Internship or Spec Work?

I’ve just completed a Bachelor’s in Web Design & Development and have been casting a wide net for employment opportunities, including internships, paid and unpaid. I was contacted by one company (offering an unpaid opportunity) that is getting started and needs to build a launch site. In order to select the proper candidate, they’ve asked that I submit design mockups for what will ultimately be a very visual and animation-heavy site.

What is raising some alarms for me is that the more I dig into the internship, this just sounds like free labor. If my mockups are selected as the best (I’m up against two other candidates), I will come on as the sole designer/developer of their site. Based on the site they gave me to review as an example of what they are looking for, this is going to be a lot of work, and is frankly a bit beyond my skill set. When I applied, I assumed that there would be an established developer to assist with the project and help me build my skills (as I always thought some part of internships includes on-the-job training, since normally it would be supplementing/replacing an academic course).

Is this typical of an internship with an up-and-coming company, with the possibility of future full-time work? Or is this just spec work, a way to get a free website? I’ve never had an internship, so don’t feel qualified to judge.


Sounds entirely like spec work to me.

Anyone asking you to do anything other than show samples of your previous work, is asking for spec work. There is never a call for the “do this job and if we like it we’ll hire you.” And there is never a call for creating a “mock up” of something unless you’ve already been hired or signed a contract.

No respectable employer is going to ask you to work for free before hiring you. That’s not how ethical businesses operate.

Any employer or client can glean all they need to from looking at a portfolio of previous work, this is especially true if they can “view page source” for web projects rather than merely looking at screenshots.

The only caveat may be a development position requiring server-side scripting (which can’t be viewed client-side) where the prospective employer wants to understand how you logically work through a problem. However, often this can be accomplished by questions or small chunks of sample code they ask you to write, not anything which would be overall functional.

Frankly, I’d pass on that “opportunity” to design a site for free for them.

red flag

Source : Link , Question Author : JAKatras , Answer Author : Scott

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