Let’s take a look back to two and half years ago. Back then I was a senior in College with one extra semester of school left to complete my degree. I had 3 co-op work experiences under my belt and a partially completed portfolio that needed to be refined and finalized. However, I was aware that if I wanted to stand out amongst other candidates in the job market, have some more real-world design projects in my book would help differentiate myself. So being recently turned on to Craigslist for researching potential apartments for my big move to the windy city in the upcoming months I thought to peruse the “gigs” section.
Up until this point I had enjoyed the Craigslist concept, a free open place to submit wanted ads. For physical objects such as products and real-estate this model seemed to be a legitimate Laissez-faire environment. However I soon realized this is not the same case for the creative gigs section. Numerous posts offered the promise of experience, and book building projects, however failed to offer any form of compensation. The ones that did offer compensation either did not offer enough to even be close to a respectable wage or were promising “profit sharing.” In the rare occasion that there was a request that was of enough compensation to consider doing, the details were always sketchy and not very promising.
Over these past two and a half years I have returned to the gigs section on numerous periodic occasions looking for potential freelance employment opportunities with varied success. I have even followed through with some phone calls. All of which turned out to be too risky to continue on with the project, such as requests for “examples” to decide upon a final designer, or other speculative requests. Because of all these reasons I no longer believe Craigslist, to be a place for serious design professionals to seek work. I just have come to the hypothesis that Design services (and probably a majority of other artistic services) are just fundamentally incompatible with the Craigslist user base. Due to the fact that the majority of users on Craigslist are searching for discount goods, design should never be obtained through the site. Design, as most people that have worked with creatives in the past know, is not a service that can be sped up or done on an insanely small budget without serious compromise to the final product.
Recently Craigslist has added a 5 dollar charge to adding listings in their “jobs” section which has helped reduce the number of unqualified and spam job listings. However nothing has been done to the “gigs” section, so I am suggesting that we as designers once again join up and silently boycott the section. By doing so we will do are part to reduce the number of posts who under-value and under-appreciate our services. However if you do wish to still pursue these listings I have created the following list of guidelines to safe-guard oneself from spec work, and other potential harm.
List of Tips for Safer and More Profitable Craigslist Freelance Gigs
- Demand a deposit of 50% up front no matter how short the deadline or small the budget. This will save you from about 90% of all scams.
- Refuse all spec requests, no exceptions. (Donations of services are ok, if you don’t know the difference visit no-spec.com for details.)
- If compensation is too low inform the listing’s owner and let them know why. Chances are they may not know what an appropriate price is, and may be open to meeting your price for quality services.
- Never except any job that would take time away from jobs appropriately paying clients.
- Don’t be a Mac Monkey. Just because someone has a sketch of a logo they made on a napkin that they want turned into vector for 25$ does it mean you should do it. There are numerous reasons why a trained professional should not do this that I am not going to get into here.
- Don’t be lured into work by promises of experience. Experience is no substitution for fair compensation, unless it is co-op or internship where college credit is the compensation (but even still a lot of positions are still payed).
- Above all else, trust your gut. If something does not feel right to you, then do not do it. You will be happier in the end that you did not put any undue stress upon yourself even if you were wrong about your feelings.
These tips should help keep you from feeling totally taken advantage of, and from getting ripped off. Here is where you come in, share your experiences or tips in the comments below. As a closing thought, remember you can always turn a website off, or withhold the deliverables until you receive final payment for people who have a hard time “remembering” your invoices.