Leaving a web design & build project halfway through

I’m a young, naive web designer so I’m sorry if any of this sounds ridiculous! I took on an unpaid project for a small business so I could add it to my then-non-existent web portfolio. They responded to an ad which stated this. However, I’m having problems and I want to politely back out.

They wanted it ready by early next month, but after spending a fortnight going back and forth working on designs and revisions etc, largely because it takes time for them to reply, the client wants me to use their own design instead. Unfortunately, as it’s not mine and I’m not being paid I don’t want to develop a website with all the bells & whistles which I wouldn’t add to my portfolio. I’ve also since established myself as a designer/developer, so I don’t need to do it.

  • So my concerns are, it’s been a while since I posted the ad and I’m sure they’ve gotten the impression that I’ll make the website for them, so is it wrong that I back out at this stage when they want it completed by next month or is it acceptable?

  • Secondly, how should I do it? I’m happy to offer doing a general web design based on theirs to save wasting their time, but I don’t want to go further.


i do SEO for people and clients that take a long time to reply to your queries end up making the job take a lot longer.

I think you should back out entirely, explaining that the goal-posts have moved since you began the project and you think it would be in their best interest to hire someone else.

One of my questions i now ask every new client is :

“Can you confirm that i will be working directly on your server and not have to go through your web developer in order to effect changes.”

I ask this because the web devs are often so busy themselves that changing page-titles and meta-descriptions for the SEO guy is low on their list.

I’d definitely say you’re OK backing out. When I do portfolio pieces for free in the past, I always started with the caveat that I had final say in a lot of the design choices, or all of them. If they need it badly enough, they’ll run with you on it. You need particular things for your portfolio, not just a volume of stuff (as I’ve found out, unfortunately). Your primary concern is your business, not theirs, and if it’s a free project that’s fallen out of scope… back out politely and definitively.

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When you’re working without compensation no obligation to complete the work on your behalf exists. Not being paid the client is getting what they paid for.Possibly explain them that in this instance your way or the highway. Getting something for nothing expectations should be low and freedom high. Otherwise simply state you don’t believe the project is heading in a direction which it would be an acceptable portfolio piece and bid far well.

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Thanks so much to each of you. I appreciate that you all understand where I’m coming from and I’m glad backing out didn’t seem unreasonable - that was a pretty big concern considering we’d been in close contact for a while and with the deadline not too far off. I’ll take what you’ve said on board - hopefully it won’t end too badly as it’s all been unpaid and the client will get what they want, but with someone else who’s better suited for the job.

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