The Big Three, Or: What Everybody Wants

Ah yes, the spectre of the Big Three. The great thing about having a blog is that you can write about topics that have been subtexts in meetings, but are rarely explicitly discussed. The hope is that another freelancer will read this and better understand their clients’ hesitation or even conflict. I suppose the greater hope is that anyone about to hire a freelancer will read this and have a better understanding of the anxieties coming from the other side of the table.

I talk here of three things that every client wants their website to be: Good, Cheap, and Quick! As in, “I want my site to be well done, but I don’t want it to break the bank. And I want it like, yesterday!”

Here’s the difficult truth that all freelancers have to communicate, somehow, to their client:

You can only ever have two of the three. 


You can have a good website, and it can be cheap, but you can’t have it quickly.

You would be amazed at the effect that WordPress, Wix and Squarespace marketing has had on your prospective client’s expectations. “A website in minutes. Free.” Nope! That is just marketing, people. A website, even a WordPress one, takes a minimum of 10 hours. And that’s not 5 hours one day, and 5 hours the next. It’s several hours of set up, then sending to the client for review, then making changes, then sending it back to the client, then adding more content…it takes 10 hours spread over at least 2 weeks, given each stage.

I have agreed to do websites for cheap for clients who have a long timeline. These are often non-profit organizations, who want to upgrade but don’t have the resources. These often end up taking a couple of months to design and create, and they are more-or-less volunteer jobs in the end. I don’t really recommend doing these unless you are really passionate about the cause.

You can have a cheap website, and it can be done quickly, but it won’t be very good.

It does happen. Sometimes clients say, “Look, I don’t really need it to be beautiful, I just need an online calling card, and I only have $500 to spend on this.” That’s fine! I’ve done sites like that and I will do sites like that. What is provided is always far better than the client expects. But it’s not fancy, robust, gorgeous, or informative for your customers. It’s a couple of pages, and it took about 10 hours to complete. And any business worth it’s salt will need to upgrade it and add more info in about a year’s time.

You can have a website quickly, and it can be good, but it won’t be cheap!

If a client has all their content ready — and I do mean ALL the content ready (yes, including high-res photos and link destinations) — most freelancers are willing to drop everything and get your site done asap. If you want them to set aside other clients and do a rush job, you have to be willing to pay extra for that. We are disrupting our workflow and probably working late into the night or early in the morning, so we need to be compensated for those sacrifices.

So, if you are looking for a freelancer and reading this, do a bit of thinking first. Decide if you are willing to spend extra for a rush job. Or, can you wait another month so that you can get your website within budget. Don’t come to the table expecting to get all three of the things you want, because it’s simply the rule of economics: you have to pick two!


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