Problems to Watch Out for When Working with a Web Developer

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I’ve been a web developer for over 7 years now. I worked with all sorts of clients over the years. I treat all of them with the same professionalism and respect and produce the same high quality work for each of them. And yet, I’ve seen some clients be super successful and happy with their new websites. But, others just sort of crash and burn. So I thought I’d share some cautionary tales from clients that just couldn’t get out of their own ways. Maybe they needed a list of problems to watch out for when working with a web developer, it might have helped. Let’s learn from their mistakes, even if I think maybe most of them didn’t!

Cautionary tales from my web development clients: Here are some problems to watch out for when working with a web developer:

Let your hosting lapse/ not having back up files.

This one is rough, because there’s not a ton your web developer can do to help you. We can do a lot, but we can’t pay your hosting bill or make sure that you maintain your back up files outside of WordPress. And if you let those things go, it might be too late for anything to be recovered and restored. So make sure you stay on top of your hosting & domain accounts. Otherwise, you might end up rebuilding your whole site for no reason!

Using sketchy or proprietary hosting that keeps your files & data hostage.

I can’t even tell you the number of clients I’ve had that have had to completely rebuild their site. And all because their expensive, ‘full service’ hosting company wouldn’t let them transfer to a different hosting company. Once they have all of your stuff, it’s up to them if they’re going to unlock it and let you switch. Or, if they want to keep charging you exorbitant prices while holding your site hostage.

Fat Cow is one of the worst offenders here. But beware that website builders like Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace, etc. also have a similar MO. If you want to leave those builders, you’ll need to rebuild everything in WordPress. That can be a daunting task! I’ve never ever had a problem with SiteGround, though. They have always unlocked my domains and my clients’ domains and allowed us to switch freely to a different hosting company whenever we wanted.

Using a sketchy web developer that locks your files so that only THEY can edit them.

This is a variation on the one above. Some web developers (definitely not me!!) lock access to the website files. Or, they might just refuse to add users or allow others access to their own websites. They do this as a way of ensuring future work. It gives clients no other options but to go back to them and pay them any time they need any editing done at all.

We can debate on the ethics of this one, but it’s not something I would ever do. I strongly believe that if you pay someone to build you a website, it should be YOUR website to do with as you wish. And locking people into contracts or preventing editing access is just not okay in my book. Make sure you check that you’re going to be able to edit your own site (or hire another developer) in the future!

Finding a developer on Upwork, but agreeing to go off platform in order to get a cheaper rate.

Ufff, I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve heard this tragic tale. On the surface, it seems like a great deal: The client gets a lower rate, the developer gets to keep more of their earnings. (Upwork keeps 10% of all of our earnings on the platform). Seems like a win-win, no? Maybe in theory, but in practice, this goes badly a lot of the time.

Often freelancers will ask for a 50% deposit up front. This is because going off platform means they don’t have the protections that Upwork provides. So there are a good number out there who take advantage of this. They collect the 50% and then disappear, or do shoddy work. And at that point, there’s nothing the client can do. After all, they agreed to leave the Upwork platform and so Upwork cannot protect them or get their money back. I’ve worked with many, many, oh so many clients over the years who have had this happen to them.

Being super disorganized/ having too many cooks/ changing your mind

There’s definitely an element of not knowing that’s okay here. And a good web developer will help you figure that out as you go. But if you’re constantly changing your mind, it’s going to be hard for your developer to keep up. And your site is going to end up messy and be a nightmare to manage. If you’re naturally disorganized, it’s okay, but be open to letting your web developer organize things for you.

If you’re working with a team, make sure there’s one person who’s really in charge of working with the web developer. I’ve seen people waste tons of money on having me sit in meetings and explain the same thing over and over. Or worse, doing and then undoing and the redoing features, based on who was online to give ‘orders’ that particular day.

And I’ve seen startups waste tons of time and money because they just don’t know what they are doing yet. And that makes it hard to communicate what they want to potential clients on their website. Get organized, have all the meetings first. Then, appoint one person to be in charge of the website, and things will go a lot more smoothly.

Blaming your web developer for issues that are not under their control.

Your web developer can do a lot. But there are some things that are just not under our control. I had a client flip out on me because she didn’t like the way the images looked on her website. They were the images she sent me. I had offered to retouch them or to create new ones, but she did not want to pay me to do that. I suggested she hire a photographer or get a light box, but she didn’t want to do that either.

Instead, she just decided to be mad at me that the website didn’t look the way it did in her head. Because the pictures she took with her phone were dark and blurry and terrible. And guess what? The website stayed that way, because she wanted to blame me for things I had no control over. When instead, she could have listened to the solutions I was offering her to solve her problems. Sigh.

Not respecting your web developer/ being rude to them/ constantly second guessing them.

Yeah, obviously, no web developer is perfect and sometimes, there will be little mistakes or misunderstanding. But if you go in with an attitude that your freelancer doesn’t know what they are doing or that you have the right to treat them with disrespect, it’s going to end badly for you. I hope that with the emergence of the ‘Karen’ meme, that we’ve all learned that you don’t get what you want by being entitled and condescending.

One way this plays out is that the freelancer has to waste so much time answering you and dealing with the negative tone that the project just gets derailed. If I have to spend an hour making a list of every tiny little task I completed for a client, you’d better believe that the client is getting billed for that hour (true story).

All that time that you’re making them defend themselves and explain their work is just time being wasted that they could have been finishing your project. In addition, I’ve noticed that when clients are speaking rudely or disrespectfully to me, it’s very difficult for them to communicate clearly what they’d like to have done. So, more time is being wasted going back and forth trying to figure out what they want, when usually what they want is just to be rude and cause problems. It’s not a great way to get your website built efficiently.

Problems to watch out for when working with a web developer: Expecting your web developer to build a $3000 website for $300.

Spoiler, they’re going to get tired of you nickel and diming them and being obnoxious. And you’re going to end up with nothing. If you have unrealistic expectations, that can go one of two ways. Either you hire someone good, and they cannot get all of your tasks done for the cut rate amount you’re offering. Or, you hire someone cut rate and sketchy and you end up with garbage or nothing. Your momma was right, and you do get what you pay for. The best way to get the most bang for your website buck is to be upfront about your budget and make a priorities list with your developer. Then listen to what can and cannot be done for that rate, and then trust them to make it happen.

I hope this has been helpful! The vast majority of my clients are amazing and don’t need this list at all. But there are definitely some of us who can learn to get out of our own ways. If we work together more effectively and avoid these problems to watch out for when working with a web devloper, then you’re way more likely to get the website of your dreams and stay within your budget. And check out this article if you’re not sure how to choose a freelancer.

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