For the past few months I've been doing a lot of freelancing projects for people for little to no money. I figure it looks better on my portfolio if I make stuff FOR other people, rather than just making random websites and applications.

Now, I don't want to seem like a downer here. But let me just say this so you know where I'm coming from: NEVER EVER WORK FOR FREE. But you probably already know that; you're probably smarter than me.

A lot of people seem to think you can just ask a charity or small business if they need help with a website, you start from scratch, and build the perfect site for them. But it hardly ever works that way. In my experience, 99% of the time they already have a website using a do-it-yourself tool like Squarespace or Wix. Now, my job is not about coding, it's about explaining to them why those files can't be modified, why they have to pay for a different host, and why I need their secure information so I can set up their paypal on the new site I create.

So I guess my question is, how do I explain these things to my clients? And in a polite manner? I feel like I've really backed myself into a corner here.

  • 1
    I seriously tried to make sense of your question, but couldn't. It is about claiming money ?
    – user4521
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 10:23

2 Answers 2


This is really just an opinion-based answer. But the question is also really just purely opinion-based as well.

I'd send something similar to....

Hi [client],

[service x] is a closed environment. [service x] makes their revenue by locking out certain editing capabilities and serving the same overall structure to every customer. While some visual, or front-end, alterations are permitted to allow a sense of customization, most, if not all, back-end or development editing is either restricted or hobbled a great deal or simply not permitted.

In order to achieve what you wish to accomplish, I must be allowed to edit both the front-end and back-end portions of the web site. Unfortunately, because [service X] is a closed environment it will no longer meet your needs if you wish to implement x, x, x or x. So, to facilitate your desired changes, a standard web hosting account is needed. Standard web hosting accounts freely offer the ability to edit both front-end and back-end content unrestricted.

Here you can insert a paragraph explaining the size of an account which will be needed, perhaps bandwidth limitations, etc. - but be careful not to be too technical, clients don't generally care if the server supports PHP5 or is a *nix server, etc.. Then explain your hosting rates or recommend a service. Related: How to setup client ownership of domain name and hosting

Once a hosting account is established, I need to be able to access the services to implement your desired features. It's common practice to provide the web designer/developer with log in information for technical aspects which are needed.

Please feel free to let me know what areas regarding the above you are uncomfortable with. I'm happy to discuss things in greater detail. It is not ever my goal to request or implement anything which I don't feel is warranted to facilitate your needs.

Thank you!

  • 1
    hmm.. why the down vote?
    – Scott
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 1:12
  • not sure why this was downvoted. I actually used a lot of what you said to communicate with a client and it helped. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 23:55
  • In this scenario, I think I'm just going to drop my free clients. But I'm selecting this as best answer because it'll help me explain certain things to paying clients as well. Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 0:01

I don't think you're taking the right approach at all. Let's draw an allegory to flush this out.

Say you were skilled at baking, and wanted to be a professional baker. What you're doing now is the equivalent of approaching restaurants that might sample and later purchase your baked goods, and allowing them to convince you to spend time learning to make soup instead.

If the client has no need for YOUR services, move on! You can't be an expert at everything.

  • This is the best route to take. Lesson learned. From now on I'm not doing anything for free (unless it's contributing to an open source tool I use). Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 23:58

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