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Working on spec and web development "partnerships"



12:11 am on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This is just a vent, but I do NOT understand why so many people think that web developers should be willing to jump at a chance to do work on spec.

I had got a phone call today from someone wanting information on getting a web site done. I'm asking questions and trying to figure out exactly what they need.

At the end of the conversation, the guy says, "We're looking for someone who will be willing to develop the site for a percentage of the profits, like 5%."

I told him that I had several affordable packages available, but I didn't do work on spec.

Yesterday, I had a potential graphic design client want me to "whip something" up first so they could see if we were talking about the same thing.

No. You pay me, I do the work, otherwise I'll spend that time working on my OWN projects.

I know everyone that does web development has run into the same thing, so this is just a vent.

But seriously, what the guy was needing today was not some complex application . . . just a standard web site. If you want a good site, either put it on a credit card or pull some junk out of your garage and raise some money at a garage sale. Why would someone expect me to invest my time and energy in their business and take a risk on getting paid when THEY are not willing to invest it in themselves.


12:24 am on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

The stock reply.. back in the day ..( before I gave up any kind of working for other people in any field ) ..

was ..

"imagine you walk into a restaurant and ask them to make you a meal ..just to see if you'll like it ..based on your description ..and you'll pay them if it is to your taste ..how long do you think it will be before you get the bums rush" :)

those who argued ..I threw out ..physically ..:)


4:53 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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

I feel your pain. In phone queries I address work in this order

- budget
- first initiatives
- long term initiatives

Note that budget is first, which brings this kind of stuff to light before they suck an hour of your time and a good supply of your day's allocated energy. When I am absolutely sure this client has nothing but their own interests in mind and their intent is only to exploit, I point them to that "Client Vendor Relationship" video.

They either come back willing to work with me and a bit more humble, or - in most cases - are never heard from again. Which is a good thing.

BTW I'm not sure the term "on spec" is being used correctly here, is it? IME a project on spec is developed to specifications. I think you're looking for profit sharing.

I'm probably wrong, but nothin' new there.


5:03 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


I LOVE that video. I literally laughed for 10 minutes the first time I saw it.

I meant "spec" in terms of speculation. You do the work and hope you get a return on it later. I guess I do that, but for sites I own myself, not a 5% stake in someone else's site I have no control over.


6:09 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

You are not alone. Agree w/ rocknbill: get a general idea of the budget and scope first. Those two must be aligned, and also match your own minimum project size.

Next, establish the ground rules for projects of that size: i.e. 50% non refundable deposit prior to the project start + rest at completion. Cost calculation based on hourly rate of $xyz with a negotiable % discount, etc.

Next, tell' em what you're good at: e.g. if the proposed idea fits well with your capabilities, explain that you are the best choice for the job and you will go the extra mile. Top quality demands premium rates.

If the conversation halts because of the lack of budget or alignment, you'll have saved yourself a lot of time and aggravation. A "cheap" client will always expect more than they deserve and cost you money in the long run...


6:51 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

rocknbill, I think by on spec he means "on speculation" (?)


9:33 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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

Right. I really need to get out more often.


10:58 pm on Oct 7, 2009 (gmt 0)

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

oh cma01, I hear ya.

if it's open source and it's cool, I'll consider it.
if it's an interesting academic project, I'll consider it.
if it's for charity or the betterment of mankind, I'll consider it.
but only if I have some spare time. And... I usually don't.

if it's just another dude with a big idea for doing whatever online and needs someone with skillz to make it happen, then I say no thanks.

I get one of those offers every couple of weeks.

I think the insulting ones are those who offer you less than 5%. Really? so from the first $100K earned, I'll get $5K? For how many hours of work? Gee, let me think about that.


2:34 pm on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I usually reply with: "Sure, Can move in with you?"

I've had a lot of those lately. Just last week I got a call from a guy (Chad). Chad and his displaced web developer buddy have rented the most expensive office space in the county. Chad calls me looking for web design resources and proceeds to tell me he's structured his business as
a "When we get paid, You get paid" business model. He says it is due to the bad economy and claims all businesses will have to follow this plan if they are to survive this economic depression.

...Chad, you're an idiot!

I agree with 'caribguy'. Sell them on your product or service. I've found that if the client can see examples of your work and fully understands what they are buying and the positive impact it will make to their business they will find a way to get you what you are asking.

Maybe think about putting together different packages, with different price points? 1.) Digital business card site. 2.) Five page HTML site. 3.) Customized CMS... etc, etc.

I am a graphic designer and I get the "Just go whip something up, art boy!" thing A LOT. Last month I got a call from a guy who needed a "cool-ass" logo and "cool-ass" tshirt designs for his new business. When I asked him what kind of business, he replied: "I was at a monster truck race and saw some cool-ass tshirts and saw how much money they were making and now I want to do it... Can't ya just whip somethin' up fur meh?" No Product, No Sport, Nothing. Just; "Hey man bawy my cool-ass tshirts"


5:32 pm on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

That video is funny!


5:57 pm on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

1. Where's the video?

2. No!Spec [no-spec.com] offers much information to both customers and vendors regarding the pitfalls of spec work.


6:31 pm on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Willy, want us to Google it for ya?

Chances are your link might get snipped... That $5 logo idea discussion made me cringe and smirk at the same time. I don't even take logo work separate from a corporate identity or custom designed website project.

We're talking about an investment of $500 or less for something that is expected to convey "who you are, what you do, and how you do it" in the first tenth of a second that it is seen. For years to come...

If you are the type of client who believes such a thing is worth $5, you're not only wasting my time and yours by contacting me, but you're also insulting my capabilities as a professional.

Regarding attempts to educate would be clients on the pitfalls of "spec" work, I doubt that they would get the message.

I tend to believe that those clients already know that what they're asking for is not realistic, but try to get away with taking advantage of people who work hard and are good at what they do - but who are in a situation where they need the work to make ends meet... It's a con!


7:49 pm on Oct 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

first i'd like to apologize for calling 'Chad' an idiot... that's not nice. I really meant 'ignorant'.

You should only do 'spec' work if you are in 9th grade and have no portfolio. Your knowledge, experience, and portfolio of projects IS the spec work. I'm not saying cma01 has poor sales skills. However, if you and your website present your work professionally with good case studies the client will take you more seriously.

As far as doing work for Chad, well, the only clients i have had issues with are the ones who have a problem signing the contract or paying a deposit. If they cannot agree to those terms then you do not want to work with them.

I am glad I found this forum! Nice to know other developers are having the same concerns. Kinda reminds me of the group therapy scene in the movie Fight Club.


2:46 am on Nov 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

How much luck are people having converting these "spec" types to actual clients? In my experience, it seems like they usually don't even want to have the conversation about budget. They just shut off and walk.


3:00 am on Nov 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator mack is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Another problem is you need to take them on trust, unless you have a way of knowing what returns the site is generating.



4:53 pm on Nov 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

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

1. Where's the video?

Oh my, WillyB, sorry for the late response, you haven't seen this [youtube.com]? Put your coffee well out of reach and have nothing in your mouth before viewing. The link is to YouTube and non promotional, it has been brought up in Foo a couple times.


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