Many people outside the industry are surprised to learn that web designers are just like them. We need to eat, have a roof over our heads, and have a shiny new phone in our pocket every six months or so. All kidding aside, we are indeed running a business and we have to make a living.
But sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. For those of us who don’t come from a business background, it tends to be a little too casual. And working from home only encourages this behavior.
This can be beneficial in that it allows us to build the kind of atmosphere where creativity can flourish. But on the downside, a casual approach could mean we’re leaving a significant amount of money on the table. Even worse is that it might not even occur to us that we are doing that.
In that spirit, let’s look at some common situations where we’re essentially wasting our time. To be clear, this is not about advocating to charge good clients for every little thing. Rather, it’s more about raising awareness and making sure it’s not being taken advantage of. Now, let’s get to it!
When you give your client a website, it’s only a matter of time before they get involved or have a question. That’s to be expected. And, if you haven’t already sold them on a support package, it can turn into a black hole that drains income.
While it hardly seems fair to charge for something as simple as a five or ten minute email exchange, these incidents start to add up. What’s worse is that it only takes one client with a technical challenge or a client who increases scope to unintentionally eat up your time. This is time you could otherwise use, you know, making money.
There’s nothing wrong with giving away some freebies every now and then. It’s a small gesture that can keep your client relationship strong. But it’s still important to set boundaries.
Inform your clients about your policies from the start. Tell them about any thresholds you have in place. This will allow you to be both a web superhero and avoid loss of support.
Acting as a Researcher/Relationship
So, a large part of our job these days involves working with third party software and service providers. Plugin developers, web hosts, APIs and code libraries are significant parts of a project.
But we don’t often think about the amount of time spent researching these various items. This could include anything from searching the web, comparing options to chatting with sales or support representatives. And when something goes wrong, we are often dealing with it on behalf of our clients.
Although a project is in the development stage, you might consider this as part of your standard fees – fair enough. But the role of liaison does not end when the site is launched.
In fact, rerouting communications between an external service and your client can be time-consuming (and stressful). The back and forth should not be overlooked when it comes to billing.
Because web designers have technical skills, we are often asked for help and advice on all kinds of topics. And they are not always related to web design.
People get in touch asking (in no particular order): How to use their iPhone, what’s their email password, how to get their email on their iPhone, how to open a specific type of file, is the iPhone worth it it’s new and… you get the idea.
Again, there is a fine line. You don’t want to be rude. But you also don’t want to keep answering questions unrelated to your job endlessly. It may be the last thing you want to do, especially when you are busy with more pressing matters.
On the other hand, it may not be wise to charge for these types of questions. The idea could backfire and result bigger questions from a particular client.
Perhaps the best solution is to leave these questions hanging until you have some extra time to deal with them.
Some web professionals charge a fee for writing recommendations. This is a smart way to attract potential clients who are serious and willing to pay for quality. Still, the practice seems to be the exception more than the rule.
Proposals can be a significant undertaking and undoubtedly take up valuable time. But hopefully it will pay off in the form of a shiny new project to work on.
But then there are potential clients or existing clients who ask for multiple quotes. They are often “serial” entrepreneurs with lots of big ideas or fanciful dreams. In either case, there is a huge investment of time on your part that could be all for nothing.
This leads to a serious business decision. If you find that you are wasting a lot of time writing proposals, you may need to implement a new strategy. Or, maybe a few worst offenders need to be put in their place.
Keep track of your time and charge as needed
As the old saying goes, time is money. And while money is certainly not the only thing that matters, the above situations could be going your way.
That’s why it’s important to track how much time you spend performing these tasks for free. Keep track of what you do, who you’re doing it for and the amount of time spent. You may be surprised at what you are giving.
In response, it might be worth considering implementing policies that protect you from offending clients – not to mention your own goodwill. Doing so can help ensure that you are being fairly compensated for your efforts.