Pay the designer

January 20, 2009

Last night I spent two hours on the phone with a potential client reviewing his ideas for the redesign of his web site. It’s not an overly ambitious plan, but there are quite a few pages that will need to be created. I estimate the final site will incorporate somewhere between 25 and 30 pages.

I will have to implement a PayPal shopping cart, a live blog feed, podcast audio, videos, and a signup form for his mailing list. He’s also working with a designer who will be providing the graphic elements for the new design. This is all work that I have done before, no learning curve will be required for any of these elements, but it will still take a significant amount of time to build the site.

Eventually the conversation circled around to what I would charge for the work. I named my high price, he came back with his lowball price, and I suggested we split the difference. He’s still thinking about it. I also advised him that the middle-ground price would require him to provide me with all of the page content in final form, no post-construction editing would be allowed, since it’s a time-eater.

It disappoints me every time I have to go through this ritual. I had thought that by now we had moved past the “My nephew can do that work for $100” negotiating strategy. (Many of my current clients were directed to me after their nephews had made a hash of their e-commerce sites.) I still get asked to provide possible design ideas on spec: “Show us a few sketches of how the pages would look, then we’ll make a decision.”

I don’t design on spec. Very few web designers do. Zeffrey Zeldman drew the line in the sand almost five years ago, and I still adhere to his advice.

A less polite, but still relevant, perspective is provided by my pal Harlan Ellison in the documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth – just substitute “designer” for “writer”:

You go, Harlan! At least I get stuff sent to me from some of my clients.

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