The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Beware The Competition
As a freelance web designer, although not as active as I used to be, I still accept clients from time to time. Sometimes I even accept an exchange of services that do not include money. For example, if a potential client runs a coffee shop, I might trade 10 cups of coffee per month in exchange for my ability to build and maintain a website. This is not to say that I will always do this, as I have turned down a client who offered me “equity” (a lot of web designers get pulled into it and it really means nothing, so stay away). However, when it comes to a tangible service, sometimes the trade can be good.
A few years ago when I had moved to a new state, a new town, I was looking for things to do with my girlfriend and we decided to try a paint class. We found it on Groupon and it allowed us to pay $25.00 each for a canvas and a paint lesson. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to paint, but then again: no one really can until they touch that paintbrush, filled with paint, to the canvas. Then everyone has the potential to be an artist, some better than others.
The painting took about 2 hours to complete and during this time, we spoke with the two owners who had opened up the business. They had a website but it was not much. They complained that they were not getting enough business and were hoping for more. So I offered my web design services to them. They admitted they could not afford to pay me, so I agreed that in exchange for no money, if they agreed to give me and my girlfriend 3-4 classes for free, I’d build their website for them.
They agreed and then mentioned that they wanted their website to look similar to the competition. They said that their competition was the most popular in town because they were a Paint and Wine business, rather than just a Paint and Sip (Coffee or Tea) type of business, so they were definitely more popular. I had checked out their competition and agreed that I could make something similar to their website.
As the week progressed, I mocked something up showing them an artsy type of website that was unique, but they were reluctant on the look, and said they wanted to stick with what they had. They then retracted our agreement and said they were fine with having their website the way it was. Unfortunately, this would be the last time we would go there, and the last time I would hear from them.
About a year later, my girlfriend was working a side job, when she had overheard the web designer, who worked in the office, mention that he was moving and was looking for someone to take over a client website for him, as he was moving out of state, and did not know what to do. She mentioned my name and her co-worker set up the meeting for me and the client. Once I accepted the client, I cleaned it up, fixed everything, and it was then that I realized: I was now working for the competition that my original potential client had mentioned.