Why I Stopped Building Websites for Clients

While I may not be the best web designer on the block, I really enjoy creating websites. But I stopped doing it – completely- even though it pays quite well.

Note: Unlike many other web designers that only work on the outward appearance, I spent time and effort on what happens behind the scenes – in terms of security, SEO and SMO. Also, considering the fact that many of my clients were on tight budgets, I made a point of not using any paid themes/templates and/or plugins which could require regular expenditure.

Why did I stop creating websites?

There are a few reasons that come to mind. Here they are in order of priority:

1. As a web designer, you are always the last priority.

Fair enough, I worked with smaller clients, mostly small (local) business owners. Without fail, however, I have been rudely reminded of the fact that the company website is not a priority – at all.

My last client took six weeks to give me the picture I needed to create the header graphic for his website. I had to write the content myself because he was just too busy.

Another client took a month (of daily reminders) to send me the content for his website. When it arrived, it was just a few hundred words, intended for the “about” page.

The list goes on.

The fact of the matter is that creating a website for a small business is – in most cases – a “one day job”. Clients know this before they start. All of them want it done immediately…

Until they realize they too have to do something.

Ironically, email addresses have to be created immediately. The rest is – apparently – of no importance. I even had a few clients who paid their deposits, but never had their websites completed (part of the work was done, and then it just stalled).

The bottom line is that – as a web designer – I never featured on their list of priorities. In many cases crucial emails are simply disregarded, requiring repeated follow-ups (and wasting time).

Apparently my time – and my efforts to manage it – is of no importance. After all, if a client is willing to let a one day job slide to a month or more, and add loads of work on me for unnecessary communications…

Do the math.

2. Ignorant clients who are not interested in reality

This I have found among larger clients too. It’s all about the appearance – don’t bother them with the other details. Things like usability, how fast a website loads, security, SEO and SMO are “trivial details”…

Until they have to pay someone else to do those tasks.

After all, when yo can get a better-looking website for less than what I charge, why would you bother to ask what you get for the price?

I often wonder if any of those clients would buy a car without any working brakes, headlights, indicators or safety features. After all, if you pay for a website that doesn’t have everything it needs to keep working…

It’s pretty much an empty shell. And I have seen former clients pay through their necks to have “empty shells” created. All of them reported a drop in traffic and sales afterwards. One of them paid me to fix the shortcomings – while constantly complaining about how much the new website already cost (as if it was my fault…:).

I won’t even get into how many clients have unrealistic expectations. They see a fancy website they like, and expect you to build a similar one for a fraction of what it should cost.

Eventually I started referring such clients to the web designers who built those websites. I trust they got a shock when inquiring about the price.

3. Time wasted on client education

In most cases, even though I was the last priority on the list (sometimes not even on the list…), clients wanted to make changes after the initial agreement was made during an in-person meeting.

The problem lay in the fact that their requested changes would usually have a negative impact on the functioning of the website. As such, time after time I found myself spending lots of (unpaid) time on educating the client – so he or she could understand why it would be better not to do it.

Needless to say, despite the time spent, some clients refused to be educated. My concerns were “trivial details”. They did, however, often have questions which required simple, detailed explanation that would fit into their frame of reference.

In many cases, my time spent on client education would exceed the actual time spent on creating the website.

4. Professional time wasters

I have sat through many meetings, and in many cases repeated meetings, with clients who were unable to afford – or get authorization for – the project (even though I sent the quote after the first meeting).

And then there are – of course – the ones who have meeting after in-person meeting (especially larger companies), only for me to realize after several meetings that their requirements have “evolved” beyond my capabilities.

We won’t even go into the ones that don’t pay…

That comes with the territory.

In conclusion:

Maybe it’s just a “local” thing. In the small town cluster where I live, people tend to be less rushed than people in the city. But really…

Six weeks for a job that should have taken two days, including communications and changes/edits?

At the end of the day, no matter how much I love building websites…

(note I don’t use the term “web design” – because that limits the scope of what I offered)

It all comes down to effort vs reward.

Time spent vs money earned.

And sadly, it isn’t worth it. Not by a long shot.

Maybe if I had trapped my clients into maintenance contracts like other web designers, it would be. But I refuse to hold people to ransom.

I believe that – barring things like property rental – clients should be free to leave at any time.

So I guess that’s what you get for being “nice”…

Being paid peanuts, and contempt.

So why bother?

After all, every Tom, Dick, Harriette and their cat, dog and parrot are “web designers”. And their designs (read: templates) look stunning.

Let them have all the clients. I am done.