Craigslist Ad - Spec Work Request

I recently responded to a local Craigslist ad seeking a freelance designer for various print projects. Two days later I received a reply from the "Senior Manager of Operations" congratulating me that, out of 250 resumes submitted, I am one of 50 finalist who has "made the first cut." Before choosing who they would like to interview they are asking all 50 designers to create an ad, brochure, logo or t-shirt for one of their various companies which their website states produce "$35 million in equity capital."

I cordially replied to the email stating the AIGA strongly discourages the practice of requesting that design work be produced and submitted on a speculative basis in order to be considered for acceptance on a project. I included a link to the AIGA's official position on spec work and their reasoning. I finished the email by saying that if they would like to hire me for a small project as a trial, I would be happy to accommodate. Good luck and best regards.

Today I received an email from the company stating that they reviewed the AIGA's policy and do not consider that their request falls under the definition of spec work because they are willing to pay for any designs they "feel are in line with our vision for our final deliverables." There is no mention that they will pay for designs they feel are NOT "in line with our vision for our final deliverables." Mind you, their request for free work is "to narrow the field to a manageable bunch to move forward for in-person interviews." It's not to get the job, just to get an interview.

They finished off their email by stating "It may be worth mentioning that we have worked closely with graphic designers in the past and were never challenged on our requests nor have any of the other 49 candidates for this position mentioned the guidelines you reference below."

So I would like to know if other designers here on the Denver Egotist think this falls under the definition of spec work. And if it is, why I'm the only one out of 50 designers that did what the AIGA advises and voiced a concern? Shouldn't we all be standing up for eachother?


This whole thing stinks like over-boiled broccoli. They are clearly just taking advantage of creative professionals. Spec work is a slippery slope, and it rarely ever pays in the long run. It really is no different than asking 12 painters to paint 12 rooms in your house with the option of paying just one of them. This kind of practice is demeaning to the industry and a slap in the face of professionalism. The only way it works is if desperate designers decide to play the game with them.

Allegedly 50, this sounds sketchy through and through. Spec work is for having prospect designers all make the same ad for the same client under the same parameters. This is a heist.

I've seen some amazing posts on craigslist publicly outing and shaming anonymous job posters that are looking for someone who can code, animate in 3d, design, draw, answer phones, and give a mean tug job for $10/hr. Sounds like they deserve the same.

Spec debate completely aside, a wise man once said, "If it feels like you're being screwed, you probably are." There's no way this is a good client. Only a true sociopath would ask 50 people to work for free because they're too incompetent to look at a portfolio and understand someone's level of finish. And if they're so concerned about paying for work they don't like, it's because they've got a long history of scraping the bottom of the barrel on craigslist, and having no clue how to manage a project properly.

Mistake #1, responding to a job on Craigslist

We posted this in the news column today because it deserved to be surfaced. FYI:

Leave a Response

You need to be a logged in to post in this forum. If you are not a member, click here to Join.
Rocket Fuel