How to Respond to Spec Work Requests

by . October 20th, 2016

I’ve mentioned in a previous article my condemnation of speculative work. In it, I’ve talked about what spec work is and how it undervalues graphic designers and the industry itself by paying “exposure” instead of something with monetary value.

It’s a pipe dream that spec work would just be gone from the world. As of right now, my friends and I have a lot of design requests and spec work invitation from different companies.

It’s an all too familiar scenario every morning to see people asking you to work for free. Heck, a designer even illustrated these people and wrote their exact words behind their portrait.


But how do you even reply to such spec work requests?

A lot of designers and artists went to the internet to voice out their frustrations. Graphic designer David Airey posted his response to spec work designed as a contest. The letter invites Airey to design a logo for a DJ/Producer and participate “in a worldwide project for which they can receive global recognition for their creativity.”

His response was beautiful.


Thanks for the kind offer.

In return, I’m reaching back to let you know about a unique project opportunity for DJ Rusko.

The project asks that DJ Rusko record and produce a new music track — one that mentions my name and my title as a graphic designer. I’ll play the track on my website to a worldwide audience, giving full credit. I’ll also pay $1,000.

If I don’t like the track, or if I prefer one created by another DJ (I’m contacting thousands of others with the same unique opportunity), I won’t play it on my site. Nor will I pay the monetary prize.

To participate, have DJ Rusko send the completed MP3 file to my email address.

Kind regards,


Another graphic designer, Dan Cassaro, was approached by Showtime asking if he wants to participate in designing promotional material for the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana. According to them, they were “digging his style”.

Here’s the letter and his response:



After this letter went viral in the internet, Showtime responded with an equally infuriating statement on the value of “exposure”.

SHOWTIME is a strong supporter of artists around the world. This contest, like many others, is entirely optional. Under the contest guidelines, those who choose to submit their art are eligible for a grand prize of a Las Vegas trip, in addition to invaluable national exposure across multiple platforms.

These two responses are all great ways to deal with spec work requests. But if you need a template, web designer Grace Smith created a template that you can send as a response. You can download the letter here.

I do have a different approach when it comes to these spec work requests. I want to save myself from getting frustrated and thinking of snarky comments. The best way in dealing with these is to just completely ignore them.

How do you respond to spec work requests? Tell us in the comments below!


Kevin is a reader first, a writer second, and a gamer somewhere in between. When not rooting for Tyrion Lannister for the Iron Throne, he's probably writing some morbid short story. He enjoys some surreal art, clever advertising campaigns, and a warm cup of coffee while reading Murakami.