I was recently asked to write a 3–5 minute video script complete with layout, copy and creative direction. Due to the subject matter of the project, it would have also required quite a bit of research upfront.
Here’s the kicker: the client wanted me to do the project not only for FREE, but in competition with 4 other writers vying for the job.
Now, I’ll admit, I was tempted. It had the potential to become a longterm project, but at the end of the day, my time is money dagnabbit and I don’t have time to work for free (nor should anyone)!
So, instead of spending the X number of hours it would have taken me to work for free, here’s a list of 10 things you or I can do instead of spec work.
#1: Say “no.”
Believe it or not, this IS an option! Simply saying, “no” to doing spec work does not automatically mean you won’t get the job. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling a client, “in order to get the project done correctly and for me to deliver professional-level work, it will require X hours and this is my hourly rate.” You DO have a choice here. The client has a choice too, but at least you will have stood up for yourself and made it clear that your time has real value.
#2: Look for new clients
If you’re short on clients, don’t look for ones who don’t value your time. Reach out to your network, talk to previous clients, send some cold emails, check some job sites, or do whatever it is you need to find some leads. Just make sure they’re leads that pay.
#3: Update your website or portfolio
When was the last time you had some time to do this? If it’s been a while, consider spending those “extra hours” on incorporating some new work into your book or even getting a new template for a complete refresh. Spending some time on a revamp can help reset your perspective and attract better clients…who pay.
#4: Update your LinkedIn
This is a great place to find reputable clients, so why not spend some time refining the information you’re presenting? Clean up any old descriptions, get some fresh recommendations, upload some cool pieces of content you’ve written, or simply update your photo and bio.
#5: Work on a valuable piece of content
Content marketing is a great way to find clients who not only need work, but who already value your point of view. Write an article on something you think people may want to know more about, a topic you think your existing clients may find useful, or even just something fun and light-hearted. The more you write, the more potential you have for attracting clients who will value your time.
#6: Work on your side project
Writing a book? Taking a class? Drawing something beautiful? Whatever it is, this is your opportunity to spend some creative time on it without the pressure of performing for a paycheck.
#7: Create a course
If you’ve got a skill to sell, why not create a course and sell that knowledge? Withcoach.com makes it super easy for content creators (consultants, freelancers, whatever) to upload their own courses and then sell them for profit. Who needs clients when your work (literally) sells itself ?
#8: Take care of outstanding items
You know that super long list of “to-dos” you’ve been meaning to check off for like, the past 8 months? Well congrats, now you’ve got some time to knock those items out! Make your list then start wrapping things up — you’ll be so glad you finally took the time to deal with everything that’s been weighing on your mind, PLUS, you’ll now have more time to focus on your paying clients, instead of worrying about random stuff.
#9: Enrich your mind
You know what’s really helpful for getting paid work? Expanding and growing your mind! Try picking up a new book (or one you haven’t finished), watching an informative documentary, reading an article, signing up for a class or really anything that helps you grow as an individual / professional.
#10: Mentor another freelancer on not doing spec work
One of the issues with spec work is people saying, “yes” to doing it. By talking about and educating each other on the reasons why we shouldn’t do spec work, maybe one day, clients will stop assuming it’s okay to even ask. If you’re looking for some resources on this, check out nospec.com and watch this video (it’s informative and entertaining!).
Annie is a New York-based product copywriter who works exclusively with startups and small businesses. Have a question? firstname.lastname@example.org