I hate client work.
Back in 2007 my identical twin brother got caught-up in a dinner conversation with some friends and by the end of the night he had promised a friend of a friend who owned a local business, that I’d design and develop a website for his small business.
We were fresh out of college and trying to make a “name” for ourselves amongst our local business community and he thought this would be a perfect opportunity.
We had just started a local advertising campaign for web hosting, but also figured we’d dabble a bit in development as well.
For the next six-weeks I found myself going back and forth to his office, taking pictures, mocking logos, setting up his emails, tech supporting his staff, and everything else he could get out of me… All for $800.
Local Businesses Don’t Know The Value Of A Website
Nowadays it’s starting to get better. The “new age” of business owners know and understand they’re going to have to whip up some ninja WordPress themes or pay a good developer a couple thousand for something unique.
However, there are still “good ole” folks such as the local butcher down the street who can’t fathom spending more than a couple hundred dollars on setting up their website.
I think a lot of this stems from business owners who have run their businesses successfully for many years and don’t understand the new medium to market and advertise on.
Most Local Developers Undervalue Their Work
Because of all this, a lot of developers, such as myself in ’07, undervalue the price of their work, and charge low prices just to get the business.
In my case, I had originally planned $1,000 for the “package” this customer bought, but since he was a “friend of a friend” I discounted him $200.
From the moment he paid me, his mind was set, he was going to milk every second of my time.
Set Boundaries Early On
Unfortunately I see this being the case for many local developers out there.
They’re looking to “make a name” for themselves and end up low-balling an offer just to get the job.
Just like my experience, the small businesses purchasing the service try to use the developer for tech support, consulting, logo design, etc.
Don’t do this. Have a contract, let the customer know EXACTLY what they’re paying for, before they pay.
Let them know, you’ll develop the site, but they’re limited to X amount of changes, and if they want “on-going” support you charge a monthly maintenance fee.
Examine Your Competition, Price Accordingly
Being the lowest bidder isn’t always the smartest. Do some “competitive research” to see what others in your local market are charging and price your time accordingly.
If you want to charge more than the competition, have a better sales pitch. When approaching potential clients, have your best portfolio ready, and consider doing “case studies” to show how you’ve helped other businesses.
Adding other services such as “social media marketing” can be a great way to add more value and make more $$.
Should You Charge More?
After my experience, I was DONE with client development, and haven’t done another.
For 2+ years after I completed the job, the client would STILL call for updates, picture changes, etc. and didn’t expect to pay a dime.
Obviously I eventually started dodging his calls, and eventually I ran into him, and he was extremely rude over the situation.
I undervalued my work. I let him milk me for several extras. It was a terrible experience.
I would never even consider development for a project under $5,000.
Are you charging your clients enough? Let me know if you can relate!
Ryan Gray is the founder and CEO of NameHero, one of the fastest growing independent web hosts in the United States. Ryan has been working online since 1998 and has over two-decades experience in Internet Entrepreneurship.
Great post, and that sucks about your experience. Your point about doing a clearly outlined contract is huge. i do my clients’ contracts/proposals in plain english and with some bullet-point lists so there are no surprises.
Ryan Gray says
Thanks for the feedback Tim!
Yeah, that’s a REALLY good idea, and I would take a similar route nowadays.
M K says
Still, all of these years later and several business ventures in, this still rings true! It says more about me than it does about them. Intentional evolution is daunting… LOL! Great stuff, Ryan.