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What do you think of this situation?

My gut is telling me to run, not walk to the nearest exit!



7:20 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I had a very long meeting with a perspective client this morning. She is in start up phase for her new business and knows that she needs a website, but I don't think she truly understands what a website is and what goes into making one. Although to give her credit, she did understand that it would be an ongoing project that would change, evolve and grow.

She is a very "right brained" person and I couldn't really pin her down on what she wanted, as she would fly off to other topics not matter how hard I tried to rein her in.

During our conversation her likes and dislikes on other websites and even the graphics work she's having done for her business changed.

When she asked about pricing, I told her my hourly rate. Her response was "What am I getting for $x an hour? I need to know what the finished cost will be" My response was that I can give her a ball park on the number of hours, but as she changes what she wants and adds and subtracts things from her site (as I'm sure will happen) that number will change. I told her that by paying hourly, she can control how much and when she pays me--as I don't do any work without her okay. It seems she wanted me to quote her a price on the spot, just like what happened when she got quotes for carpeting her floors! :o

Then she turned around and wanted me to charge her by the page! I said no to that! I told her that it is more work and more skills involved to create a portfolio page (she's an artist) then to create a text only page for example, so there is no way that I can set a price per page.

Now she wants me to quote her 3 levels of packages--but I don't know if this is worth the effort. She is the kind of client that would do best on an hourly scale.

Here's my problem...I'm still relatively new to business in my community. It's a small community where everyone knows everone else and she's well connected. In addition, I had 4 of my contacts refer her to me. My gut is telling me to run...but I'm worried that I may be shooting myself in the foot by doing that.

So, what would be the best way to handle it?
A) Go back and stick to my guns on the hourly rate
B) Write her a proposal with 3 packages and charge more than i normally would anticipating her changes (aka flightiness)
C) Say I'll do x amount as a package for y price for static information pages. Specialty pages, like her portfolio, will be $z per hour, final cost wil depend on what is wanted. For example, how many pictures she wants on the portfolio page (she couldn't even tell me that at our meeting).
D) Run like hell! ;)

Your opinions are greatly appreciated!



7:35 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

E) Set your prices VERY high, and encourage her to get quotes from your competition.


7:44 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

To me it sounds more like she doesn't really understand how much this will cost and she wants to understand that. From having done ghostwriting, I know how people get about wanting some kind of hard price for the whole thing instead of understanding that a project changes. What about showing her some websites you've done (or even haven't done) and giving her some well padded prices on those? And say out front that is with no additional changes, that any changes would be extra and would cost a lot. That way she would have an idea. Also, I would be real careful about getting everything spelled out completely in a contract with her.


7:49 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

"A" would be best but when clients push for a per page price I usually give it to them*.

*In such cases I make the client outline EXACTLY how many pages and what each page is for, # of photos, etc. in advance. They get exactly what they outlined initially for the price I quote. 50% down, 50% upon delivery. Subsequent changes to the project requested are billed hourly and invoiced weekly.



7:56 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I am exrtremely new to this but here is what I think.

C) Say I'll do x amount as a package for y price for static information pages. Specialty pages, like her portfolio, will be $z per hour, final cost wil depend on what is wanted. For example, how many pictures she wants on the portfolio page (she couldn't even tell me that at our meeting).

I think this is a great idea and meets at a great median. If she doesnt like it, you tried. Hell, you are already going out of your way for this lady by posting on here.

Now running away as you said about 3 times would be shooting yourself in the foot. If you really dont like her and dont want to do work for her, stick to the hourly rate. Give her a very high rough estimate of how many hours it will take. If she doesnt like it (which it sounds like she wont) you didnt let down the people who refered her to you and dont have to do her site.

I like C more though. If you make her happy it might help business a lot.

Keep us posted on what happens. Hope it all goes well and good luck.


8:03 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thank you! These are all very good ideas.

buckworks--I was thinking about setting the prices very high--but not much competition in the immediate area to refer her to! ;) Besides, by doing that I would lose all of the potential referrals from her, wouldn't I?

hroth--I may try this--i don't know how far that will get me with her. I will outline every last detail in any proposal or contract I write for her! I've learned my lesson the hard way on that one! ;)

frequent--The problem is that I can't get exactly what she wants out of her! I couldn't even get an answer on how many pictures she wanted in the portfolio. I even asked her if we are talking under 10, closer to 20 over 30? And she couldn't tell me. Which makes it very difficult to outline exactly what she'll get unless I pull numbers out of thin air. Any ideas on how to get around this?

Thanks again!


8:22 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

When I encounter people like this, and I decide to help them anyway, I try to use building analogies.

She is asking you to be her architect and general contractor for a building, but she doesn't want to tell you what type of building she wants or what it will be used for. So you have no idea of how robust the architecture needs to be. Does she want a home, a factory, a warehouse, or an out-house? Further more, she is asking you to tell her how much it will cost with all finish and trim; expecting you to proceed with the contruction of the building; and then be able to tell you how to rearrange the colors, the rooms, the foundation, and add two floors. All of this with no increase to the agreed upon price.

Another issue to watch out for when working with a new business: They don't have any policies in place. They often want you to create large portion of their content. They don't know where the customer service emails should go. They haven't considered what shipping methods they will use. They don't even realize that having a "live chat" feature on their website requires that they have a "live body" feature at their facility. If you don't set boundaries, you can easily wind up doing a good deal of general business consulting for free.


8:30 pm on Jan 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Try to extract from her a few sites in her field that she really likes. This will really help you get an idea what she is looking for and will help define for her what is possible on her budget.



12:57 am on Jan 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Be very careful.
Such clients become either your greatest booster or your worst nightmare.

Please do no work without a very detailed specific contract including a very detailed specific change order clause.

To continue john_k's building analogy: explain that a 'built' price is impossible without a blueprint and that both of you would be more confident and comfortable with a proposed price generated after completing a site RFQ/RFP (building blueprint) which typically costs n-dollars based on x-hours at y-dollars per hour.

Get a signed contract for doing the RFQ before going any further.
Then price the site based on the accepted RFQ and get that contract signed before continuing.

Always qualify your clients, especially their ability to pay, and always get payment in full for each milestone prior to starting it.

Your approach must be 'this is how I always do my business' so the client doesn't get an opportunity to re-set terms. Think of how your lawyer treats you - but perhaps smile more.

If she walks you are off the hook and if she stays her dithering is worth the irritation.

Let us know what and how you do. We all love others soap operas.


4:30 am on Jan 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

E) Set your prices VERY high, and encourage her to get quotes from your competition.



11:18 am on Jan 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

john--I really like your analogy. May i use it in the future? ;)

frequent--I always try to do this when I first meet with clients, i find the responses very insightful. I did ask her this question, and there was a site that she really liked--BUT she couldn't remember the url or the name of the company! She couldn't tell me what was on the site either, so this wasn't very useful. :(

iamlost--I always write a detailed contract with a change order clause (thanks to you!). However, in this case, it's very difficult to do without being able to get details of what she wants from her! ;) I've never done an rfq before, as I've been dealing with sole proprietorships who don't usually want to deal with the extra paperwork. Most want an on the spot quote. So, I wouldn't even know where to start!

I think you are right about what my approach should be. I believe I appeared too flexible and relaxed this time as this client told me on the phone that she had been referred to me by several of my close contacts. I will be more prepared next time--this is my hourly rate, you are looking at x number of hours (assuming no changes)--take it or leave it.

Thanks again for all the insight everyone!

I'll keep you posted on what happens.



2:56 am on Jan 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

She sounds like trouble. If she can't make up her mind now she will pester you with a multitude of changes later too and then refuse to pay for the work you already did that she no longer wants. I would suddently find something else to do even if it is washing dishes to pay your bills till another client rolls along.


9:00 am on Jan 15, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You have to weigh what her business is worth. Is it going to result in further clientelle? Is it a project that you can leverage off as a showcase item in your portfolio? Are you new to all of this and building that portfolio?

Always let the client shoot themselves in their own foot. What I mean by that is that you want to make them feel like they are calling the shots and will take full responsibility for their decision making. This saves your ass if things go wrong. Make sure you keep good notes and email correspondence over the course of any project for legal reasons.

You want them to be held accountable. Make it perfectly clear that you will charge for any overtime. Get it down in contract. I never negotiate a project without a signed contract.

If this is a new client, they deserve a bid estimate for the project to alleviate any uncomfortableness they may have as you. Have you ever looked at it from her perspective? It's up to you to ask and jot down her requirements. Then, come back with a bid later the next day or be very prepared with a price list.

The art of negotiation is very important in your business success. Playing doctor and asking the patient the right questions too is a large part of the ASSESSMENT PHASE. You no doubt need to learn this.

By the way, never assume the client is dumb. Did you ever consider that she MAY just be playing dumb? My read into this is that you were simply not prepared as a businessman.

My advice is, don't take the job. Take the time to write down a business model. You'll be glad you did.


12:15 pm on Jan 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member rocknbil is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

"Mrs. X. During our various conversations you have changed directions on what you want out of your site and what you'd like to to achieve. While this is not a problem, I can tell you from experience that if I lay out a detailed description of precise work to be performed, when it will be done, and how much it will cost you, I can almost guarantee that in a week's time you are going to see what we've done and react with more new directions and changes, possibly such that it may undermine the initial work we've started. This type of project evolution is not a problem for me, I'm used to workng with dynamic quick thinkers such as yourself. (This closes the deal.) But Obviously this is going to blow any esimate I give today you out of the water. So let's begin again, come up with phase 1 - getting you a design and the basic display pages in place - and if you want to move on from there, I'll give you an estimate for the continuing development tasks."

And by all means, shoot high, these types of customers will run you rasgged and want major bargains, and they WILL change their mind at least three times a week.


1:18 pm on Jan 16, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

If you think she's honest and owns a credible business I'd just give her the quote. I've had so many of the 'big hassle, no way they will order' quotes come through that I give up trying to decide who will order and become a decent client. Give as tight a quote as you feel comfortable with and move on. IMHO


5:37 pm on Jan 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I can understand why clients don't want to pay by the hour. It's too much of an unknown. Except for maintenance work for ongoing clients, I give a lump sum fee.

I charge a fee for the home page (which takes me 20-30 hours to design and includes about 3 drafts) and then a fee for each additional page. I think that is fair.

I had a difficult potential client about 3 years ago. I got so exasperated with her nit-picking and questioning whether I'm worth it (her friend's son could design websites, for much less,.....) that when she called me once again to work out the details of the proposal before she signed it, I said, "I don't think I can work with you, so I'm turning down the job." She couldn't believe it.

She's been a great client ever since. We work great together.



9:13 pm on Jan 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member


It's often important to look at the bigger picture in these sorts of cases. You need to ask yourself a few qustions.

1. Is your business new?

2. Do you need her business to help you grow?

3. Could you afford to be somewhat indulgent in your pricing to her in order to capture extra work from referrals?

It's known as loss leading and when done intelligently can lead to a good return on investment.

If the answer to the above Q's is no then your probably better off pricing high and going after business with better margins.

Conscientious Reject

6:01 am on Feb 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I also don't have much experience yet. But terms should be clear before you even start to talk. It sounds like you are more than fair, but maybe this person does not feel emotional about your services yet. Get her excited! Spill, some ideas of your own that she may love. Talk features - like cool pull down menus, not functions - like arrays or other things she may not understand. Talk her up, and then after you have her site so plum full of features. Hit her with a scare price - or very high price. Then if you have used your salesmanship correctly she will not want to loose anything previously modeled. Then you start to make her feel as though she is being more practical with her budget by loosing some of the features that the site can live without. From there you trim the edges, until she knows that yer the one for job that she's willing to pay for.


5:35 am on Feb 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Run! ..... very very fast!

Let someone else have the grief.

We have a "wannabe" client like this, with an existing web site which isn't working as well as she thought it would.

After innummerable emails outlining, clarifying and attaching stuff, and offering to do a f2f presentation, she still can't make up her mind .... about a simple links package!

(And this is despite at least 2 other of our clients in the same industry repeatedley asking us if she's "on board" yet, because they tell her everytime they see her, what we do for them. If/when she finally makes up her mind, it will cost her, if only because our rates will have gone up.)


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