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How to Alienate Web Design Clients

Updated May 1, 2016
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How to Alienate Web Design Clients

Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

Have you ever found yourself in a sticky situation with the expectations of your customers? Are they confused about the deliverables, dates when certain things will be done, and how the work will proceed?

To me, it all goes back to a good discovery meeting and a solid work order/ proposal.

In the initial meeting, I need to talk through my process that is solid, repeatable, and consistent and share how I plan on creating their website, how long certain phases will take and the expectations surrounding payment, change orders and revisions. 

To alienate clients and set yourself up for web design project heartache change your process every time and don’t make expectations clear. 


How to Alienate Web Design Clients

To not alienate clients, in the process of a discovery meeting, get to the bottom of:

  • The key pieces of functionality they are initially planning on having on their companies website.
  • The overall vibe and tone of the relationship. Is it a good fit? Can you fulfill or exceed their expectations?
  • Do they trust you and your company to create an effective website, or will they try to micro-manage the process and potentially shoot the whole situation in the foot, or will require a significant budget increase to cover tedious revisions.

Of course, if the relationship is a tilted and they want to be extremely involved in the process, a bigger budget can cover that, but overall it’s a bad idea to get into bed with a client like this. Avoid these clients like they can tank your business, because they can make you extremely inefficient, particularly if you don’t draw very clear lines about numbers of revisions in design and very specific functional requirements.

To not alienate clients, type out functional requirements in the agreement document that states a price of the services:

This shouldn’t be a document that comes after you’ve already discussed a price. The functional requirements like the blog, contact form, category page, product page, checkout, cart, conditional fields in a contact form, custom post types, and taxonomies of information should all be represented in the statement of work.

  • State the number of design revisions, the number of templates you’ll be designing and for what devices and how long the client is expected to get back to you with changes.
  • Give a clear list of the pieces of functionality like those stated above and make explicit that if it’s not covered in the list it is not included and a change order with a price will be issued if items are added.
  • Have a clear and simple protocol for change orders to items that are added to save both of you misaligned expectations.
  • Include clear timelines for different phases and a realistic end date with clear indications of where their acute attention will be needed.
  • Delineate how much of content entry (This is a big one, folks!) is included in the price, and how much of it will be on them. If they are handling content entry, specify that payment for the project is required at the end of development revisions rather than after they enter content and the site is launched. Many clients are unable to drop everything and enter content the week you finish, and this takes the pressure off both of you.

So in short, not alienating clients is about making it clear what you both are getting, including specifics about design revisions and a number of templates and devices you’ll be designing for, development functionality, and when they’ll be needed.

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To alienate clients, leave things vague and cryptic and change your process up every time so things slip and slide

Every web designer has a period of time where they are defining their process, and it’s ok to be new to a discipline. However, as soon as you’re able to get things down in writing.

Not only with your work orders (I love a service called Bidsketch for quick, templated proposals,) but also for your internal use as well to keep you on track, modify and get it clear for you and anyone you work with what your standards and practices are.

Manufacturing companies are able to earn a certification when they have everything documented that makes them more attractive for outside people to work with them and their products. Having all of the standards down on paper makes a particular manufacturing company more attractive because their work is solid, unchanging and predictable. We have to recognize as web designers the same kinds of decision-making is happening when we present our process as something well thought out and ready for action. Have your process written down. 


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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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