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July 17, 2012

Freelance Web Design Tips
When I first started freelancing as a student, I was eager to do any website and would say “Yes” to anything, regardless of my skill set or the time involved. It was just nice to know that someone needed me for a skilled task. To make things worse, these people were also giving my contact info out to other such people.

Anyways, now a few years later, my time now requires a large use of the answer “No.” And here are ten questions I almost always answer “No” to:

1.) Can you show me a mock-up so we can see your creativity?
For some clients this is required, but for others it may just be a way for them to take your idea and have someone who charges a lot less do the job. I fell for this a few times and wasted lots of time and ended up making no money. Don’t do unpaid work for the chance to be paid — this wouldn’t fly in any other industry, so why web design? The worst case scenario is that they don’t pay you, and still use your stuff, knowing you don’t have the legal resources to do anything about it. Most likely though, you’ll just waste time.

2.) Can you give us a discount rate?
This is probably one of the biggest questions you will come across. I’ve had so many people approach me and ask for discount rates. Or even better they will just low ball the entire project completely. People think web designing is a service that shouldn’t be worth more than $20 an hour. Make sure that these are not your clients! Thinking that just getting the project is your number one goal, may not help you succeed. You will find yourself having to spend so much time on projects where the amount of work is ridiculous and so is the pay, when instead you could be spending that time finding a well paid project and make the same amount of money in half the time.

3.) Will you register and host my site?
At first I always thought that providing this service will encourage a client to go with your service. Plus, you think it’s free recurring revenue right? Well, yes maybe it is, but is it worth the $50/yr to be dealing with all the IT issues a client may have? Keep in mind the people who will ask you for this service, probably know nothing, and may think that you are the oen to call if an issue with their computer is to happen. You can get calls at any time and and it will definitely not be worth the $50/year. If you think that this will break the deal, than guide your client on how to sign up for web hosting and register a domain. It’s a simple procedure that anyone can handle. So my answer to this question is don’t do it, it’s not worth it. Just give your client a web hosting company and a registrar and let them sign up.

4.) Can you copy this site?
The simple answer to this question is NO. Mostly because of a moral standpoint, and also because it is very unethical to do something like that. If a business is looking to steal someones website design than that should ring a bell for you right away. The fact that they want to copy a website tells you that they have shady ethics and the chances of you dealing with them and getting paid on time are very unlikely. Secondly, doing this type of work means that you will not be adding anything to your portfolio, because you don’t want to deal with copyrights infringements. Therefore, just completely avoid this and do no copy someones website.

5.) Can I pay for my e-commerce site from my website sales?
Here’s another question that you will want to answer “No” to. I only came across this once myself, and after having explained what I can do, I was told that payment will come from the sales of the E-Commerce website. Just stay away from this, as a freelancer you do not want to be dealing with such thing. You and your hard work deserve to be paid just like any other service out there. Being a freelance web designer is no different, therefore if you ever come across this, just answer no and go on to your next prospect.

6.) I have a great idea. Do you want to…?
Very similar to number five, but could also be a much larger waste of time if you decide to be part of it. I can understand if this was to be for a charity program, which may be ok with some of us, but for a complete stranger I rather put my time towards something else. I mean if this person really has a great idea, than most likely he will have the funds to support his great idea. Once again, don’t work for free!

7.) Do you have an IM account?
I usually don’t like to give out that kind of information. That’s what email is for, there’s no need to be sharing instant messaging accounts with your clients. Unless you have developed a relationship of a certain level, you want to stay away from that. If they need to get in touch with you regarding the website project you are developing than an email will do just fine.

8.) Can I just pay the whole amount when it’s done?
I usually require 50% up-front, unless it is a big project in which case i will divide it in 3 payments. A deposit of 33%, another deposit of 33% half way trough the design stage and approval of the website design, and a final 34% upon completion of the project. People who want to pay you at the end will give you a hard time, and will most likely take longer to pay you and not even given you the full amount. You want your client to be as involved as you are in the project.

9.) Is there any way you could get this done tonight or this weekend?
Unless the project is a 2 to 3 days work, than don’t go to far out of your way to get it done. If you do this one time for a client they might come back and ask for something like this again. I usually like to leave my clients happy, but sometimes you need to know where to draw the line, otherwise you will end up working long hours and it may reflect on your work. Therefore, always schedule yourself and make sure things can get done properly and that it will not impact the quality of your work.

10.) Can I be sure you won’t use this work in anything else?
This is a very sensitive subject because most clients misunderstand it (intellectual property is a tricky subject anyways). In my Terms and Conditions that I require all new clients to sign, I make sure they know that (1) their code has utilized code from other projects which I haven’t charged them for, and (2) I will probably use code from their project on other projects, and (3) they own the code and implementation of the project (finished website), but not the actual code pieces (login system, image uploader, etc.). I pride myself in productivity and speed, and I need to use other code all the time to accomplish this. Not to mention that I sell stock Flash which I may need old code to help build. They’re not paying you to create code that they in turn will sell, so make sure they know that it’s the implementation and not the coding that’s theirs.

I’m sure you may have many other questions you answer NO to so feel free to add your own and remember, its the opportunities you have to avoid sometimes that will define your success in this business.

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