Top 8 Dreaded Favors Asked of Web Designers

By / Mar 9, 2010 / Tips

Long before you officially take the profession of graphic or web designer, your friends and family will support your ambitions by developing your talent. At first, your loved ones inspect your work and if they like what they see, you’ll get flooded with their requests for one page flyers, t-shirt designs, logos, and company websites. When you are just starting out, you welcome their requests because it gives you a chance to grow your skill set as a designer. After all, it’s almost like dealing with real clients, right?

The drama comes when you actually become a full time designer. The friends and family who drew upon your talent during your newbie years are still standing around with their hands out, and now you also must contend with two more groups of favor askers: clients and anonymous foreigners who contact you through Twitter.

Here are 8 of the most common and eye-rollingly annoying favors all designers encounter at one point or another. For ease of reference, we’ll call the offending party “Dude.”

1. “Hey, can you take a look at my site and tell me what you think?”

At first glance, this seems like a harmless five to ten minute project. Dude asks for your opinion, and you both know that you are an esteemed and dedicated design pro. You optimistically click on his website link, and you’re teleported back in 1998 with a Geocities-reminiscent design so horrifying it makes MySpace look professional. After you try hard not to lose all respect for Dude, you carefully suggest that he get rid of the Flash intro. You are then met with an uncomfortable defensiveness, where Dude refuses to accept your professional advice.

Lesson learned: Decipher whether your friend is looking for actual advice or just a pat on the back.

2. “Um, would you mind designing my site… for free?”

It’s shocking how many people feel truly entitled to a free web design. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of introducing yourself as a web designer, you may notice the wheels instantly starting to turn in your acquaintance’s mind. Everyone, even those without any product or any relevant thing to say, want, demand and need a website. These are the people, especially, who will want such a website produced for free. They may lure you with the distant hopes they use to fuel their own insanity: “Once I get some visitors, I’ll direct them to your services” (Standard practice, regardless).

Lesson learned: Limit your charity cases to those you can do in your free time and only do it for charity because the only reward you’ll reap is psychological.

3. “Can you help me design my site to look like ______?”

This request is closely related to the first two requests. Perhaps Dude has taken it upon himself to designed a website, already had a moment of epiphany and now realizes that it sucks. At least you’re on the same page. Then comes, “I’d like my site to look just like Avatar. You know, all 3D and stuff.” Once you realize that Dude is serious, another realization also sinks in. If you take on this “consulting” project, all of your time and energy will be engulfed by this vortex, and you won’t be getting paid for your trouble. What’s the solution? Direct Dude to Yahoo! Answers? No, he’ll never go for that, because this is a top secret idea.

Lesson learned: Find your inner ineptness and apply it to this situation. Feign ignorance, suggest peripheral design ideas such as blue color palettes and wait for your friend to get bored of the idea and come to his senses.

4. “I think I have a virus.”

No one likes to hear these words, and if someone’s sharing this information with you, they usually want one of two things: sympathy or help, sometimes both. When you hear these words come from a client, you must assume they are referring to a computer virus (let’s hope). This your client’s passive/ aggressive way of getting you to offer assistance. If you, wisely, remain silent, he or she will shamelessly ask you for your help. Just because you work in front of your computer all day does not mean that you qualify for tech support. You have to Google things just like everyone else.

Lesson learned: Get the courage to finally direct someone to Let Me Google That For You. However, for professional relationships, avoid the snark and actually lightly research the problem, but make no promises and waste no longer than 15 minutes.

5. “Let me help you with any of your extra work.”

This favor comes in the form of a donated favor. In other words, Dude is suggesting that he’s doing you a favor, when he’s actually just trying to get paid. One morning you open your email box, and there’s an email from some dude you’ve never heard of. He wants you to lend him some of your work. Depending on your level of job-related stress, you may be inclined to offer him some work, but what’s this? No portfolio? No website? No spell-check. Wait, is Dude even located in the same hemisphere as you?

Lesson learned: You get what you pay for.

6. “So, it’s been a minute… How much longer is it going to take?”

Just when you’ve got your Good Samaritan on and decided to help Dude during your free time, he starts becoming a diva. Never mind the impossible requests to make his website look just like *let your imagination run wild on this one,* or the countless revisions to a perfectly designed logo, or the endless hours you spent over IM trying to explain why putting an invisible list of keywords at the bottom of the webpage is unnecessary. When you least expect it, expect to receive a phone call, email, direct tweet saying, “Hey, so, um… when’s the project going to be finished?” You reply back, “Dude, I told you I was going to fit this in between my actual work from actual clients that actually pay.” To this, Dude replies, “I didn’t think it was going to take this long, maybe I should just get this professionally done.” Oh, that’s a killer. First of all, Dude has no consideration for the amount of time you’ve invested in this project. Secondly and more importantly, you are a professional. Why not offer you money so that you can prioritize his project?

Lesson learned: Clearly state from the beginning that it will take you some ridiculously long amount of time to complete the project for free and if Dude’s still on board, he’ll be happy if you finish it sooner than expected.

7. “Can I use your server until I get my own hosting?”

What’s so wrong about this request? You have extra space and you can afford the bandwidth. The problem is that Dude will never get his own hosting, and eventually he’ll forget about his site. A year later, you’ll remind him, “Hey Dude, you know you still have your stuff on my server? I’m moving to another server, so is it alright if I get rid of it? You have a back up, right?” Dude will do one of two things: he’ll respond with indignant anger, upset that you’re rushing him to get his act together or he’ll pretend to be okay with it, all the while, holding a grudge.

Lesson learned: Friends don’t let friends use their servers.

8. “Hey, I volunteered you to re-do my co-worker’s step-daughter’s wedding album.”

You can replace this with any task in which your mom volunteers your services for free. It’s always lovely to deal with someone who’s happy to accept your honest labor for free, because we all know they won’t make any unreasonable demands. The most difficult part of this ordeal is having to contend with your mother in her role as the merciless middleman who nags you for quality, timeliness and her good reputation.

Lesson learned: Grin and bear it? There’s no real way to avoid this nightmare.

What are some of the most annoying favors your friends and family have asked from you?

About the Author

Jacqueline is an artist and a writer who spends an inordinate amount of time playing Super Nintendo and watching Star Trek. You can find out more about Jacqueline on her website, and follow her updates on Twitter.


  1. NigerianDude
    April 23, 2010

    I agree with No.6 and 8 i work as Php web Developer coming up so i decide to help one of my uncle’s Boss in the bank on his Joomla Site for that i have actual clients that pay this dude request for more features that actual client don’t and yet he request like it’s his given right.Now ave learnt my lesson nice article i totally relate with this

  2. Aaron Kato
    April 26, 2010

    I’ve got an other kind of recently-asked favor :) I’ve been having a BBQ party with some of my Dudes who didn’t even know me and they asked about my job? I’ve answered the truth and right at this moment I’ve made a huge mistake. One of them immediately realized that I’m able to create a stunning (or not stunning whatever, everybody loves free stuff) website for him and he offered the most fabulous business ever for me. Apparently this business was based on a website and not on the product, and apparently all the people realized that they don’t even need to pay for a design anymore and suddenly the BBQ party turned into a let’s talk about our ideas Aaron will make us successful :) A hour later I beg to remark that I won’t do anything for free even if I really like them all and silent. Everybody was sad and disappointed for 20 seconds :) I wasn’t too proud on myself, but it was unavoidable and I was happy to get rid of 3 year of free-work :) They haven’t called me for 3 weeks :) Strange :D

  3. Alice Dagley
    April 29, 2010

    I also have something to add: “Could you provide me with wire frame before starting the project?”. You spend many hours to create a prototype in Axure and adjust it many times and then when your are ready to receive 50% retainer to proceed with design and coding your client disappear with ready prototype that you’ve made for free.

  4. Alan
    May 2, 2010

    Being a web developer has taught me one of the most paradoxical parts of human nature: people don’t respect what they get for free. Something gnaws at them when they get a free website from you, because they think there must be something WRONG with it. When I started out I did a free website for a lady with a smoked fish business. It was no-frills design-wise, but it worked, it was reasonably attractive, and it had ecommerce. She was never happy with it, and in the end she went to a local developer and paid him to do her a hideously ugly site (based on a free template), that had stuttery flashes when clicking on links, and no ecommerce! And to this day, I will bet money that she thinks she has a better website now.

    Lesson: no freebies, ever. If you give someone something free, they will assume it’s worthless.

    • Petar Zivkovic
      July 22, 2010

      I agree with you 100%

      This is even true when you offer a discount to close friends or long time clients. Initially they’re glad to get the break, and then it’s as if it eats at them and they keep asking themselves “wait a minute, why is this so much cheaper than last time/other guy”…

      When you make somebody pay full price, and deliver 100%, everyone is happier. :)

    • MajorTom
      July 22, 2010

      And beware the potential client who leads with money: “Hey, we need a simple website designed. There’s $600 to $800 in it for you, and it would only take a few hours. How about it?”

      First of all, their “simple” concept may be way more complex than they realize. Second, they are attempting to get a fixed price deal up front when you haven’t even had a chance to assess the scope of the job. Even if you do decide to evaluate the job at this point, you’re going to be tempted (especially if it’s a friend or acquaintance) to figure out how to give them what they want for the money they’re offering. That’s unfair to you because it compels you to try shortcuts that may not (and often don’t) work. So you end up going the full distance for cheap. The result: They’re happy and you’re broke.

    • Ali Taylor
      April 15, 2011

      Truer words have never been spoken.

  5. Luyen
    May 7, 2010

    Biggest warning sign for a web designer/developer.

    “The client doesn’t have much money…”…really meaning they have impossible expectations and are cheap. WALK AWAY. NOW. DON’T LOOK BACK…

  6. anoj kumar
    May 22, 2010

    nice and realistic article…i just happnd to xperince the same this or the other way…

  7. Ant Gray
    June 9, 2010

    The less client pay, the more troubles will be with him.

  8. Suzanne Day
    June 15, 2010

    Couldn’t agree more with all the points in this article! Also, it’s a bit stupid to be told “my nephew can create websites” then one year later they come back and say “we need you after all!” People I beg you to consider how you would enjoy the services of a cheap mechanic, a cheap doctor or a cheap restaurant meal. Good web designers who know what they are doing are not cheap!!!

  9. Federico Capoano
    June 23, 2010

    It’s normal to do mistakes but cmon, some to fall in some of the situation pointed here you have to be REALLY naive – not just inexperienced – I mean NAIVE as a person in general.

  10. Darren
    June 23, 2010

    I have one that seems to pop up all the time (probably because I am doing more design than i need to!).

    “I like all 3 designs templates, it would be good if you could merge all of them together!”

    • Marc
      January 21, 2011

      Oh yeah. Had this happen on a several projects. It’s the reason I finally stopped showing multiple concepts. Now I show one, and bill for reworks. Multiple concepts used to be the way things were done – and clients USED to respect us as professionals. Lose the latter, lose the former.

  11. Ben Zachary
    June 23, 2010

    Designing web pages are already pretty complicated. Additional stress, not cool.

  12. Matt
    July 4, 2010

    Totally agree! Fantastic article.

  13. MajorTom
    July 22, 2010

    And how about clients who think that a contract equals total power for them to make endless changes for no additional money? Always include a scope of work in your contract and the stipulation that YOU and YOU ALONE determine whether a requested change is outside the original scope. The goal isn’t to nickel and dime them to death, it is to make sure you get paid for it if they decide they want major changes three-quarters of the way through the project. If a potential client doesn’t like the idea that extra work will cost them extra money, you don’t need them for a client.

    • Marc
      January 21, 2011

      This deserves a story.

      Project: A high-end furniture print catalog.

      Working with the client, I submitted my first proposal. Now, I generally include a little in my estimates to cover the inevitable minor changes. If there aren’t any, we’re under budget and I get to be the hero. If there are, I don’t have to nickle-and-dime the customer on the final invoice.

      Customer says, “This is a little high. Is there ANYTHING we can cut out of this?” Like a fool (this was early on), I told him about the extra in there for first-round changes.

      Client: “Oh, good. There won’t BE any changes. None. We know EXACTLY what we want!”

      Me: (Dubiously) “Well, okay, I’ll put it out, but if there ARE any changes – any at all – I’ll be billing them at $XX per hour.”

      Client: “Oh, that’s fine. No problem. No changes at all.” (signs contract, which clearly shows the hourly rate for changes.)

      Fast-forward to the tortured end of the project, where I submit a final invoice with an amount for changes ALONE that’s greater than the original proposal.

      Client: “WHAT?? You said you wouldn’t charge for changes! You said you’d take it out of the proposal!”

      Me: No, I told you that any changes would be billed at $XX per hour. That’s clearly written on the contract. I did the changes you asked for, nothing more.”

      Client: “That’s rediculous! I’m not paying for all this!”

      Me: “See this contract? Is that your signature?”

      Client: “Yeah.”

      Me: “We’re done here.”

      He tried to not pay me for the changes when he sent a check for only the original proposal amount. I reminded him of his signature on the contract. Paid in Full.

      First-round MINOR changes should be on-the-house (you build that into your original price). Anything after that should be billed at full rate. And make sure it’s all in your contract.

  14. Frank Web
    July 29, 2010

    It is true that there are a lot of people out there think that web designing is as easy as counting 1,2,3 – that they even asked people to do it for free. And it is true that there are customers who always bothers their designers and not just leave the work to them. Though there are designers who made mistakes and their clients will not be satisfied.

    That’s why choosing a web designer is really tough, and in my case, I’ve choosen the best designer for my site. They’re Create Webworks of

  15. Lee Greenhill
    July 30, 2010

    :-) This is very good and so very true. Unfortunately in my early days of business it reminds of how I used to react to such requests and get in no end of problems with time management, costs and producing the right output. Thanks Jacqueline for reminding me of how not to do things!

  16. Julie Ann Stricklin
    July 30, 2010

    I loved this article! When they offer you exposure for your work, tell them designers die of exposure.
    You can’t pay your bills with exposure.

  17. Nathan
    August 2, 2010

    Loved it! Very funny and completely true! So glad I am not a web designer! But I think, to be fair, a lot of people could apply this to their business, I know I’ve heard one of two of them before!

    Thanks for starting my day with a good chuckle Jacqueline!


  18. Web design portfolio
    August 10, 2010

    I get a variation on number 4 all the time. ‘Oh you’re a web designer? Can you fix my computer…’

  19. wordpress designer
    August 17, 2010

    Virus problem is common now a days.

  20. Saibot
    August 21, 2010

    Great Post. As a web developer i get a lot of similiar requests.

  21. sean fyresite
    October 13, 2010

    It’s funny I have gotten more than half of these requests in the past few months, I looked at a friends site that was a total disaster and then he asked me if I wanted to build a new one for free!!!

  22. Leighe
    October 19, 2010

    Love this article — so true! I had something similar to these happen to me recently with a client I was designing a insurance site for. He wanted 500+ pages that are provided (and coded, thank god) by the national insurance agency he belongs to.

    The first problem (and I should have RUN when I saw this), is that he had originally made his website with a microsoft program and wanted me to use that program as well.

    I was appalled, of course, seeing as I am a Dreamweaver user, and when he insisted I use the program (and buy it myself), I refused and told him that if he wanted a site from me he had to follow my rules.

    So he did…to a point. During the whole process he kept wanting me to change things in impossible ways. Like putting over 65 links in a drop down menu that you had to scroll to see. Ugh. I tried to circumvent him but it didn’t work.

    After four months of this fighting, we had a finished product that could always be added to if necessary. Which was the goal. Until he told me that he wanted to re-do the whole thing b/c he was unhappy with it.

    Needless to say, I dropped him as a client, and his website has gone back to the microsoft template he was using.

    What a waste.

  23. Eric
    December 30, 2010

    I’m currently dealing with a similar situation. This client was very difficult. I gave her a quote, she said it was too much. I told her that I’d work with her (because I was in a drought and needed to pick up another client soon) and she insisted that it was slightly too much. So then we met again (for the 5th or 6th time) and I was getting ready to tell her “find someone else because I’m tired of dealing with you”. She decided that not only was she now ok with my original quote, she wanted to add a bunch of other things that were going to end up costing her a ton more. I have a 2-payment process with my clients – half up front, half after. So I would be able to delay responding to most of her nagging and not have to worry about money…oops, she can’t pay half up front, she can barely afford to pay anything each money. So I stupidly cut her a break and said yes to the monthly payments, getting paid barely anything each month and now she thinks that I’m her full time employee…what?!? I have to remind her every few weeks “once the site is done, I’m done unless you hire me for more work” (which by that, I meant “once the site is done, I’m never speaking to you again or else I might end up killing myself”).

    Oh and at the same time, I have another client who is the easiest client imaginable. She had barely any specs for the sites I was creating for her, so I could pretty much do what I imagine is the best design for the site. I told her that I have a 2-payment system, she paid in full, upfront. Since she first hired me, she has come back to me for 2 more projects.

    Lesson of my story – If a prospective client seems difficult (hard to get in touch with, complains about your quote too much, constantly brings up the quotes they get from web design firms in India, etc) that means that chances are, they will always be difficult and will be a pain to work with. If you spend more time meeting with a prospective client than you would on actually designing their website, just say no and leave. Don’t think “they will be different” because they won’t be. And unless they pay in full upfront, they will withhold that last payment until they have tried everything they could to get you to do more work for free.

    And yes, never do a website for free unless they are giving you a bunch of verified referrals. Personally, I would do a free website for 5 referrals that I can verify as legitimate, but that’s the only way.

  24. anony mouse
    January 21, 2011

    i have learnt all these lessons the hard way. trying to be “the nice guy”… there is a reason the saying goes “nice guys finish last”.

    I have however found that when doing favors with/for like minded individuals in a field they can do themselves, I get more appreciation for the work, and generally some constructive feedback.

  25. Arley
    January 25, 2011

    Good article, Thank you Jacqueline!

  26. Jordon
    January 25, 2011

    I recall number 6 happening. I was still in high school in BOCES, and I was doing this ladies site for FREE. I was a first year student there doing first, and second year student work, plus working on her site. She kept changing her design and asking how soon the site would be done. It is almost as if people think you can create a website in 10 minutes. I am now in the process of getting my own site up. Any feedback would be nice. Thanks, nice article.

  27. Ivan Tsankov
    February 24, 2011

    Great article Jacqueline! The same cases #1 and #2 happened to me, twice!
    Don’t be fooled here folks, if you think you have your free time, do it. If you don’t, just ignore them or make them pay for the consultation.

  28. Delle
    March 4, 2011

    I learned a beauty a few weeks ago.
    Don’t let a tight-though-regular client quote YOU.
    “can you spend an hour working your magic on a catch cry for our redeveloped company title?”
    You know what? I ended up spending hours on a project I couldn’t finish, countless emails with stacks of ideas, she rejected every single one.
    Still wondering whether I should invoice for the initial hour she asked for because she pissed me off so much.

    (I’m actually a copywriter but I still found the pointers super valuable)

    Thanks for a great read!

  29. Juan Misael
    June 23, 2011

    I agree with all of these. I even thought this was written based on me.


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