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  1. #26
    SitePoint Wizard gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy dc dalton's Avatar
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    Yes I have to agree, working "on the cheap" and or free is usually the dues everyone must pay to get things going in a web career. I would also check around your local area looking for charities or whatnot to do work for. Without a portfolio you aren't going to attrack clients like you need to to make a living.


    Another way to get things going is offering to sub contract to established design / development companies, working at a reduced rate to "prove" yourself so you can get some "rep" in the industry.

  2. #27
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy linkin99's Avatar
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    I agree strongly with the statement that people "don't appreciate or place value on things that they get for free".

    However, depending on the person and what it is that you may do pro bono work for, it can also be a rewarding experience like some of the posters on this thread have mentioned. If you do work for free/cheap, make sure it's something you could support. It's not a huge deal if you don't, but it makes doing that kind of work a whole lot easier.

    But like others have said, set boundaries on that too. Either make it clear to the people for whom you're doing this for the limits of your time and work, or anticipate that job as ongoing.

    Again, whatever the case may be for you. If they ever take it down or offline, ask them for permission to save/host a copy of it on your "portfolio site" to show off what you did in the past.

  3. #28
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    Right now I'm on RAC and bidding on small jobs (those that require HTML recoding, Tables>CSS, or a little PHP). I'm not doing anything major like forums or CMS'. The only thing I'm requiring is that they provide feedback. If it's a complete redesign, then I ask for them to allow me to put my name on the bottom and in the author meta tag. Already got a couple of jobs. I'm at the point right now that I'm not desperate (nor trying to sound like it), but I feel like I have something to prove and that any relationships I establish now will benefit me later. Sure, I might do a job that they don't find rewarding (or want to abuse my services), but I think (and hope) they'll be few and far between.

    I was actually coming to post another question, though. I just sent an email to a potential client addressing their site. They basically wanted it "modernized". I went into a rather lengthy discussion on what I would do to make it better and why I felt that way.

    My question is: Do you all do the same or do you just say, "I can do what you want". I know there are many people out there that do that (just look at the "Looking to hire" forum). But I want to hear from those who are having success. How much detail do you go into and how do you know when enough is enough. If I'm talking to someone with a bit of experience, then they might know what I'm already telling them. If they have no experience, then everything I say might fly right over their head. When/where do you draw the line?

    Tim

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by timothytrice
    Right now I'm on RAC and bidding on small jobs (those that require HTML recoding, Tables>CSS, or a little PHP). I'm not doing anything major like forums or CMS'. The only thing I'm requiring is that they provide feedback. If it's a complete redesign, then I ask for them to allow me to put my name on the bottom and in the author meta tag. Already got a couple of jobs. I'm at the point right now that I'm not desperate (nor trying to sound like it), but I feel like I have something to prove and that any relationships I establish now will benefit me later. Sure, I might do a job that they don't find rewarding (or want to abuse my services), but I think (and hope) they'll be few and far between.

    I was actually coming to post another question, though. I just sent an email to a potential client addressing their site. They basically wanted it "modernized". I went into a rather lengthy discussion on what I would do to make it better and why I felt that way.

    My question is: Do you all do the same or do you just say, "I can do what you want". I know there are many people out there that do that (just look at the "Looking to hire" forum). But I want to hear from those who are having success. How much detail do you go into and how do you know when enough is enough. If I'm talking to someone with a bit of experience, then they might know what I'm already telling them. If they have no experience, then everything I say might fly right over their head. When/where do you draw the line?

    Tim
    Thing is, going into great detail about how someone's site can be improved is effectively giving away free consulting. People pay me a lot of money for this information but on the flip side a lot of people won't pay me because they think they can get equal quality info for free from other developers (they're wrong of course!).

    I personally talk in generics, or refer back to previous jobs and how I helped them. I use this line a lot

    'Well, that's certainly an issue we'll address in our first consultation'

    Consulting is a big part of what I do, as is development of a project specification. I never give this away for free.

    I also never send lengthy emails to anyone. I either talk on the phone or in person; I find people who prefer to communicate on sales matters via email tend to have a high probability of being time wasters, window shoppers or deadbeats with no budget (or competitors).

  5. #30
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Tech/www type people tend to respond to clients with what THEY think is important to the client. This can sometimes be a mistake.

    The trick is to try and try to understand their perspective. When I get a client contact, I put some real thought into what kind of client they are, and what they really want.

    For example, I have clients that :

    1. Don't want ANY detail about anything technical. They feel that the reason they are paying me is so that they DONT have to hear that stuff. They want answers like 'I will take care of this', etc.

    2. Clients who want to be 'involved' but don't really know much. These clients want to be given documents for review, etc. and will provide light feedback but will always wind up taking my recommendations. They want answers like, 'I will have some options for you by next week"

    3. Clients who want full control/visibility. These can be the worst, too! They want stuff like, "I'll provide a detailed proposal, then a comprehensive technical architecture for your review, etc. and we can conduct periodic code reviews".

    Some clients simply seek a trust-building response. So, in response to 'do you have experience with payment systems?" you give them 'yes, we have implemted payment systems for clients a,b, and c and we know how to do it'. You don't give these clients technical details...

    Sitepoint is a really unique audience - so I wouldn't use it as an indicator for the 'real world' although RAC is not much better. In the real world, people are concerned about THEIR business much more than whats happening in the www world. I have NEVER once met an end-client who really cared at all about the tables vs. css debate

    So, for a client who wants it 'modernized' you can probably guess that they aren't talking about the underlying technologies - instead they probably want to see example-sites of much more modern looking front-ends, maybe cms interfaces, and slicker/modern design...

    Just my 2c
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

    SAGEWING LLC - QUALITY WEB AND MOBILE APPS. PREMIUM OUTSOURCING SERVICES.
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  6. #31
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    I also never send lengthy emails to anyone. I either talk on the phone or in person; I find people who prefer to communicate on sales matters via email tend to have a high probability of being time wasters, window shoppers or deadbeats with no budget (or competitors).
    Shadow - Good post, as usual

    I agree that it's a bad idea to send lengthy emails to potential clients - it sets a bad precedent and it wastes a lot of time. However, I disagree that people who prefer to communicate via email on sales matters are usually time wasters, etc.

    I would definitely say there is a high rate of time-wasting on email, but at the same time you dont' get interrupted and you can check the domains/etc before you get on the phone. I like it actually - every day I look at my inbox and decide who to call, who to email, who to ignore completely.

    Email can be very handy. I also think that you can tell A LOT by the way someone responds on email. Still, there is no substitute for the 'feel' that you get for a client on the phone
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

    SAGEWING LLC - QUALITY WEB AND MOBILE APPS. PREMIUM OUTSOURCING SERVICES.
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  7. #32
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    Maybe I'm wrong or missing something. I see what shadow means by avoiding "free consultation". I totally agree. What bugs me about RAC (and keep in mind I'm referring to other sites as well) is that you HAVE to be specific. If I bid on a job and win it...if the client's not happy and refuses to pay...it goes into arbitration and RAC says to me, "Well, you should have been more specific". I got burned on a rather large job earlier this year specifically because of that. I had it in my mind what I wanted to do, the client had other ideas, but it wasn't made clear until it was too late. I've used the term, "Let's get on the same page" quite a bit.

    So, I guess I should rephrase my question. I've read all over these forums about offering three revisions. Should I leave it at that. Basically, say, "Tell me what you want your site to do. I'll create it. You review it. You can request changes three times. After that, pay me!" (a little more politely, of course). That would still bug me that a site like RAC would still say, "You weren't more specific".

    Am I making this more complicated than it actually is?

    Tim

  8. #33
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    You can never win that battle, imo.

    The best way is to learn to start better qualifying your potential clients, and work towards getting clients who know what they are doing and are more experienced. I think most web developers had a lot of those problems when they were first starting out, but as they grow they begin working with more 'mature' clients and that kind of problem fades away... (other problems pop up, though )
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  9. #34
    SitePoint Member imaginemn's Avatar
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    I help many small start up companies jump start their business. I've worked in the corporate world for many years and now run my own business. This is what I have learned.

    Doing work for free just to build a portfolio is not the best way to go about it unless you can leverage that to help grow your business. For example. I do some free work for an ad agency. Anything they want on their site is done for free. In return they outsource all their programming needs exclusively to me. We BOTH get something in return and neither one of us feels like we are taking advantage of each other.

    It's really difficult to find work when you are just starting off. You can fall into the "your pricing is too cheap, so it's probably not that good" or "you don't have enough experience" categories. Don't focus on that. People don't care what you have done in the past but what can you do for them. Focus on that, not what you have or have not done. You are the expert in the field and they are coming to you for help.

    Whenever I meet with a potential new client. I take a few minutes and review their site. The more you know about your potential customer the greater the chances are. Do a small mock-up, possibly in powerpoint and then point out how I can help improve their site. If I don't see where I can improve I tell them they are doing a great job and focus on what they have done a great job in and where I could fit in the process. Not only will they appreciate the honest opinion but it makes them feel like they have accomplished something on their own and they will call upon you at some point.

    Many have said here to build a few sites of your own. If you do you should build tools/applications you can later sell as a packaged item so you don't always have to re-invent the wheel.

    There is no shame going to a new company and letting them know you are a start-up company and you want their business because you can make it better and show them how and why they need you. Remember they were a start-up company at one point.

    Good luck and hope you succeed in accomplishing your goals!

    Michael
    Imagine Creative Services, Inc.
    Minneapolis Web Design


    WEB : PRINT : MEDIA : DESIGN : MORE

  10. #35
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    What bugs me about RAC (and keep in mind I'm referring to other sites as well) is that you HAVE to be specific
    Well, I can't really comment on the whole RAC thing because it's the epitome of everything I detest in the web development industry so I wouldn't get myself involved in that siutation in the first place. Lots of developers slogging their guts out for peanuts, clients expecting the world on a plate for peanuts, the whole thing is not good for the industry in my opinion. I mean seriously, who thinks they can get an effective, tailored ecommerce solution that will actually make proper money for them for $500? Or even as low as $100? Web sites designed for $50? That wouldn't even cover the time it takes me to read their ad, let alone all the time I would waste sending highly specific, detailed bids to these clueless charlies. Life as a developer can be soooo much nicer and clients can be sooo much better quality than these morons.

    In the end, it's all about who you target. I personally only deal with clients who are looking for more than just a developer, they want someone who can collaborate with them, work together with our combined knowledge to create something special; people who are happy to pay 100s or even 1000's in initial consulting fees, just to create the initial project specification. I really can't imagine dealing with anyone worthwhile through email - I've been there when I first started out, but it was horrible with a very low probability of success, so now I typically only deal with budgets over 5000 ($10000) and my life is much better with little if any wasted time as I get paid for every minute (and some).

    Okay, I know these clients are not the type of people who will go to a newbie, but seriously, there really are better ways of getting work and experience than going through RAC. It just calls for some creative marketing, a little bit of bluffing and bravado, some freebies for friends and relatives, and building your own sites. Before you know it, you've got a nice portfolio to brag about, some nice references from your father in law (but you don't tell your clients that) and soon you're sitting on a growing business. I know because I did it this way myself.

  11. #36
    SitePoint Wizard johntabita's Avatar
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    There's another problem with offering "free" sites that I haven't heard mentioned (and this applies to pro bono charity sites as well). If the only reason someone takes you up on such a site is that it's free, then that's a losing proposition. This is why people rarely value things that are free, because they wouldn't have gotten it otherwise, if they'd had to pay for it. The one and only pro bono site I've done for a charity is one that really needed a site and was looking for someone willing to build a pro bone one. Approaching a charity or business who wouldn't have otherwise wanted a site, who accepts your offer only because "well, why not, it's free?" will be one of those "clients" who never gets you content, takes forever to approve your design, and otherwise delays, because the website is not a priority. (Heck, it's hard enough to move clients along when the site is a priority.)

    That's why it's important to find a charity that truly recognizes their need for a website; otherwise, it's really them who's doing you the favor, not the other way around. It may be wiser to approach a professional fundraising organization and let them know of your intention to provide so many pro bono webites to needy charities and solicit their assistance in finding some appropriate ones.

    Other than a contest situation, offering businesses a free site is inappropriate so, IMO, that's even more of a losing proposition. What you really want to do is target the low end of the market, not offer free sites. But again, it's important to find businesses that recognize their need for a website, but perhaps don't have a lot of money to invest. New businesses or businesses new to the web might fit the bill here. Ideally, the risk that the client may perceive from your lack of experience will be offset by the lower cost of your services.


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