Little rant for October, as this is happening more and more. You get an enquiry, you invest a lot of time into the potential client by sending numerous long emails regarding the project, best ways forward, best practises, budgets, and so on. You then find out through the web grapevine, that they have commissioned somone else, for whatever reason, and they are now in full swing. This in itself is of course, not a problem, but when you spend so much time going back and forth with a potential client, it would be nice to get an email saying “Sorry, won’t be using you for XYZ reasons but thanks for your time” – I think that’s just good business and good etiquette.

How a typical dialogue can go between potential client and designer

Screenshot of email dialogue between me and a potential client who I then didn't hear from again.

  • Or you get the project, they pay the 50%, you do the bulk of the work and then they disappear…

  • Sarah

    Oh yes, I currently have one of those too. I’m extreamly tempted to blog about my experience and include his Twitter ID.

    • Glad to hear I’m not the only one (well, not glad, but you know what I mean). I received payment, did some work, and never received any of the assets I needed to complete the site. Numerous emails and several months later, I don’t know whether to close the file or not.

  • Simply send them the link to this blog post 🙂

  • I agree, if you have been helpful and spent time giving free advice & guidance the least you can be given is a thank you email with some feedback. Or even better, an opportunity to match what a competitor is offering.

  • We had a great one the other week. A company payed 50% up front to have a flyer designed. We got to the point where it was almost complete (we were just waiting on the final copy to come through) and they emailed to say that a friend has offered to do it for free and could they have their money back.


  • I have to agree, that this is not such a pleasant thing to have happen to you. It’s happened to me quite a few times. What I find even more annoying, is when I give advice, they go with someone else and also disregard the advice. Then 6 months later, I get emails again because they need things “fixed”.

    My approach to make this not a big deal for me, was to offer help and advice to people at no charge the majority of the time.

    Generally, if someone’s nice, and it’ll take me less than an hour then I’ll help for nothing 🙂

  • I have one of these looming (I think). A month or so ago I sent an estimate to have it rejected three weeks later saying that the next highest price was close to half of mine! There’s been drawn-out correspondence with this client and I have recently offered to re-estimate with a fixed set of requirements and a less ambitious initial scope (I don’t want to get caught in the scope creep trap).

    If I provide this second estimate, taking more of my time and effort to ‘tie down’ their requirements only to be told something like “you’re still too expensive as my niece can use frontpage” or worse still – nothing, I’ll be most displeased.

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    I’m not super keen on the above type clients. It ends up with the designer providing an initial source of free info to help them further their 1/4 baked project.

  • Yeah, that would be really nice. I got so used to not hearing back that I make it my policy that my time goes to whoever commits (with deposit) first rather than whoever has emailed me first, and I let them know that.

  • People are fundamentally out for what they can get. Niceties don’t tend to exist in the service industry, probably more so in the web industry, and it’s absolutely NOT a positive thing. People should be curteous in business, as you never know when you’re going to come into contact or need that person again (of course, being curteous for the sake of it is more often than not too much to ask for). When dealing with somebody as the customer or the provider, I always maintain professional, friendly and most importantly honest and reliable correspondance.

  • Great little post and something that hit home to me. Here are some rules that are hard to live by, however that serve me well.

    Budget: if they do not have a budget or they do not want to tell you there budget, never ever quote them or give them information. Everyone has a budget!

    Decision Time: Get a date when they will be making the decision, there is nothing worse than a procrastinator.

    Competition: If they are getting other quotes (which is fine) find out who you are up against. If you are working against “Joe the Plumber” for a website design, then more than likely you will lose. If the client does not understand quality/features then they only understand price.

    Personality: This is a tough one to follow early on in a web design business, but as you get more experienced and more money flowing you should always go by this. Your gut feeling, if something doesn’t sit well with you move on.

    One big problem we all face is time. I think quoting should be like removing a bandaid. Get on the phone quickly, get a quote out quickly and get a decision quickly.

    🙂 Peace Out

  • Just as I thought:-

    Dear Drew

    Thank you once again for getting back to us, unfortunately the other quotes are still so much lower than your revised costing.

    We were really impressed with your advice and obvious knowledge but I’m afraid on this occasion we are having to go with another option other than yourself..

    Best wishes

    In summary:- Your estimate is justified as you’re obviously worth the money, but we’re cheapskates and will be satisfied with a lower quality of service.

  • *sigh* …. I cannot count the amount of times that has happened to me in the last month Drew, it all comes down to bottom line at the moment, a very frustrating time for people who have extensive knowledge through years of hard work.

  • The first thing I do with potential new clients is state my minimum project price. It gets around the difficulty of asking for their budget and it solves nearly all the issues raised in this post and the comments. I would much rather not hear back or get a “Oh! You’re too expensive email” than waste precious hours on trying to qualify a budget client.

    It’s the easiest way to get rid of cheapskate timewasters and you can instead focus on clients who will be a good fit for you — at least financially, if nothing else! 😉

  • I think this post hits close to home for a lot of us.

    I have tried various methods to reduce the number of tire kickers, but it’s a difficult thing.

    Peter’s comment had some great pointers. It try to follow this as well, but admittedly, I’m not very strict with it at times.

    Matt’s suggestion on putting out a minimum price is great as well.

    The problem I find with all of these techniques is it can sometimes scare away legitimate clients with reasonable budgets. When you are going to purchase something and are serious, price is not the most important thing on your mind. Quality and “is this right for me” is. Focusing on price immediately puts the attention on exactly that.
    When selling services, you want to sell based on your unique expertise, experience, quality, etc. Playing the ball in the price court right away might put you in a price war. It diverts the clients attention from what they were concerned about in the beginning (quality, etc.) onto price (bad).

    I find that it is best to delicately do your prospect qualifying by asking the sort of questions Peter mentioned: Do you have a budget? Do you have any specs or detailed descriptions for the project? When do you want to start, and when do you need it complete? Who else have you asked for a proposal from?

    Sprinkling in these questions during a phone call where you also share some advice, reasons why you are the best and examples of your past successes will help put the client at ease. Get on THEIR team first. Smashing them with “How much cash do you have to spend on this?” could set off alarm bells even for legitimate prospects with the doh.

    • Great points Danny.

      I should clarify that when I said “The first thing I do with potential new clients is state my minimum project price”, I was referring to clients who start by asking me “How much for a website?” — it’s not my opening gambit with clients who don’t mention price.

      This helps to quickly weed out budget clients (you normally won’t hear back if the quoted minimum is more than they wanted to spend) and leaves me more time to qualify clients who will be a better fit for me.

      I should also note that my minimum price isn’t actually that high. If a potential client thinks that it’s way too much, then I can be 99% certain that working with them isn’t going to be cost effective for me.

  • I use similar approach to Matt. If a client asks for a quote and I see that he/she is unlikely to have a solid understanding of web production, I give them an estimated quote very quickly (eg. without analysing their requirements in a great detail).

    This has on numerous occasions prevented me to spend a lot of time creating proposals for clients who want £10k project and have £1k budget.