How to do you respond to sample requests?

Wondering what everyone’s approach is to responding to a potential client requesting “samples”. Meaning doing work before a contract or payment, not portfolio samples - I believe this is also called spec work.

I am also curious if there is actually an acceptable situation in which samples/spec work is appropriate.

Depends on what they want samples of. Is it a website sample, packaging sample, logo sample, etc… ?Typically when people ask for samples from us (packaging company) and they don’t pay in advance for a custom sample, we send them samples of prior work that may share similar specs to their project such as sharing a coating style, print method, etc…

It’s tempting to just give you the standard answer, which is something like, “Just say no to spec work!”

That’s good advice for someone booked solid with work, but for many designers, the reality becomes a judgment call and a bet on sacrificing a little time for a possible net gain.

One thing to keep in mind is that clients who ask for ideas without an offer to pay for them are often not very good clients. They know they’re asking for free work and, as such, are often more inclined to try to take advantage of the situation in other ways.

1 Like

I was actually just curious in general, what type of response a designer might give. Would they just ignore them? Would they inform them that asking for samples/free work is inappropriate? Say they’d be happy to make a sample after contract or payment? Or maybe if they’re having a bad day, totally tell them off.

However this particular question was inspired by a potential client that said “other freelancers have already sent samples of [project]” and asked that I do the same. I had already sent him samples from my portfolio. So, I am assuming this person is just trying to get free work or some sort of other shady business. This is on Upwork and soliciting unpaid work is against their TOS, so I just reported him and moved on.

Ha! I just realized I put an extra “to” in the title post.

I am still not quite clear on this.

“Sample” can simply be a sample of your past work, and “spec work” is, well, space work.

I don’t react too well to spec work requests.

I mean spec work - I wasn’t sure if that word was universally the same way.

Upwork is a weird place. In my downtime due to this whole Covid thing, I’ve been experimenting with it. It’s definitely a step up from most crowdsourcing sites in that nobody is supposed to give clients ideas prior to a contract based on the designer’s proposal and portfolio.

Even so, most of the jobs posted there are really iffy, oddball projects. Most potential clients are tire kickers who are just testing the waters and never end up hiring anybody. Most have little to no experience working with designers (or any creative), and have no idea how things normally work and that designers actually need to earn a living and don’t just work for fun.

So in the situation you spelled out, this person is making a habit out of soliciting free ideas from people, then choosing which, if any, he/she will pay for. This kind of potential client is best abandoned.

Over the years, when I’ve had people approach me asking for spec work before proceeding, I’ve usually told them that we can sign a separate contract obligating them to pay me a fee for the ideas with the option of them cancelling any further work if they don’t like the ideas. Most (not all) won’t even agree to that. They’ll think little of dropping off their Porsches for a $2,000 afternoon service, but act shocked when a designer expects to be paid for every hour worked. I don’t quite get their thought processes, but it’s best not to work with them.

It used to be better before the virus. Since many companies are shut down, the quality and number of jobs has gone down. Now people, such as yourself, are coming to Upwork so there are more people vying for less jobs. I do believe the hiring rate has gone down also. I used to get several responses a week, now all I get is crickets.
Not that Upwork was that great to begin with, but it’s noticeably worse now.

1 Like
  1. I wouldn’t accept that at face value.
  2. Even if it were true, I doubt the potential client saw anything impressive from these ‘other’ freelancers, which is why he is continuing his search.

Most likely. It would be a low caliber client even if you got them. If you accept their terms of doing free work for them, you set the tone for the future of your professional relationship. You’ve set the precedent that you are willing to be abused because you are desperate for work. They’ll continue to do this to you.

That’s the legit way to do it. You put a designer under paying contract for a couple minor projects, and that’s their ‘audition’. You get an idea of the type of work they can do, whether they are easy to work with and take direction, and if they can get work done on time. If they succeed in the small things, you expand the scope of the contract and start giving them the big things.

In some of the government RFPs I’ve seen… and this is just on big, multi-year gigs… the client has a multi stage process, and in the last stage they will pay the candidates a flat fee to fulfill the same brief, then come in and present. The winner gets the big contract and everyone else goes home.

1 Like

©2020 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook