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After You Lose A Bid, Do You Bill The Client For The Demo?


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#1 eisenhower

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 06:37 PM

A client just informed me through a third-party that they won't be using my services for a bid I participated in. I feel sort of snubbed, since 1) I had no idea it was a competitive bid, gave a huge discount, and 2) I went to the trouble of creating a demo site - just a mockup in Fireworks with functioning links. I don't normally (need to) do this. Total damage for the demo site (accepting fixes from the graphic designer, re-incorporating that into the demo) was about 4 hours.

To complicate this matter (a tad), the developer that was picked to do the design copied my image map code (lol) from my demo site and used that on the final site. The final site is ridiculously bad.

Now, an image map - wow. I would never use that in the live site. And an image map isn't a huge amount of code. But this developer is using code they didn't write, that didn't belong to them in the first place.

The graphic designer I worked with feels ripped off for her part and is encouraging me to bill the client for my hours.

I have been on good terms with this client in the past and I did a big CMS for them recently, but I don't really enjoy working for the client at all.

What do you think I should do? Bill the client or forget about it?

Thanks for any advice/experience you can share. :disco2:

Edited by eisenhower, 06 February 2008 - 06:39 PM.


#2 projectphp

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 06:46 PM

I am not sure you can legally bill a client unless you have a contract with them for the work. However, if they used your design, you possibly have other recourse.

The question you need to ask yourself though is this:
What is the ROI on chasing this?

Lets say you are charging out @ a large number, like $250 an hour, four hours is still only $1,000.You spend anr hour chasing them up, and then another, and then another and they still don't pay. Then what? Pay a lawyer? What will that cost? Seems to me that, even at a really high charge rate, you are likely to be chasing your tail, and can probably make more money by doing something else.

However, if you just send an invoice and let it go, then your time is minimal, but so are your chances of collecting :)

That makes the likely return on your time pretty low, and worse, it will probably add stress and hassle to your life that you probably don't need.

Is all that worth it for four hours? That is the context of the decision.

Personally, I would just let it go, and if the client ever asks for any more work, they will simply have to pay, upfront, your new, twice as expensive charge rate :)

#3 kulpreet_singh

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:01 PM

Bill the client or forget about it?


Short Answer: Both.

Long Answer: "Set it and Forget it."

Edited by kulpreet_singh, 06 February 2008 - 07:02 PM.


#4 Respree

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:12 PM

A client just informed me through a third-party that they won't be using my services for a bid I participated in. I feel sort of snubbed, since I had no idea it was a competitive bid...


I reread this over and over again and am having trouble reconciling the two sentences. If you gave a presentation, the only thing that exists is potential work. Otherwise, a contract would have showed up at your door (or you would have simply been asked to provide one).

I think its very reasonable to assume that if you are giving a presentation, so are others. If so, each firm will do whatever it takes to prepare the presentation and bid in order to convince the potential client that theirs has the best value, while fulfilling their requirements. The one's that are not selected, of course, eat the cost of preparing the presentation. Normally, this is just part of the cost of doing business. About the only exception I can think of, and this highly unusual, is that if both presenter and potential client mutually agree that the cost of this presentation is $_____.

However, it does not sound like this is what happened.

I'd say forget about it and move on.

Edited by Respree, 06 February 2008 - 07:13 PM.


#5 bobbb

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:22 PM

Bite the bullet.

#6 Ron Carnell

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:25 PM

I agree with Garrick. Unless they specifically told you HOW to give your presentation, the steps you decided to take to try to make the sale were that and no more. Image a door-to-door salesman giving you a 15-minute spiel and then, when you politely tell him no thanks, he hands you a bill for 15 minutes of his time?

Marketing is simply a cost of doing business.

#7 projectphp

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:33 PM

But if they steal your design...

To complicate this matter (a tad), the developer that was picked to do the design copied my image map code (lol) from my demo site and used that on the final site.

What then?

#8 EGOL

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:45 PM

A client just informed me through a third-party that they won't be using my services for a bid I participated in. I feel sort of snubbed, since 1) I had no idea it was a competitive bid, gave a huge discount, and 2) I went to the trouble of creating a demo site - just a mockup in Fireworks with functioning links. I don't normally (need to) do this. Total damage for the demo site (accepting fixes from the graphic designer, re-incorporating that into the demo) was about 4 hours.


Bid: That is the key word. It was not a contract.

I had no idea it was a competitive bid: It is a mistake to assume that the client will pay whatever you ask for whatever you want to deliver, whenever you decide to do it.

Huge discount: Maybe your prices are too high? Or, they really liked the other person's work.

I don't normally (need to) do this. I think it was a good idea.

Total damage.... was about 4 hours. I don't think it was damage. I think that it was tuition.

Bill the client or forget about it? If I was you I would send the client a nice note, thanking her for inviting you to submit a bid, closing it pleasantly with your hope that they will consider you for future work.

Marketing is simply a cost of doing business.


Simply said.

#9 eisenhower

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 07:53 PM

Wow, thanks for all the replies.

I reread this over and over again and am having trouble reconciling the two sentences.


Sorry - that first sentence should read "...unknowingly participated in".

Normally, this is just part of the cost of doing business. About the only exception I can think of, and this highly unusual, is that if both presenter and potential client mutually agree that the cost of this presentation is $_____.


According to the other people I work with, that's just "how business goes" around here.

I'm about ready just to mail the thing off and be done with it. The only question remaining is, "will I ever work for this client again, under any circumstances" and I'm thinking - hey, it's a small town, so maybe indirectly...even though it's not fun to work for her, why burn a bridge...

Personally, I would just let it go, and if the client ever asks for any more work, they will simply have to pay, upfront, your new, twice as expensive charge rate


I'm liking this answer a lot. In fact, I'm thinking I'm out of the compete-on-price game completely.

Image a door-to-door salesman giving you a 15-minute spiel and then, when you politely tell him no thanks, he hands you a bill for 15 minutes of his time?


I'm sensing two camps in web design and creative business in general, because I work with some designers who would *blow* their top to read that. :) Here are the two camps I sense:

1. Focus on giving them a good price for a decent site. Sign away all your rights to the client, no B.S. about rights transfer. They pay if they use it, not if they don't.
2. Focus on giving them a fantastic site, state of the art, for a high price. Client pays based on exposure, high/low profile. Client is billed for all contact from the get-go. Sort of like the GAG book-type people.

In my experience, group 2 seems to make more money at this stuff. I say that in as unbiased a way as possible. I grew up with a dad who was in group #1 and my mom always tried to convince him to raise prices, act like the other businessmen. Even the other businessmen tried to convince him :D

#10 EGOL

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 09:33 PM

I have a lot of respect for people like your dad. I think that his method will earn repeat business and satisfied customers.

#11 bwelford

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 09:48 PM

Hi eisenhower

I was dictating my reply when I noticed Egol had responded. So perhaps I can preface my remarks with my own take on this which is that the labourer is worthy of his hire. In other words you should get paid what you're worth. I believe it is always wrong to use price as a marketing tool. You should deliver full value to a client and if anything charge a premium price.

On the problem you pose, I hope my thoughts are not too late. I'm certainly in tune with most of the views expressed above. You should only work with customers where you enjoy the relationship. The world is full of potential particularly on the Internet so move on. You don't need your old client.

Then there is the question of whether you can recover anything from this situation. If the other designer is using your design that is an infringement of copyright. You would need to check with a lawyer in your own legal jurisdiction, but most often you have the copyright even if you didn't say so.

So I would write a letter to my old client expressing my appreciation for the past working relationship. My second paragraph would then indicate that my demo design was my own copyright. If they wish to use it there are fees attached to that, which you are willing to discuss. Failing that they should not use it, since there are legal consequences of infringement of copyright.

I think it's important to get your mind around the notion that you do not wish to do business with this client again. That is unless the client shows that they really care.

Edited by bwelford, 06 February 2008 - 09:49 PM.


#12 Respree

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Posted 06 February 2008 - 09:48 PM

I think most people will run their business based on their personal philosophy.

There will be many Tiffany's of the world, as well as McDonalds, with many different flavors in between.

I don't consider any one better than the other, just a different strategy and way of looking at what they believe will deliver optimal results.

#13 sanity

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 12:36 AM

One thing that hasn't been talked about is designing on spec. I agree with the others that spending x hours pitching to prospective clients is all part of business and isn't billed. However I would never create 'mock-up' type work as part of this. I feel providing free or demo mock-ups undermines the value of your work.

Perhaps next time do a bit more due diligence before starting. You may be out some money but these types of business lessons are invaluable IMO.

#14 send2paul

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 03:54 AM

If it's really worth the money and the hassle...... why not give them a call and go through, (some), of what we've discussed here?

It's good to talk :)

Edited by send2paul, 07 February 2008 - 03:55 AM.


#15 A.N.Onym

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 05:13 AM

I'd think a www.no-spec.com resource should be useful for those, who give out free mockups.

Off Topic offtopicTruth be told, though, I can't stop not "working on future prospects" in awful current conditions. Maybe, when it concerns humans, I give them the benefit of the doubt and it all starts again?

Then again, certain gruesome clients do have certain traits. How do you prepare yourself to not working on the spec or for potential future gain?

Edited by A.N.Onym, 07 February 2008 - 07:06 AM.


#16 DrPete

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 12:15 PM

I have to agree with the sentiment of EGOL and others: this is a cost of doing business. Unless you were clear about this being consultative (and billable) from the beginning, the standard assumption is that an early discussion and demo are a marketing cost that you're willing to eat.

I'd like to add that, while good word-of-mouth takes a long time to build, bad word-of-mouth is easy to get and hard to undo. Even if you're right and you were taken advantage of to some degree, you've got to ask yourself if it's worth a couple hundred dollars to upset a client and make yourself look bad in your market/niche.

I had a former sales manager (that we took far too long to fire) who we found out wrote nasty letters to or otherwise went off on every prospect that he spent time and energy on but didn't close. He'd tell them why they were rude and ungrateful and how they were stupid for going with our competitor. It took us almost two years to undo the damage he did. Of course, I'm not saying that that's what you're doing; just illustrating the dangers of the extreme.

#17 Robert_Paulson

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 12:37 PM

Eisenhower, I think you've been presented with lots of good ideas here. Since you already have a relationship with this client, send2paul's advice seems excellent. Sometimes the difference between a good client and a bad one is your (in)ability to properly train them. When they've been made aware of your value and know what to expect in the project creation process, they will already understand when you expect payment and for what services.

It's true that you have no legal grounds to go after money you feel you deserve. That doesn't mean you can't send them a bill. For the few times I've tried that in my business life, it's never worked. And as drpete points out, you risk creating a negative pr campaign for yourself in the process.

But I still like send2paul's advice - give them a call. Explain that someone else is using creative that you made, and it only seems reasonable to be compensated for it.

Or maybe explain that you know the other designer was using work that wasn't his own, and that you don't blame the client, and should that relationship with the other designer ever sour, you'd love to have them back as a client (if that is in fact true). If the work is as bad as you mention, they may already be experiencing buyer's remorse and want to find a way out. If they do, and this client is difficult to work for, make sure to charge more for your efforts this time.

Good luck!

#18 bobbb

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 12:57 PM

To complicate this matter (a tad), the developer that was picked to do the design copied my image map code (lol) from my demo site and used that on the final site.


This just occurred to me about your statement above. There is a program called Server2Go that allows you to create a website on a CD. You give this CD to a client as a demo (It self starts an Apache server). Now if the client gives the CD to the other guy and he uses it then that is theft of IP. Now that invoice may be in order. If it's on the Internet then anyone can copy the ideas.

#19 tam

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 02:45 PM

I wouldn't bill the company for quoting, but I'd bill the other designer for the use of my code :D

Tam

#20 rynert

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Posted 07 February 2008 - 03:59 PM

Just thinking - did you do the whole demo site on the back of already doing the CMS site for them, i.e. you 'assumed' that they were just giving your more work as they had been happy (presumably) with your CMS work, and this was just more work, on the same rate?

#21 DianeV

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 12:59 AM

I think it's important to ensure your agreements are in place before you output something of value. And, as Sophie said, not to invest time in designing something on the off chance that you'll get hired.

Here's Zeldman's Don't Design on Spec. It's a good read.

Unfortunately, it sounds a bit like you may have been led to believe that you'd be getting the job before you put in the time. If so, it's not a very nice situation.

Edited by DianeV, 09 February 2008 - 01:01 AM.


#22 Feydakin

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 02:00 PM

Personally, I'd make a quick, polite, phone call.. Thank them for the opportunity to work with them and hope that you have an opportunity to work with them in the future..

It is very likely that when you gave them the demo, they assumed that you actually "gave them" the demo and that they were free to use it as they saw fit.. This is why we don't do demos.. We have plenty of clients online that they can look at for reference material, there is never a reason to go out and create something new in the hopes of getting new work.. Well, if it's your first ever job there may be..

#23 projectphp

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Posted 09 February 2008 - 09:18 PM

It doesn't matter what they think: that is theft (in a literal and legal sense). However, what you do about it isn;t, IMHO, straight forward, and you need to consider the time, effort and risk/reward of pursuing any action.

#24 jdickson

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Posted 17 April 2008 - 08:12 AM

Bite the bullet. There could be opportunities down the road for business with this client and you do not want to "burn the bridge"



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