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JimD's picture
2626 pencils

Regarding #2. I couldn't agree more. Discounting rates is just plain foolish. I would rather give it away for free rather (if the potential work is awesome) than start the discount game - which a client will forever take advantage of.

Excellent post! I know we've both posted similar in the past, but these helpful tips for new designers just can't be said enough!

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joshuatree0587's picture
70 pencils

I wish I had this knowledge coming out of school. It all makes so much sense, and yet in my first year or so doing free-lance, I fell for each and every one of these. It really hurts you as a designer to work under those kinds of conditions. More work, less pay, and even more frustration.

This is very solid advise.

fbernardes's picture
2 pencils

#9 is so true. I have worked for a client during one weekend (for free), and he started to call me on Thursday or Friday, hoping that on Monday the work would be done. I learned my lesson, so now I always try to extend the deadline, freeing the weekend for other things - like having a life.

cynic15's picture
26 pencils

i looked at your site. im more than impressed with your design concepts.

it's intelligent, philosophical and with class.

i thought id let you know that. keep it up!

"The ongoing WOW is happening right NOW"

oxar's picture
1 pencil

I did the #3 mistake when few months ago, my girlfriend asked me to realize a website (php+mysql) for her boss. After a couple of days, he started annoying me at the phone, not only for the pop/mail accounts, no, he also pretended help with their internet provider... after few days, the situation become like at #7 (like I was an on-call employee) and finally all things gone very wrong.

punktual's picture
1 pencil

I couldn't agree more with this list as a recent experience has had me go through exactly the same issues.

About 6 years ago I worked for a small web design company. I was a casual employee paid regularly untill the business started going downhill. The company was working on a large in house searchable database project for educational websites. Promises were given that allthough we couldnt be paid now the project would generate lots of revenue which would see when it came to fruition. That never happened and I was left AU$4000 out of pocket.

I hadnt done much web design since then but an opportunity just came my way when a company one of my friends worked for offered me some work. They were setting up an ISP and data hosting facility, so this sounded like a massive opportunity. I gave them a quote of AU$5200.... what I thought was a bargain for 2 website designs including 2 logo and corporate branding designs to go with it. I had done the job up to the point of having finshed photoshop designs and was then told that the company could not pay me the quoted amount, infact they couldnt pay me anything except 'the promise of more work in the future' as the business developed. I had done approximately 30-40 hours work on this project and have not seen a cent.

The above are wise words and I hope they are taken with heed because as my story has shown it can backfire on you bigtime.

scottclark's picture
3 pencils

This was terrific. Well thought out and street smart. I've got myself in pinches before.

This year, I walked out of a meeting where your first rule came up. "Would you do a design and we'll compare it to others' designs" from a law firm in Lexington, KY. I politely told them I was not interested and wished them well.

This turned out to be a major turning point for me. The commoditization of "web design" was becoming a race to the bottom in the small business world, and I set my mind on pure SEO/SEM/Analytics work.

Thank you for writing this. Again, brilliant.

Scott Clark

South Creative Gold Coast Web Design's picture
10 pencils

"Can I pay for my e-commerce site from my website sales? No."

That one indeed has bad idea written all over it, regardless of their potential for success. I've built e-commerce solutions for some clients that have literally never had more than 5 sales. This is usually due to poor business planning and promotion. Some people just expect that a website == income.

Great article, thanks.

graphikdzyner's picture
13 pencils

I agree with the post above, one of the better posts this year... good stuff. #8 on the list is the real killer for me.

I have struggled with this for several years now and feel that it is always a make or break it turning point in any project negotiation. I have been burned a few times and learned my lesson. I now charge a minimum of 25% upfront and up to 50% for clients I just have a bad feeling about. Problem is you seem to lose a lot of clients when you absolutely won't budge on it.

I think they feel concerned you'll take the money and run without holding up your end of the bargain, but maybe those are the clients that just would have gave me problems down the road anyway. The flip side of the equation though is releasing those clients that won't agree to your T&C, also releases the opportunity down the road for the tree of referrals that COULD have resulted??

archmedia's picture
587 pencils

but be strong, don't cave.
I have a client i know brings in decent money. They want me to do their site, and they don't want to pay the 35% upfront fee i charge. Thankfully, i'd used them in the past and I had to pay 50% upfront, so i spun it on them and said "if you require others to pay 50% upfront, then why can i not charge just 35%? If you're requiring people to pay before receiving their item, then why can't i?"

They then paid me 40%.

Remember, if you don't protect yourself and stand strong on asking for your upfront fee, then you'll get mowed down later on also. It sounds like you're adamant on it, keep it up!

Architectural Technician - Multimedia Designer

threadbarren's picture
1 pencil


I registered just to say that this article is straight off -- I can't believe it's being tacitly passed off as original to this site (with a tiny link at the bottom back to the original source). You guys should be ashamed of not prominently attributing the source...

scottclark's picture
3 pencils

I've learned that the list here is but a copy of this original one. It has only the tiniest attribution at the bottom.

I would like you to remove my earlier comment as it was the original author who deserves the praise. This post was but duplicate content with minimal attribution.

It's one thing to summarize or quote another post but quite another to copy and paste the bloody thing.

Scott Clark

archmedia's picture
587 pencils

should learn to realize that he put it in the weblink section, it has a link at the top and at the bottom..

then again, can't expect much from people who join just to bash things.
again, it's clearly in the weblink section, it was just brought forward onto the front page of this site. granted, it's not the most obvious, but for regulars, we all know how this site works... with that said, stop bitching... people seem to only read what they want and not everything..

Architectural Technician - Multimedia Designer

scottclark's picture
3 pencils

@archmedia...Before you throw everything out with the bathwater, you should scroll up and look at my earlier glowing comment, made when I thought this was an original post.

In the weblink section? do you really think anyone is going to pick up on a particular nomenclature of the site and establish context for copied content that way? I'm sorry, I don't buy it, and it deserves to be called out.

Scott Clark

archmedia's picture
587 pencils

i saw your first post, and yes, i can see how you were mislead.
I can see how its not clear enough, but the poster before you goes too far in my opinion

The weblink section is clear on the sidebar for regular users of the site. I can, like i've admited, see how it's not clear enough that it was a link. But to say it was a blatant rip off is over the top. This is a small site with a small community of users, we're used to how it's set up.

Welcome to the site, hopefully this doesn't turn you off from it, cause there's alot of good and fresh information on here, and alot of good linking to other great sites/blogs/commentaries...

My solution to it this specific problem (and some older links) cut the article short and make the link more obvious. The weblink section is often a great place to start new and fresh discussions for this site without having to redirect it completely to the site in question. I believe, though i may be wrong, that Ivan's intention was not to look like it was his article, but infact a discussion start off, hence why it was in the weblink section...

Again, the poster before you is way harsher of reality then yourself...

Architectural Technician - Multimedia Designer

JesseT77's picture
1 pencil

But not too harsh. Threadbarren appears to be entirely accurate from where I stand. I think many people would appreciate it if the format of this article were corrected to place attribution where it is due.

Creative Bits is a website that generates ad revenue from it's visitors. If it fools unsuspecting visitors into thumbs upping (stumbleupon) or Digging or redditing (however that works) this web page, it generates traffic to this site. Since users read the post here, you get all the ad dollars. Whether that was the intent or not it is the effect, and actions speak louder than words.

This post, written in the first person, fools visitors to this site (example: cynic15 above) into thinking that the author runs this site, or perhaps that Ivan is the author.

All told, the real author of the content here feels a certain way about your attribution policy. Allow me to also callously steal content from his site (his comment on this point) and post it here as well:

12/7/2007 2:29:59 PM

@Scott -

Unfortunately, they copied it off this site with very poor attribution (they do have a small "Visit Weblink" that leads back here from the bottom of the article).

I know a couple people who have emailed/told them that they were wrong to do this, but I don't think they've done anything. For now, I just shrug, mark them on my "bad resource" list, and concentrate on producing more solid content over here :)

He has more important things to do than wag his finger at you. I am of the same mind, save only that I lack more important things to do. So:


Shame on you and your site won't leave either of our "bad resources" lists until you rectify the matter.

Thank you for your consideration.

- - Jesse

Jaqui's picture
1 pencil

It's not new. Has been happening since the world wide web became publicly accessible.
It takes extreme measures to stop this from happening, and a lot of the methods are not very effective. Get used to it.

I have been reading a lot of blog entries recently on the subject of independant contracting, most from Chip Camden in the IT Consultant blog on CNET's

Chip has a lot of very usefull information in these blog entries, the url below is to a search result set for Chip's postings:
yes, that is the correct url with the

You can also find the occasional gem on his personal site

I'll add a number 11 to the list of no-nos:
Do not expect to really get any business from sites like rentacoder, 5 to 50 dollars for site development is the most common. The realistic "bid requests" there are usually targeted for a short list by the company wanting the work done, not available for all members to bid on. I have seen a lot of requests on rentacoder for sites that fall under #4, copy this site.

for #3, I wouldn't say that, but then I'm getting my own hosting business going ;)

for #9, I would say yes I can at four times the cost to you. If they are willing to pay four times as much, take the money. ;)

for #10, spot on, very little new code is generated for any particular site, it is really just tweaking existing code to fit the new site better.

edit to fix url issue

SterlingCamden's picture
1 pencil

That made my day!


P.S. Great post, Ivan!

mkeefe's picture
1 pencil

I have followed the majority of these for some time and have to say it has kept me sane. The second a client knows you are always available is the end of your social life as you knew it!

Awesome article,

yair baron's picture
1 pencil

This post is brilliant. It says it all. I should send it to my customers...
Yair Baron

kcozonac's picture
1 pencil

These are awesome. When it comes down to it, the more you believe in your product and demand appropriate pricing, the more your client will believe in you - making for more prompt payment and a more cooperative relationship.

ranamaju's picture
234 pencils

Recognized on 2010!

- -

cocoonmedia's picture
1 pencil

I think everyone has come across at least a few if not all of these kind of clients. I know that in my time working both for companies (who have accepted this kind of client, even after a rather "shakey" sales meeting - sales people who do not fully understand what they are selling, that's another story entirely!) and also myself from time to time in the past.

I generally have a few ways of overcoming most issues that freelancers run into.

Firstly I generally keep an up to date portfolio, and a few mocked up designs that I've done that haven't been shortlisted by a client in the past, effectively recycling designs.
I think you can get around the "mock up" conundrum by just proving that you know your stuff, like Ivan says if they aren't satisfied seeing past work then generally they will waste your time (or perhaps you need to polish your portfolio a little more).

I believe that discounts only really work for the down time months, Jan-March are crippling months for many businesses and its hard times to get people to buy, now some may have the gift of the gab and be able to sell to anyone at anytime but some have to make do and this is not a problem so long as you have rules.

All these issues need is a firm hand, and for you to lay down the law, flip the coin and you'll find they wouldn't do business the way that they expect you to!

One point I would also add to this list is doing work for friends or family, generally this ticks all the boxes from 1-10 and then some. Generally payment is quite secure (depending on the company you keep) but I can guarantee they will hound you for "mates/family rates" and will call from morning til evening and weekends too.

I can't say all work done for family and friends is bad though, sometimes with the right attitude and understanding (and having the rules set upfront) it can be a nice change to have a "client" who understands you, that you can be relaxed with and who understands why they have employed you and why you charge what you charge.

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