NEVER EVER work for free

(Miroslav Glavić) #1

Here are some situations in my life.

Do we all remember when we went to college/university, graduated and how we would take very low pay/no pay at all at first for the sake of “real life/world experience”? This applies to the universe outside making pretty websites.

I learned without going to school, I went to college for other things, to supplement my skills.

Story 1:
I remember someone who wanted a website, that person said to all applicants that they do a mock up and send it to him, he will look at it, will hire the winner on the spot. Anyone want to guess what is about to happen? YES YOU ARE CORRECT, He took all the mockups and picked mine. Never hired me or paid me what he promised on the ad. He took it to his son (who was 15 at that time) and created my mockup into reality. He was living in Europe. I live in Canada. I should of sued him, I don’t know to this day how you sue trans-country/continent.
What I learned from this situation: Contract, no mockups, yes portfolio.

Story 2:
I did free for a non-profit group. Later I found out the CEO/President/Whatever’s paycheque was $650,000. Did you know so many NPGs/NPOs/NGOs/Charities…pay their CEOs $100,000+ a year yet claim they have no money for website?
What I learned from this situation: Charge something, or the fact that you would do a website for free will spread faster than naked hollywood photos

Story 3:
Realted to story 2, I would get so many requests but…“We don’t really have a budget”.
What I learned from this situation: Say no to free work, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES are you to work for free, including the “if you do this, it can turn to full-time paid work” (or some variation)

Story 4.0:
Friend wanted me to do her website, for free.
What I learned: So, this friend makes money because of her website for her work, aren’t I entitled to money for MY work?
She got upset at me, stopped talking to me. She didn’t even come to hospital, sent me a card/e-mail/balloon/etc…that time when I was in the hospital due to a drunk driver hitting the car I was in.

Story 4.1
Friend of a friend…We have common friend, come on buddy. Do my website.
This friend of a friend wanted me to do the website for FREE AND give IT free hosting AND domain. IT was going to give me the privilege of putting a credit link at the bottom: Created by Miroslav Glavic.

If anyone wants a laugh, go to your local Craigslist at GIGS > Computers section and look at what people think an acceptable ad.

Domain + Hosting + e-commerce + attached to twitter/facebook/G+/etc… (JetPack’s publicize), take ALL photos for the e-commerce shop and upload the 500+ items on the shop…all for $500.

That was my favourite ad of all times.

I have met the cheapest, tightest, assholes who think it will take a few hours to do all that.

I even had someone (NOT THE PERSON WHO PUT THE CRAIGSLIST AD ABOVE) who actually paid for the website, e-commerce, social media and the full big bang. I send the e-mail with login details and a nice .PDF with instructions on how to maintain the site, add items to the shop…and so forth. 3 days later this person does the reverse-charge/charge-back on the credit card.

Good thing the person did not read the contract saying I turn over site when I have full payment, I didn’t and locked him out of his own website. He settled the bill a week later after threatening to take me to court.

I am giving you this wonderful thread because I just gotten an e-mail from someone who wanted me to do his/her/it’s FULL website within 72 hours, register domain, get hosting.

I made one of my sisters pay for things (at a discount, she paid for the costs of domain and hosting).

(Rhys Wynne) #2

I had a similar story to 4. A builder friend wanted a website done with a credit link. I said that’s fine, if - because he was a builder - redid my bathroom with a “Created by My Friend” signature in the toilet bowl.

I never got bothered again.

(Leland Fiegel) #3

I have a pretty strict “no friends and family” policy, although I made two exceptions early on in my web development career (low traffic/maintenance sites I’m still hosting for free to this day).

Now if anyone asks, I just send them to Squarespace, which I think is a fine choice for quickly and easily setting up websites.

I usually never hear about it again. And they usually never even bother even trying Squarespace.

I’d even extend “never ever work for free” to “never ever work for super cheap” as well. I’m not sure why, but it seems like the less money a client pays, the more demanding and unreasonable they are.

Clients from Hell is full of stories like this.

Like this for example. How many hours would that have taken? I’m guessing it would’ve worked out to less than the hourly minimum wage, especially considering the “take all photos for 500+ items” part.

Yeah, I’ve never understood the “hey we’re a non-profit, please make my website for free” logic.

Contrary to popular belief, non-profits do actually need to make money to stay operational. They don’t do it by relying on totally volunteer labor, free office space from a landlord, free utilities, free computer equipment, etc.

Also contrary to popular belief, non-profits don’t always spend a reasonable portion of their operating costs to actually supporting the causes they claim to support. Some spend upwards of 90% on “overhead” which can include private jet travel, luxury hotels, exorbitant executive salaries, etc.

Non-profit financials (at least in the US) are required to be disclosed to the public. So it’s easy to call them out on BS.

Well that’s rich.

Working for free: Charities - why you should say NO!
(Ben) #4

All these stories are why I prefer to make products rather than work for clients :slight_smile:

(David) #5

Happens all the time :slight_smile:

and never do any work before down/initial payment.
they want a mockup/sketches/wireframe, etc.
that’s part of the work.

@BinaryMoon i want to go to that route too. (but it’s pretty scary) any tips ?

(Miroslav Glavić) #6

I ALWAYS ask for a down payment. Specially if I have initial costs like new domain. If Client wants a domain/security certificate/paid theme/etc…, then the cost of that is included in the down payment. I tell clients…order the domain/hosting yourself and then give me the username/password. No…I tend to get clients who want ME to do the domain registration and getting the hosting.

I really like those “as long as it works, I don’t care what the F you do” clients :grin:


(Ben) #7

I’d say to go for it :slight_smile:

Don’t be scared - but do prepare before jumping in. Assuming you currently have a job/ earn a living then start as a side project and build up to doing it full time.

For me, marketing is the hardest part. The best thing I did was partner with other people/ companies.

Finally target a specific niche. It makes things a lot easier - and is something I’d definitely do if I was to start again now.

(Zackary Allnutt) #8

Makes me think that accepting payment from a credit card is a bad idea. They could just as easily do a chargeback after you’ve handed it over right?

Completely agree with everything you’ve said, there are plenty of people willing to take advantage, friends or otherwise. I’ve made this mistake in the past, please anyone new to the industry learn from our mistakes.

I was going to help a friend setup a theme from themeforest. I sent them to themeforest to select a theme. They emailed me back and said “seen a theme I like, it’s $40. What’s that in pounds?”. Couldn’t even convert currency themselves. Imagine what a burden they would have been had I continued to help them with setting up a theme. All for free.

(Zackary Allnutt) #9

Although plenty of plugin and theme authors have there own customer horror stories. Those types of clients who want everything for nothing, they buy themes too…

(Ben) #10

But if they are a pain you can refund them and move on.

(Jason) #11

After the cold call interaction with a client, the first meeting we have with every meeting is the Qualification. In this meeting we get the know the client in a friendly manner while asking some pretty point-blank questions. Questions such as:

  • How many employees are in your company?
  • What’s your average annual revenue (we can sign an NDA)?
  • Have you hired anyone do work on your website before? How did that go?
  • Do you have a budget for this project? What is it?

Some of these seem a bit random and possibly invasive, but the truth is the clients we want to work with don’t feel threatened by such questions. We use the revenue question to determine what we can anticipate their marketing budget to be like (the average is 10% of the total revenue).

I say all this because we’ve found the best way to handle trouble clients/customers is to have a strong filtration system and avoid them from the start. I can say, since doing this, we’ve not had a seriously bad client. Sure a client may be a bit tougher than anticipated, but we’ve not had anythings close to a nightmare client. Far from being threatened by such a process, too, we’ve found good clients are attracted to such structure as they immediately feel like we know what we’re doing.

As far as doing something for free, I have an all or nothing policy. Either I do all of it, running it through my business and therefore billing like I would any other project, or I do it for free and take a supportive role, not actually doing the project, but guiding my friend along in how they can do it themselves (via Squarespace or something). A major reason I do this is because, since they have little to no budget, it’s really best if they can do it themselves so they’re also able to maintain it without need of cost.

Hope this is helpful to someone. :slight_smile:

(Zackary Allnutt) #12

That depends on where you are selling…

(Ben) #13

I don’t sell on Themeforest (I assume that’s who you’re referring to) - but on Creative Market I just drop support a message and they do the refund for me. I don’t see why ThemeForest wouldn’t do the same if you asked.

For me - I don’t have the time or motivation to battle toxic customers so I will happily drop them and refund their money if it means I can have a happier life.

(Zackary Allnutt) #14

I completely agree and I have done this. I asked the customer to request the refund though. Unfortunately it’s not really a rarity on TF and they can still leave a 1 star. I have heard some authors say that the toxic customers come up less often on creative market. I’m considering testing it out.

(Miroslav Glavić) #15

So…I spend a few hours with client and then refund them? what about at least being paid for those few hours that you have already done?

(Ben) #16

I’m talking about product business rather than web design / development, ie I sell a product to them and then I refund them because they are too much effort to support. Perhaps I’ve spent a couple of hours helping them - but I’d rather refund them everything or it will just give them a new reason to make my life worse.

I don’t do freelance web design but if I did then I think I’d do the same anyway.

IMO Life is too short to worry about things like this. Dump the toxic customer and move on to something that makes you happy.

(Leo) #17

I once posted in a local Malaysian forum, stating I would help them install WordPress and some premium lifetime plugins that I have on developer licenses. But customisation and support would be separate.

A day later, I received a private message asking me if I could do an ecommerce store with all the bells and whistles, including landing pages and the likes, for… $200. And the reason was the same as yours, they’ve no budget for the website.

(Mimo studio) #18

Hi all, interesting thread this one. Sorry for my english, writing from South Spain.

I have been working as a web developer and ‘designer’ for more than 10 years, 99% of my clients have been small companies and individuals. I would like to point out some things:

  1. What i have learn is that the main thing is your clients filter, when you have an experience, you just see the bad client before he starts talking. You have mastered your nose to smell that kind of client/business, so never start working with him. I think with 1 sentence you can see easily, you can say even before meeting him, in your first telephone interview, for example, ‘My minimun/basic website budget is…starting from that we can see if the features you need are included, or if not, i can quote you apart’, if he wants to meet you, that’s a good starting point.

  2. Once you’ve got a good client, there is no problem with mock ups or whatever. So I won’t say ‘Don’t make mock ups’, a good mock up can give you a client in less time than trying to explain him what is going to be the site, and just starting with the contract i find it not aproppiate.

Mock up : Very simple website with client logo and some stock and client images(if possible), and don’t forget the slider, of course the complete site re-usable to use with other possible clients mock ups. This is simply part of the filter, the final work will be a very good product as we all try to do always.

What i have really found is that the client that sees a mock up, i can ask him for the 50% of project next day, and he will accept easily. 90% of my works i have asked for 50% the day after the mock up with success.

At this moment you are the boss, the client has paid so is interested, you have spend 1 hour of work and never the site will be like the mockup because you know that it will change according to client needs, as every project in my life. Here you can start asking the client for the content of the site if he wants you to finish it, of course don’t move a hand before receiving the content, you can spend this time trying to get new clients, never start working before receiving it. The client has paid 50% of work, so he will send it to you.

Simply when you consider the budget is covered, just ask for 50% rest and 50% of the next budget to implement new features that were not included in the first interview(for sure there will be).

I seems simple, but as all of you know, it isn’t at the beginning. There are so many factors in the way, as your need of money and pay bills.

Of course i have meet people that say, ‘well, you do this in 5 minutes, don’t you?’, and then i will say…‘My minimun/basic website budget is…starting from that we can see if the features you need are included, or if not, i can quote you apart’

Best Regards to all