Web Designers: NEVER Work for Free, or Less Pay

For some reason, most clients fail to see the value and effort it takes to make a GOOD website or logo. Depending on the website, one can expect to pay anywhere from a $200 you-get-what-you-pay-for website to a $100,000 fully fledged e-commerce web application. Many clients for some reason expect to pay $1,000 or less and expect the sun, moon, and stars handed to them on a silver platter, when in reality that sun, moon, and stars costs at LEAST 10-15 times more.

Then comes the client that expects work to be done for free. The same person who wouldn’t dare skimp on paying for groceries, clothing, or bills somehow finds ways to short-change the hard-working web designer simply because he FAILS TO SEE THE VALUE. Someone with limited knowledge of the internet naively assumes that a website guarantees instant wealth and power (mwahahahaha!), has them expecting to have the traffic and revenue of a site like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube rolled in one, without any business model whatsoever, and is disappointed when they find out that JUST A LITTLE more work needs to be done to get even a fraction there. ClientsFromHell.net is littered with cases like that, many of them being true stories.

Some classic client lines (borrowed from the ClientsFromHell.net website):

  • “Also, I will pay you when my website becomes popular like Facebook. For now, you can just work on it.”
  • “It’s kinda the same idea as facebook, with functionality more like Twitter, but with the innovation of Microsoft.”
  • “We want Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Twitter and E-Commerce rolled into this one site.”
  • “I want it to be like Facebook… I need to get it done for under $500.”

On a related note, Steve Jobs of Apple and Pixar has already determined for years that the typical client is a complete bozo with limited vision, possessing an IQ in the double-digits or less. He therefore came out with certain technology before others conceptualized it. He came out with a floppy-less iMac during the turn of the century when most people were relying on the Floppy drive. Instead, he had the futuristic-at-the-time USB ports inserted. Jobs saw that people were going to eventually move away from the archaic floppy drive, and he was right. Most people protested against him, but he refused to listen to them. His team of testers historically consisted of one person, himself, and ignoring client requests. The same can be said with Henry Ford when he came out with the Model T automobile during the turn of the 20th century. Mr. Ford once said that “if I had listened to what others said, they would have simply requested faster horses.”

Let’s face it: most clients do not know what they want, period. They rely on us, the experts, to tell them what to do. Otherwise, if they knew what they were doing, they would do it themselves. That said, being that they don’t know what they’re doing, they can’t possibly appreciate why building a website or logo can cost in the thousands of dollars. Not only is the effort that much greater for a harder-to-build website, but the potential ROI (return on investment) is greater as well.

In spite of everything, what is still admittedly amazing is that some clients expect web design work to be done for free. What makes things worse is that, while they rely on the professionals, they often challenge their work. As dumb as a client is, that is still a big insult to ones intelligence. The designer has every right to look at the prospective client with a hint of that mix of nausea and surprise.

Therefore, while the customer may always be right, the designer MUST be able to say “no” from time to time. Which is better, to have a plethora of cheap/free projects where the clients are always hounding you, or to have fewer higher-paying projects where the client is appreciative of your work and understands the value of high-quality work?

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