Why I Never Do Spec Work

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I’m a copywriter, but any type of freelancer knows about spec work. Whenever potential clients ask you to try your services first before deciding whether or not to hire you, that’s spec work.

I refuse to do spec work. Here’s why.


  • I’m a professional, and expect to be paid like one—You wouldn’t ask your doctor to give you a free diagnosis, would you? You wouldn’t expect a mechanic to work on your car for free. Why anyone would expect anything differently of a copywriter or designer has never made sense to me. I’m a professional. This is my business. If you want to tap into my expertise, you’re going to have to pay for it. Period.
  • There’s always paid work to be done—I never have a shortage of paid work, and for that, I’m truly grateful. So, why would I spend my time on something I’m not going to get paid for when I could be working for clients who actually will pay me? It just doesn’t make good business sense.
  • My portfolio speaks for itself—Clients that ask for spec work claim that they do so because they want to make sure the writer or designer can produce work that meets their quality standards. I have literally thousands of samples of my work. If you can’t tell if I’m the right copywriter for you by looking over my samples, you’re not paying attention and you just want something for nothing.
  • It helps me keep my prices reasonable—As a freelancer, I get paid for my time. Whenever I’m not doing paid work, I’m not making money. So, if I spend time on spec work, I’d have to make up that lost money somehow, and the only realistic way to do that would be to raise my rates on paid projects.
  • Most asking for spec work are low quality clients—Let’s be honest, the type of clients that ask freelancers for spec work probably aren’t the highest caliber of clients. Even if you get the gig, they’ll likely be disloyal and leave you whenever they find a cheaper service provider. And their “something for nothing” mentality will drive them to have impossibly high standards you’re always struggling to meet.


Do you ever take on spec work? Why or why not?

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