Free "test project"-Collection 18

Did anyone apply to Collection 18’s recent posting for freelance cold weather designer? Their team had met virtually with me to explain the role/project and told me they wanted to have me do a test project first and if they agreed to move forward with me, then they would pay me for that work. I didn’t accept this because I don’t give away free work.
I am sick of companies in this industry trying to take advantage of designers, especially during a worldwide pandemic and unemployment is so high. I’m sure there may be a few places that do this innocently and aren’t looking to steal work (still not ok) but the majority know what they’re doing.
Has anyone else had this experience with them? Either recently or in the past?


Hi! I haven’t had this experience with them but even after 20 yrs in the business I am still asked to do a project. If you need the job, just do it. It sucks but its very expensive for a company to hire a new employee. Setting up all the paper work, computers, space, insurance all of that. Most companies honestly are not trying to steal the work (some are though) its just they need to make sure that who they hire is right for the job. All they need is a small project. If it seems to big then pass, but if you think it could be worth it, just suck it up and do it. At the very least, its another project to add to your portfolio ;). Best of luck!


Thanks for your response. I understand that it costs a lot of money for companies to hire a new employee. What I’m experiencing with these test projects is for freelance/contract work. It’s off site/you use your own equipment, they don’t pay the taxes, I do, etc. It’s very easy for these companies to post freelance roles, have a few people apply and do a test project then they can say “thanks but not thanks” to each one and now they have free work without hiring anyone and spending a dime.

My feeling is that if they want to make sure I’m the right fit design wise, I submit a portfolio for them to review. If there’s something specific they’d like to see that’s not in my portfolio, I am happy to provide past work.

I understand not everyone is in the same position to turn down work and may be desperate to find something but saying yes to these test projects, only to do free work and be turned down isn’t helping your finances either. I want to make people aware of this practice as it can be shady. Yes, there are some honest companies out there but if they’re doing this then they may not be aware of how this looks. My time is valuable just like everyone else and to commit 8+ hours of work on something for free and not get the job could be best devoted to bettering myself elsewhere.

Again, I appreciate your view point and glad you posted your response. Hope you are faring well during this storm!


I agree, I don’t like to do free work, but I understand that sometimes, if you have a few great candidates and can’t decide between them- then sometimes reviewing a small project can be something that helps a company feel comfortable with your overall aesthetic and quality of your work. As a Design Director, I would occasionally ask people to do a project, just to make sure they were the right choice.

I think there are few caveats, though: one being the word “Small”. This should be something like a little capsule group, I would say just a few pieces, or a trend board, or something along those lines. I would say this should require less than a day’s work, if possible… and using available resources (I would never expect anyone to create a print repeat, etc- if they can pull something from pinterest, etc).

Mostly, I think a project should only be used AFTER the initial interview process, when the pool of potential candidates is quite narrow. I see a more alarming trend of companies sending out form letters, requesting projects after reviewing resumes from indeed. If they don’t want to bother to take the time to speak to you, either in person, or phone, or zoom- before they ask you for projects- then I would say don’t bother. Any legitimate company should want to try to find the right person for the role- not just collect a ton of projects from applicants they can’t be bothered to interview.


I have hired freelancers in the past for design roles and I have never asked them to do a project. The only time I have ever requested a project is for a full time hire and only when they are in the final stage… and they present their project to me and perhaps my manager one level up. We don’t keep their project or anything shady like that. And the project is always small— should take 3-4 hours to do. I have done projects in my past for full time roles and always hired after. It’s the final stage!

Don’t do work for free. You can offer to show them comparable work you’ve done or tell them you have a flat fee or something. I think it’s a fair question to ask what purpose the “project” will serve. If you clearly demonstrate your skills in your portfolio, they shouldn’t need a custom project.

Also— we as a group need to stop accepting these requests as “normal”. This is why we have portfolios. Why you have a list of referrals from past employers. What other industry asks you to do an assignment?!! Honestly I would like to know.


I Amon the business side and just had a company do this for me over the summer - I created an entire business plan and merchandising lifecycle and they strung me along for more and more work and no job offer 3 months. I am a very experienced executive with a very impressive company background ( not to brag) but you don’t survive in those brands if you don’t know what you are doing ( sorry to the designer who disagrees companies aren’t trying to take advantage) - a legitimate company would never ask for free work it’s wrong and this must stop in our industry. It’s plain wrong with no excuse and you have every right to feel violated! In hindsite I wish I said no from the start and stood up for myself!


My dad actually has had this happen to him years ago. He’s an electrical engineer for mainly aerospace firms. Contract work, not full time. They wanted him to work a day and do some CADing to see how he fit with the company. So yes, it does happen in other industries, unfortunately but I hear it more with creative jobs in our field.

There is no point to do a project especially if its a freelance position. The entire point of freelance is that no one is obligated to stay with the other if it is not a good fit. Asking a project for a freelance position is down right rip off.
I have been in this industry for over 20 years and some places still asks for projects. If they cant see where i have worked and how long i stayed at the place and make a judgement of me, then they are not that good anyways. A request for a project right off the bat just smells fishy. Or inexperience in hiring.