Steve over at the Logo Factory's turned out to be a good friend and a great source of knowledge - he's an "ol' schooler" who's got enough mileage to know what he's talking about.
A while ago we had a back and forth conversation about spec work/design contests - each of us approaching it in a different way: he as a freelancer and me as a client. Like many people (freelancers included) until earlier this year I've been largely unaware of spec work/design contest web site, but Steve's been "carping about since around 2000", so he's got a pretty good handle on what's going on.
In running my own social experiment from the client's perspective, I found some challenges with the spec work/design contests business model that made this an okay fit for some business owners/clients and a really bad idea for others. I am pleased to report that whatever side you're on; the feedback on my review was that it was "honest and fair". After you read this post check it out for yourself if you'd like http://tinyurl.com/c54nvu.
Still, from a designer's perspective: I've never entered a contest, never planned on entering a contest and don't closely know any designers that have entered a contest. Needless to say, I knew very little about what really goes on in these contests, so I asked Steve to give me the inside scoop on what most freelancers like me didn't know spec work/design contests, here's what he came back with...by the way, make sure you're sitting down, I was blown away:
- The amount of copyright infringement is incredible. There's a lion project (from home page) that has versions of a lion's head that I'm sure Disney might have something to say about.
- The in-fighting and bickering among the 'creatives' is awesome.
- There's also a lot (and I mean a LOT) of designers posting complete rubbish (as protest I suppose) in contests - some of their comments are quite clever and the buyers don't know if they're serious or not.
- Large amounts of stock art images being entered into contests - many times different 'creatives' are entering versions of the same stock art into the same contest (most stock art licenses prohibit use in logos and/or trademarks).
- The latest thing is that buyers are planting designs (from sock-puppet accounts) and paying themselves the 'prize'. They're absconding with all the designs - though the designers are wise to this.
- Many 'creative' accounts are being opened by IT companies from India and Pakistan (the $39 unlimited revision crews) and they're not only flooding contests with entries, but moving 'buyers' off from the main contest site onto their sites where they then offer even cheaper services than the contest site. All fair enough, but it leaves the other 'participants' holding the bag when the 'buyer' walks away - (http://tinyurl.com/dkhuzd). Some of these sites guarantee their "awards" but clients still end up walking away.
- Creatives are sending really offensive e-mails to buyers when they don't win - see Twitter for some of their comments.
- The number of 'Past Due - We're On It' notices (when the buyer takes off without picking a winner) is growing.
Holy crap...never knew, though my advice to freelancers hasn't changed much. If you want to get into this type of business model to help your business grow, I've got no problem with it - but I think you're making a huge mistake. Why would you ever put yourself in a situation where you're competing with thousands of other folks for a couple hundred sporadic projects?
Let's look at this another way...guys, would you ever go on a cruise where the number of dudes outnumbered the girls 100 to 1? You're odds are terrible...as they are on spec work/design contests sites, so why are freelancers trying them. Not sure about this, but I suspect it's a combination of desperation, laziness - and wanting to avoid running a real business, fear of sales and marketing, low barriers to entry - anyone can jump in.
Am I on target or off-base, what do you think?
Feel free to comment (I'll respond) and please share this with the design community if you found some value in it.
PS - If you design logos, think about logos, talk about logos or want to know more about logos and logo design, you'll definitely want to jump over to http://www.thelogofactory.com/logo_blog/ and get some great insights from someone who knows what the hell he's talking about. Thanks for sharing Steve.