Lessons of Web Design: The Cheap Client

Provided by the Good News Web Designers Association

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Posted by: Doug Cloud of Cloud 9 Web Design

I was contacted by a man in England who wanted me to redesign his company logo. He operates a hackney service (which in American translates into "taxi" service). I talked with him on the phone for our initial consultation, and this is where I made my first mistake: I told him I was just starting out in the Web design business. He seemed extremely friendly and was not at all put off by this.

I visited his website to examine his logo. It was in pretty sad shape, so I made up a couple designs and put them on a review page for him to see. He was pretty impressed and made some suggestions, so I did more and put them up. We went back and forth like this for about a week, which is a normal procedure in the Web design business.

Finally he sent me an email and asked me to give him an invoice "for my time" spent so far. I was just starting out then and so I wasn't sure what to charge him. I called a friend of mine here in town who has his own computer business and asked him what I should charge. He said to start low, at first, and then I could always raise my prices after I got a few more regular clients and a name for myself.

So I wrote up the invoice for $400 - which was 40 hours work at $10 per hour - and then I sent it to him.

I was amazed by his response, which is as follows:

"Dream on, the invoice is far to expensive based on our locality and exceeds the budget...come on please get real, you chose to spend time on creating "originals" and not as we asked originally. I expect a considerable reduction."

To say the least, I was appalled. I had charged him less than he could have gotten anywhere else and still he wasn't satisfied. I was even more amazed that a business man would write such a childish response. As for his "locality" - well, locality has nothing to do with pricing for design work. And as to "choosing to spend my time designing originals" - wasn't that why he came to me in the first place?

Because I was just starting out, I sent him a new invoice for $300. This was my second mistake.

I have learned since then that the worst thing any budding Web or graphic designer can do is lower their initial asking price. Be confident of your talent and charge accordingly!

The best thing to do if your starting out a web design business is to sit down and spend a lot of time deciding what you will charge. Since my incident with the cheap client, I have reworked my entire website strategy. I changed my services page, which had listed each service with a set price. Now I have no prices on my website at all (except for a mention that anything under $5,000 we will require half upfront). I direct all visitors to "contact me" for a free consultation, this way we can talk and I can get an idea what they need, what their experience level is, and how much they have budgeted aside for their particular web design project.

This works a lot better than trying to decide what to charge on-the-fly. It is good business sense to have a good business plan before you actually set out to do business.

If I had known all this beforehand, then I would have also known that this client was simply trying to get work out of me as cheaply as possible.

What were my first mistakes? Well, here they are:

  1. Never tell a client "I'm new at this."
  2. Never lower your initial asking price.

The client eventually demanded all my Photoshop layer files of the logo designs and refused to pay me any more for them. I told him politely (for it always has to be done "politely" - no matter how you feel) that I could not release any more work for only $300, which covered only my time, not the designs themselves.

He threatened legal action. Then he threatened to write up a inflammatory article in my local paper about me and my company. Then he started leaving slanderous messages in my website's guest book. Finally, he wrote and told me that I was a "con man" and a "dog," and that I would reap a dog's reward.

My only recourse through all of this was to do what the Lord had taught me to do: Be still . . .

To each accusation, I replied politely with silence. To each insult, I replied with "I am sorry you feel this way." I had asked the Lord to handle this man for me, to do His will in the matter.

The results: I have not heard from the man since, and in turn I have learned a very valuable lesson about doing business on the Internet.

God indeed smiles upon the good business man (and woman), one who shows wisdom and uses common sense. There were many men and women in the bible who showed these attributes when handling their business affairs. Just because we are Christians doesn't mean we have to lay down and take it. We can be firm and we can be fair. Don't be naive or gullible - these are not traits from above.

After handling the cheap client the way the Lord taught me, I for one can say "Amen" to God's business plan.

Posted by: Bill Willoughby of willoughbywebdesign.com

In a similar vein, I have learned that the Christian business community can be the worst to deal with.

Example: The man from my church who started a Christian counseling service and asked me to design a site for him. He promised to pay me in two months. That was six months ago. He refuses to pay. I began adding 1.5% late fee and he began spreading rumors about me.

Example: The computer store owner who asked me to redesign her site. She paid $250 up front. She had me redo the graphics four times. She'd say they looked good and then would call back and say her husband didn't like the colors; the picture was too small, etc. When I gave her the bill for the balance due, she said that she didn't owe it and the original $250 should cover everything. I reminded her about all the times I had to redo the designs. She told me I should have gotten it right the first time.

Example: The pastor who had me do an extensive site for his church. It ran to about 20 pages with frequent updates. When I was finished and took him the bill, he said he had changed his mind about paying me and I should just consider the site as my tithe to the church.

What have I learned? Well, have the client sign a definitive contract detailing the work and the cost. If it’s a church, at least two people have to sign the contract; no more of this stuff behind the pastor’s office door!

Response by: Doug Cloud of Cloud 9 Web Design

This is sad, but it's also sadly true. These days some of the worst people I've met happen to be (so-called) Christians.

I think what the problem is can be summed up best by something Jesus taught me when I first gave my life over to Him.

He said to me, "Doug, you have to be honest."

I had to be honest with myself before I could be honest with God or anyone else. For over three quarters of my life I lived as a pagan. I did what the world did. I had no qualms about how I acted or the way I treated people. I was a terrible person, but then everyone knew that except me.

The first thing I needed to do was to admit to myself that I was a horrible person, like a person standing up at AA and admitting they're an alcoholic.

After I did that, then it was easy for Jesus to help me. How can He help someone who doesn't even know that what they're doing is wrong?

The key for us to remember is what Jesus said: "No one is good....no, not one." We should always keep in mind "the human factor" whenever dealing with others. People are full of flaws, and becoming a Christian will sometimes go to a person's head and make them an even bigger butthole than they were before.

I know. I was one of those people.




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