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  1. #1
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    Anything Wrong with Working with Your Clients Competitors?

    Hey,

    I am facing a little bit of an issue, or at least thats what I feel it is.

    I have had a particular client for some time now, and have been involved in quite alot with them including web design and internet marketing, and have become somewhat close.

    Then a competitor, although not a strictly direct competitor, came to us pleading for our services as they knew we had great experience in a website that would be somewhat similar to the one we would be building for them. The competitor is located in the same city if that matters.

    Anyway I was worried that my client would think it was unjust that we could be doing web design and internet marketing for a competitor when we know so much about that industry, and be able to pass on such valuable info. The money we are being offered by the new guy is great, and hard to turn away from.

    Would love peoples thoughts hear. Does anyone think what I am doing is wrong? Everyone I have spoken to has said no way and I am entitled to do work for everyone, but would like peoples experiences and feedback.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    If you and your client are close enough, ask them if they mind. The other option is to do it and not add it to your portfolio, or attribute it to yourselves.

    It may also depend on how competitive the clients particular industry is.

  3. #3
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    Some people focus on an industry. But, It has felt weird to me. It is impossible to totally separate ideas from one client to another.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Addict BlazeMiskulin's Avatar
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    As long as you're not sharing confidential or "insider" information between clients, there shouldn't be a problem.
    M Blaze Miskulin
    President
    Geek Niche Web Hosting

  5. #5
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    This is one of the reasons I stopped using an online portfolio. Not to mention I can use some of the same elements and functionality on both sites without reinventing the wheel.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot Acquiesce's Avatar
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    Tough moral dilemma.

    I guess if you really wanted to look at it from a cold business eye, then you'd go with the option that would make you the most money, both immediately and ongoing. Either (and this is assuming you'd end up with one client either way), stick with your current client who has made you money in the past, trusts you and will be happy to put more work your way in the future - or the new client who could well be spending a big initial outlay to using you, but as for ongoing work, may be a bit of an unknown.

    Of course the win-win situation for you is to get both of them as clients, in which case my advice would be to speak to the existing client. It sounds like, going by what you're saying that you've managed to build up a good rapport with them... and can maybe use that rapport to your advantage to gauge what kind of reaction you'd get by working with their competitors. Re-assure them that whatever work you do wouldn't infringe on any existing work you've already done (and then stick to that promise without fail).

    You may even find that they were half expecting it, I'm sure as your clients they have suppliers that trade with other businesses in their line of work also.

    As for the new client, well they obviously like what you do already and trust you can do a good job for them, but make sure they know you aren't going to be a yes man/woman when they say "but we want it like that one you did", purely for the reasons that I just mentioned.

  7. #7
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Seems simple enough - this kind of thing happens every day in all sorts of businesses.

    Decide for yourself if you want to concentrate on a single industry or if you want to be spread out. It's a long term business plan, but making a coherent decision on this kind of thing can help you grow.

    If you DO want to take the second client, then weigh the importance of your relationship with the first client with the potential gain of taking the second client.

    If you really value them and you think that it's in YOUR business interest to keep them on without angering them, skip the second client.

    If you value them not enough to turn down other business, perhaps send them an email saying that you wanted to inform them (out of courtesy) that you'll be working with a competitor, and remind them that you will absolutely not reveal any trade secrets or otherwise violate ethical standards.

    If you value them but no more than any other client, just take the new client and be done with it. Add some language to your contract (trade secrets, etc.) to protect yourself from problems, and perhaps add language that gets you out of any non-competes that are implied or otherwise imposed upon you in any way.

    I have had many clients who were direct competitors, since most of my clients were web developers themselves. It was never a problem.

  8. #8
    I hate Spammers mobyme's Avatar
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    Your first client may very well see this as a conflict of interest so it's possible you will lose them. But at the same time you cannot allow one client to dictate your involvement with a whole industry. We get this problem fairly often and in the end it comes down to a commercial decision.
    There are three kinds of men:
    The ones that learn by reading.
    The few who learn by observation.
    The rest of us have to pee on the electric fence.

  9. #9
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    Since you already know that Client #2 is a competitor to Client #1, I recommend you do what leadeye said.

    Our consultants for CMMI , works directly with our competitor and he revealed that on the first day we met. Naturally, such consultants have access to very sensitive information. However, he never discloses any information about that company to us and it gives us confidence that he will not disclose our information to them as well.

    In the long run, it's not what you will say but it's what you will practice that will matter. As long as both these customers are successful in their own unique by employing your services, you will do fine.
    Mukul Gupta
    Indus Net Technologies
    _______________________________________
    Design | Development | Internet Marketing

  10. #10
    Into another Dimension liam_uk7's Avatar
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    I don't think this should be an issue. As a designer it's your job to make the web a nicer looking place, I don't think you should refuse a client just because he is a competitor of another client. Do what you need to do, if you want the work and the client don't worry about who it is, just that it is another client.

    The only time when I myself would have to think twice about this would be if client #1 had a lot more work to offer me in the long run, so if client #1 may not be paying as much as #2 but has a steady amount of work for me to do in the future then I'd probably talk to them, and get their approval before speaking to client #2.

    Best of luck to you.
    Function - Great Design Meets Great Functionality

  11. #11
    SitePoint Addict jessebhunt's Avatar
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    We work with competing clients all the time. In fact, we do lots of work in a couple niche markets. The result is that a Google Search for many of our clients' keywords yields a page full of our clients' websites.

    I've never had a client complain about us working with their competitors.

    I don't offer "exclusive" contracts, as the success of my business depends on our ability to continue to find new customers. If we only worked with one client in each industry, we'd quickly run out of prospects.

  12. #12
    I am obstructing justice. bronze trophy fatnewt's Avatar
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    Personally, I tend to avoid working with my clients' close competitors, because I value those relationships and I'd prefer to avoid that type of conflict.

    I think it depends on your services. With web design, it doesn't matter too much, since each client will have their own brand and (hopefully!) each design you make will be unique anyways. Same thing with development -- you're more likely to be fulfilling their specs and creating unique things for each client. As long as you're not giving away any secrets, you're probably OK.

    On the other hand, with something like SEO or PPC search, you're pretty much going to be competing with your own efforts. If you end up in a situation where you're managing two PPC ad accounts and bidding against yourself for the same keywords, that could get a bit tricky. Same thing goes for link building for multiple sites in the same space.

    If you work in a small niche where virtually all of your clients compete with each other, then you don't have much choice. In that case, just make sure your contracts are clear, and that you're ethical in your practice.

    Size would also matter. At the extremes: working for two competing small book stores would be different than working for both Coke and Pepsi.

    Sagewing's approach makes sense to me -- decide what's most important to you and your business. For me, I avoid it but I wouldn't rule it out entirely, as long as it didn't comprise quality or damage either client.
    Colin Temple [twitter: @cailean]
    Web Analyst at Napkyn


  13. #13
    I Never Give Up roosevelt's Avatar
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    Ask your current client if it is okay with them to work with their competitors. Then is your current client a regular customer? Means he always comes back to you for more work and such. If that is the case then I wouldn't take the risk of loosing a long term customer for one time few extra bucks.

  14. #14
    www.logoraman.com electroskan.com's Avatar
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    I don't think there is any problem in designing a website for your clients competitor. However the problem part is the marketing part because that is where the main conflict of interest is going to come. I mean your main client wouldn't want to see his competitors newly built site on top of his in the search listings or getting more visitors. I told this because you might have already learned quite a bit about their industry and trends doing your first client's site.
    LOGORAMAN
    [FB] [TWITTER] [BEHANCE] [FLICKR]

  15. #15
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    One idea is to form a partnership with another web designer or web firm.

    That way if you get work that could potentially be a conflict, you could hand it off to another talented person you respect and trust... you would be able to keep your existing client, lead the new client in the right direction, and possibly get a referral bonus for delivering work to someone else.

    You could make a formal partnership arrangement too. So, you could for instance do the design of the new client's website, but then hand it off to someone else for the SEO and marketing. That way there would be less conflict of interest.

    These are just some other options.

  16. #16
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    tell you what

    from a business man's perspective... tell the OLD client about the (NEW) competitors proposition. If he is a good businessman, he would want the competitor to get the design done from you and know (their) competitors secrets..

    this way, you get a lot of money from the new client... and your old client is happy that you allied with him and keeps giving you more work..

    Now, this is from a cold business perspective.. your morals will guide you otherwise.

  17. #17
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    I asked my sister this question, her response was this:

    I would first ask the competitor how much they would be willing to pay me for whatever work is being done. Then take that price back to the original client and simply state that their competitor is offering more (or less) and ask the original client how much I'm worth. If they feel my services are worth it then they'll beat this price, otherwise I'll be working for the competition seeing as there's no non-compete agreement or anything in place.

  18. #18
    Internet Toughguy Kevin Boss's Avatar
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    Take on both clients and tell them each right up front that you are working with their competitor and all business will be done in strict confidentiality.

    I think they'll appreciate your professionalism.

  19. #19
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    If you are marketing both clients who do the same thing in the same city then that is a MAJOR conflict of interests. How can you say one is the best when the other is also a client etc.

  20. #20
    SitePoint Zealot surelybwh's Avatar
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    Honestly, I don't think it should matter. As long as you're not revealing any confidential information.

    Many of my first clients were through the bead society I belong to. Hence, to some extent, they were competitors. But I've always been up front about it and treated them all fairly. I haven't had any issues.

  21. #21
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    Thats fine if you are doing work for them like photography, web design and such like but when you are working on behalf of them to promote to other people (eg: marketing) then you cant wear both hats really.

  22. #22
    SitePoint Member sitebranders's Avatar
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    I would look at it from the point that this is a new client and as long as you don't disclose your first client's information to the new client, then it's just business.
    Charles Marquez
    Site Branders
    San Antonio Web Design
    http://www.sitebranders.com

  23. #23
    SitePoint Evangelist happyoink's Avatar
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    If I were you, I would take the work on offer from the competitor. Your clients should only be concerned with the work you do for them. Just maintain neutrality and don't divulge confidential information to either party. Make sure that you make it clear to every client that you maintain a certain code of ethics, and make sure it's a part of your business policies. That should be standard business practice anyway. Do this and deliver high quality work, and you should be fine. Your clients will not have any cause for concern, whether you work with their competitors or not.

  24. #24
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    Oh....bad news for us, good luck for you !!!

  25. #25
    SitePoint Enthusiast rmorrow's Avatar
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    You've received a lot of advice by asking your question here, but I don't really think you wanted advice - you wanted someone to give you a definitive answer.

    If you're asking for help in coding or design these are the forums to come to for help.

    If your question is more of the "Can I sleep with myself if I do this?" variety then no one here or anywhere else can help you out. You obviously have a concern and a conscience or you wouldn't have asked in the first place.

    That, in itself, should give you your answer.


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