Do you use mock ups as a marketing tool?

In sifting through 25 applicants for a project I posted on elance, one web design firm set themselves apart. They promised a mock up of a site within 2 days, for free, with no obligation.

I love this approach. In a site known for impersonal bidding, here was a company that was willing to invest a bit of time in the relationship.

And they delivered with a good looking home page mockup within 2 days — and then responded to some advice from me. I’m not looking at any other bidders. Why would I (given that their design was good)?

In advertising, that’s what firms do: They pitch creative ideas to clients BEFORE getting hired.

It’s how it should be.

But I bet many of you disagree….To me, unless you come via a solid referral, you will forever be one of the 24 that didn’t get picked.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.oxygencreative.com.au rbdl

    Maybe it’s how it should be for your projects because you know how everything else about the website is going to be run. Such as the backend, copy, SEO etc… All you need is the frontend design. But most web projects need more than just a design template. If a business only chose to hire a design firm because of a two day design mockup based on limited spec, there is a good chance of things not turning out as expected. On the other hand I prefer to sit down with my clients and go over in as much detail as possible all of their requirements, and show them how we can make their website a success.

    This is a good read about designing on spec – http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0104h.shtml

    In the end it depends on what you need, if all you need is a template then fine. But I probably wouldn’t waste my time on a project like this anyway.

    A web design firm is not an advertising firm. To say “It’s how it should be.” devalues the work and many services that good design firms provide.

  • http://elysiansystems.com/ leadegroot

    I would have thought the legal implications were far to severe to encourage this sort of thing.
    What if you hadn’t chosen them, but 3 months later they found their design on your site?
    and what if the design is sort of like their design?

    Promoting this sort of approach does not help the industry.

  • charliemac1000

    To put a different spin on it, how do you know they don’t just have one ‘whizz-bang’ template that is personalised for each bid?

    I appreciate that this is a simplified way of looking at it, but really, it

  • Frank

    This is honestly the most idiotic way of doing business I have ever seen. So what you are saying is that in the space of 2 days this firm was able to architect and design a functional website mockup that follows all the rules good Information Architecture based on what? A description of what you want? What about a client survey, or a brief? What about the discovery process? What about taking the time to learn the clients business and design a website based on users needs? If you, the client were so smart, you wouldn’t be hiring a design firm to do the job. I think this type of mentality is part of the problem with web “designers” of todays day and age. These $500 dollar site wizards are digital sluts that don’t have a clue and should be flipping burgers instead. Sologig if full of these idiot designers and clients with ridiculous expectations. If you want a REAL design firm, don’t look at Sologig, get a referral or at least put out an RFP and let some real firms respond in a proper fashion. Or wait…I forgot, you wanted a 50 page site for what – $25?

  • http://www.mjswebsolutions.com type0

    I agree with charliemac1000 (and Andrew).

    I just received a call today about a gentleman needing a website. He was only concerned with getting someone to build it, not how, but that they could do it.

    To ‘SHOW’ that you can build a website for someone…well…shows that you can do it. You know the saying, ‘Present for Show, Close for Dough’.

    There’s a reason why they say it.

    If I was on eLance competing for a job with everyone else around the world, I’d present every arsenal I had.

  • http://www.tpdevelopment.com.au ricktu

    Sorry but I don’t really agree with this. How can you possibly do a usefull design layout for a client until you’ve sat down with them and not only found out what they want from their site but also pitched a few suggestions to them that will help with their e-business.

    For your idea to work I’d need to invest the time in building a spec with the client then spend the time involved to come up with a design based on that ground work. Thats at least half a days work for the equivalent of a fancy quote. Maybe you have the time for your staff or yourself to look after prospects this way but I certainly don’t.

  • http://www.rockymountainpc.com jlrosine

    I’m with you. We provide mock ups for about 90% of our potential clients. I didn’t really think it was something new until reading your blog :). I just figured what better way to give the user some sort of clue about the functionality and design. You can bore them with long winded emails and calls they don’t understand, or you can choose to give them simple instructions to a “demo” site that sucks them in.

    It does work very well, but requires work. I guess people just aren’t willing to put forth a few hours extra to get some jobs.

    -Jeremy
    Rocky Mountain PC

  • Pdx

    I don’t think that doing mockups/spec-work is helping the creative industry. It actually hinders it Ideas is what we as designers have as our selling point. It is bad to just give it away. If people need proof of our work, just show portfolio of client work done for others. If you are designer and sending in mockups for clients who arent yet paying you for them or may not pay you for them you are at risk in two ways. One is that the client may steal your designs. Seconldy they might steal your designs AND run with them with a less costly designer.

    I just think that if you go the extra mile to build that portfolio of value, thats one thing to grab that client, but if you just give away not only your selling point, but free labour as well thats your own choice if you want to slave around w/o the guarantee of getting paid.

    Spec work bad. Clients should know this. Designs count for a lot in terms of branding and image.

    I also don’t agree with eLance and those other bidding sites. They are hard and usually companies who bother to post on there know that the industry is competitively saturated and can just put their project out for bait to see who catches.

    It’s difficult because they have to make that choice of either getting what they pay for, or stealing ideas from desparate(?) design firms like Jeremy’s and having other designers render them up and call them their own.

    No give and take here. Did I mention that Spec work is BAD?

    - Pdx, Toronto Canada

  • Jacob B

    Before starting my own internet agency, I used to work at an advertising agency. First as an art director, and when I chose to leave I was the Managing Director. I have done a lot of comps for clients, and this was actually one of the first tricks I implemented in the internet agency’s strategy.

    Our potential clients are blwon away by these, but here’s how we do it:

    1) We send a letter to the potential client; we haven’t had any contact with the person before now. In this letter is a two-page review of their current website and two specially made mock-ups for their new website. I agree doing websites is more than just design, so usually we also place an idea for a sitemap, usability initiatives and so on.

    2) Next day at about noon, we call up the company. Usually they’ve now read it, looked at the mock-up and is ready to make a decision whether or not they want a meeting with us. Usually (80%) the company wants a meeting at this stage.

    3) 4) 5) 6) you can probably figure out, I just wanted to share my experience.

  • http://www.hurtdidit.com hurtdidit

    It’s interesting to see what a hot topic this particular subject is proving to be!

    I personally would never create a mockup on speculation. I’ve bid on projects where other designers submitted mockups, and the client didn’t like the design so decided NOT to use that contractor. The competitor could easily have created any design the client wanted, but all the client knew was that the design they saw, they didn’t like.

    Design is so subjective–it’s just far too risky to devote the time to create a mockup that might actually work AGAINST you.

    Much better to put that time into a detailed proposal instead.

  • TheAnarchist

    It’s all well and good offering design mock-ups when you are a designer, or you have an in-house designer with time on their hands, but what if you don’t have those advantages? Should a highly-skilled developer miss out on a project, simply because they are functionality-focussed?

    A website can look great, and attract attention, and make its owners proud. A designer is excellent at making simple, static sites. When you get to the larger, more involved projects, a design won’t cut it – you need someone who knows what they are doing on the backend.

    Are those people meant to code a full backend in 2 days to show a potential client? Or do they have to fork out money for a project that they may or may not get, while their competitors don’t need to pay a cent?

  • http://boyohazard.net Octal

    It amazes me how many people are so quick to judge. Andrew’s success as a business man practically speaks for itself and yet there are those that would lambast his entire marketing strategy based on one small post.

    There is obviously not enough detail in the post to justify some of the comments left here. Andrew got the result he wanted as did the design firm.

    Do not be so harsh, rather treat the advice as another tool for your marketing tool kit to be used if or when the opportunity arises.

  • http://www.jamesinteractive.com ecaptus

    There is additional risk for the design firm in this case as well. What if you provide the comp, and it does not appeal to the client at all? You most likely haven’t drafted specifications or requirements for the site, and if you have, in the time you have alloted to providing a “free” comp, chances are they are going to change. And when the potential client turns you down, you have lost time/money that could have been used developing free comps for other potential suckers, er, clients.

    If you are a one man design firm doing this on the side, then it makes sense, just like the many designers out there offering to do free work to build their portfolio.

  • http://www.iuxd.com mikeward

    I have charged for comp work and done it for free and have had good luck with both. I think that if you work with a client and they pay for your spec work, then they have incentive to work with you since they already have money invested. However, and depending on the client, a free mockup may give a potential client a glimpse of how their site could be better and they give you business when others loose out because they don’t do that sort of thing.

    It is all how you feel you should work. If it works for you then do it but don’t flame others if you do not agree with their work style.

    And as for those $500 site wizards mentioned by Frank, I offer a $500 option so I guess I am a ‘digital slut.’ Frank, your words hurt… No, not really. If a cheaper option helps me start a business relationship with a client who will continue to use me in the future I will continue to be a slut.

  • Mark Poffenberger

    My experience:

    Show mock-up to potential client. They like it. After they see the project plan and how long it will actually take, this is what they said “It took you only several days to do the site. Why is it now going to take so long?”. By doing a mock-up for them in a short time, they then had this expectation that it would not take long to do the project. I was left explaining to them why (database, interfacing with an existing system, etc…). They did not understand any of this. All they could see was how quickly it took to have the mock-up done.

    I have also been on the other end of this. I was part of an IT review committee at a Fortune 100 company (where everything is done by committee), and we had the task of assisting the marketing area in choosing a web design company to do a product site. One of the major design firms came in with a mock-up of how the site could look. Several committee members did not like the mock-up, and thus the design firm was not chosen. Could they have done the site? In all other categories, they were superior then the other firms (having done work in our industry,etc..), but because they presented a mock-up that some did not like, it was held against them. During our debate on which company to choose, the dislike of them mock-up was all that they could say. Once that seed was planted, it could not be taken back.

    Moral of the story: Doing mock-ups is risky business. If you do, you will set an expectation with the customer that can never be met.

  • Theo

    One of the concerns I have had for a long time about creating extensive comps without a contract or job approval is how this will be affect the client’s perception of your price. In other words, “Hmmm they can do this in two days… and they are asking for how much in return for a full-fledged site”?

    Essentially the design architecture can be crucial as to how well the backend performs yet it is being relegated to a simple selling point.

    Nobody is going to throw together a backend as a selling point in two days and say, “here look what I can do”. You just built the site for nothing you dimwit and all you have left is the design and heck- “We can do that in another two days for nothing as well- do we have the job yet”?

    If you have two in a design comp I have to seriously question your business practices.
    I can see 6-6 hours depending on the size of the job but two days? That is nuts.

  • Gil

    As someone said earlier, there really isn’t enough information to know exactly what transpired.

    Andrew, did you communicate privately with this company, either through e-mail or phone, before they began their draft? The fact that they promised something “within two days” makes me think that means “within two days of talking with you” (i.e. the discovery/consulting phase).

    It’s not very likely that a designer can create an effective design without first talking with the customer, but it sounds like that step may have already occured.

    Also, I think some of you are missing the bigger picture in Andrew’s post. He’s talking about eLance…a place where most bidders look identical, and where the lowest bidder is rewarded. This company found a way to stand out IN THEIR PARTICULAR CHANNEL. I don’t think it would be quite as effective to use this technique in a situation where the customer is interviewing designers face to face, but on a stricly internet-based sales process, as Andrew pointed out, it’s very attractive.

    On a different note, providing comps can also be a big help for a designer who is just getting started and hasn’t yet had the opportunity to build a large portfolio.

  • http://www.ptpnewmedia.com ptpnewmedia

    At our company there are no such things as a “$500 option”. As a creative web marketing consulting company, we take the time to sit down and get to know our client personally. They are also going to pay a lot more but all in all they are paying for peace of mind. Our clients know they can trust us and we will be there for them when ever they need us. The $500 clients are just looking for a cheap solution and will screw you in the end. They will most likely end up being demanding and you will lose money on them.

    As for doing comp work for free. It is out of the question. There are to many risks involved. Like many others have said before, we have a portfolio, client testimonials, and case studies to back up our work and experience.

  • http://www.rockymountainpc.com jlrosine

    I guess it’s just my opinion, I’ll continue to land clients without trouble, and using mock ups. You can choose any direction you want, but if you aren’t converting to sales, I don’t think you should even post a comment to this blog. If you are converting 90% + of the clients you have contact with, and not using mock ups….keep doing what you are doing :).

    For those of you who think it takes too much time to create a mock up, or that they are dangerous. Try to create systems that make mock ups easier. To give an example, we have software that takes about 1 hour to deploy a custom demo with functionality. This allows the user to login to admin pages as well, and play around. Now once the user views and uses this functionality, it gets them so excited about their site they don’t have, the sale is a snap.

    Don’t be afraid to spend 1 hour or 2 creating a mock up if you have confidence your services are all what you say they are.

  • http://www.dudleydesigns.com dailydud

    When I first started in the business and had a very small portfolio, I would often use mockups to get the potential client enthused about their new web presence…and what it COULD look like! Mockups have their place.

  • http://www.iuxd.com mikeward

    I state what a $500 option is and stick by it on my site. Saying a $500 option customer will ‘screw you in the end’ is like saying “you small businesses don’t deserve to have a ‘professional’ site done, so go away, I am too good for you.”

    I don’t do just $500 sites but I do handle a number of small web presence clients who have not only been good clients but who have turned around and referred me to numerous other clients who were able to go with more robust sites.

    But, that is not the point of this blog so as Forrest says, ‘that’s all I have to say about that.’

  • http://www.blueimpressions.com bi_rw

    Andrew and Jacob B

  • vivus_surfer

    Folks, this is especially useful for small business clients/owners.
    Take a reality check for a moment – Frequently most small business owners/clients are wearing multiple “hats” within their organization. They are overtaxed and overloaded. Which means most times they cannot “see the forest for trees” when it relates to their marketing & advertising collateral, much less attempting to contribute to a process that is partly creative. Think about it; when you are in the “working groove” you often do not want to be distracted by what you may perceive as a non-imperative business element (this frequently happens because most are still in the educational/development stage of understanding and comprehending the true value of the web) and frequently push it to the

  • http://www.functionflow.com Geof Harries

    Designers who do spec work belittle the professional graphic design industry – you don’t even know the client’s business yet and you’re coming up with creative? Not a good idea from any level.

    The only exception to this is if you do have a very firm understanding of the client’s needs and objectives and work from those, but in most cases, it’s not very likely.

    geof

  • http://www.iuxd.com mikeward

    I do have to agree with Geof however, if I was unclear in my previous posts. I have done some free spec work, but it is only after I have some understanding regarding the clients business and needs. I would not send out comps to a client who was not expecting them.

  • Mapo

    Using mock ups as a marketing tool is a very near sighted approach. It works for marketing only and doesn’t lend itself to a focused project. It’s usually the sign of an uninformed client to ask for mock ups. The visual look of a site isn’t the most important function of a site. But it is the job of whomever is heading the project up, yes YOU, to clairfy the web development process for the client, from RFP to proposal, to etc to finished project.

    Today, there are a lot of “do-it-yourself” web designers who do what they THINK works, using a very LAY approach. They disadvantage the client by not really being a professional. They have no real principles to the business they’re in besides doing what they think works. And usually, it’s not from the standpoint of delivering a focused and competant multimedia communications tool. It’s from a marketing standpoint or a money making standpoint.

    If you’re doing a $500 web site, you are really kidding yourself. You are a handyman, not a craftsman. You cannot work for everyone with a small budget. If a small business can’t afford your services, you have to move on to the next client. Don’t get your emotions involved.

    Use CASE STUDIES. Not mock ups to land a project. Show the client the gamut of your problem solving competance. If you can’t put together a detailed case study, you might not really be that great of the problem solver as you think you are. You might not even know what the problem really is.

  • http://www.rockymountainpc.com jlrosine

    I think it’s pretty amateur to say that a mock up isn’t a good idea, especially when I personally convert over 90% of my contacts that are interested. (I credit mock ups for at least 20-30% more conversions).

    You can preach all you want about how it

  • http://www.thewebmonsters.com webmonster

    I don’t understand why this topic has generated this much negative attention. It is simple, if you want to take a chance and mock-up a design for a potential client, then you have the right to do that. If you think that is a bad idea and a waste of your time (and/or money) then don’t do it. Simple.

    Just like watching a violent TV show, if you don’t like it turn the channel. YOU are in complete control. I say don’t knock somebody for building up their list of clients by using mock-up designs. There is certainly nothing illegal about doing it (at least as far as I know) so I don’t see the problem.

    I think ultimately it depends on how big the potential client is and whether or not it is worth your time. If the project is going to be an extensive websites with lots of bells and whistles and pay a big chunk of cash at completion, then I think it is worth a few hours of design time to try and land that job. If it is small job ($500 site) then it probably is not worth the time of a mock-up. And I am understanding mock-up design as being something set up in Photoshop, not a fully programmed website.

    Just my 2 cents!

  • http://www.logicalmedia.tv rkosmic1

    there is a difference between doing a very detailed mockup and a quickie exploration of design layout and the overall look and feel.

    that is if i think i have the time to do something like that on spec.

    if so, after thier positive response i then quote them and ask for a deposit =]

    so im not totally against it, especially if i can get interns to do it =p

    thanks for reading

    rich
    owner and grandmaster of:

    http://www.logicalmedia.tv

    i dont waste my time with nickel and dimers

  • http://www.logicalmedia.tv rkosmic1

    there is a difference between doing a very detailed mockup and a quickie exploration of design layout and the overall look and feel.

    that is if i think i have the time to do something like that on spec.

    if so, after thier positive response i then quote them and ask for a deposit =]

    so im not totally against it, especially if i can get interns to do it =p

    thanks for reading

    rich,
    owner and grandmaster of:

    http://www.logicalmedia.tv

    edit =p

  • DBJ

    Heres the thing you need to realize when deciding weather or not to do a mock up for a client or not. And its been mentioned briefly before.

    Most of the clients you are going ot get do not have the first clue as to how the internet works, how pages are put together, or what they want the design to look like. For this reason, mock up to show them where you are heading them is a great idea.

    Think of it in terms of buying a car. You aren’t going to goto Ford’s website and say wow, this used Ford Ranger here in the picture looks great, everyone else liked it based on the comments here, I will buy it. Instead, you want to see it, check it out, test drive it possibly, then make your decision to buy. Thats how business works 9 times out of 10. People want to know what they are getting for thier money, not know what their money is getting them.

    Whats the harm in giving our customers a free peak, if that gets them on the hook, thats all that matters.

  • http://www.realityedge.com.au mrsmiley

    A web design firm is not an advertising firm

    Since when is this the case rbdl? ANY business that is in the public eye is involved in advertising to some extent. That’s how you get noticed. This is especially true of web design firms. You create a site for a client which becomes part of their public image. Aka you are advertising their image to the world.

    I cant believe this has generated so many bad posts. You have to take everything into context. If you are seeking work on elance, then you need to stand out from the crowd. The way to do that is not by showing someone your folio (like everyone else does), you need to prove you can go above and beyond the call of duty.

    People that take the calculated risks and stick their neck out on occassion are the ones that drive inovation and success. Different tactics work for different companies.

    Providing mockups works for me just fine. So just sitting down with the client and discussing project specs. It all depends on the type of client you have as to which method workds best. BUT, when it comes to it, you have to prove yourself and one point. One easy way to assess the client with minimal time investment on our part, is to provide mockups. You haven’t yet committed full resources to the project development, but you have invested in the client, in the relationship on establishing the concept and face of your project.

    Its something that has always worked in past for me and will continue to work well into the future. And no I dont provide $500 templated solutions for those that are wondering. I provide the solution that the client wants. If that’s a $500 template, then so be it, but if its a $20K site with the bells and whistles, NOBODY is going to invest in something like that unless I can first prove myself.

    Think of a mockup like a personalised folio tailored specifically for that client. Its also a fantastic method of generating a portfolio if you dont have one yet.

  • http://www.tpdevelopment.com.au ricktu

    Just to address one of the last points in the post above I honestly don’t believe providing a mockup of a $20k site proves you can do the job at all. A mock up is just that. A facade with nothing behind it. A portfolio on the other hand shows finished. working examples of you work which is much better proof of what you can do.

    There seems to be quite a few accusations that those of us disagreeing with this idea are being negative but that is simply false. The whole point of this place is about discussions and learning and that is what we are doing putting forth opinions based on our own experiences.

    I spend a lot of time with my clients getting to know their businesses and their customers needs so that I can a complete solution to them. Part of that solution is a design layout that meets all those requirements. To provide a desgin without those initial exploratory meeting simply cannot meet all those needs. And quite frankly those clients that simply accept the first design at face value must surely be missing opportunities on a site designed on a full spec. I’m not trying to be an ass but how can that site be the best option for them if it is done without contact with them?

    Building a website is not about just knowing how to use Photoshop and Dreamweaver. It’s about also understanding how businesses work and knowing how to develop systems that will help an organisation to use the internet effectively. And to implement this time needs to be spent with the client and their business. To not do this can only lead to a less than complete solution which is in no ones best interest.

  • http://www.criticalmass.com crazed_canuck

    Considering that you don’t write a proposal unless you know you 99% have the job; why is making a comp any different than writing a proposal?

  • joe

    I’ve done mock-ups at clients request. Some clients ask for mock-ups because they haven’t worked with me before, or because it’s a big project.

    For bigger projects, I have no problem doing it, but on smaller ones, it’s a waste of time.

    I’d say it really depends on the scope of the project.

    PS… maybe you should do a post on elance, that’s the bane of many web developers… I’ve seen people quoting $500 for full-fledged web sites with complex back-ends and flash etc… etc…

  • JMorrow

    Guys, I believe this really depends on the market you serve. Some people want a unique design, tailored specifically to their company and their audiences. Others want a site because everyone else has one and they feel it’s necessary, just like a business card.

    Most of you seem to be focusing on the big, custom jobs. For them, I agree with you; you need to do a detailed requirements analysis. However, you also need to realize that only a small percentage of the potential jobs out there require this type of effort.

    When I first started designing web sites, I worked exclusively with small businesses that wanted a professional but essentially useless web site. I also purchased about 200 templates from different, legitimate designers, costing around $200 total, I think. Whenever a client called me, I would find out a little about their company, browse through my templates, pick out about 5 of them, and slap in the clients company name, slogan, and contact information.

    Then, I proceeded to give the client the old “no need to reinvent the wheel” speech, convincing them that a template was the most cost-effective way to meet their need. Once they’d agreed, I showed them my nice, professional templates with the basic information on their company. Next, I asked them to write to me a check for $500, and I’d have the site online within seven days. If they didn’t like it, I’d give them a full refund and they could keep the site.

    80% of them wrote me the check. None asked for their money back. On each site, I spent between 5 and 7 hours getting the copy just right. That’s 71-100 dollars per hour. Not bad for a college student, working part-time.

    And yes, people on eLance do the same thing. Most of the time, they’re using their own templates, but it’s more or less the same approach. It also works just fine.

    Has no one written a book on how to start a web site business using this model? If not, you should write one, Andrew. I would, but I have no interest in that particular market.

  • amskape

    If you feel comfortable with your sense for what the prospective client is trying to accomplish based on the RFP, then offering a mockup may give you the edge over competition, as this example shows. It all depends on the market. High end customers could very well be put off by the idea of receiving a mockup before even an initial meeting. For ultra-small businesses, the cost is certainly a driving factor. They want to see the goods upfront and get a quick idea of the cost. Hence the $500 websites offered by some developers. If this is your market, having a stockpile of templates that can be quickly customized can is probably help you land clients. If clients want more you can sell them more. Before you know it you’ll find that there is no difference between a high end sale and a sale that started low and worked up. You get paid for your work and clients get what they paid for. Lets face it, ours is a saturated market. I don’t believe in cutting corners to make a quick sale but if we don’t get as creative and flexible with our business models as we are with our work, we will be out of business very quickly. So all power to the brother/sister who sold Andrew on a free mockup! It was a gamble but that is why we are entrepreneurs. We thrive on taking calculated risks!

  • http://www.platinum-central.com platinum

    I really don’t like this idea either – when you “design” something you really need to go through the complete project with the client and get comfortable with the way they run their business and the way they want to portray themselves.

    This is just a “look we’ve already made one so you might as well hire us now!” effort. :)

  • http://www.wraithdragonmedia.com.au WDM

    “If you are seeking work on elance, then you need to stand out from the crowd.”

    Not everyone bothers with elance. Many have target markets where they seek to present themselves as experts who solve the real business issues of those within their target market. Often the way a site looks etc has nothing to do with definitive business results such as improving cashflow management.

    I think many are missing the point. Perhaps you should re read the blog. Andrew used mockups as ONE example of how to “pitch creative ideas to clients BEFORE getting hired”

    You might find that there are more than one way to do that.

  • http://www.digitalgreenlight.com busy

    I do mock ups as an early part of most projects I do, although usually only after getting a signed contract. I certainly see the sense in giving one before you’ve got the job, and honestly, I’m kind of happy that so many people are unable to think that way. It makes me more confident that I will be able to compete against them.

  • rueben

    What ever the client wants he gets. That is business.

  • http://www.vinniegarcia.com/ vgarcia

    What ever the client wants he gets. That is business.

    But he’s not your client yet and you’re doing free work. You still run the risk of those hours you put in earning you nothing.

    I’m not a fan of spec design, but it sure seems to be a popular way to get a site done cheaply while still getting a lot of choices. I’d probably love it if I was on the other end of the transaction.

  • Rick

    Wow…lots of comments on this one. Maybe I can offer a somewhat different perspective. What we’re really talking about here is working on speculation, which in my experience is pretty risky.

    As an art director for a sizeable advertising agency, I can tell you that Andrew’s comment “In advertising, that’s what firms do” isn’t really acurate. In some cases we provide work before being hired if we have an established relationship with the client, and often times we’re paid for our time to provide this creative.

    Another exception might be if we’re pitching a large campaign and there are few other agencies in competition for the work.

    In most other circumstances, it’s not worth putting in the effort. You’re time is better spent developing relationships.

    Most establiblished firms do not work on spec. In my 9 years experience in advertising I’ve never worked without being paid aside from in the rare occasions previously mentioned. Here is a link to an article covering some reasons not to work on spec:

    http://graphicdesign.about.com/cs/workingfromhome/a/specwork.htm

  • http://www.rebornstudio.com optimus_prime

    I don’t understand… your book talks about avoiding situations where you are bidding against other companies, but here you are talking about winning projects on Elance. What gives? Elance and similar sites is for dummies, guys. I outsource a lot of my work and even as a customer I wouldn’t use Elance. Leave those sites for the bottom feeders.

  • http://www.tswinteractive.ca/ Pavel_Nedved

    Yup, I’m with most of these guys. I wouldn’t hire from elance… but there’s different ways to look at this.

    Who DOES use elance? So far we’ve got “bottom feeders”, “cheepskates”, and “idiots”. Now, from this company’s standpoint, their target market doesn’t really know what they want, and they’ll bite at anything that’s shiney. Taking that into consideration, why not give them something shiney to look at? Sure, your target market may be $5000+ websites, but this business is going for smaller fish. If the smaller fish bite his bait, then why not? When you think about it, it probably takes less time to design a decent looking website than it does to write a decent proposal.

    Is it the marketing strategy for me? Nope. Could it be for someone else? Obviously the answer is “yes”.

  • cyberblatt

    Question for Andrew:
    How come you fish for a designer on eLance? Couldn’t you establish a work relationship with any designer yet? With all the best American Business School training and degree?
    Did you pay this designer yet, if so, how much? I am just curious.
    He may have gotten a lots of promises for the future I guess… he he
    So you had to go to that Elance sharkpool where half Bangalore is waiting for a drop of some breadcrumbs from sharks leftovers. No offence intended but doesn’t it say something wrong with all the Harvard teachings and those implemented wistles. Those can be used in US but not much elsewhere.
    Business mentalities are pretty different in the global market.
    I do agree however that a designer should show some of his works, the more the better.
    No one likes to buy an unseen product, that is normal for the folks I came from.
    But to do free stuff in advance on Elance is not my cup of tea. I do that only for those folks I know in person and if I know where they live or have their businesses.
    Else I do total FREE work as a UN Volunteer for some of the third World folks, community organizations who can not afford a designer, because they try to feed orphaned kids and want some online exposure.
    Certainly I would not do the same for some snake-oil sales speech throwing consultant. Big companies outsource anyway I do not even target those. There is more small businesses around than big ones I keep targeting the majority. An other important thing I concluded.
    Since India has the most English speaking developers in the world that is why the market is so saturated. They are competing with all the others, be it in US, Canada, UK, etc. But! If you are lucky to speak few other languages you have better chances in getting contracts.
    Not many in India speak German, Hungarian, French or slavic languages.
    Here is even a bigger picture of the whole issue.
    East Europe with Russia is coming on strong and China will start undercutting India pretty soon. In 20 Years the African hub is going to shape as well. If in US every big firm is outsourcing the only clients will still be the small business. If US can not employ its citizens in this field, the field will be abandoned by lots of those choosing carreers. Awsome picture. Even NASA will close down probably since the Chinese space launch is ten times cheaper.
    Conclusion? You can figure that out.
    The mistake is exactly in the business policy implementation Harward is probably teaching and the corporation will destroy themselves.
    No wonder the technology in robotics is nowhere in the US compared to Japan and Germany. Just think about it.

  • http://www.f-i.com.au dropv

    There are mixed reactions to this. I find it difficult to spend the time doing a mockup with limited knowledge from the customer. In one case i did and the customer wanted it to look different but thought i was going to be rigid about the design and chose someone else. It was a shame because the backend would have been far better than the competitor’s.

  • nesbitd

    From a non-nurd pov l think it is just great that a design firm or professional is prepared to do a mock-up site for appro.

    I have no problems with use of elance either as l need to connect with a firm that can:
    1. do the job in a timely manner
    2. do the job in an economic manner

    If they’re prepared to invest in a mockup then quite obviously, as a non-nurd business owner all l’m looking for is someone who can show me they can deliver nothing more, nothing less.

    As for use of elance.com l think all IT gurus should be proactive and sell their wares and services in this and other similar sites.

    Use the technolgy, use the net, it’s an open and connected World. Use it and Win that job!

  • http://www.primacognos.com bigduke

    What Andrew said was from an employer’s point of view, coming to think of it, wouldn’t you be impressed if someone did a mock-up for you and followed it up with some of the proposed features/modules for the work? The second half is important, just a plain design moch-up would mean nothing to me (thinking logically) but follow it up with your ideas on how you intend to deliver the product and you will definitely click with me.

    Now lets change the perspective, I am a single web developer and not much of a designer. What do I do when the client turns away saying the mock-up was good but I picked someone with a better quote? I wasted all that time for nothing? Thankfully I haven’t walked that path yet. However, what I HAVE done is brief the client (in text only) what I intend to put into the project and give them references to my past work for them to get an idea of what it would look like. I’m still a n00b in the industry (little over a year’s experience) so that competetive bidding hasn’t really worked for me. But since I would be starting my business soon, and yes Andrew I would love it if you mentored me (provided I have the budget), so maybe a better and more effective sales practice’s analysis is in order.

    My comment is not about free or not, cheap or expensive, its just about working out a scheme that’d put the developer in a win win situation. Apologies if the post offends anyone. Just my 2 cents :)