Why we don’t do free development anymore

Freelancers-working-for-freeI get ask on a regular basis to do free development for people with various promises of leads and referrals. The one argument is that it does not really cost you anything…………. just a bit of time.

I have been doing web development for quite a while as an independent and that was one of my starting points, will do one two sites for free and get enough spin off business to get this business going fast and furious. The very first site i did was probably the most expensive lesson ever and out of that experience I have learned that there are 6 reasons why I don’t work for free.

Here are my reasons:

The time it consumes

Most people are aware that I can do a website in a very short period of time, and it is then that they ask for a free site. Unfortunately there is always “after sales services” and once you have done a site for free it is expected that will do all the after sales service also for free.  A website is almost a living creature and need constant attention if you want it to work for you, so a quick free website upfront ends up as a lifelong free commitment.

It takes away from paying clients

Every time we do something for free there is a twofold issue that comes to play. The first is it takes time that could have benefited my paying clients. IF it is additional work we could have done for a client to get more value out of their website or if it was research we could have done to serve our clients better but it takes from paying clients.
Then there is the fact that for that period we work for free, and if we did work for a paying client it would have meant more cash that we could have invested in better technology. So every time I do work for free I am basically “stealing” from paying clients

It kills my creativity

Being a web-developer creativity is one of the selling points and every time I get a request for something to be done on a website it may seem that it takes me 30 min to complete the task, yet there are at every turn research to be done, analysis of what would be the optimal route to take, how to integrate it with a current website that it still forms a whole and sometime even discussing with contemporaries in the industry. That consumes a big part of the day that is suddenly unaccounted for not just the 30 min actual coding.

Very few people actually value anything that is for free

Referring back to my very first website I did as a freelance agent, it was for an upcoming female artist. The deal was i would donate a site to help her promote her career in the hopes that it would give me some needed exposure. For one I got no exposure what so ever from the website because her career was going nowhere fast. So as per agreement after the first year I invoiced her for monthly hosting and the reaction, “This site means nothing, why should I pay you for hosting?” The short and sweet of the story is the account was closed, the website deleted and she is still a nobody in the music industry without a website. I have been around for a few years now with a very reasonable paying client base.

It never stops at one request

As I have pointed out above it start with a website and then for the lifetime of the website it is expected that you will do it for free. Change this, add this, delete that, please do this social media integration and so it carries on. From development to hosting and Seo all is expected to happen for free. For a lot of people if you provide a service it does not cost you anything why are you so expensive? Who have heard of the story that plumber is so expensive he charged R450.00 to replace a washer that cost R2.50. Yes you are right, how did he get to your place? Did you fetch him? No, that costed him a fair bit to pay for his vehicle, petrol, maintenance and insurance, did he bring his own tools or did he use yours?  What does his tools cost? Replacement every two years because it gets worn out, his salary, he is also married with kids , kids that must go to school, have medical insurance, and the annual holiday.

It all adds up then suddenly that R450.00 does not sound that expensive any more. The same applies for any service industry, that person doing the job needs to be paid overheads need to be covered and every time a request for free services  comes in somebody get benefit for nothing and somebody else misses an opportunity to offer something better to somebody they love. If it is that easy to replace a R2.50 washer then do it yourself else be prepared to pay somebody what they are worth.

Quality and Reputation

Every time you do work for free there is always the possibility that quality will be sacrificed. You will try and finish the task at hand as fast as possible as it will be in the back of your mind time is money and this time is no money. The quality of the work is then sacrificed and a shoddy website goes out. Who have been on a website that your first reaction was aaaarghhhhhh!? Then next you look at the credits part who did the development and there goes somebodies reputation. The question is was this done for free never comes to mind. So with the absence of quality goes the Reputation flying out of the door.

All web developers are judged by their finished products whether the client paid with a kidney and half a liver for whether he paid with my little sons education, does not matter, all that we are judged on is that website.

If you need website and you respect someone enough to approach then to help you with a one realise their time is valuable. Be realistic about what they offer you. An R500.00 website will look like a R500 website and mostly an R5000.00 will look like a R5000.00 website. You cannot expect class for free, and the old adage goes “you get what you pay for”