How I Made $3.63 Per Hour Doing Web Design

This is a guest post from Kevin at DigitalMediaDIY.com where you can learn to DIY professional web design and digital media for your business.

There is no money in small business web design. I mean none. I learned that lesson the hard way. I tried started a small business web design company on the side back in 2014. I wanted to use my web design skills to help small businesses and make extra money. My plan was to charge a minimum of $2,000 for a simple website and up to $5,000 for a complex site. This comes to about $50 per hour for my labor according to my estimates. My first client was a local barbershop who just opened his store and needed a website. I sat with the owner (let’s call him Fred) and proposed to build his site for $2,050. We talked for over an hour and we agreed on exactly what I would build for him. I got a 25% non-refundable deposit of $512.50 and left the meeting ready to work. I got started right away and built exactly what we had discussed within about 2 weeks. It took about 40 hours to do the work and I spent about $150 in software and images to make it look great. I don’t want to brag, but this site was awesome! I met with the Fred to turn over the site and get paid. Honestly I was expecting gratuitous amounts of praise. Maybe even a little bonus for doing so well.

Swing and a Miss

Ooooooo boy was I wrong. He didn’t say “Thanks!” and pay me. He was upset his website didn’t do the following things:

  • He wanted the site to more tightly integrate with his POS system, and asked me to figure out how to do that OR find him a new POS system that would work better with his appointments.
  • He wanted more pictures of his barbershop on the site and expected me to be his photographer.
  • He wanted numerous changes to the design, none of which were agreed upon in our initial meeting and all of which made his site look worse.
  • He wanted a fully functioning mobile app.

Wow. Okay, um… I told Fred I’d work on the first 3 items but at least stood my ground on saying I can’t build him a mobile app. I went back and got to work on these changes. I would send him updates and he would change his mind again, each time making his site look worse. By the time I was done I had spent another 60 hours on this project and his site was so ugly I had pulled my branding off it because I was embarrassed by it. I thought we had finally agreed everything was done so I met with Fred to deliver the site and get paid. He says it looks good and I feel like I’m finally about to be done with this nightmare client.

Another Curveball

Then he says, “You know my other barbershop needs a website also.” I didn’t even know he had another barbershop. “Okay, that will be another $2,100.” “Oh. Well I talked to a guy who said he would do both of my stores for the same price you’re charging me. Can you just do it for free?” At this point I was completely fed up with this guy. I had already worked 100 hours, been paid only $512.50 – $150 in expenses, and now he’s asking me to do double the work? No sir. You know the saying, “Don’t throw good money after bad,”? Well don’t throw good time after bad either. There was no way I was doing another minute of work for this guy without getting paid up front. “Good luck with your new web designer. If you want to make the site I built live, you can pay your remaining balance.” I haven’t heard from him since and last I checked neither of his stores has a website. I made $3.63 per hour working with that client.

Small Businesses Need to DIY Their Websites

The major error I made in trying to create this business was over-estimating how much small business owners could pay for a website, and underestimating how much they wanted their web designer to do. After working with Fred and many other small business owners, I am convinced the only way for a small business to have a great website is to DIY. Margins on small businesses are so small they just can’t afford professional web design services. That’s why I created Digital Media DIY. I just launched a free online course for small business web design. This course teaches business owners how to create their own professional website, step-by-step. My training allows small business owners to get a professional website without paying professional web design prices, and it ensures I never have to deal with another terrible client again. Kevin is the owner of DigitalMediaDIY.com and is passionate about helping small business owners DIY their website and digital media.

One Response to How I Made $3.63 Per Hour Doing Web Design

  1. Good lesson learned. However, I will say that I think there are times when some customers just won’t end up turning you a profit no matter how well you have things structured. My wife runs an online design shop and for the most part, her time spent on each order works out to a value add when she collects her fees. But there are just some occasions where things take more time and she barely breaks even when she considers her time. Because these instances are so far and few between, it’s basically become a cost of doing business. It’d be nice to weed these out, but often what you’ll end up doing as you put in more safeguards, is inadvertently blocking out good customers just for the sake of getting rid of the ‘bad’ ones….that is if you can really eliminate the bad ones at all.

    Bottom line, as long as these types of situations are the rare exception and not the norm, it may be more advisable to chalk it up as ‘one of those things’ and move on without letting it disturb you too much.

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