contest”, or be “chosen” for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or “spec”, work. It’s risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit

So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are “spec” gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls. They need you. You do NOT need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free… please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you’re accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.

DISCLAIMER: Apparently this well written post has been floating around on CraigsList. I first ran across it when Steph Doyle’s post I Wish I Had Written This came across my google alerts.

Steph got it from HOWmag forum where Cal posted before they could take it off CL (thanks Cal!).

The attempts to locate the author have failed. If you are the author, please contact us.

Edit: The author is Dave D’Esposito of ArtMonkey Studios, Inc.

Roger C Parker on NO!SPEC

Are you giving your designs away for free?

… tens of thousands of designers invest hundreds of thousands of hours each year in speculative work that either fails to create a client, or–worse–discourages the designer when their work is appropriated by others without any compensation whatsoever.

Do your fellow designers a favor by alerting them to the many valuable resources available at

Thanks Roger!

Check out Roger’s informative posts at the Roger C. Parker Design to Sell Blog.

Veerle says “Free of charge please!”

Reading through the NO!SPEC stats, I noticed Veerle comes out with a word or three.

The purpose of creative pitches are to give clients a better understanding of the creative capacity of the selected agencies. To me it is a lame excuse to not browse around in the portfolios and let someone else do the work for free. I wonder what goes on in the mind of the people who write that stuff down, do they expect the freebies in everything else also?

The comments as they are equally well written. Check out her article, Free of charge please! Then scroll down for more.

CreativePro Speaks About Spec

Designing or photographing “on spec” means to work without guarantee of payment.

Some people think it’s an acceptable way to build a portfolio or snag a client who’ll pay for other jobs down the line. Other people say that accepting spec work is a disservice to yourself and all creative professionals.

Have your say at Creativepro’s Talkback Review

Painter Creativity – Top 10 Lies

From Mark W. Lewis of Painter Creativity

1 “Do this one cheap (or free) and we’ll make it up on the next one.”

2 “We never pay a cent until we see the final product.”

3 “Do this for us and you’ll get great exposure! The jobs will just pour in!”

4 On looking at sketches or concepts: “Well, we aren’t sure if we want to use you yet, but leave your material here so I can talk to my partner/investor/wife/clergy.”

5 “Well, the job isn’t CANCELLED, just delayed. Keep the account open and we’ll continue in a month or two.”

6 “Contract? We don’t need no stinking contact! Aren’t we friends?”

7 “Send me a bill after the work goes to press.”

8 “The last guy did it for XXX dollars.”

9 “Our budget is XXX dollars, firm.”

10 “We are having financial problems. Give us the work, we’ll make some money and we’ll pay you. Simple.”

In the end, working commercially, being a terrific artist is about 25% of the task. If that is the only part of the task that you are interested in, do yourself a favor. Don’t turn “pro.”

For the real guts of the article, go to Top 10 Lies told to Naive Artists and Designers

Good one Mark!

The Microhierax Chronicles on NO!SPEC

Understanding No!Spec

Why say No to Speculative Work?

1. No Guarantee
2. Unprofessional
3. Lack of Professional Research
4. Needs of the client not met
5. Myopic
6. Undermines consultive benefits
7. Undervalues the profession
8. Pitches and design don’t mix
9. Red Flags
10. The lack of contract does not a professional make

After visiting the website (, I realized that I have indeed taken spec work in the past and I was not getting paid for it. It was such a waste of talent and creativity. on NO!SPEC

What is Spec?
by Mary Beth & Paul Trautwein Guides to Graphic Design

Speculative work historically has been practiced in Advertising and Architecture. In those professions the winning firm would be offered a long-term contract resulting in years of revenue. Graphic design differs from those fields in that most work is issued on a project-by-project basis. The award for a free pitch is only for the project just completed. Compensation for the work going into the pitch usually exceeds the monetary award of the project. Free pitching is now a discouraged practice in advertising and copy writing. As stated in …

Thanks Mary and Paul!