Your website design clients are not your friends.

Your web design clients are not your friends. How much do you pay people to hang out with them? You pay them £0. They pay me $0. Many of my friends want free websites. They pay nearer full price. Because that’s a different relationship: it’s a professional relationship. In a professional relationship, one person pays the other some money. That’s called a transaction. They don’t pay with smiles, and they don’t get a discount because we got drunk together school.

Here are the most common–and the most painful!–mistakes entrepreneurs make when they sell websites to their friends:

  1. They believe they have some kind of “interpersonal bank account”. Trust me: you might be keeping score, but your web clients aren’t. If you’ve been open for at least 3 years, I’m sure you’ve been dumbfounded by a web client’s emotional outburst over a rate increase or you not being available when they want you to be.
  2. They give “friends and family discounts” when they’re launching their business. When you’re starting out, the only people you know are your friends and family–who else is going to know you and your business? If they care about you, they don’t need a discount. My best friends wouldn’t take a discount if I tried to force it on them (yeah right).
  3. They say “we’re in the relationship business, not the website design business!” Nobody joined your business to strengthen your bond together or to make new friends – they want something for free. Do you? Probably not. Okay, new friendships and improved bonds might come later, but make no mistake: they joined because they thought you could help them with their business. That’s why they pay you money. Your relationship is a business relationship.
  4. They expect a tit-for-tat. “Oh, Mary won’t mind if I leave her website to answer deal with another client, because we’re friends.” But Mary isn’t weighing her free website or discount shakes against your absence. She’s thinking, “Another web design client is more important to him than me!”
  5. They think their clients will be grateful for a discount for every web design project. But that’s not how our brains work. Our brains recall and appreciate the novelty. The first web project, they’re grateful and thrilled for some mates rates. By the fourth project, that discount is normal. They think that’s the value of your service.