Opportunity to design & build website | Pro Bono?

Hi guys,

I have just gone out on my own freelancing and I have the opportunity to design and build a decent size website for my local business community / association that don’t have allot of money.
I’m torn between, do I charge for my services or do it pro bono? It’s a great opportunity to get myself out there in the local community and promote my business.

Also, i was thinking of offering discounted websites to members of the business association, does anyone have any other suggestions on how i can promote myself through this community website I’m going to build

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to add you comments. I appreciate your help and I’m glad i posted my question. It’s great to hear other peoples experiences and advice and i will definitely take on board the advice given. There’s a general consensus here that i strongly agree with and that is pro bono work can set a tone, and there are other ways to negotiate the build of a website.

Thank you!

With the group just starting out, there’s no instant exposure for you, no existing members to sell to, etc. From the info given, I’d say on the face of it, you need to quote them your going rate and basically treat them as any other client

Yes. In other words, it’s not an opportunity.

When BusinessWeek asks for work pro bono, on the basis they will do a story reaching tens of thousands of subscription paid business descisionmakers – that is an opportunity.

Evaluate your opportunities with a shrewd, savvy, measuring stick. Bottom feeders only give you experience with bottom feeders, networks with nothing but bottom feeders, and basically locks you into the lowest rung of business – which you then come to see as the whole world.

Finally, a discount is only a discount when you charge full price. When you’re indiscriminately discounting all the time – that’s your regular fee. That and a lot of these so called nonprofit organizations plead poor and whine about costs while raking in plenty of money.

A membership to a “business” association that can’t pay its bills isn’t worth trading for a web site.

As others have stated, I wouldn’t do this pro-bono. If you really feel you could get your name out there by working with them and building some networking relationships, quote them on the project at full price and then offer them a discount in exchange for something on their end (free membership, advertising, etc). I have heard mixed results on community boards / business groups … sometimes you can make good connections and get some business, other times it is just everyone trying to exactly what you are trying to do. So if you want to give it a shot and you can work out a deal, go for it.

A couple suggestions though:

  1. Don’t join up strictly for trying to get business only. If you are not interested in what the organization actually does and what you would be participating in, you won’t get the benefit. If other businesses are there, they are looking for people that are like them, willing to go the extra mile. If you are only there to get your name out there and get business, they’ll see through that and not be interested in working with you.

  2. If you give the organization a discount to spread the word on your business … why are you wanting to give everyone else a discount as well? The reason you are getting into this is to grow your business. If you are going to give everyone a discount, who would you charge full price to? Only use discounts an a rare avenue that could pay off in the long-run … otherwise you’ll be needing to give everyone a discount from that point on. One discount project you would hope to land multiple full-price projects to re-coop that. Discount projects to land you multiple discount projects only keeps you running in place instead of moving forward.

Good luck with whichever you choose!

What’s in it for them is a website. What’s in it for you? Will they give you a free membership to their group that matches the price you would normally charge? Will they give you free advertising (and not just a ‘designed by’ link) on their website? Will they promote your business as a sponsor of the group?

There are a lot of ways you can barter all or part of your fee. You’ll find in this business there are no free rides for you. Don’t start out by offering them to other businesses.

Are there strong people behind the business association? Are you confident that it will be a well recognised business association in your area? If the answers are yes, I’d do whatever it takes to get their business. It would be too good of an opportunity, for promoting your services to your local target market, to be missed.

When you make a deal with them ask if they can give you a permanent ad / acknowledgement on the site, if they will include your details in their printed materials / promotional items and if they will recommend you to their members.

Like Molona said, don’t do it pro bono - you’re setting yourself up for grief. Offer a discounted rate for a guaranteed maintenance contract, or for a long-term membership in the association (there’s usually a charge involved in association membership).

Whatever you do, ensure it’s in writing so you don’t pay for it later.

I googled my local town to see if they was a business group or an association to get involved with for networking opportunities. As it turns out there is a group, they’re just starting out so they need a website (good timing). I arranged a meeting with the president to go over what it is they require in the site. They have done their homework and had a brief outlining ideas and what they wanted from the website. I said i’d sit down and go through the brief work out costings and logistics which is when they mentioned they don’t have allot of money to spend.

I have arranged to meet with them next week to present my quote and ideas.

Could you give a bit more background on this? How did this opportunity occur? Where you approached by the association, or did you approach them? How do you know they have little money, did they tell you that? Why are they looking for a new web site?

The fact that you built the associations site is pretty good PR, so you probably don’t have to do it for free.

If you really want to do it for no payment, I’d suggest you negotiate a great deal in return. There’s many things you could try for, they key is to ensure you don’t just get some lame link on the homepage or something else that is easily swept under the carpet and forgotten about.

Try to offer yourself up as a partner to the association, aim to get something of yours included in all membership packs. That could be a discount on your services, or for guaranteed income, each member gets a profile page on the associations’ site, designed by you as part of their membership fee. You get a % kick back from the association on each page you create.

Basically lots of options, but it really depends on the entire situation, so more details would be good.

And at the end of the day if they want it for zero they really should be pitching to me, for me to do the work at a discounted price or pro bono.

I don’t think pro-bono is always a bad thing. I once did some free work for a charity on the basis that my fee (at the equivalent rate I would have charged) went to those the charity itself was helping thereby it became more of a good deed rather than me actually getting anything out of it. That being said, spec work and freebie jobs in general do tend to be the realm of leeches who want to get everything done as cheaply as possible - and those are worth avoiding entirely. In your specific case I certainly agree with not doing it for free, especially if you’re not a member of that group (and thereby have no connection to it other than as a potential paying gig). I would also say that having some cheap link on their site (in place of payment) is also just the same as doing it for free. For a start-up with no visitors or clients, the link will barely get any exposure, in addition - there’s no guarantee that the link will be that visible, will get you any clients or even any traffic as a result. In my book there’s only two measures of payment… the financial or the beneficial… and considering you can get “links” without investing hours of your time in quality communities, burning that effort onto some mention of your site just turns it into a showcase piece that really doesn’t have any inherent value to you. Perhaps consider giving them a discount rate (if you feel their worth it as cause you feel connected to), but otherwise you should just take it like any other client (as has been said before), there’s no justification for selling yourself short and the group shouldn’t expect you to work for free - you’re not a charity. :slight_smile:

It’s been said pretty clearly already, but it doesn’t look as though you’re really getting any benefit. Since you’re just starting out, it might be OK to offer a discounted price, but don’t do it pro bono.
One of my criteria for pro bono work, is whether its an organization/cause that I believe in strongly. If it’s someone that I would feel comfortable volunteering for anyway, then I’d consider doing some pro bono work.

My experience is… that you shouldn’t do anything for free. People tend to think that they can ask for anything they want to and they’re a real pain… they really don’t understand the amount of effort and time it takes if they don’t pay for your time.

With the group just starting out, there’s no instant exposure for you, no existing members to sell to, etc. From the info given, I’d say on the face of it, you need to quote them your going rate and basically treat them as any other client

I would assume that as you are starting out, your rates will be pretty low anyway, so it’s highly likely you’ll be the cheapest price without the need for a discount.

Something like this would look great in the portfolio, so it may be wise to pull out a few stops in order to get the job. Clearly they will be looking at other vendors given the fact that they’ve created a detailed brief, so they’ll be aware of the going rate for this work.

Rather than discounting, try to find other ways to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Offering a money back guarantee is an excellent way to reduce any fears a client may have about moving forward with you.

And whatever you do, get it all in writing, get a deposit, and make sure any deviation from the agreed spec is billed accordingly.

It is extremely important in business to get your pricing right and not charge too little. Try not to get into the habit of discounting and doing stuff for free, as ultimately this will mean you make less money and you may eventually simply fail. Think about other ways you can market yourself, e.g. on quality, results, benefits, customer service etc. Look for clients that can afford you.