9 Warning Signs Your Web Design Prospects Want You to Work for Free


Everyone likes a bargain and wants to get the best deal possible. Your clients are no different. But what happens when the good deal your client is looking for, is free work from you?

Here are nine warning signs your clients are looking for more than a good deal – they want a freebie.

The Focus On the Future Clients

These clients are more focused on what they can do in the future than what they offer today.

  • Future work – they promise more work than you can handle, once they are profitable and have more money at their disposal. In the meantime, they need your help today, with payment being the promise of business tomorrow.
  • Introductions and Exposure – not only do they promise business in the future, but they promise to tell everyone they know about you and the great work you do.

Future promises of business from these clients rarely come to fruition, and the introductions, if they do occur, do not necessarily mean additional business.

The “Just Trust Us” Clients

Clients who follow a “just trust us” philosophy do not want to be contractually obligated for the services you offer, yet still want those services.

  • No contract/no budget – when people start talking work without a budget, they are more concerned with what they get for free, and not building a relationship
  • Provide samples – clients who talk about work up front or want you to provide samples are looking to get something for nothing. You can certainly show them examples of previous work you have done, but do not create any work for them without a contract in place.

“Just trust us” is not a sustainable business philosophy, and these clients should be avoided, unless you enjoy working without a net.

The “Greater Good” and “It will be easy” Clients

Some clients do not comprehend the effort involved and the expertise needed to do the job right.

  • Fast and Simple – “I just need a few lines of code. Don’t worry, it will be easy. You can knock it out in 20 minutes!” What this really means is they want you to do the work, but they don’t want to pay for it.
  • Help Us Help Others – these are the nonprofits and volunteer organizations who have a mission to better the world. They rely on your charitable nature in the hopes you will do the work for free.

Clients who are focused on how simple and easy a job is or how much your work will benefit others, don’t want to pay for the issues that need to be addressed.

The Nickel and Dime Client

These clients monitor your hours and generally waste your time.

  • The Hours Counter – while it is important to keep tasks well documented to ensure a client knows what he is paying for, clients who question the amount of time you spend on each task, are a red flag.
  • 24/7 – these clients expect you to work after hours or on weekends (even though they never do) yet they do not want to pay extra for this work. They often call and want you to drop everything and immediately solve the issues over the phone – “Can you do it while we are on the phone? It is just a quick color change” but they don’t want to compensate for the time spent on the phone.
  • The Discount Shopper – clients who expect big discounts without any offsetting reasons. Discounts are acceptable, but only if you get a significant, and consistent, amount of work.

You should avoid clients who are mostly concerned with themselves and the freebies they can get from you.

The best clients, are those with whom you develop mutually beneficial, long term relationships.


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