Since the Internet has become a staple of the high-tech world
I have been asked hundreds of times to build web sites for people
or assist in their construction. To this day, I have made very little money by doing either; so
little money, in fact, that I no longer even look for such work.
The amount of time and energy required to create a business relationship
for designing web sites often means that you spend more time making
the deal than building the final product. For an independent contractor
this means hours of unproductive work for a business deal that
may never reach fruition.
No one knows
The main stumbling block to designing web sites for clients is
their inability to communicate to you what that are trying to
accomplish. Too many web sites are built only to "stake a claim"
in cyberspace. These sites are often unsatisfactory to both you
and the client, but the lack of a clear goal insures failure.
The client will see custom-generated pages and decide that this
is a #1 feature they must have. Next, they see audio and video
on another site and decide they need this, as well. They can't
vocalize any business reason to have these features beyond the
fact that someone else already has them.
Such feature chasing can also spiral out of control into a project
that is never completed. This is deadly to anyone who has set
a fixed price for the web site. Unless tightly controlled and
billed, change order after change order can quickly put a web
designer in the red. If you are billing by the hour you may have
trouble collecting your fee if the client begins to feel that
you are taking too long to hit the target, a completed web site,
that they themselves keep moving.
Finally, most clients have no understanding of what it takes to
accomplish even the most mundane tasks involved in building a
web site. They might naively request a logo change, not understanding
that the change might cause the re-building, re-formatting and
re-testing of hundreds of page. This lack of understanding often
puts you, the web designer, on a constant defensive footing, always
fighting to explain the time and cost involved.
Only for the big boys and girls
In most cases, the only players able to play the web design game
effectively are larger companies where a sales force is selling
the services and one project is not allowed to monopolize the
attention of the entire company. The dedicated sales force allows
them to not squander the time of the high-tech workers on chasing
business, but allows them to concentrate on the work at hand.
Larger companies also have the money and time required to set
up detailed business practices, contracts and billing procedures
that web site design projects seem to require. Much of the non-design
work is merely "riding herd" on the project itself.
Finally, with so many individuals hanging out a web design shingle
today it can be very difficult to get a good price for your services.
Too many clients have decided that their cousin Johnny can do
just as good a job for 1/2 the price. Frankly, it isn't worth
the time or energy for an independent web designer to go chasing
after this type of work. In fact, most web design companies have
a minimum project budget, whether it is $10,000, $100, 000 or
more. They simply won't take on projects that don't show a large
commitment on the part of the client. Coming from my shallow end
of the web design pond I can certainly see why they have such
minimums. Too many times I have spent discussing web design projects
only to have them never come to a contract, let alone, fruition.
Frustration comes so easily when working as an independent high-tech
worker. You don't need to go out and actively search for it.
Simply said, don't depend on generating large amounts of income
working as an independent web designer. You are far better off
partnering with larger web development companies who need your
particular skills. Spending too much of your time looking for
that 1 project in 10 that actually gets developed is a sure road
to frustration and poverty.