Over the years there have been recurring themes when it comes to potential customers trying to get something for nothing.  Here are five of the most common “Red Flag” customers that I have learned to watch out for.

1. “Win-Win” Partnerships
What this individual really means is, “I’m a cheapskate, so you do all the work up front for free and when the site is successful you can have a small percentage of the profits.”  The interesting thing is that if the site fails, you are the only one who stands to lose.  The person who has the most to lose should also have the most to gain if the project succeeds.

2. “Million Dollar” Ideas
Much like the “Win-Win” partnership, this individual will approach you with an idea that is sure to be an instant success, the one catch is that they are not “technically savvy” so they just need someone to “partner” with who can program the site. What they think is, “Million dollar ideas are hard to come by, so I will share my idea with you and you do all the work, I get all the credit and profit because the hardest part is just having the idea.”  Anyone can have a million dollar idea, but it takes a lot of hard work and effort on the part of a web developer to make it happen. The idea itself isn’t worth anything without the sweat that goes into making it happen.

3. “Portfolio Building” Opportunities
This individual is pretending to be interested in your future career and is offering you an opportunity to build your portfolio on their project.  They are actually not interested in a website designed by an amateur, that is why they came to you, they want a quality site.  The first step in their mind is to convince you that you are an amateur who just needs some more experience and they are willing to offer you an opportunity to build your portfolio on their project.  Obviously they still have an expectation to receive a quality site, but they think that by convincing you that you are not worth their pay, you will still deliver a quality product in a timely manner.  They expect that you will be grateful for allowing you the honor of working on their site.

4. “Friends and Family” Freeloaders
This typically is not someone you would consider to be in “the inner circle” but rather an acquaintance that wants to take advantage of the relationship and what you do for a living.   They are opportunistic and take advantage of the family tree or the fact that you sat next to each other in a class once-upon-a-time.  Simply test their sincerity by asking them for a “favor” in return–payment for services rendered.

5. “Believe In My Cause” Charitable Contributions
Often these individuals think that they are on a higher moral plane than you and feel entitled to ask you to contribute your time and effort to their cause because it is the right thing to do.   They seem unable to comprehend hourly rates and just keep talking about their higher calling in hopes of your buckling under the guilt and doing the project for free.

These potential customers all have the same thing in common, they are bullies and somehow feel entitled to your work.  Once the project is underway, they usually see themselves as the “boss” in the relationship and will tend to micromanage your life from that point forward. The easiest way to say no is to hand them your (inflated) hourly rates and walk away.


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