If you don’t have a solid track record of compelling work, then doing “spec” work (free work on speculation) is a brilliant way to get new business. In my career, nothing has been more effective for getting new business, than showing people past projects that I’m really proud of. I see other companies advertising, doing e-blasts, and spending lots of money on marketing, but for us, great work says it all. But what if you don’t have any great work under your belt? It’s common in the advertising industry for new commercial directors to create spec commercials. They just pick a product – Nike, Starbucks, Ford – whatever, and they spend their own time and money producing a commercial for that company or product. Then, they can use that commercial to pitch themselves as directors. It’s not unusual for me to see 3-5 spec spots on a new director’s reel.
Keep in mind I’m not suggesting you do free work for clients who can afford to pay. I don’t believe in taking advantage of people. But if your career hasn’t taken off yet – or has stalled – and you need some compelling demo material to show people, then consider producing some spec work. You’ll be spending your own time, money, and resources, but on the bright side, there’s no client to make any changes!
Nothing builds credibility for the future like great work from the past.