What Do Web Sites Have in Common with Furniture?


Photo: Kia Abell

Ever have this happen?

You get a new prospect who wants a web site. You send a proposal.

Then you get a call saying they don’t want to pay your rates.  Now you have to justify your freelance fees.


Because they (or their neighbor’s nephew) made a template site on Yahoo! or Network Solutions in 4 hours. They never made a site before, but it was sooo easy. And they can’t understand why your estimate for making one was 6-8 weeks.

Or, you send them a quote and they call complaining that you’re charging $5,000 for a site when they can get one for $12 a month when they sign up with Yahoo! or any of a hundred other do-it-yourself hosts.

Chairs by Ikea? Or by Frank Lloyd Wright?

Explain to them that a template web site is like an Ikea chair. It’s all pre-cut, sanded, packaged, and polished. It comes with instructions. All you have to do is put the pieces together. Ikea makes thousands of them, all the same. They save costs on volume, and on passing the assembly time and labor on to the consumer. Perfectly fine, if that’s what you want.

One of Many? Or something unique?

A “real” web site, however, is more like a custom-built piece of furniture. The designer starts with the wood, and then creates a site that is unique. Instead of pre-made pieces, you can make the arms bigger, or straighter. You can add claw feet, or change the straight back to a Windsor back. You can pick oak instead of pine. Use a dark stain rather than a light one.

Rearranging the furniture

And, if you decide to move the chair from the living room into the dining room, nobody can stop you. A template site can’t be moved. The design, the colors,, the whole thing is the property of the host.

If you outgrow your house, you can buy a bigger one. If you outgrow Yahoo! small business, have a disagreement, or want features Yahoo! doesn’t have — you’re stuck. They own the design, the images, everything. You don’t.

Explain that your work is customized, special, and unique; they’ll understand why it takes longer to produce and why it’s more valuable.

If they don’t, you probably didn’t want them as clients anyway.