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  • # 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 2:58 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 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 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.

    # July 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I started doing volunteer work for charities, and my local community. After a while, word of mouth led to paid jobs. Also, whilst honing my skills, and taking part in communities like Dribbble and Forrst, I had other job offers. One of the more significant offers I have had recently actually came due to my blog (where I write about web stuff, mainly CSS). Lastly, I have had people approach me after seeing some of the crazy CSS experiments that I love to do.

    # July 25, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    @_john_ It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous. I was the same way when I first started but eventually you become confident in your work. @joshuanhibbert has a good point. Doing little side projects to show your talent and ability is a great way to get hired and use for your portfolio. As I stated above, you don’t actually need clients to show this. Also, I would advise you to become comfortable and knowledgeable in development before accepting clients or applying for a position.

    What exactly are you looking to find out?

    # July 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    @_john_ , from what you’ve written I have to say I am in exactly the same position as you, I’ve told myself I’m not going to get myself out there until I’m fully confident and made a few test sites that I’m absolutely happy with, yet I’m seeing people over the web asking questions that I already know the answers to, as well as recognizing bad coding. So I thank you for asking this question and getting the discussion flowing!

    As for everyone else, thankyou for replying to john! It’s always nice to know there’s friendly people out there looking out for you.

    What I’d really appreciate knowing is, how do I go about taking on a first client with ‘no experience’ ? (aside from personal) I’d love to have a well written personal site up and running by then with some ‘mock’ websites on, but how would you recommend handling the question? (what past work have you done?)

    Also would anyone recommend starting off part-time freelance or trying to join a design firm as a junior/intern?

    – Paul

    P.S. @_john_ don’t forget to let us know how you get on!

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