Why are you working for free?

RyanFor DevelopersLeave a Comment

First things first, it’s not lost on me that I previously wrote about not being afraid to work for free. Am I now contradicting myself? A little bit…

cheap-skateBut that article was intended for developers who are just starting out and in desperate need to build up a portfolio. This article is for developers who already have an established client base.

Let me start with an analogy.

Have you ever had a plumber come to your house, turn a wrench, fix the issue, and be out of your driveway in less than 15 minutes flat? Of course…

When you get the service bill, does it say “15 minutes at $60.00/hour = $15.00 due“?

Of course not.

In fact, the service call in itself probably came with a flat fee. All told, you forked over between $60-$160 for this quick service call.

Is this out of the ordinary? No. Are you getting ripped off? No.

plumberThe plumber has a service to perform and either a) you do not have the knowledge to perform said service yourself, or b) you like the convenience of someone else handling it for you.

So what the hell am I getting at?

Website maintenance, yes, including “small fixes”. Mobile updates. Browser updates. Theme updates. Plugin updates. Core updates. Some of these things can be complex… and some of them take about as long as it took that plumber to turn a wrench.

So why are we doing these updates for free? 

I’m just as guilty as the next guy as far as looking the other way when performing these sort of updates… especially in scenarios where it would take more time for me to generate the bill than it would to perform the update.

But as you build up your clientele, these “little updates” start to become a huge hinderance on your work-flow – at least if you’re trying to perform them in real-time, which is an easy/awful habit to get into.

“I’ll just do this one thing really quick, and then I’ll get back to website building.”

…then that “tiny” plugin update crashes the site, so now you’re in a completely different direction. By the time you’ve figured it out, you have 3 new emails waiting for you and a missed call to return… whatever happened to that new website you were building? Guess it’ll have to wait for tomorrow.

The Bottom Line:

You’ve spent years learning how to build websites, or learning the in’s and out’s of Wordpress. You know what good UX is. You know the fundamentals of SEO. You know that a good call to action has a contrasting color. You know a thing or two about website security. You know a thing or two about caching. You know how critical backups are. You know your way around Filezilla. You know how to spot a good (or bad) plugin or theme.

You didn’t learn this stuff overnight, so don’t let anyone take it for granted. Know the value that you’re bringing to the table, and never let it be underestimated.

You should be billing for all of your time. Set a minimum of a half, or full hour, for any and all maintenance. Not only is it fair, but it will also help cut back on clients who send you excessive revision requests.

The-Beard.com sums it up beautifully:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *