July 17, 2024

Top 8 Dreaded Favors Asked of Web Designers

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?


Jacqueline is an award winning writer for hire and brand authority. Find her on her website, and follow her updates on Twitter and Google +.


  1. Ann Reply

    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?’

  2. Federica Sibella Reply

    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!”

  3. Vunky Reply

    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.

  4. Louisa Reply

    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!

  5. Surdoslav Reply

    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.


  6. gogonel Reply

    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)!

  7. Leisha Reply

    #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.

  8. Simon Day Reply

    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????”

  9. Alan Reply

    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.

  10. RandomTemplate Reply

    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!

  11. sebastian greeen Reply

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

  12. Nils Riedeman Reply

    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?”

  13. Matt Daly Reply

    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.

  14. Justin Carroll Reply

    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. 🙁

    1. Darlinton Reply

      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..

  15. Janice Schwarz Reply

    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.

  16. Mark from Irish Web HQ Reply

    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.


  17. Chris M Reply

    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 🙂

  18. MindSculpt Reply

    “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.

  19. Michael Stanford Reply

    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.

  20. ArteMedia Designs Reply

    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!

  21. Martin Gaik Reply

    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.

  22. Mariel (Digisculpt) Reply

    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.

  23. Adam Farnsworth Reply

    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!

  24. Carrie Reply

    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!

  25. web design Reply

    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.

  26. David Siegfried Reply

    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? 😉

  27. Abbey Reply

    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.

  28. Amber Weinberg Reply

    I get hit with number 5 a lot, sometimes I even have to end up turning off my IM programs, because I get a bunch of students asking for advice, without even introducing themselves first or asking if I’m busy :/

  29. Alice Dagley Reply

    For me the most annoying thing is to listen to such words as “we are start up”, “we are short of money”, “our budget is less than $15”. As a rule I try to avoid working with such clients not to waste time.
    To spare yourself such troubles fix your quote per hour and don’t take a penny less. It will help you to save your time and earn more money as well as to get rid of the annoying requests first, last and all the time.

    1. Thomas Reply

      I learned another important lesson. Charge by the hour, and ALWAYS invoice monthly. Never wait or negotiate for payment, at launch or when the site is operational.

      ALWAYS invoice every month – and stop working if client does not pay in – say 14 days.

  30. Mark Reply

    Love the list, however you forgot one. The most dreaded favor I get asked from me is if they can see a sample of what the website WOULD look like. In other words they want me to design a spec site for them before they even lay down a dollar. WHAT??!!

  31. Henrique Erzinger Reply

    haha The majority of those I resolve with pure rudeness.. People say that I’m a complete strange towards – paying – clients. xD”

  32. dr john Reply

    Looks like you forgot possibly the commonest request of all “And I’d like to appear at the top of google when people search on , please.”


    I had a client who told me that his supplier complained continually that I had got my client’s site above his in google, even though my client said he should pay me to improve his site. And that I should tell google to put his at the top. Tell google… yes, even my client burst out laughing at this apparently and it didn’t do their relationship much good.

  33. Shannon Reply

    These are so true! I’ve never had my mom or any relative volunteer me for free work, thank goodness, but I’ve definitely been asked about all kinds of technical and computer issue support. Great post 🙂

  34. alan boyd Reply

    Great article. I have learned the hard way on most of these.
    Paying customers are out there. Don’t start ANY designing until Dude gets you a deposit.

    Usually #1 is the gateway question that ends up leading to all the others besides #5. Once you do something for free, you train Dude to expect more stuff for free in the future.

  35. Jessica Reply

    I was once getting a massage, and had the masseuses start telling me about this charity website she was working on, and asking for my help. lol

  36. Chris Janus Reply

    ha! too funny! (and all too true unfortunately…)

    along the lines of #4, i definitely get asked things like “what camera/PDA should i buy?” or “how do i set up my email on my new iPhone?”

  37. Mrender Reply

    This list is great, I don’t know why people think designers can fix computers too. If it ain’t Photoshop, then I don’t know how to do it.

  38. Bill Reply

    Similar to point #7 is, “Dude, could you handle the purchase of my domain and hosting plan?”

    Of course you know the ropes, and it’s easy for you, but just try to get “Dude” to go through the transfer of ownership when he’s already too lazy to walk through the initial steps.
    I speak hypothetically of course. (NOT!!!!!)

  39. Tom Something Reply

    My Non-Horror Story

    A friend recently asked if I would take a look at her employer’s website. I reluctantly gave my critique, focusing on areas that could be improved. My “client” was thrilled and very appreciative.

    The stars sort of aligned themselves on that one. First, they were already considering a redesign and really did want a critique, which, as you mentioned, is ideal. Second, the entire exchange took place via e-mail, affording me the opportunity to choose my words very carefully and be constructive, not mean.

    I think I opened with something like “You offer a great service, and there are a lot of things I really like about the site you have now, but because I want to be helpful, I’m going to focus on areas where I think it could be even better.”

    This is a nice way to start things off, even if you really hate their current site.

  40. Zach Reply

    Awesome! So true… I don’t know how many times I’ve sent people the “let me google that for you” link. Great, Humorous Post!

  41. Peter Brazier Reply

    A different approach to the “mom giving your work away for free” is when your friend tells you that there friend is starting out and wants a e-commerce website with lots of social networking apps and is willing to pay for it, you get extremely excited and contact the friend of a friend with an offer only for them to say “oh well Dude said you would do it for half the price”

    or of course there the dreaded “you always need experience, and it will look great on your portfolio”

  42. David Adorno Reply

    My mother came home from a missions trip to the Dominican Republic and tells me I’m doing a site for a missionary there. My first thought is “geez this guy can’t have money”. I was right, she told him I’d do it for free. I was very upset, but, I told my mom she better start typing and doing as much as she can, and to NEVER offer my services for free again. Love her but hate that.

  43. Mark Reply

    My biggest annoyance is a combination of #1 and #2. People, not close enough to be called good friends, are too cheap to spend money on design/dev for their half-baked e-commerce idea or husband’s political campaign. They try to do it themselves, but they are shocked to find out that my chosen profession requires skill, knowledge, creativity, and commitment.

    It’s quite demeaning that they assume that anyone can start doing my job with just 8hrs of self-instruction. And then they want free help to fix their spawn of satan.

    I suppose I should start treating my healthcare and legal issues the same way… I’ll begin my surgery myself, and then ask for free help over the phone.

  44. Fiat Knox Reply

    This is why I tell people at parties that I bake cakes for a living.

    It pays to research the fine art of bakery in advance, though, in case somebody calls you on the difference between a Battenberg and a Schwarzwaldertorte though – but at least when you’re invited to someone’s home for the night, you won’t be spending it trying to set up someone’s website for them.

  45. Jules Reply

    What about when Dude says they’ve got a website for me to do (for free) to build up my portfolio – isn’t Dude thoughtful wanting to do me such a favour.

  46. Chad Reply

    What about the “LATE HIT”. “I love the site but, I was wondering if you can do ________ as a favor. It will really mean the world to me.”


  47. Chad R. Smith Reply

    This is hilarious! I couldn’t agree more that this happens, but imagine when you tell someone you meet that you are a “Website application programmer” then you really get to see the wheels turning. I do some charity work (Habitat for Humanity, local clubs in my area) but I do limit them to 1 a year. I’m busy as it is and when I talk to my designer friends I tend to be specific and know what can (and can’t) be done with the web. I made an API that accesses multiple API’s with one easy call because it helps me code faster and I can get more projects out the door. It’s found at http://theeasyapi.com and there are free accounts.

    Brilliant article, and thanks for the laugh!

  48. Rachel Reply

    I think everyone can relate to #2. Here’s my story:

    Farm shop man: What do you do?
    Me: Websites
    Farm shop man: If I order in a pumpkin for you will you give me a thorough critique of my website?
    Me: Er… OK
    Farm shop man: But I’ll still charge you for the pumpkin.

  49. Thomas Reply

    Nice list, but my most common question has been. Can you help me get noticed on Google?

    People who ask this are typically selfbuilders who use native programs for the first time, deciding to just oursource SEO to you – for free. Those are the WORST kind.

    The site will suck no matter what – are you work on it for free.

  50. Adam Hermsdorfer Reply

    Classic list. For the past 2 years, I literally get 1 call a week asking me to do it for free in exchange for ownership. My best advice is to have a minimum (which is not free) and stick to your threshold.

  51. bee Reply

    Soooo true! Even though I’m just a hobby wordpress user I made… let’s count them… 5 Websites during the last months. Not only the installation and the teaching how to use it… no, guess who spent hours searching the right theme b/c my aquaintences didn’t want to pay for it…

    Will email this list instantly to several friends of mine (who do their websites on their own 😉 ).

  52. Damian Smith Reply

    This post amused me, the dude character is someone I have met many times before! When I first started out I did all my websites for free (friends & family etc), I had to learn somehow I guess. But as I got better, people realised that their sites were now not as good as they could be so I would get the “can you just update my site a little” questions flooding in!

    The most typical question i get nowadays though is the “can you get me onto Google?” I usually tell them there is no guarantee but I can build your site in a way where you would have a better chance etc…. 2 weeks later “I’m still not on Google, whats going wrong?”

    The joys of being a web designer!

  53. McBonio Reply

    My favourite “dude” was a chap that dropped me an email requesting a free site and mentioned a number of other top designers where competing to make his site for him!

    I just mailed back, “wow great list of names, any of them would make you a fantastic site!” 😉

  54. Tammy Finch Reply

    After 12 years of doing this, it’s still the same old thing. I’m glad you guys are dealing with it too. I get #2 all the time, or people try to haggle. I cringe every time my colleague refers a “client”. They always start out by saying, “I don’t have much (really means none) money”

    I have helped more people than I can count but after a while, you have to just mind your business and not try to help everyone. (for free) 🙂

    This is the first time I’ve been to this site. Nice to see some more designers and see we are all dealing with the same issues.

  55. NigerianDude Reply

    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 free.now 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

  56. Aaron Kato Reply

    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 😀

  57. Alice Dagley Reply

    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.

  58. Alan Reply

    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.

    1. Petar Zivkovic Reply

      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. 🙂

    2. MajorTom Reply

      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.

  59. Luyen Reply

    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…

  60. Suzanne Day Reply

    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!!!

  61. Federico Capoano Reply

    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.

  62. Darren Reply

    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!”

    1. Marc Reply

      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.

  63. MajorTom Reply

    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.

    1. Marc Reply

      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.

  64. Frank Web Reply

    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 http://www.createwebworks.com/.

  65. Lee Greenhill Reply

    🙂 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!

  66. Nathan Reply

    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!


  67. sean fyresite Reply

    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!!!

  68. Leighe Reply

    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.

  69. Eric Reply

    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.

  70. anony mouse Reply

    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.

  71. Jordon Reply

    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. blackoutdesigns.net. Thanks, nice article.

  72. Ivan Tsankov Reply

    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.

  73. Delle Reply

    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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *