Designer's Exploitation


Let me say hi to all as I have just landed on this forum.

Often I see lot of designers grumble that their clients have used their ideas and awarded the project to someone else at a lower price. So, as per my opinion I believe that in case if anyone asking you for the samples do the following things:-

  • Show them your portfolio
  • Never take custom sample request without charging
  • Respect your skills and time

No matter whoever your client is, always ask them to pay a nominal fee for getting sample stuff. I would advise this, because you have been spending lot of time and efforts.

What’s your say?

UX Redesign Assignment
Is it unusual I've never been asked to do a design test or exercise during a UX interview?
Company Test
(Help) How to submit a Pre-Interview UX assignment - (Format/Outline)

Hi there – welcome.

Related discussion here:

and here:


I think that’s the first time I’ve ever been linked twice in one post. Check that off my bucket list!

But yeah, don’t work for free, samples included. If your portfolio isn’t doing enough to get you the job, you need to review your portfolio.

I’m sure the great @joenatoli would have a few thoughts on how to handle the portfolio vs. samples subject as well.


Two worthy links @dougcollins


I agree with @dougcollins here. I think this trend of having designers do exercises to get hired is a slippery slope to begin with, and when it veers into “here’s actual work for an actual client,” that’s a red flag in my book. That’s spec work, and it’s something I am 1000% against. Do not ever work for free unless the client is a charity organization (and sometimes not even then).

Your time is your value, and you deserve to be compensated for that. Charging a nominal fee to keep them honest (e.g. $45/hr) makes sense to me, and I think that anyone who balks at that is someone you don’t want to work for in the first place — because they have every intention of exploiting you, intentionally or otherwise.


This. Especially when we’re young and getting into the industry, the temptation to do “whatever you need to” to get the job is high. The truth is that sometimes it’s better to pass on work or a position than to be miserable all day working for someone who doesn’t value your time and skills.


We’ve run into this a bit in my current job and I really respect the way it’s being dealt with. We have a policy of paying people a competitive salary to do a 1 month trial (or longer if they need to do it part time while they work another job). At the end of the month we either employ them or not – if it’s a not then we’ve compensated them fairly for their time.


I really appreciate all for chipping in and helping me out based on your past experiences.


That’s a fantastic, respectful approach — and a model more organizations should follow.


Indeed that’s the best and respectful way. It really shows your openness and the cultural values you are trying to portray.


I just read @joenatoli’s Are UX Interview “Exercises” Crossing the Line? and it resonated so much at this time in my career.

I was recently invited to a job interview but before going, I had to complete a design task. My gut was telling me “don’t do this” and the task was fairly complex, but as @dougcollins said, I had the mentality of needing to do “whatever you need to” to get the job. After I completed the task, I went to the interview, which involved presenting the task to the UX lead, product manager, and about 5 other designers with Q&A after. Then I had individual interviews with every member of that group. I looked at clock before I left. I was interviewed for 5 hours. To my surprise, I didn’t get the job. After taking my designs, taking almost an entire work day from me, I was given a simple “we’re moving on with another candidate.” I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t get the job–I was disappointed that this company didn’t really care about wasting their interviewees’ times. But in the end, I really only have myself to blame.

When I came home, my husband was certain that they were "using " my application for design ideas. I doubted it at first, but now, I’m not sure what to make of this all.

@joenatoli’s article has definitely reminded me to trust my gut when it comes to doing spec work.


I can’t explain how frustrated this makes me. What a rough interview! I’m so sorry you had to go through this. It really, really stinks for you, and to me, that’s the most important part. This is 100% not fair to the interviewees.

It’s also a mind-numbingly terrible way to evaluate talent from an employer’s perspective. You may have read my blog post on why take-home design challenges are useless - and if you haven’t, I’d give it a go once you’re feeling up to it.

My biggest takeaway advice for you from my post would be that you definitely are entitled to at least some feedback on why they didn’t go with you, and what you could have done better with your design challenge.

Dealing with feedback is an important part of being an effective designer. Receiving and synthesizing feedback into improved designs and self-improvement is imperative.

What’s more, anyone who’s spent significant time doing design work for you deserves your honest assessment. It helps them grow, it helps the industry grow, and it helps your team grow.

As designers, we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity; to be evaluated for our relevant skills when applying for a job; and to be placed on a level playing field. Take-home design challenges don’t deliver on these basic privileges.

Your potential employer wasted hours of their own time running through an exercise with you (and probably several other candidates) for which you got neither pay nor feedback. The very least that they can do is help you improve.

If you find yourself in a similar situation in the future (and I hope you don’t), ask for feedback on your design and interview if you don’t get the job. At the very least, you’ll learn something from the process.


I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you.


Sorry to hear this happened to you, Rei. This company’s behavior definitely falls on the side of disrespectful and suspicious. To expect anyone to sacrifice 5 hours of their day without compensation is, to me at least, unacceptable. Respect is a two-way street, and anyone who doesn’t show you that respect is not someone you want to work for.

And Doug’s points here are absolutely correct; for what you gave them, they should have at least given you complete, thorough feedback on why you didn’t make the cut. Again, a simple matter of respect. For future interviews, never forget that YOU are interviewing THEM as well.



It happened. Again.

And despite everything I learned here, I couldn’t resist to agree to do the task. I can’t resist passing on a challenge because I’m worried I’ll look like I’m afraid to take on the task or they’ll think I can’t do it. At this point, I need help constructing a polite way of saying “sorry, but I can’t do free work…even though I said I would” in an email. I know, this is bad.


I need UX therapy.


Oh Rei :cry:

I’m so sorry this happened again. Are you OK? How are you feeling?

Don’t stress- totally understandable! This is not your fault. Remember that your time is valuable too and applications are a two way process.

OK so if I’m understanding correctly, you’ve been asked to do a task, you said yes and now you need help declining? Not judging - just clarifying.

If that is the case, I would put something like this together:
Thank you for considering me for this opportunity but on reflection if I am to continue with this process and complete the task (insert actual task name), we will need to first discuss compensation for my time in the form of a nominal fee. Alternatively, I would be happy to show you some examples of my work in my portfolio.

Be prepared for the possibility that you may not hear back - but do you really want to work for people who behave like this?

I used to love these things but I got burned once too a few years ago and it wasn’t a nice feeling. I lost 10 hours of my time - I did get the job but they drastically changed the employment conditions (not in a good way) and I had to turn it down. It showed me that I couldn’t trust them and I couldn’t do that to myself. Never forget your worth Rei. You deserve respect and equality as much as anyone else.


Because THIS can’t be said enough.


@AshleaMcKay Thank you–I really needed to hear this. You’re right, if I weren’t to hear back from them, these aren’t people I’d want to work with. I really like how you’ve worded the “decline” email.

@Piper_Wilson Totally agree. I can’t see any respectable designer doing this, so why do I think it’s okay for me to do? I need to realize my worth and stop getting used.


Oh Rei, I’m so sorry you’ve had to run through this! I can only imagine how frustrating this must be.

I’m going to re-work my previous piece and see if I can get an article published somewhere about why this type of work needs to stop. I would love to chat with you more about your experience, if you have the time and inclination to do so. Would you be interested?


@dougcollins yes, especially if this will help others in similar situations!