One of the most common questions I receive as part of a website design quotation request is to provide a speculative design before commencing work. Such requests frequently go something like:

  • “Can you show me what the finished website will look like?”
  • “Can you show me a preview?”
  • “Can you submit one page for approval and we’ll take it from there”
  • “Can you design me a website and I’ll pay you £XYZ if I like it”

What is speculative design work?

Speculative design work – the industry term is “Spec” – is design work for which a fair and reasonable fee should apply, but which has not been agreed upon. It requires a designer to invest time and effort into work without any promises or guarantees of getting paid.

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Why I don’t offer speculative design work

As with many professional designers, I won’t undertake speculative work because they take away time and effort away from bona fide projects with guaranteed revenue.

Since speculative work is done without a contract or financial obligation to the client, there is no clear representation of “rights” to the work between the client and the designer. Resultantly, clients may feel they can pick and choose from the ideas the designer has presented and either do the project themselves, or take the ideas to another, cheaper designer.

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Some analogies

The No!Spec website offers an interesting paragraph on the matter that I’ll paraphrase below.

You wouldn’t go to a restaurant, eat the food, and expect to pay only if you’re happy. And you’d never go to a mechanic, have them work on your car, letting them know you’ll only pay them if you think they did good work. So why should the web design industry be any different?

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In A Nutshell

Putting together a good website design concept takes time and effort. It simply isn’t reasonable to put such time and effort into a piece of work when there’s no guarantee that it will be paid for. It’s an even less attractive proposition when there’s nothing preventing the client from taking my design to another designer to undercut me on production costs. I pride myself on being a trustworthy and committed designer and expect the same traits from my clients – and such clients know that good design is worth paying the premium for.