So I understand all the arguments against spec work. If you are not familiar with spec work, it is basically asking a freelancer to write or design or code something for you to near-completion before you actually hire them. Sites like Crowdspring, 99Designs, and more are putting buyers in touch with freelancers to do exactly this.
That said, I love Crowdspring. Three months ago, I used Crowdspring to get an awesome cover design for my novel. I don’t think it’s evil, I don’t think it’s trying to exploit starving artists, and I don’t think it’s putting freelancers out of work. Here’s why:
Crowdspring et. al did not invent globalization
Crowdspring is not creating more competition for you–you can thank globalization for that. All Crowdspring is doing is making it easier for designers to connect with people who need designs. And here is where tough love comes in. If you are a designer and are struggling because of overcrowding in the market, it’s not fair to blame a free economy and the realities of supply and demand. You may either need better designs or a way to run your business smarter, faster, and cheaper.
But you aren’t alone–lots of industries are experiencing this right now. You just have to get ahead of the curve or differentiate yourself better. This is a good thing.
Crowdspring is not about being cheap
I paid about $800 for my cover design. Apparently that’s a little high… but the point is that Crowdspring is not full of buyers who are trying to get design work done for pennies. The designer chooses what projects to work on knowing full well what the potential upside is. There is basically no way to exploit a designer because they have too much information–they know the upside, the know the competition, and they have the choice to submit or not.
You are an artist and you should be able to make a living
Back to being an artist and wanting to get paid for that–I get it. I do plenty of art, and I understand it is not fun to work tirelessly and for free just to prove that you deserve a shot at getting paid for your ideas.
But nobody is saying they don’t respect you, or that you can’t ask for money in return for the art you make. The issue is that if you choose to do art as a business, you have to offer value. That is how business works. There is no rule in life that says you should get paid for things you enjoy doing, or for things you want to be your career, or for things you think you are good at. History is littered with misunderstood and underpaid artists, but artists have an opportunity now to reach more people and distribute their work smarter, better, and faster.
Your portfolio is not representative of what you could do, but what you have done
To be honest, if you handed me portfolios for all the designers who entered the contest, I would not have picked the same winner as I did. The work she had done before was nothing like what I was looking for, but she still ended up delivering the best (by a longshot) design for my novel.
So I understand why people want to paid for every hour they work, but from a buyer’s perspective, it’s a total crap shoot to hire someone that may not be able to deliver.
Non-designers need to see the results. They need to experience what working with you is like, and a portfolio is a terrible way to preview what that experience could be.
Crowdspring helps designers build relationships
My books are part of a series and I need a similar look for multiple covers. I have no intention of posting the second cover of the series as a project on Crowdspring–I’m just going to go directly to the designer who won the first cover.
Did I mention there are seven books in this series? And that I have another series planned that’s a trilogy? Are you starting to see how this adds up?
(Note: This is not to say I won’t use Crowdspring again–if I wanted a website design, I would certainly post that on Crowdspring, as it’s not the same type of work as a book cover.)
Anyway, I am not an anamoly here. I chatted with a friend who used 99Designs to design a logo, and he said the same thing–he now uses the winning design company for all sorts of projects related to his original logo.
That’s because no company designs in a box. Even after you deliver the files, you still own your style, and that’s the secret sauce. No one can design exactly the way you do, and there is value to that for the company long after the project is completed.
So if you can win jobs on Crowdspring, it’s a good lead generation tool. Really, that’s how I would use the service if I were a freelancer–I’d look for projects that interested me and buyers that were a good fit for my business. Here are a few great examples of people who have used Crowdspring for this:
Tomorrow I’ll share my thoughts on how designers can win more jobs, from a buyer’s perspective.