I run into many small business owners who have played with a website builder from their webhost. When I tell them I'm a web developer, they think that all i do is use one of these builders.

They think I select a background colour from a dropdown menu, press a little button that says B for bold text, etc. If I can do something they couldn't achieve with their builder, they think it's just because I knew the secret of where to find the setting in the builder.

I'm having a terrible time explaining that what I do is more complicated and time-consuming, and that I can offer more than that. They don't understand why they should hire me. Then when they do hire me, they think that every time they ask for a change, it just takes me a minute to select some option.

How can I make them understand?

  • 1
    Completely computer illiterate people are often the most annoying clients to work with, period, because they tend to think they know everything and will dismiss any claims you make about programming. Remind them that you are the professional, and if they continue, leave them.
    – Amelia
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 12:50
  • If someone doesn't understand the value of what you do, you don't want them as a client. Period. It's not worth explaining to those that are unaware. Move on.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 17:13
  • I don't disagree with these sentiments, however - being able to explain complex concepts in a simple way - this is the mark of understanding.
    – ruffrey
    Commented Mar 19, 2014 at 17:50

5 Answers 5


I think you should put limits on the explaining you do. If a customer does not value your service for what it is, you will run into trouble and discussions later on. If you are a new freelancer there is always the temptation to take every customer you can but sometimes it isn't worth it. I speak out of plenty of experience, unfortunately.

That being said, use comparisons that they do understand.

  • Using Word (them), using a Word Template (the website builder tool), making the Word templates from scratch with macros, defined fields, layout (you).
  • Logo templates vs letting a pro make it: you can go to a site and choose a default and add some color (website builder) but you are stuck with the design the site offers. Instead, if a pro makes a nice, custom logo it looks much better and professional but it will be more expensive and take longer.
  • Putting together IKEA furniture vs building your own furniture: sure you can buy IKEA and follow the manual, but you can only use the nuts and bolts they provided or it will fall apart. If you make your own furniture it'll be more expensive and take longer but you can decide everything

Also, keep in mind that for some clients such a website builder may be exactly what they need. Some clients feel they need a web site because every one has one and no matter how hard you try they cannot be convinced of the added value. Send them to a nice website or hosting company that provides that service: they will be happy at first, when they discover they do need a real website they might come back.

  • Great points, especially about putting limits on the explaining. To make this even better, I'd add in the first paragraph a clarification that this could be a red flag that this isn't a client you want to have if they don't value you... +1
    – jmort253
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 17:54

I understand you.

i will give you two similarities

Just say them that web development is like playing a musical equipment like piano, every can make sound of it, but only professionals can make music out of it. Similarly every one can use tool and make text bold and other formatting, but only professions know how to do it properly to make a web page look good and function properly

Web development is like building a building, every one can bring the bricks and sand and put it in place but only professional know where to put each materials and what ratio he should use and stuff like that.

and for second part of your question if they think that you can do changes immediately tell them it is like building a home with several floors and if want to remove a top floor it is easy, but removing a ground floor will make the whole building to reconstruct it


He's a computer illiterate, not global illiterate person ;). First try thinking like that. Then ask him what he does in his life. If he's, for example, a construction worker, then explain to him by comparing to his work.

For example, I often explain estimation as house reconstruction. No matter how precisely I try to estimate, a water pipe can always break, or we can find bugs in woods, etc. Having such explanation in area which is familiar to your client, will make him understand everything. He will respect you for that and he will better understand your work cause he'll be able to compare it to his everyday work.


Give them simple bullet points. Use lots of examples.

  • You do marketing and design so the proper feeling gets imprinted on your customer.
  • The only way to make things pixel-perfect is to write complex code.
  • You think about the website in terms of the user's experience, much like a director and producer of a movie thinks about the flow and experience.
  • They are hiring you to them look good to their audience amongst other expertly-crafted websites.

If you can't explain complex concepts to newbies, then it's something to practice. You'll win more clients. People/clients tend to oversimplify what they do not understand. Your job is to help them, without berating them.

If they don't trust your expertise, then perhaps they are not a good fit as a client anyways.


You'd think dropping them would be the best bet, but I'd tell them that unless they had a handle on JavaScript, there is no way their going to integrate that shinny image gallery they've had their eye on, or to get that shopping plugin in their WordPress to look right and function the way they need it to without knowing PHP and HTML.

Hell, maybe they want a page that updates automatically without a full reload, how are they going to program all that AJAX unless they are expert? I'll tell you, they won't!

Bottom line: once you get deep enough into programming and you're processing a massive quantity of complex variables a split second at a time, you'll enter the cash zone and simultaneously lop off a majority of your competition by their ankles. But until you claw your way into this wavelength, you'll always be competing with little babies, your clients included!

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