Thoughts about Spec Work and Crowdsourcing

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First off: this is my personal view about this matter, and its mainly focused on the creative field -art, illustration and design!

Yesterday I got that tweet from TheIspot, via @andrewhyde who had a blog posted about his view on spec-work, which was very specific and as a statement of fight against "bad-spec-work" IMHO justified in its own right.
But I felt there was something missing, the good side of things - which made me think about a response post- or sort of.

Some basic definitions first:
It appears that often crowdsourcing and spec-work are mixed up, I´m especially afraid how many designers are mistaken by these wrong misinterpretations.

Crowdsourcing:
...is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call. source: Wikipedia

Spec work:
“Spec” has become the short form for any work done on a speculative basis. In other words, any requested work for which a fair and reasonable fee has not been agreed upon, preferably in writing. source: no!spec

When Jonathan Zittrain explains crowdsourcing as part of this video on youtube  it sounds even very useful; websites  through which thousands of people connect to playfully find solutions to mathematical or even economical problems. My opinion about crowdsourcing is: as long as it serves the general public, its all fine.

My thoughts about spec-work are a little complex, mostly because i tend to separate good spec from bad -spec:

Bad Spec is the above mentioned, an exploitation of creative talent to get a custom made work done to primarily achieve commercial success in a pitch situation (for example)

Good Spec is doing the pitch yourself, which means:

Personal work: Artists are at the beginning of our career their own patrons, this means creative freedom and play of imagination, publishing or showing this to the right recipients, this output can appeal to interesting projects and lead to a possibly successful career.

Contests / competitions:  this is a tricky one and it requires a keen eye to find out what is a serious contest in the mass of opportunities today . Its also important to do the guesswork about the time -input and what can be gained, if this is not equally 50/50 (speculative) , than its not worth entering in my opinion.

Collaboration: A collaboration with other artists, is mostly fun, but can be also considered spec, because every time we try new things out , just for fun, a new trend, new styles can be shaped -which can result in request for more work, think about it!

Advertising: Every time you update your portfolio, submit a new piece on your website, post a link to or from facebook, doing interviews, displaying your work to the public in a mag, or web portal - this is also spec work -ever considered how much unpaid time it consumes to do all these things? In the tax computation- this is called "promotion".


There are a lot other kinds of spec-work situations that one might even not have thought about, but exist:


Financial spec: Do you knew how many from your money on the bank is used for speculations on stocks by the bank itself, and do they ask you for permission, huh?


All in all, I will sum this up with this last sentence:

If your project is important enough to hire a professional who will take care and the time to understand YOUR situation and invest the time needed to create a suitable solution, then any professional is definitely worth their money regardless if that is a photographer, designer, illustrator, or a motor-mechanic.
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook

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