Taking on a spec piece can be really troubling. It can also be rewarding.
I find it really awkward. I’ve only had a few decent experiences with spec ads that have led to more work or a better relationship.
I’m not going to tell you whether to accept them or to not, but I will give you a few experiences I’ve passed through since graduating college.
I don’t know how frequent an occasion this is for other people, but I went to film school with some really talented people who have done some exceptional work. So when I approached them (this is the key part of the situation from the others) about what kind of work we could put out together and they had a spec lying around a hard drive, I volunteered to do it. It’s still in the process of being finished in post. Now I consult with most of their edits and I have been able to provide some work to others in my close network because of the relationship.
I need something. I can’t afford something. My friend has it and wants to do a spec. Sure. I’ll edit some or all of your spec in exchange for using that thing. I won a client out of trading with my friend so it turned out to be a great thing for me. My friend still isn’t where he needs my help on the spec so far this has been the easiest experience for us both.
This happened closer to my graduation. I wouldn’t make this mistake again. A friend, a co-director of a small spec, handed me some footage to cut together. The same person went out of town and I was going to have the cut done by the time he got back. The spot was to air on TV if things went well. So my work would be better showcased. That was the lure of it for me. The friend came back to town. His co-director cut his own thing and handed it in without telling me. All my work went for nothing and to this day nothing has really been profitable for me.
So take what you will from those situations. I think each situation has its lessons to learn from. Don’t let your work go to waste whatever the case may be though.