Spec work, short for "speculative work," is work developed, created and finished without a client. The created work can be useful to pump up a portfolio, as well as help a beginner earn more practice before they start working as a professional.
Spec work takes several forms, depending on the media and industry the creator is working in. Advertisers, copywriters and art designers might create an new ad campaign, or supplement an existing ad campaign, to add to their print book; web designers might create a new website just to add to their web portfolio; cinematographers might shoot additional footage without a director to add to their reel.
Suggestions for Spec WorkEdit
- Most recruiters agree: if you choose an existing campaign, do NOT choose a huge, highly recognizable advertising campagin, such as Nike, Coca-Cola or Microsoft.
- Consider partnering with someone to flesh out your campaign, i.e. if you are a copywriter, consider working with a graphic designer. Both of you stand to benefit from one solid, co-conceieved piece of work.
- Event Planning/Marketing
- Consider creating a proposal for how to market and promote an existing event, including posters, a budget and a specific marketing plan.
- Some newspapers and magazines will buy spec work to publish, offering a modest stipend to the writer. Find something newsworthy, write up an article and send it around to any publication with readers who would be interested.
Spec Work for DesignersEdit
Spec work is common in the design fields, specifically graphic design, where spec work can also refer to work a designer completes for a client as a "test run" before the client commits to the designer (and paying the designer.) However, many entry-level designers and design students also rely on spec work to build their portfolio before they have a permanent position.
There is a raging debate on whether spec work can hurt a designer, both in their portfolio and on the job.