I have a client that requires me to submit at least a homepage of my proposed website design. However, I just recently known that he already contacted some other freelancers who incidentally are my known friends. They did the same but after that they are not contacted anymore. So my thoughts are, maybe this client just wish to compile every design then might give it to a cheaper freelancer.

Do you think I need a NDA to protect my design?

3 Answers 3


This is called 'speculative work' or 'spec work' as it's commonly used.

Spec work is you working for free under the assumption that you MAY get paid for it.

This is actually quite common in some industries...film/television, architecture, etc. But it's usually a bad deal.

It's common in the graphic design world, but also quite common to outright refuse to partake in it. The AIGA frowns upon it:


Bottom line is that this client is attempting you to work at zero risk to them.

And NDA won't do much good here, but if you are in a situation where you decide you will do spec work for this client, you should at least draw up a proper contract that states clearly that no portion of the work you produce can be used by the client as all rights to it are retained by you unless payment is issued at your regular rate.


An NDA isn't going to help protect your design other than that your client can't talk about it or show it to other people. NDA stands for Non-Disclosure Agreement, it's when you have something you don't want others to see or find out about it. We use these all the time in the computer science industry so that competitors can't find out about the kind of work we're doing.

I would say it's best to write up a contract to ensure that your work cannot be used by your client unless they actually contract you out for the entire website, that would be the safe thing to do. I'm honestly not a contract expert and I would advise you to hire someone who knows what they are doing. If you are making your living off freelance design I would definitely recommend hiring a lawyer to help you draft up some contracts. In fact, you should really never do any work without a contract, even among friends.


If you want to work with this guy your best bet is to write up a simple contract that binds the 'client'. Restrict ANY usage of your design without compensation and your written consent. Also rope in an NDA so he can't 'show this design to one of this associates'.

My advice don't work with this particular client. Even after you've written these contracts you still run the risk of this individual(s) ripping you off. As a student your resources will be limited in pursing the individual(s).

Save your time, and effort. Find a local or small business interested in PAYING you for your work.

Best of Luck

~ Jeff at Huemor Designs

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