When the Internet was a new trend there was no such thing as a professional Web Designer or Developer. Individuals interested in making their simple sites prettier and more interesting can be considered the pioneer Web Designers and Developers. Because it wasn’t a popular or well developed profession at the time, everyone just needed to roll with the punches and do their best to design and develop their own websites with the software they could get their hands on.
Today, the web industry has blossomed and grown so rapidly that more and more people have noticed this niche trade. This rapid growth and progression have further shown the important role the web has in each individual’s lives today. The Internet is the new cash on card; you can’t leave home without it.
When the Internet was still new and young, upcoming designers and developers would often have to work for free just to have the opportunity to gain more experience, build your professional portfolio, and to exercise the skills you’ve picked up. Each opportunity to “work with clients” was a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
As the industry stabilized and you’ve gained more experience in the field you decide to take the leap of faith and go down this career path as a long term decision. By this time, you would have already felt the toil of slogging in trenches. However, once you’ve decided that this is your passion, don’t let yourself throw in the towel and give up without a good fight.
All decisions we make have consequences; good or bad, you must face the consequences and know that every bump in the road will only make you stronger and you will come out of it a stronger and wiser person. Don’t make mistakes in vain, learn from them and march on!
The 9 Detested “Requests”
Whether you're an experienced professional or a newcomer, you would have encountered some of the most ridiculous, fascinating, interesting, and even radical requests while working as a freelance designer or developer. Here is a list of some of the most common but exasperating favors requested by clients during their freelancing career. Do these ring a bell? We hope they don’t conjure up too many horrific memories for you.
1. Can you help me create a website for free?
Image credit: _Tawcan
People are always attracted to shiny new things. Whether an individual actually needs it or not, they will desire something everyone else has. Despite not actually having a real need for a website, people in general will want one of their own. Because they don’t have the skills to create one, they will not hesitate to ask budding web designers if they will do a free website for them in exchange for future referral business.
However, the problem with such individuals is that their mindset regarding websites and web design is flawed and should not be encouraged. Individuals like that do not value or understand the work and creativity that goes behind creating a website as such they will never respect you or your work.
2. Can you provide me with free consultation?
Image credit: Shira Golding
Today, seeking a professional’s expert opinion can be chargeable; consultation is not always free. Often times, clients might ask for a simple and brief analysis of the project without any promise of actually giving you the job. This might be just a test to determine if you are someone who knows your stuff and someone they could possibly hire. However, if there are some individuals who will continue seeking free consultation on the promise of giving you the contract.
However, a promise is just words. In business, unless you have a black and white contract, everything is subject to change. Sometimes, clients might even ask questions that are beyond your expertise and still expect you to give them answers. Free consultation is acceptable if done sparingly. However, sometimes when you give somebody an inch, they’ll take a mile, with individuals like that consider charging them for your consultation services.
3. Can you re-design my site for me?
Image credit: Shira Golding
A re-design is not uncommon. Sometimes a client might feel that their website needs a change or purely because what has been done is not up to his standards. It is important to understand why the client feels the need for a re-design and what they hope for in the new design. Two way communications between you and the client is very important. If there is a lack of understanding between designer and client, even when you provide the client with a proposed sketch of the new site the client will still be unhappy with the design and will want to input his own ideas into it.
I believe that designers are often time finds themselves in an impasse; clients always want to have a say in the design, however if the client does not let the designer do his or her job properly, the designer becomes just a designing tool to execute the client’s ideas into reality. This is important to establish your role as a designer and clearly define the boundaries of control the client has over the final design.
Let the client understand that they can and have to trust you to deliver what they want and what is best for the project. Respect each other. Listen to what the client wants, but clients must also trust in the designer they hired to do a good job.
4. My computer and Internet isn’t working, can you fix it for me?
Image credit: slworking2
Working as web designers, we all have basic I.T knowledge because we maneuver around it a lot. It is a bonus to have a great attitude towards service and pleasing your clients. However, be sure to know where to draw the line. Don’t allow them to abuse your willingness to please them. When clients start approaching you for every little Internet or computer related issues they have, you need to be able to put your foot down and politely decline their excessive requests.
If the problems they encounter are related to the web design you have done for them, resolving those issues promptly and efficiently is necessary. Other issues not involving your design should be left to the respective professionals. The best way to side step these requests without alienating your clients is to be refer them to the appropriate professional help or suggesting contacts you know who might be able to help them. There is only so much of the Mr. Nice Guy suit you should wear.
5. Why are these issues still unresolved?
Image credit: William A. Franklin
Clients don’t always know the magnitude of the time and effort that goes into a design project. When we work on projects, a work schedule is very crucial because it keeps the client informed as to how long you need for each phase of the project. Deadlines work the same way as well. When you take on the role of the Good Samaritan and do favors for your client for free, clients tend to forget that good design takes time. You believe that the client will be appreciative of your willingness to do some work for free, but gradually, the client might take you for granted and start bossing you around or make even more unreasonable requests.
Minimize such run-ins with clients by ensuring that they recognize that you are only able to do the work in your free time. Be sure to make this clear with them prior to agreeing to any favors. Gently but firmly bring it across to them that your other work commitments come first and this will affect the speed at which you can complete the work they have requested from you as a favor and for free.
6. Can you continue to provide free support?
Image credit: Ana Santos
Suppose you have completed a project for a client some time ago and the period of free support that was offered in the contract has lapsed. However, months after the lapsed period, your client approaches you to have some bugs fixed. Insisting that these problems are a result of your negligence, they demand that these problems be resolved for free.
Think of this period of free support offered in the initial contract as a warranty period that most products have. With any product or company, once the warranty period is over, any maintenance or repair done will be charged for. If your clients boldly request for an extended period of free support from you, politely remind them of the procedures and criteria of the free support stipulated in your original contract with them.
This is one clause that is very important to be clear about with your clients from the get go, so as to avoid any nasty repercussions and disputes. It is also wise to include in the original discussions and contract with your clients the alternative charges you will enforce should they need future support after the free support period has lapsed. However, a way to maintain cordial relations with your clients is to offer a small discounted rate if you choose to do so.
7. Can I help you with some of your work?
Image credit: JustCallMe_Bethy
Individuals starting out in the web design industry often offer to work for free. Whether these individuals are your friends, acquaintances, or mere counterparts in the industry, when they offer to help you with your projects, ensure they have the ability to follow-through with their offer. It is good of you to help your friend by giving them the opportunity to build their portfolio; however, it is not wise to let them do so at your expense.
You are running a business, quality and efficiency is important. It does not bode well for you if your friend does shoddy work or cannot meet deadlines. Accepting their help in such cases will only cause more trouble for you. You have a reputation to maintain. Unless you are sure of an individuals’ capability and work ethics, it is risky to accept their offer to work for free.
8. Can you provide a mock-up of the project?
Image credit: lilit
The mock-up and wireframe of a project is the blueprint of your design. It is not uncommon for clients to request to see mock-ups and wireframes of your ideas for the project. Remember that verbal agreements and promises can be reneged, unless there is a black and white contract, offers can be retracted. Before you even get to this stage where mock-ups and wireframes are discussed, the client would have already seen your initial proposal in response to their project brief.
Mock-ups and wireframes would be considered the first stage of any project. If a client requests for mock-ups and wireframes prior to any official agreement that you will be undertaking the project, request for a deposit to safeguard yourself. Politely ask clients to understand that this is standard practice in the industry. Having clients provide a deposit will discourage them to take your ideas elsewhere. It will also ensure that the work you do preparing the mock-ups and wireframes will not be in vain should they decide not to work with you eventually.
9. Can you help me set up my website and maintain them?
Image credit: Andrew Stawarz
Doing favors for friends is not a bad thing. You never know when you need the favor returned. A friend might ask if you can help get his website up and running – like setting up a free web hosting, registering a domain and installing free templates. During this period, you might have made a verbal agreement with your friend that after a specified period has reached; he will need to start making payments for future services.
Being friends, you accept his word as truth and dispense with any formal contracts. However, when the specified period is up, when you start billing your friend problems might arise. Not all friends will go back on their word, but there are some who might, friends who might make use of you for their own benefit.
True friends will respect that you are running a business and have to make ends meet. They will not abuse your friendship or take advantage of your kindness and exploit you for their own means. Regardless of your friendship, it is best to guide them in the process of setting up their own website rather than doing it for them for free.
Even with friends, it is best to draw up a contract with them if it pertains to the dealing of money and payment. A real friend will understand that it needs to be done. Money is the root of all evil and even friends can turn against each other because of issues involving money. Safeguard yourself with a proper contract.
Learn When to Say ‘No’
It can be very difficult to say no to clients, and even harder to say no to family and friends. It is a positive thing to do favors for others and your generosity can work to your advantage with clients at times. Such issues usually don’t surface when dealing with reasonable clients. It is the pushy and exploitive clients that you have to careful of. Find out what how to spot the clients you should be wary of in our previous article – The 5Cs of Choosing the Right Client.
Have you encountered such problems in your career? How did you deal with such requests? What is the best way to say no without hurting your relationships with your clients, family or friends? Share your story with us.