I have an offer for a position in a new startup and I was asked to provide concept designs for at least 1 page ( both mobile and desktop version ) It's a lot of work because I need to apply the brand guidelines to the wireframes, read and understand the brief and other docs. Also I need to put in place a proposal and calculate hours required to design each page + a lot of headaches ( Approx. 3 days worth of work )

I don't feel like this kind of test is the best way to choose a designer but I have to put food on the table, I have free time but I don't like working for free, on the other hand there's a lot of money to be made if I'm hired.

What do you think guys?


No good client asks for "test" projects.

There is no such thing as a "test" project. Just because the client labels something "test" that does not mean less work is involved. All "test" ensures is that the client isn't expecting to pay for your time, that's it. Regardless of the work the client can claim it wasn't satisfactory and never pay for your time.

This is a huge red flag for a bad client. Don't fall for it.

If you work, invoice for work. If the client is uncertain about hiring you, then can hire you and pay you to complete something small initially, then decide if they want to hire you for additional work.

Even if you happen to be a bit pressed to find work, you're wasting your time on this client. There's an 80% or better chance you won't make any money here so the time you spend on their "test" project could be spent on a paying project for someone else. Or at a minimum searching for a paying project.

| improve this answer | |

I've had a client try this on me (not for this kind of design work, but for magazine production). And they ended up being the worst client I've ever worked for. Now, my policy is always "f**k you, pay me".

So, in your place, I'd provide the company with examples of my similar work from my portfolio. If that isn't acceptable to them, I'd walk away from the job.

If they challenged me on why I didn't do the spec work, I'd explain I don't work for free.

If that's unacceptable for them, it shows they're trying to screw me and all others going for the contract. And if they'll do that now, how will they treat me when I'm working for them?

Also, there's the question about what they're doing with all those examples of spec work they'll be sent.

| improve this answer | |
  • I totally agree with you but my portfolio is quite limited and I don't have solid references. To be frank, I'm quite desperate at the moment. – usfslk Jul 20 '17 at 11:27
  • I understand that. I've been there. Following up from Metis above, I think you should look at this way: this company wants you to do three days of work for free (which is a bad sign). – Richard Cosgrove Jul 21 '17 at 11:48
  • I agree with Metis: this company sounds like a bad client. If you want to apply, consider informing them that you will bill them for the time done doing the spec work. Alternatively, as Metis said, you could spend those three days doing other things to help you get paid work. If you want to beef out your portfolio and get references, you could do some design work for a local charity. Or search for a non-designing job to get money while doing design work when not at that 'day job'. I work in schools when freelancing is quiet. – Richard Cosgrove Jul 21 '17 at 11:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.