In last week's Part 1 post on how to find the right web designer, we looked at researching and planning, budgeting and finding designers. This week we'll look at the next steps - making inquiries, rates, contracts and other odds and ends.
Making an inquiry
Most first inquires are made via email - often through the designer's portfolio site or after receiving an email from somebody who has referred you.
What Not To Do
Don't, under any circumstances, do this:
Hi, I need a new website. Can you build me one? How much will it cost? Thanks - Janie
Great, you need a new website. Yes, I probably can build you one. I have no idea how much it will cost. You haven't told me anything about it!
That's like going to a car dealership and saying "Hi, I need a new car. How much will it cost?" You know that a Honda Fit is going to cost a lot less than a brand new BMW for a whole bunch of reasons.
What You SHOULD Do
- Introduce yourself. If you were referred, let us know by who. If not, tell us how you found us and why you're interested in working with us.
- If this is a site redesign, send us a link to your current site so we can see what's going on with you currently
- If this is a new site, tell us a bit about what kind of site it will be
- brand new, or a redesign, tell us what you have in mind, what your time frame is, and what your budget range is.
Mentioning time and budget are important. If you want this done in two weeks and the designer is booked for the next two months, it saves everyone a lot of time if you bring it up right away. The same goes for budget. As I mentioned last week, many designer's have minimum budgets they work with.
The next step after making an initial inquiry is hearing back from your designer. They're going to have a LOT of questions. Everything from what type of sites appeal to you to what your marketing and business objectives are (yes! Even for bloggers!), along with more mundane things like budgets, timelines and hosting information. They may also ask for information you are quite protective of - like your stats. It's important that you are upfront and honest during this period - it can make a big difference in how your site design is approached.
This is where all the research and planning I mentioned last week come in. The more you've thought about this in advance, the the less of a surprise these questions will be.
Package, Hourly Rate or Quote
One of the first questions I get asked before almost anything - even "are you currently available?" is "what are your rates?" And that brings us to the question of "how much?" And the answer is... "it depends". Not really helpful, is it?
Ok, let's examine rates a little more closely:
Some designers offer web design packages, some work on an hourly rate and some quote on a project by project basis. And many do a combination of two or three. So, what's the difference?
All designers have hourly rates - it's the number we work out that will let us cover our costs and pay us a salary we can survive on - but it's not often we disclose it. Often, we will have more than one hourly rate depending on the work required - for example, I have different rates for straight up design work (graphics, logos, etc) than I do for coding or development. I even have a third rate for rush work and a fourth rate for repeat clients. Hourly rates are generally only quoted when only a few hours of work are needed rather than working out the complexities of a larger project
Many designers put together packages with flat rates - a bit like a wedding photographer might. They may also have "a la carte" items you can add to fill in any gaps that aren't covered in the original package.
Pros of a Package Rate
Packages can be great for a number of reasons - they're very cut and dried. You will get a set of very specific things that will be delivered - usually font and colour customizations, a set number and type of plug-ins installed, a set number of menus created, a defined number of social media icons, etc. You will be limited to a small number of revisions. If you're on a small budget, just starting out, aren't looking for anything highly customized and can make decisions quickly, these can be great and usually have a very quick turnaround. Often if you only want a rebranding change, these can be a good option.
Cons of a Package Rate
The downside of packages are they don't allow for much customization, especially in terms of functionality (coding and development). While the package rate might sound very appealing and cheaper than custom quotes you've received, beware that anything you ask for over and above the specific items in the package will come at an additional charge. Any a la carte items you request will also quickly expand your bill. If you exceed your number of revisions you will be charged. If you are looking for a heavily customized site, this is not the route you want to go.
If your designer gets a sense that you're looking for something that will require any customization outside of colour, pattern and fonts, etc, they'll want to know more before letting you know how much it will cost. What follows is usually a very thorough set of questions designed to find out as much about your wants and needs as possible while making sure that you haven't missed anything. Then they'll get to work building you a quote, which will serve as the basis for your contract.
While the idea of a quote might sound big and expensive that's not necessarily the case. Often if you have a smaller budget but are able to give a designer the complete picture of what you're looking for, they can find ways to get creative and give you the most bang for your buck.
Whether you choose a package or a quote, be sure that you have a very clear understanding of what you will be getting and be very aware that anything over and above will cost you extra - this includes excessive revisions, new functionality, anything that's going to take up more of the designer's time than was originally budgeted for or agreed upon.
You are going to be asked for your budget. Be up front. Nothing frustrates a designer more than the answers "as little as possible" or "I don't know". You must have an idea of what you're willing to spend or you wouldn't be shopping for a new website and we can't be helpful if we don't have some idea of what your range is.
Don't worry if you think you're on the low side - it's a starting point. Worst case scenario is, the designer says "I'm very sorry but that's below my minimum budget range". Now you know... move on to somebody else. If you keep getting that response then you know you need to re-evaluate your budget. More likely, if your budget doesn't fit with your list of requirements the designer will let you know and then show you what you CAN do for that amount and what will be the most productive way to proceed. But a designer will not take the time to put together a quote without some hint of what you're looking to spend. If you've asked for $2000 worth of work and haven't said what your budget is, and we spend 3 or 4 hours putting together a quote for you and you come back and say "oh, well... I only have $200 to spend" that's wasted everyone's time. And you have just told the designer that you did, indeed, have a budget all along. It's not a great way to start the relationship.
Get one. Don't work with a designer who doesn't use them. Period.
They're for everyone's protection. They outline exactly what will be delivered, when it will be delivered, how much it will cost and when payment is due. It keeps everything clear to everyone.
You are also going to be giving this person access to some very confidential information: your passwords and log-in info for numerous on-line accounts as well as information on your stats. Make sure there is a non-disclosure clause in your contract stating that information will be kept confidential.
Read it through, make sure you understand it. If you don't, ask. I'm always impressed when a client asks a question about their contract because I know it means they've read it. If you're happy, sign it.
Be prepared to pay a deposit - anywhere from 30 - 50%. If your project is very large, you may be asked to make milestone payments. For example, a 30% deposit to start work, 30% at the half way point and the remaining 40% at completion.
Other Things To Consider
Here's a list of other things to consider before you make your decision:
- location - most designers will work with clients regardless of geography via the magic of skype, screensharing, webcasts etc. But if you like face to face meetings and somebody sitting next to you to help you learn how to use your site, find somebody local
- the designer's esthetic. If you like bright bold colours and simple lines, don't choose a designer whose work doesn't match that. Design is a personal thing and as professionals, we understand that our particular style may not work for everyone - we don't take it personally.
- how you feel about the designer. We all get gut feelings - trust them. If you feel like you have a good rapport with somebody go with it - you're entering a relationship with this person and trusting them with something important to you
- remember that the vast majority of designers are interviewing you at the same time you're interviewing them. If they feel your project doesn't fit with their skill set, their style or the type of projects they want to work on, they may say no and money may not have anything to do with it. Don't take it personally!
Looking For a Designer?
We have some very talented web designers who are also FBC Members. Here are a few for you to check out if you're looking to do a redesign. All are accepting new clients and work with bloggers. And who better understands food blogs than other food bloggers!?
- Jeannette Ordas from Everyone Likes Sandwiches runs Matchbox Creative with her husband in Vancouver
- Joanne Taylor from Cherry Bomb Kitchen runs Taylor Design in Ottawa
- Marie Asselin from Food Nouveau runs MarieAsselin.com in Quebec City
- Stephanie Dickinson from One More Bite runs StephanieDickinson.com in Toronto
- Melissa Hartfiel from FBC/Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach runs Fine Lime Designs in Vancouver
- Kristy Gardiner from She Eats runs Peppercorn Creative in Vancouver
How to Find the Right Web Designer For Your Blog, Part 2, was written by FBC co-founder Melissa Hartfiel. Melissa is a freelance graphic and web designer at Fine Lime Designs by day. By night she writes Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach as well as being the all round FBC design & technology gopher.