Spec-work vs pro-bono?

What is the difference between spec work and pro-bono?

I have always considered pro-bono work to be a form of spec-work, but I notice that the AIGA position states:

Yet not all unpaid design work is considered “spec work.” In fact, unpaid work may take a number of forms:

  • Pro bono work: volunteer work done “for the public good”

Is this a generally accepted position? If so, what differentiates work “for the public good” vs work “for the portfolio” (or any other typical justification for spec-work)?


Yes. That’s generally the accepted difference.

Pro Bono, meaning “for public good” would be along the lines of designing posters for an anti-drug campaign in schools. Or Anti-smoking literature for non-profit groups like the American Outreach Association (which don’t actually sell a product or service).

Essentially, if the project is geared towards helping anyone viewing it rather than simply generating sales, leads, or customers/clients then I consider it pro bono.

I’d have no problem designing a brochure for free to help keep children off crack. I would charge for a brochure advertising a rehab facility to keep children off crack. The difference being the rehab facility makes money from the advertising, even if they are a non-profit entity, they still gain funds directly from the design work.

Spec Work = Someone makes money at some point
Spec work is generally about acquiring something. The business gains either a name, customer, phone number, lead, money, website traffic, or some other tangible resource which they can then use to further their own goals. Spec work asks the viewer to take action in terms of “sign up”, “call”, “e-mail” and then supply some personal information.

Pro Bono = no one profits at any point
Pro Bono work is not about acquiring anything. The work ends up simply floating about the universe educating or informing but not directly pointing viewers to any one resource or asking for anything in return. Pro Bono work seeks to improve the education or lives of its viewers without any direct return.

And it’s important to remember that simply because a business is classified as “non-profit” that doesn’t mean they don’t make money. Non-profit projects are not immediately seen as pro bono to me.

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

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