Working on Spec vs. Portfolio

A white, rounded square logo with an abstract S-shaped design on a gradient blue and purple background.

Every once in awhile we get a client asking us to provide samples of design work for their web site project. While we would like to provide concepts for them, unfortunately PaperStreet is not setup to provide samples before we are actually signed. We do this for a few reasons:

Service Reason
Most importantly, designing on speculation is hurting the client. Before starting any project, you need data. Data helps you understand what you will be doing, how you will position the site, and how you will design the site. We typically fill out a client questionnaire, map out a site structure, and plan the site before starting any design work. Designing something before we get all the data would be doing any client a disservice.

Portfolio Reason
Prior work is really the best way to judge a design firm. To win projects, we let our prior work speak for itself. Because we are a custom design firm each client will get something that is unique, tailored to them and making them shine.

Business Reason
From a business model, working on spec is inherently dangerous. The more time you spend on spec work, the less time you have for existing clients and new clients. If you go a few months without winning any work, your business will suffer, which means current clients suffer, and eventually your business could fail.

Time Reasons
Working on spec usually causes time restraints, as you do not know for certain that you will sign the client. How much time do you spend on a concept? How many concepts should you produce? Do you spend extra hours on a client that is not really interested? How do you tell whether you have a good shot at landing the client? With too many variables it is tougher to plan the business.

Pricing Reasons
Typically, firms that work on spec charge a bit more for their work. It is simple math. If you spend 10, 20, 50 or 100 hours on a spec project and do not win the project, you eventually have to make that time up. How do you do this? Simple, you charge new clients and existing clients more for your projects.

Legal Reasons
Working on spec is bad from a legal standpoint. Not that any client would ever steal a whole design, but firms can be tempted to take ideas or themes. It’s always annoying to see an idea or two that you had in a design end up on someone else’s portfolio.

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