Monday, September 9, 2013

Freelancer musings, zombie edition

What a long, strange eight months it's been since I last wrote in this space.  I've gained clients, lost clients, gone through personal things both good and bad.  Wow.

I first started this blog in an attempt to chronicle my journey from a dabbler to quasi-professional in the hope of helping anyone who faced similar frustration.  The funny thing is, along the way I've learned that there's no set definition for professional.  There's always more to learn, always things I can improve on.  I'm beginning to think that desire to go on the journey of self-improvement is itself professionalism, rather than any particular collection of skills or ability.

I've noticed, too, that my blog entries mirrored that transition.  They've become less about particular technical hangups and more about what it is to be a freelancer.  It's interesting to read through everything in one sitting and see the shift in perspective.

So, with that realization in place, I figure I should consciously shift gears.  While I'll still write about any technical problem or solution I feel warrants attention, I'm more interested in writing about what a freelancer should be, and how they should approach business.  I'm not an expert; The title of my blog is still more than accurate.  But I am a bit of an idealist, and I tend to have a good handle on what makes people tick.  I believe that if I/you/we can remember that we're dealing with people, with their own goals, limits, fears, etc., we can all come out ahead.

Like I've said before, respect and honesty are the cornerstones of any relationship.  That includes business relationships.  And I hope that any current or potential clients read this blog.  Not for my own sake, but so they can educate themselves on how to identify quality.


So, today's post deals with pricing, specifically whether one should set a price per page.  It was inspired by this thread on PHPFreaks, and you can see my immediate responses there.  Back in the old days - the late 90's/early 2000s - web designers often set their prices per page.  It wasn't uncommon to see something like, "$100/page, $500/site" back in those days.  And it worked for a while as most sites were just a collection of static HTML pages that didn't really do anything.  They just sat there and looked pretty.

With the modern web, that kind of pricing just isn't realistic any more.  For one, while users still view the web as a collection of pages, under the hood there's generally a lot going on.  Like pulling data from a database, or custom JavaScript that talks between the browser and server, and let's not forget those awesome custom graphics.  And even in the rare cases where it is literally just some HTML pages tied together, chances are there's a professional grade framework running things just below the surface.  Why?  Because clients like to add to and expand their sites, and the smart developer will have anticipated it.

For my money, price per page indicates that the person is either way behind the times, or they're a WordPress/theme installer.  The first option is one potential clients should avoid at all costs.  There's nothing wrong with the second possibility per se, but they're not really developers.

Like I've said in previous posts, a developer will do whatever custom work is required to get the job done, and communicate with their client and try to work out a pricing arrangement that makes both sides happy.  Creating a website should be a boutique experience for the client, one they're fully invested in emotionally so they can feel a sense of pride and ownership.

So, if you're not in a position to charge a lot for your services, don't.  But don't fall into the price per page trap.  It doesn't work.