Top 8 Dreaded Favors Asked of Web Designers

By / Mar 9, 2010 / Tips
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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.

146 Comments

  1. Abdussalam
    March 9, 2010

    Haha…I am having Déjà vu!

    Reply
  2. Ann
    March 9, 2010

    Thanks for this nice article, so recognizeable!
    A few months ago I was negotiating with a new client and he kept on and on asking all kinds of questions ‘what if…’. There was no end to his questions, he wanted a coverage about almost everything I have never dreamed of. I decided to reject him as a client when he started asking about ‘what if I do not take a certain application now but over 5 years, can I have that then for the same price as you are now charging?’

    Reply
  3. Federica Sibella
    March 9, 2010

    Hi Jacqueline

    really fantastic round-up! I’ve been laughing all the time while reading, probably because all of these situations happened to me at least once and they are so true!
    My best was probably: “Could you set up my fiancee wi-fi network on sunday morning (for free, of course)? You’ll have plenty of time to go and take all the stuff on Saturday and you don’t waste business hours!”

    Reply
  4. Vunky
    March 9, 2010

    So true about the hosting part. I switch from host often and have to drag those charity websites along with it. After a couple of months they usually call you on a Saturday night asking about their forgotten email password or stuff.

    Reply
  5. Matijs
    March 9, 2010

    “Can you make it more pink? I like pink”

    Reply
  6. Louisa
    March 9, 2010

    Great tips there, thanks!
    I have a friend who volunteered me to design and build a website for her parents friends. She didn’t ask me though.. she just told me, adding that it wll be good for my portfolio! I got back to her outlining I have never done spec work and never will!! It’s best to nip these things in the bud or it can ruin friendships!

    Reply
  7. Surdoslav
    March 9, 2010

    Yep, these are really great issues with friends and family:) I love too when you as a pro-webdesigner make a website for a dude. he pay you a little amount of money, just because you are friends, and then after a year he come over and say: “Hey man, would you redesign my site?” and when you tell him the price, he´ll just say: “Wow man, i thought it would be allrigt for you to make it for free, its the same page i paid you for last year, just make some cool new template and replace it for the old one.” Now thats the hammer for me.

    Surdo

    Reply
  8. Claudia
    March 9, 2010

    Oh what a lesson!
    I thought I was out of this “phase” but realized that’s a neverending tunnel =)

    Reply
  9. gogonel
    March 9, 2010

    oh my god this is so true! i hate the DUDE and I hate the “can u help me with my website, but you know… i have no budget now, can u do it for free, pls?” and then it comes the shities part : “you get to put in your portfolio, u know … ” and worse “common man, your my friend!! help me with that webdesign … it wont take long”(for free ofcourse)!

    Reply
  10. Leisha
    March 9, 2010

    #4 encompasses a plethora of misunderstandings about what it is that web designers/developers do! If you can build a website, suddenly everyone needs you to help them set up their wireless printer, or resize their digital photos, or help them pick out a webcam, etc.

    Your article was a fun read.

    Reply
  11. Simon Day
    March 9, 2010

    Made me smile. I think I’ve had the majority of these. Here’s another one (only happened again yesterday) and SEO was never part of the project…

    “Well my site has been up a week now but when I search for [search phrase] I’m only on page 10 but [other site which has nothing do with it] is on the first page for loads of phrases. How much longer do I have to wait for the top of first page????”

    Reply
  12. @stuartflatt
    March 9, 2010

    Yup, getting to the top spot in google is always a good one. Or they want another website exactly the same for a different brand or company they own.

    Reply
  13. Alan
    March 9, 2010

    Its all so true, the amount of people put off by costs for website design is unbeleivable. So they come back saying to do it for less to gain more experience.

    Reply
  14. RandomTemplate
    March 9, 2010

    It’s amazing how accurate this is, I could sit and add to it all day long. I wake up everyday to an e-mail offering to out-source my workload to them, or people I knew years back asking me to help setup there new online business for free.

    Great Article!

    Reply
  15. sebastian greeen
    March 9, 2010

    God I have had some of these questions. Very annoying but just be confident and don’t let people walk over you.

    Reply
  16. Nils Riedeman
    March 9, 2010

    So true… everything. I already encoutered all 8 points in my young life (23yrs). Especially #4 is something i encounter several times a week.

    Moste weird recent one: “I want to buy a new radio for my car… i thought, since you work with computes, you know about car-radios” … “Yeah … ehm … no?”

    Reply
  17. Thomas Craig Consulting
    March 9, 2010

    Nice post Jacqueline, the one I get the most from friends is the Virus one … I think I might have a Virus, can you take a look …

    Reply
  18. Northern Ireland Hotels
    March 9, 2010

    Price vs Experience is an age old debate.

    At what point do you raise your price to compensate your newly earned experience?

    Great post.

    Cheers,

    Lee.

    Reply
  19. Matt Daly
    March 9, 2010

    Nice post!

    It’s almost as if Web design isn’t regarded as a serious career. People assume we know how to fix their computers and are expected to do everyone a favor.

    Reply
  20. Kevin Barney
    March 9, 2010

    The greatest thing you’ll ever do is just to say “No” and learn how to take “No” in return.

    No is a very powerful word. It’s freeing.

    No.

    Reply
  21. Tanya
    March 9, 2010

    All are true. NIce post

    Reply
  22. Logo Bliss
    March 9, 2010

    Haha really enjoyed these, all I can relate to !

    Reply
  23. Michael Hart
    March 9, 2010

    All too true. Sometimes you get yourself into these situations before you even know it.

    Reply
  24. Justin Carroll
    March 9, 2010

    Haha, nice. One of the more devastating situations I have is when clients or family believe that having a Web site will save their business. The don’t understand that when their site launches customers won’t just come flocking to them. :(

    Reply
    • Darlinton
      March 9, 2010

      Man, you are right, old people specialy, think a web site is make one time, never is updated and still get money to their busness..

      Reply
  25. Jaina
    March 9, 2010

    So many of these, maybe all, I can relate to at one point or another. Good read!

    Reply
  26. Janice Schwarz
    March 9, 2010

    Love it. Passed it around. So true. Designers just have to learn to say no. That, and never, ever do any work without a contract. You keep your friends by always having a contract.

    Reply
  27. Caroline
    March 9, 2010

    This list depresses me….Mainly because I’ve encountered EVERY SINGLE ONE of these scenarios, lol

    Reply
  28. Mark from Irish Web HQ
    March 9, 2010

    I can closely identify with the “Hey I’ve got a virus” request but in some cases I do assist.
    I often get this request from my accountant (He was my friend before he was my accountant). I eagerly help him because firstly I have seen the amount of money he can save me and secondly he often does small accounting favours in return.

    The other person I help is my brother. I’ll try to remove his PC viruses and he is te first person I call when my plumbing/electrical/car breaks down.

    It’s a throwback to the old barter system and works well.

    I also get loads of requests from clients/acquaintances but always nip them in the bud and plead ignorance. I think this is the easiest way around it.

    Thanks for the stimulating article.

    Mark

    Reply
  29. Ana María
    March 9, 2010

    Soooooooooooo true

    Reply
  30. Jordan Walker
    March 9, 2010

    Those sound more like my spouse to others about my skills – yeah, my husband is a web geek he can do …

    Reply
  31. Adam Lawrence
    March 9, 2010

    Great list, but… why would you start with number one? Where is the suspense?

    All the best,

    Adam

    Reply
  32. Matt Johnston
    March 9, 2010

    Can you make my site awesome, but still use my crappy logo. Thanks, by the way can you do it for no money?

    Reply
    • Darlinton
      March 9, 2010

      And for tomorrow..

      Reply
  33. Syed Balkhi
    March 9, 2010

    OMG… So true .. Dugg for this vary reason :)

    Reply
  34. Chris M
    March 9, 2010

    Lol, I’m not a designer, but I’ve had these questions thrown at me many times! I’m sitting here thinking up a list of 8 dreaded favours asked of Web Developers :)

    Reply
  35. Salvador Lugo
    March 9, 2010

    And don’t forget the “Could you teach me how to use dreamweaver/flash? I have all the design in my head, but just need to learn the software”

    Reply
    • ArteMedia Designs
      March 9, 2010

      That is one I get often. No I paid to go to school and get my training you can do the same. So annoying.

      Reply
    • Surdoslav
      March 9, 2010

      oh yeah this one is killer one:D “i know something about photoshop/flash but you know much more can you teach me?” :D

      Reply
  36. Pragmatic Design
    March 9, 2010

    Have you been bugging my ‘phone line? It’s scary just how accurate this is!

    Reply
  37. MindSculpt
    March 9, 2010

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

    This may not be so bad if you are looking to build up a portfolio quick. In addition, pro bono projects can actually be beneficial for added exposure, however if you are going to do a site for free you need to lay down some guidelines. I’ve found that clients who want something for nothing always want more…it’s human nature. A clear up-front agreement of scope should help contain the situation.

    Reply
  38. logolitic
    March 9, 2010

    very interesting, yes you have right! LOL ^^

    Reply
  39. Michael Stanford
    March 9, 2010

    This article is horrible. This is the type of intellectually-empty fluff that’s doing a disservice to the design community.

    This article was written specifically for a check – not to offer any tangible advice, but for the benefit of the author’s pocketbook.

    Reply
  40. SEO Houston
    March 9, 2010

    So true and unfortunately for me so true for other people… SEO/WEBDESIGN Same fight!

    Reply
  41. ArteMedia Designs
    March 9, 2010

    This definitely made me laugh. I am living that right now and have experienced all of those issues.

    How about this one, “Hey can you build me my own personal YouTube?” I’m like, um no go use Youtube lol.

    And even had ooh I like this site, (full of flash and awesomeness from someone like Puff Daddy) can I have that on my site?

    Just got the virus question a week ago and I helped. It was my hairstylist and I appreciate her not upping my price over the last 10 years so I was glad to help.

    And I do still have mom volunteering me to fix everyone’s computer, set up their networks and build their websites, and fix XYZ because I am a genius, computer wiz who can fix all their problems for free. Yeah right!

    Reply
  42. Amberly | Web Designer
    March 9, 2010

    Nice share.. I vote #8. “Hey, I volunteered you to re-do my co-worker’s step-daughter’s wedding album.” For the best among the list.

    Really Funny. Its every ones scenario.

    Reply
  43. Martin Gaik
    March 9, 2010

    Yes, that rings a bell. When you are a web designer you suddenly are an IT department for the whole neighborhood. It’s fun to help others, but not when your plate is full and there is hardly any time to spare.

    One good thing I learned early on is to under-promise and over-deliver. It is so much better and gives a lot of satisfaction.

    Reply
  44. Mariel (Digisculpt)
    March 9, 2010

    Haha! So true! And I thought something’s wrong with me that I attract the dude-like people! I’ve experienced all 8 of them, and I actually had the DUDE in many forms, many times over, over a span of 13 years of my web designing life. There’s a few more that we can always add to the list… favors that I’m pretty sure too that most of us can relate.

    Reply
  45. Adam Farnsworth
    March 9, 2010

    So true! I’ve encountered each of these numerous times. What kills is when other people in creative fields start doing them. It’s one thing to not be understood by an executive, but to be disrespected by someone who is also often misunderstood, that just sucks.

    Thanks for the solidarity!

    Reply
  46. Carrie
    March 9, 2010

    My goddaughter’s father told his fiancee’s parents that I would teach them how to use their computer, and when they offered to pay for my services, he insisted I wouldn’t accept any money from them. Goddaughter? Sure. Her father? Perhaps? But the fiancee’s parents? More than 2 degrees of separation is asking too much!

    Reply
  47. web design
    March 9, 2010

    Iam sitting alone in my house when i read this article and im unable to control my laughter.This is very true…. I have encountered most of he things you had mentioned in the above article. Very nice and interesting to read.

    Reply
  48. David Siegfried
    March 9, 2010

    I think this is all part of the cavalier attitude people have towards web designer/developer types.

    No one would ever go up to their doctor friend and say something like:

    “So, yeah, I have this tumor, and I was wondering if you could come over this weekend and, you know, get this bad boy out?”

    I mean, honestly, what are we, mechanics? ;-)

    Reply
  49. kevin m
    March 9, 2010

    “how do i make a website” is my favorite.

    Reply
  50. Abbey
    March 9, 2010

    I would never ask my dentist to do my taxes. I always get the questions about fixing computers. Just because I work on one doesn’t mean I am an expert. I wonder who ever thought these questions were acceptable to ask web designers.

    Reply

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