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People ask for free work all the time from some small-business owners. Here's what it looks like.

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CNBC's The Profit

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country.

There are nearly 30 million of them. They inject tons of dollars into local economies all over the country, and they provide about half of the private-sector jobs in the country.

However, 73% of small businesses are single-entity employers, meaning the owners work for themselves and don't employ other people.


They're web designers. Writers. Graphic illustrators. Programmers. Architects. Painters.

And many, many more.

The trouble is, some folks think it's totally OK to ask people in certain professions for “spec" work.

What is it?

Images by Zulu Alpha Kilo/YouTube.

Spec work is when someone asks a professional to do a job for “name recognition" or “publicity," or in the hope that maybe someday they'll actually get paid for their work.

For folks who need the work or are just getting started, it's a double-edged sword. On one hand, the appeal is understandable: If indeed it does end up generating “real" work (of course, spec work is real work), it can indeed generate other gigs and help make social connections.


On the other hand, it's unpaid work, and it often demeans the person doing it for free. Especially for younger people and those in certain professions such as web design and programming, it's a common problem.

Even worse, the companies contracting the spec work usually get the rights to the intellectual property.

The folks at advertising agency Zulu Alpha Kilo understand this all too well. They made this wonderful video of a guy walking into a meeting with a frame designer, a personal trainer, an architect, and a restaurant owner ... and asking for free stuff.

I'm not really sure what he expected would happen, but the reactions of the professionals and small-business owners? Absolutely priceless.

And hysterical.

Too true, right? Let's fight for a system that gets everyone fair compensation — especially the small businesses that make our communities thrive.

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