Case Study: Spec Works & Job Boards Are Useful or Just a Waste of Time
Due to the economic crisis that has just passed (or we want to believe that it passed) people are reticent in making businesses and an immediate effect was the decline in online investments. It’s obvious, the Internet is an immaterial entity and subconsciously, it is associated with a higher risk than brick and mortar businesses. Altogether, everything has a positive side, even an economic crisis. One of the positive consequences was the rethinking of how the resources are spent. In web design community, this movement created good opportunities for ones that dared and brought to bankruptcy the ones that didn’t search for solutions. The economic rules are simple and pragmatic: the profit is equal to incomes minus spendings; therefore there are two solutions to maximize the profit. The first possibility is to raise the costs to have higher incomes, but it’s not recommended to apply it in bad economic conditions. The second one is to lower the spendings and it represents a better solution. Well, some web design agencies preferred to save money by giving up to the offices and the employees are working from home so they saved the money for rent and transportation. Others selected to outsource some projects and all these created the perfect context for a more dynamic context for designers. In other words, working from home isn’t a dream or the appanage of a freelancer; it’s on the way to become a normal state (maybe this article may convince you).
Working from home has its downsizes but overall, it’s better than working into an office, having a bad chief and some annoying colleagues. A great advantage of working from home is the flexible program, what really matters for someone in this position is to have finalized the projects before deadlines. The most active ones manage to work for more clients or to become engaged in some freelance projects. In these circumstances, it’s no surprise the growing of job boards and speck work markets. From the start, I want to mention that these two entities aren’t alternatives to a job, but definitely, are better than effectively waiting for a client.
A job board is a website where the potential clients post a brief description (deadline, the possibilities of payment, special requirements, examples, etc) of their projects and the users may submit their bid (the cost of the services provided, the deadline and other details). It doesn’t sound too bad, but some people prefer (I am ironic…) to be hired for very low rates (you may hire someone to create a new Facebook with only 99$- I am not kidding). Usually, these kinds of “players” are just some amateurs willing to unfairly gain some dollars, so even the clients waste time and resources. Now, I hope that is clear why many good designers avoid/hate the job boards.
Spec works is even more hated. Briefly, it supposes the existence of a competition: someone asks for a product/service and others are participating. The negative aspect is that the competitors should realize the respective task and present it to the client and he selects the winner. In conclusion, no matter that 10, 100 or 300 competitors spend time to offer a variant, only the winner gains the money. Not quite fair play, isn’t it?
In my personal opinion, job boards and speck work markets shouldn’t be nor hated or loved, everything depends on the modality of using them. Yep, for some people these are a waste of time, while for others a good and constant income. It’s quite possible that I am too optimist, but any bad experience may be transformed into something positive and if you are still unconvinced about, the advantages bellow should persuade you.
#1. Sharpening skills
Everyone of us has moments in his life when he is unemployed and none asks for his services. Well, instead of waiting for improving the situation, a much better idea is to participate in various design competitions or biding for projects on a job board. In this way, even if it’s possible to receive no money, the creative mind of a designer isn’t staying and overall it is a plus. In fact, the designer is sharpening his skills and it’s a possibility of getting a client.
#2. Get experience in working with clients
Many talented designers are throwing away their precious time because the bad communication with their clients. Competing on various job boards will help a lot in developing communication ability. It’s true, everyone may say that there are so many blogs treating this subject that is impossible not to turn into a better communicator but nothing can replace the effective work with the client. Theoretical is pretty simple to have a dialogue with the clients, but practically, in the huge majority of cases is tenfold times more difficult. Everyone that doesn’t believe that sometimes the clients may make the life of a designer like a hell should subscribe to this website (it’s not about unfair advertising, I use Clients from Hell just to imagine myself in the posture of the designer and figure if I would react better).
#3. The possibility of creating a good portfolio
The job boards have developed complete sets of mechanisms to avoid any unfair dispute between client and freelancers. In spite of that there are tons of freelancers that are fooled around, but of course, it’s valid also the vice versa situation. No matter by results, a designer will create a design and none can interdict to add it in his portfolio.
Competing on various spec work websites means to have works rejected or not selected as the winning solution. Not being the selected work isn’t implied that it is poor quality. As a consequence, it may be exhibited in the personal portfolio.
#4. A financial compensation
In this post, both job boards and spec work websites were presented into a negative light which isn’t totally true. Yeah, personally I prefer a stable client rather than competing for ten projects but sometimes is required a more adventurous approach. There are many designers that make a living from being active on this kind of websites, therefore why you can’t be part of them? Much more, ones are having good incomes from spec works or job board competitions and it means that it worths to give a try.
What do you think? Are these activities profitable, have you ever competed and maybe gained some money? I am waiting for your ideas; the comment form is for you!
– Written by Daniel –