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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

My First (and Worst) Pitch

I got my first web design client after a recommendation and informal chat, so I didn’t have to pitch as such. But months later, someone asked me to join them in going after a web project for a local educational organisation. They wanted a site that featured a simple browsable database, a very simple enrolment system, and a small amount of self-managed content; nothing hugely ambitious, but bear in mind this was at a time when server-side scripting was more daunting and less common.

In the meeting we chatted about what we could do, they were really nice, and it seemed to be going well despite our makeshift material and inexperience. Then towards the end they asked about the cost. My associate had insisted that we should aim for a hefty profit, and a server-side developer had quoted us £10–15,000, so the grand total was around £30,000.

Their jaws literally dropped. One bloke turned pale and looked like he might vomit, before switching to looking more like he wanted to kick our arses.

“It’s… er… the server-side coding, you see, it’s expensive,” we awkwardly explained, repeating ourselves a few times to fill the awkward silence. Eventually they recovered enough to wind things up and usher us out in disgust.

It turned out they were looking to spend a couple of thousand; perhaps rather optimistic even with a cheap local firm, but our quote was ridiculous, inflated by greed and our uninformed view of the server-side coding as something difficult and mysterious. Anyway, I learned a lot about pricing and outsourcing, and although I’ll never be great at pitching I’ve not had a similarly cringe-inducing disaster since.


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