Warning: 6 Signs You Are About To Hire A Bad Designer Or Developer

By Alyssa Gregory
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dangerI recently wrote a post, “Caution! Six Warning Signs of a Bad Client,” about red flags that can help web professionals identify if a client or project may be one they don’t want to take on. Some of the feedback I received inspired me to write one from the other perspective. Since I have some experience being on the opposite side of the equation, I put on my client hat for this list.

So for everyone hiring a designer or developer, here are six potential warning signs that you may be hiring the wrong person:

1. There is no agreement to terms.

This was also #1 on my other list, and it can certainly go both ways. It’s a red flag if the client has X, Y, and Z as requirements, and the designer doesn’t clearly confirm that they will complete all three parts…especially, if the cost agreed upon only includes X and Y in the designer’s mind. This is a pretty powerful reason why effective and clear communication is so important. And always get everything in writing!

2. They are unresponsive.

As a client, I understand I am not the only client a developer is working with, and I don’t expect immediate responses to my messages. But it can be frustrating if several days go by and I have no idea if my e-mail was even received. If they aren’t shooting you back a quick message after a couple of days, even just letting you know they got your message, you may be pulling teeth to keep the project on track.

3. They don’t have examples of past work.

One of the first things I look for as a client is a portfolio. I want to see samples of work or case studies, even if it’s not in the public domain. If they have nothing to offer, that tells me it’s possible that they never did a project quite like mine before or that they don’t have relevant work they’re proud enough to share. This is vital information in deciding whether or not to hire them.

4. They have a dark history.

One of the best ways to find a great designer or developer is by asking your own clients and colleagues for referrals. There is no better testimonial than from someone you know and like, and you typically have a little more information about the professional’s past performance and how they tend to work to guide you in making your decision. But regardless how you find a them, pay attention if you hear rumblings or see things online about dissatisfaction or difficult working relationships. This could be a red flag, and at minimum, gives you some questions you should ask.

5. They are a jerk.

Just as service providers shouldn’t have to deal with an offensive client, neither should a client deal with a someone who acts improperly. So, I repeat: You should not have to deal with someone who is rude, obnoxious or disrespectful, no matter how good they are at what they do. Period.

6. The designer/developer doesn’t make the client feel assured.

I hire work out because there is someone who can do it better than I can. I don’t want to feel like the person I hire doesn’t like working with me, would rather be doing something else, or thinks my project is beneath them. A sign of a bad designer or developer is one that doesn’t make the client feel valued and important.

Clients, what else to you look for as a sign you haven’t found the right person? And web professionals, from your perspective, what are some other warnings clients should heed before making a hiring decision?

Image credit: Asif Akbar

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  • Anonymous

    Way to pile on the negativity…

  • Angela Harms

    Did you notice how these things could also be applied to clients? “6 signs you’re about to become involved with a client who is, maybe, not worth it.”

    (At least) three of these six are about being open, friendly, and transparent. I think those things make the business world a much happier place to be.

  • Anonymous

    Not really the greatest of value for this article. Most of these points apply to anyone, not just a designer.

  • Bob Carologees

    a lot of people dont maintain portfolios. mostly because its a bit gay and difficult if you dont work on front end or public domain projects. you can tell if someone is good just by talking to them for 5 minutes.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Bob. I do have to say I disagree, though. A client who is not in the industry needs to see something tangible showing them that you know what you’re doing, even if it’s a list of past projects, references, whatever.

      And yes, the items in this list are simple, but that is the point. These are signs for people without experience in this world…the people that are considering whether or not to hire you.

  • JohnWilliams

    I think the article is helpful for those who don’t have enough experience to be able to “tell if someone is good just by talking to them for 5 minutes”.

    @Bob, if people decide that they will get enough work without maintaining a portfolio, that’s their choice.

    I wonder exactly how they get work from new clients.

    Perhaps you might contribute an article to SitePoint on that, please?

    John Williams

  • Ermm not really insightful – I was hoping for something more enlightening. These points only have any currency if your totally naive.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, a post on designers and not even a mention of 99designs ;)

  • Red Dog

    I can’t be bothered to keep a portfolio. I get more than enough projects through referals and people who have seen my work online. And these are from clients who are not in the industry.

  • Marcelo Ruiz

    Good article. I once hired a developer to outsource some work and didn’t have a contract. The project was going to last 2 months, but as soon as I paid him the first month he told me he couldn’t continue working with me because he had other projects to do. So he left me in the middle of the project, and that caused me lots lots of trouble!!

  • Michael Little

    It seems if clients followed all of the points above it would be very difficult for any new start designers or developers to get work. Most of the work I do is non-public back-end development so I don’t have a big portfolio – so that is a sign I’m a bad developer? I think not.

  • mahalie

    Some concrete examples or more specific “signs” and better grammar would improve this article immensely.