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First ever client, what should i ask?

  • # July 21, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I need some expertise here. Im a college student majoring in computer programming and i’ve been dabbling in website design for a while. My friend and I went around to local businesses and found a few that have horrible, i mean HORRIBLE websites. We had offered to redo the website for free this way we can add something to our resume and get some real world experience.

    Question 1: Ive talked with a few people that have said that what we are doing is wrong and stupid. Was told we are taking away from the experts in the field. Is there anything ethically wrong with redoing peoples websites for free?

    Question 2: What are some KEY things we should ask.

    Question 3: I dont have a portfolio site or a resume site, should i make one before hand or bite the bullet and not make one so i dont rush it?

    If theres any references or some tips you guys/gals can offer i would love it. The site is static and will only be a couple pages but this is the first real thing ive done in the field so im excited but kind of nervous.

    # July 21, 2012 at 2:05 am

    Free. For a local businesses is never free. They owe you one!
    1. If you can improve what they have now over a “professional” you just crossed that line. Get paid next time.
    2. Ask about the design or payment? Need more info.
    3. Make a site but don’t rush it. You just got hired for free. Don’t make that error again.
    Congrats.

    Visit CSS Tricks Often!

    # July 21, 2012 at 2:29 am

    @amoss,

    deff noted, i guess my reasoning behind this was right now in my career path experience is payment. But i totally understand what you are saying.

    To clarify about the question in regards to design, should i be asking stuff like:
    “How do you currently have your website being hosted?”
    “What is your potential target audience you wish to reach?”
    “Since its a hair salon, gravitate towards displaying alot of images rather than content?”

    Stuff like that.. @amoss, thanks for the heads up but i guess we all have to learn at some point.

    # July 21, 2012 at 2:40 am

    @_John_

    GENERAL
    1.] business = work for money
    2.] friends = work for free (maybe a close family), to get 2, 3 examples to your portfolio
    3.] after some work, make your personal web with work examples

    WRONG OR NOT
    1.] not problem directly contacting companies to offer your services (for money)
    2.] nothing wrong with redesign as long as you do not interfere with someone design contract which says that noone else can work on it for certain period of time such the agency or person who created it in the first place (quite common in my country)

    * I for example have contract for 3 years on each web (only I can edit)
    * after that, well anyone can mess with it

    WHAT TO ASK
    1.] what is their budget
    2.] how many pages they want
    3.] how many language mutations (English + German, Spanish, …)
    4.] do they need only static web or CMS enabled ?
    5.] what is the latest deadline when they need web online
    6.] if they want hand crafted web, written from scratch (more expensive, takes longer)
    or they only want to set up some theme (put it online, add content, like from TF)

    # July 21, 2012 at 2:58 am

    @krysak4ever, Thanks for the input, theres alot of good stuff here. I have been stalking their website for a good 6 months now and just recently they took it down because the domain was about to expire. Thats when i jumped in, the scenario where you have clients locked in for a certain amount of time they dont teach us that in school. Valuable information right there.

    That is one thing i will for sure as when we do our greet on monday, if im stepping on anyones toes. And find out what there implementation plan was before me to utilize their website.

    So im guessing where i make my mark is with friends and families to do work for free than once i have a portfolio i could than start charging. Thats a whole new thread right there lol…

    This is why i love css tricks, so super much content and good people to help you out.

    Thanks yall, keep em coming.

    # July 21, 2012 at 3:17 am

    @_John_
    the point of having portfolio is a way to show your clients:

    1.] this is what I do
    2.] what stuff you they can have on web (gallery, sliders, video, quotes, …)
    3.] so you can show them in time what you did, so they can choose what they like

    So my hint from client work is:

    * Instead of saying what can you create (that is boring to them), ask what they need to solve.
    * What is the problem the client faces.
    * So you can provide a solution and help them to solve their problems.
    * Simple as it is, bad web = people leave.
    * Web which is nice, easy to navigate with info the customer is looking for = conversion, from visitor to paying customer.
    * Which in other words for them (you have to point this out) means that they can for instance have more clients, sell more products, make more money.

    … and trust me THIS is what majority will listen to.

    # July 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with offering to redo a website for free. But if you can provide a better website over what the client currently has then you are just cheating yourself out of possibly earning some cash.

    As far as providing a portfolio of webpages goes, it would help. If you can show a client the quality of work you produce, it will increase their confidence. If you don’t have any previous websites to show then I would create 3 or 4 mock up websites that look like and feel as if you designed them for a client. This will give you a chance to showcase some of your talents and what web skills you have.

    When it comes to asking a client certain questions, you should create a “client brief”. It can be a short form that you or your client fills out. This form will help guide you and outline the clients expectations. There are multiple benefits to gain when using a client brief. You will fully understand the clients expectations and goals. You don’t want to guess at what you think the end product should be, what you think and what the client wants, can be and usually are very different ( though understanding your client becomes easier overtime). Another benefit of creating a client brief is that it gives you something to have the client sign off on. Having your client sign off on something will ensure that you and your client have a record of the expectations and goals of the project.

    The questions you should include in the client brief will differ from client to client. It really depends on what they or their business/company is about, and what they intend to achieve from having a web presence. Some generic questions to ask can be….

    -Please tell us everything you can about you, your company, or your business.
    -What do you dislike about your current website? ( if the project is a redesign, you need to find problems to solve ).
    -What do you want to communicate first and foremost on your website.
    -Beyond a Home page, what sub-pages do you require? ( gallery, products, services, about, contact, appointments, etc. ).
    -If you have services or products please break each down and describe in as much detail as possible.

    Those questions should get you started. I also like what ‘krysak4ever’ said, don’t ramble on about how you can create dynamic pages using the latest CSS3, or how your an expert at Jquery or blah blah blah, they will get bored, and most likely wont have a clue what your talking about. That is where a small well built web portfolio comes in. Just allow them to have the opportunity to see what you can do first hand.

    Hopefully that helps.

    -Aaron-

    # July 21, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    @_John_ I’m in the camp that thinks giving it away for free isn’t the absolute worst idea (you are in college afterall – what better place in life to see what happens!).

    Here is my advice: set boundaries! What you don’t want is a situation where someone gets something and they just keep thinking they can ask you for more stuff over and over and over expecting the free deal. You’ve set an expectation at that point of: “Hey I have no experience so I kinda need some portfolio items” and some people will hang that over your head. It makes for a soured relationship.

    You guys would probably want to setup a basic project scope for what will be given away. And then I’d ask for a fairly low hourly rate for additional work or modifications (something like $25 an hour). If you end up really liking web design, you can start building your portfolio, increasing pricing, etc. Just be extremely clear with the business owner what they are getting and when the free ride expires.

    If I were you, and maybe some others will disagree, but I’d ask for some referrals if they like the results. One thing I find is that very few people actually ask for referrals, and most clients if they are happy will gladly give them out. That could generate several projects you wouldn’t have otherwise and could make up the difference of any lost revenue.

    And you might absolutely hate the work – in that case, you dodged the bullet of being bound because it’s easy to quit a job you aren’t paid for :)

    Also – if you do like the work, make a standard document similar to what Aaron is suggesting. A questionnaire that walks you through someone’s business. I wouldn’t necessarily just leave it and expect them to fill it out, but maybe sit down with them and go through the questions to get a sense of their business. It’ll create a sense of organization that will be recognized.

    # July 23, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    I strongly disagree with offering websites for free and I would even object to doing them for friends (family is a different story). Out of respect for what you do, I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to pay you. I’m surprised to read that some people actually agree with offering free service. If you were a mechanic would you fix someones car for free to show them that you possessed the skill or to build up your business? I would guess not. You don’t need clients to build a portfolio. I do agree with some parts of the above comments but only for paying clients.

    http://shouldiworkforfree.com

    Should I Work for Free?

    Is it a legitimate business? >
    Yes >
    Did they promise you “exposure” or “a good portfolio piece”? >
    Yes >
    A: NO. This is the most toxic line of bullshit anyone will ever feed you.

    words from Jessica Hische

    # July 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    There is a right way to work for free, to build up your portfolio, and that is to offer to do free work for charities. Aside from that, I agree with @ChristopherBurton. Not only does free work affect you personally (despite what you may believe, it makes it harder to start making money), but it has a negative impact on the overall design community. How can we expect our work to be valued if there are people out there giving it away for free?

    There are plenty of charities in need of websites. Get out there and help out those in need, while building up your portfolio. Then, when you feel ready, start charging for legitimate clients. It may be scary at first, but it is without a doubt the best thing for you.

    # July 23, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    @joshuanhibbert EXACTLY.

    # July 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I don’t think there’s anything ethically wrong with doing a website for FREE, however, I agree with others–it’s important to set boundaries and explain what it is you’re willing and able to do for FREE. Sometimes people like to take advantage of others when they know they are getting a FREE website. Just make SURE you have a contract and outline what it is that you’re doing for them.

    2) Some things to ask:
    -What’s the purpose of your website? Is your purpose to inform, promote, or sell products online?
    -What are your website goals?
    -Who is your target audience?
    -How many web pages are needed?
    -Do you have content and images? If not, will you require those services?
    -Have you purchased a domain name and web hosting?

    3) I would wait until you have one or two portfolio items completed before you build a portfolio site, otherwise, what will you be showcasing?

    Good luck! Also, you might consider joining a business organization, like BNI, to help get some exposure and network with other businesses. Design and print some business cards so that you can share these with people you meet.

    # July 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Have a look at this http://shouldiworkforfree.com/

    # July 24, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    @yrsengar I posted that link above.

    @robst One or two items? What will that do for a potential client?

    # July 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    @everyone, lol… Thanks for the discussion this has caused. I can totally see the points being made from both sides. There is alot of information here and i appreciate the time you guys spend replying.

    I just find it difficult not knowing where to start. I’m wanting to do the right thing because i really care about my career, i do peer tutoring at school, i tutor kids for $$$ (which has become a GREAT learning tool), apply for internships, etc. Its just hard now because no one here (Nashville, TN) wants to hire a junior programmer without experience, no one is wanting to give paid/unpaid internships so i can get experience.

    If im honest with myself, i think a majority is that im a little scared to offer something and not be able to deliver, my passion is in web technology, website development, and computer programming. The way that i look at it (which is bad i know) but how could anyone EVER pay me for doing something i love. This part here is mainly a little bit of a rant.

    Would anyone care to share their story of how they started in the business? I sincerely would love to hear this because maybe there is an angle in not targeting.

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