We were all new to this industry at one time or another, and we’re all learning valuable lessons each step of the way. I thought that I would share a few of my biggest lessons to hopefully help people who are starting out or starting to grow their own web development presence.
Jack of all trades, master of none
There is a common theme among people new to the industry – they often try to do anything and everything, especially when a client makes a request.
A website design & development project can often lead to a request for:
- logo design or brand design
- social media account setup & maintenance
- SEO campaign
- helping with computer hardware setup
- becoming a 24 hour go-to for any tech related questions
Wanting to provide these things for a client and keep that client happy is a natural reaction, but it can be detrimental to your time and your expertise.
You can only allocate a portion of the 24 hours in your day to work-related tasks, whether it’s learning new skills or undertaking billable work. Trying to undertake all of the above items means that you’ll never have the time to master any of them, or you’ll never bill enough hours to survive.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to focus your time and attention on a limited number of skills, get really good at them and work with others who specialise in the skills you don’t have, in order to offer a wider range of services.
The promise of future work, as a bargaining tool
In my 12 years as a website developer, I have had many potential clients approach me with a new project, while also prompting a discussion around future work. For the most part, these potential clients could be broken down into two categories, in terms of both their approach and the final outcome.
- Clients that promised future work, as a bargaining tool on the first project
I took on a few new clients (in my early days), reducing my rates on the first project with the hope of additional work. None of these clients has ever returned or have been in contact since the first project finished. Not a single one.
In my experience, the people negotiating a reduced rate with the promise of future work have no intention of returning. Their motive is price, pure and simple – they’re looking for the cheapest possible option for the product/service that they require, and they have no shame in lying to get it. I stopped taking on these clients many many years ago.
- Clients that discussed future work, but never questioned my pricing
All of these clients returned with multiple projects, they always paid my rates without question and I’ve built incredible relationships with these clients.
These clients often understand the value of what we do, they understand the time and work involved to create a good web product. This leads to mutual respect and a healthy, long-term relationship. These are the type of clients that I dedicate my time too and support to the best of my ability.
The conversation around “future work” is a common one and the outcomes can be one extreme to the other. Understanding the motive of the potential client is crucial and if their motive is immediate financial savings, you should raise a red flag and question whether this is a client you want or need.
Always, always take a deposit
No one would walk out of a store with a physical product without paying for it. That’s not strictly true, but the risk of ending up on CrimeStoppers is a significant one and the majority of people wouldn’t do this.
However, the number of people that are willing to walk away from a service agreement without paying for your time, is surprisingly high.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t entertain a conversation with a potential client without insisting on payment for your time, but once you’ve given enough time to understand the scope of their project and can provide an estimate for the work, ensure that you receive a deposit for before you start work.
As well as a deposit, arranging a payment schedule based on either time (monthly/quarterly) or project milestones (design, development, SEO, launch etc) would also be a sensible approach.
Be open and honest about this process from the start, manage the client’s expectations and don’t surprise the client with this at the last moment. The vast majority of clients will have no issue with this, assuming you’ve been open about your processes and they know what to expect from you.
If a client refuses to give a deposit or insists on payment once the website has gone live, you should raise a red flag and consider walking away.
I hope that helps
Experience will make all of these areas feel like common sense, but during your early years it’s extremely easy to get stung in any one, or all of these areas – I know I have been.
If you’re new to the industry and facing some challenges, I’d be happy for you to pull on my experience and offer you any advice that I might have.