5 RED FLAGS TO WATCH OUT FOR WITH WORDPRESS CLIENTS
I love my job and what I do – however in my 8 years as a WordPress developer I’ve had some crazy experiences that triggered a lot of cortisol (stress hormone) release. What I wanted to discuss below are 5 red flags for WordPress clients – I’ve tried to make these interesting and not the standard “Make sure they have a big enough budget” and other common-sense scenarios. So let’s get started:
Red Flag #1: Research Your Rich Clients
So you get a client – the client is strapped up with cash and you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Not only is he happy to pay you – he even tells you that you should increase your hourly rate! He also calls to say how much of a bonus (a big one) – he will pay you if you hit certain milestones. Everything seems peachy right?
Well – maybe – but have you checked the guy out? Recently I had a client just like this – who ended up being an absolute nightmare – while the project itself was difficult the client pushed it over the edge. The communication style was absolutely nightmarish and while I’m a sucker for money don’t get me wrong – and I like getting paid – dealing with the client just pushed all my wrong buttons.
At first, I thought maybe the problem was with me… until I did some digging on this particular client.
While I won’t say the client’s name here I will say that this is the 3rd result on Google for the client’s name:
You can probably see who it is if you do some digging but the point I’m trying to make is – if I had just done some due diligence prior to starting with the client I could have known what to expect – heck I could have even called that architect and gotten a reference on the client.
People have different thoughts on this – some say you should just button up and take the abuse from a high paying client – and sometimes you just have to – some say you shouldn’t allow people to treat you badly regardless of how much they’re paying you. Whatever camp you fall into – it’s worth it just to research your client’s name and see what you’re in for. You could even check Glassdoor reviews and just a general outline of the client.
You may still choose to work with the particular client – but at least you can strap yourself in and get ready for the bullshit.
Red Flag #2: If a Lead Starts with “How Much Is a Website”
Basically I’ve been in web development for a long time and I don’t remember a SINGLE time when a lead started with “How much is a website” – that it led to anything positive. The reason is simple – a person that is asking “How much is a website?” is not just a cheap tire kicker – I can handle people trying to save money – I get it and emphasize it because I’m cheap myself.
The problem with this question is much worse though – the person is simply stupid. To ask a question like this implies you have no idea about logic – forget technology. This is similar to someone calling a car yard and saying “How much is a car?”
If you did that – people would think you’re moronic – but I’ve seen so many people try to go over how to come back to this in a way that makes the client raise their budget – my belief is that if you’re being asked questions like this by new clients your lead source is bringing you all the cheap sh*t. You’ll most likely get questions like this if you advertise on a service like Gumtree or Craigslist – prepare to get the runt of the litter – focus on getting higher quality clients with SEO.
Red Flag #3: Resistance to Instructions
This one is an easy one – this is basically where a client doesn’t want to do it your way but wants to do it their way – this one is common amongst older clients. It basically goes like this – you tell them to upload photos to Google Drive and they’ll say they’ll just email it.
Many times the failure to follow instructions will be followed up about how “stupid computers are” and how “I could never understand this rubbish”. The issue with this type of client is not that they don’t understand technology – clients that don’t understand certain technologies go-to professionals to help them with their issues.
No – the issue is that the client is simply unwilling to make an effort and learn.
I’ve had clients who didn’t know squat who really made an effort to follow the instructions given – they were headache clients but at least they tried. These clients simply resist because they don’t wish to learn anything new and think the computer is the devil.
Everything is an uphill stream with them – and the problem is that if you bend one way they’re likely to keep bending you. So now when you ask for feedback they’ll send it in a different format than you’d like – and now they know you’re weak and they start ramming you.
This is a red flag – and there are ways to handle this (simply let the client know what you require to move forward, assist the client in getting you the information) – [add on]
Red Flag #4: Speaking with Multiple People
The way this would work is the client would say they need to bring someone else in the call – at first, this might not seem like a big deal. Or you might get a call during the sales phase from someone you’ve never met who got your number and who wants to add their input.
You need to identify the stakeholders you’re working with – and preferably you want to be talking to the main head honcho in charge. While working with a head honcho’s support person is not bad in itself – you have to be careful in case he starts meddling in the project.
At this point you need to inform the client that you need one contact person in the company through which all things flow through – I’ll try to be accommodating if it’s a minor thing here or there – but that’s the general rule.
I had a client once where there was literally no one in charge – there was a “committee” of 6 people that sat on the board and pummelled the company to the ground because there was simply no leadership.
How to Avoid Red Flags: Have Choice
I understand this is easier said than done – but the best way of avoiding clients with red flags is simply to have a choice. Personally I believe that if you have no potential clients you have to take what you can get – that is how the capitalist system works – by having an abundance of choice you are no longer desperate for clients.
Take the time to get good organic results and invest in learning how to get a consistent lead flow.
Let me ask you – if you had a choice to work with only one person out of two for your next website project and the two choices you had were:
- A great web designer who has to hire a web developer or
- A great web developer who has to hire a web designer
Who would you choose?
The choice might seem simple for some but let me backtrack a minute.
Recently I had a client who had – what looked like a fairly well-completed website – that he wanted some things added to. I asked for the WordPress login details and had a look under the hood. For the next 3 hours, I tried my best to make small things like a border work around an image etc. to no avail. The entire site – just to give you an idea – under the hood was completely custom modified by another web developer – and I simply couldn’t work in his code.
Eventually, I just created a separate WordPress installation and created the page the client wanted – informing the client that I am unable to work in the structure of his current site.
The next day the client and I were on the phone and he was discussing the previous project. Apparently he paid a very top end graphic designer $5k+ to create a logo and the front page of the site – for which he got a ‘brand guideline’ document. If you’ve never gotten one of these it’s basically a document that for example tells you how much spacing should be in between the logo and the outer elements.
This is all well and good – and if you’re a client you’ll feel you got some sophisticated content but then the issues come in.
The Move to Developer
You see – when you hire a designer – what that means is the designer has to then hire a developer to put his layout together – and then the sh*t show starts. You see design and development are two separate things. However, with a design, you see the issues upfront.
When I created a sample layout for a client there were some issues he had – he could see them right away – and he commented on what those issues were and we fixed those. However, the development side was different.
Firstly the designer had outsourced the work overseas – to some guy in India I believe – but regardless of where he outsourced it to – of course, he was trying to save money and keep a bigger slice of the pie for himself. This is completely understandable and I’m not here to question it – heck if you gave me money to build a website and that required getting a designer I’d try to save money too and get the best bang for my buck.
The only difference is that when I showed you the layouts you would know straight away what the issue was – if it looked like crap – but not so with development – issues that fester with development will only show up at a later date – and when the foundation structure that is poured on is crap – there is nothing you can do but start again.
The Developer Roadpath
These days I do all the design myself – I ask a client what kind of websites they like and I literally copy a lot of elements to make something very similar. I don’t put myself out there as a “creative mastermind” – and to be honest – for the vast majority of business – a “creative mastermind” is not what they need. They just need a site that has information that’s easy to navigate and find, clean, looks professional and shows up in Google. The fundamentals.
I’m not against design – and I definitely believe that there are some shockingly bad looking websites out there – however, I just feel with the tools that I have it’s very difficult not to make something that looks good – looking good is not a problem. But I’m not into the “make my website look like a one of a kind Picasso painting”.
The reality is – personally – I have never bought something from a website because it was so “beautiful”. Don’t get me wrong – I may have overlooked a product that had shoddy web design – but if the website looked clean and professional – I’ve never bought something because the web design didn’t “inspire me” lol.
Now in fairness, you could argue that certain fashion companies need an amazing design but even if you check Hugo Boss – it’s a very standard clean layout.
The point is – people these days are not looking to be “wowed” by your web design – they’ve seen it all. They just want your site to be fast, to be clean, to give them what they want quickly with no issues – and if you do that – they will love you – or more specifically – won’t get the sh*ts with you – really the goal of web design in the future is for the client not to get the sh*ts.
The focus of clients these days should be on eliminating roadblocks for clients to get what they need – rather than creating one of a king Picasso paintings.
And this is why you should always hire a great developer with crappy design skills rather than a great designer with crappy developer skills.
Kosta Kondratenko is a web developer working for his company Head Studios. He specializes in WordPress custom development and SEO. He has over 10 years of experience and loves to write blog posts about topics happening in his industry. He’s passionate about sharing his knowledge and helping others achieve their goals.