A couple of months ago, I had to get new brakes on my Audi. I called around to get some bids and they were all about the same: free inspection and around $400. Since all things were pretty much equal, I took it to the nearest brake store.
As I sat in the waiting room at the brake store, I could see my little Audi being hoisted up on the car lift. The wheels were taken off. Then the pointing started. Like an expectant father on a 1950’s sitcom, I began to get nervous.
After a reasonable waiting period (they make you wait so the tension builds), a greasy mechanic came through the door and said, “Want to come take a look? We have a few things to discuss.”
“Oh no!” I cringed. “What could be wrong with my baby?!” I thought.
He took me out in the garage and the pointing started again. He began by saying, “See here? Blah blah blah blah blah. And over here. Blah blah blah blah. Oh, and this blah blah isn’t good at all. To replace all of this blah blah blah, it’s going to cost $850.”
“$850?! You said it would be $400!”
“Well, that was before we got it up on the lift,” he said.
You see, for every foot the car is lifted, the cost of the job goes up by $50. And each wheel they take off, that’s another $50.
Did all those blah blah’s need to be replaced? I HAVE NO IDEA! I’m not a mechanic, so I had to trust him. And since my car was 8 feet off the ground with no wheels or brakes attached to it, what was I going to do? That’s how they get you!
Web Designers: the new Auto Mechanics
Yesterday, I met with one of my mentoring clients about her website. She owns a really cool art gallery/store, and she needs a new website. She’s not very technical so when I talk about her website, she hear’s “blah blah blah” just like I do when I talk to an auto mechanic.
This nice woman spent $5,000 last year to have her website rebuilt…and she hates it! The designer is hard to work with. He won’t make the changes she asks for. He built her a system that only he can maintain. She has to call and beg him for every change that needs to be made.
She finally reached her limit a few weeks ago and she decided to rebuild her website, again. A couple of friends referred her to a web designer who built their websites, so she asked the designer for a bid.
The bid was $8,000 for a basic WordPress + eCommerce website. That seemed pretty high to me, but I thought maybe she was really good and had plans to build a fantastic website for my client…until I looked at the designer’s website and portfolio.
They were awful! I…mean…AWFUL!!! They were built using free WordPress templates. Her own website had no graphics and the pages weren’t even laid out correctly! Her portfolio of clients wasn’t much better! If she can’t build a decent website to showcase her skills, what are the odds she’ll be able to build a decent website for my client?!
To top it off, the designer had to ask someone which eCommerce plugin to use. She’s never built an eCommerce website before! And she wanted to charge her Guinea Pig top dollar!
And my client was ready to write her a check…until I stepped in.
Unfortunately, web designers are the new auto mechanics. If you don’t understand the work that needs to be done, you have to trust them. You have to hope they’re being honest. And there’s no easy way to do this.
Your best course of action is to find a mentor or hire someone to help you for a fixed rate who knows and understands the technology. Someone who has YOUR best interest at heart.
Get several bids from several different web designers. Then, ask the web designers for SEVERAL reference websites, and look at their own business websites. Their portfolios need to reflect the quality that you want for your own website.
Finally, call the references and speak to the people who worked with the designers. Ask the reference interview questions I provide in my Web Startup Toolbox.
To validate the bid amount, post your project on Elance.com and see what you get. If you’re validating a bid for a local designer, you’ll need to add some additional costs for being local, but it should at least be in the same ballpark.
Do your diligence before you hire a web designer. Once your website is hoisted up in the air like my little Audi was, you’ll feel trapped and you’ll be stuck with the designer you’ve chosen.
Be sure they’re not trying to rip you off before it’s too late.