Episode 18 – Rishad Quazi Talks Lessons Learned
The very first tm interview show is with my good friend Rashad quazi Rashad is a web designer web developer in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a fellow Canadian. And today we thought we’d talk about 10 lessons learned when
doing web work for clients. And this came out of an offline discussion of a shot and I had and we thought it was so valuable. We’d love to share it with you. So please sit back, relax, enjoy the ride, as I talked to Rashad.
Hey everybody, Rob Karen’s here. I’m here with my good friend, Rashad, and we thought we’d have a good discussion about lessons learned in the digital marketing web design business. How are you today?
Hey, good, Rob. This is Rashad.
And, and I thought we’d get him nice. Take a minute and introduce himself and talk a little bit about what he does, how he does it. And what he’s doing online. Okay. Yeah, first of all, Robin, thanks for having me on. So my name is Rashad. I’m over in Vancouver, BC. So my story with the web is kind of interesting. So I started out way back in the day back in the 90s. With the I guess we’re calling it the early web nowadays, cuz it’s so outdated
or maturing that that is the proper way to
call it. Yeah, ideas, or web 2.0. Back then, right.
I’m not even sure when when web 2.0 came out. I’m told that there’s some
argument about what what exactly web 2.0 is for the internet superhighway?
Oh, yes, yes. Yeah. Thank you, Al Gore.
Yeah, so I started out in 1995, making very basic websites and clients were lined up around the corner for me.
And I did that for about 10 years.
And rounded off phase one of my web career building, ASP dotnet websites.
And then I moved to Seattle, Washington and started working for this little company that some of you might have heard of, but as a project manager, so I kind of sideswiped and moved into a different track. So I spent the next 10 or so years as a project manager
doing also ASP net stuff.
And a couple of years ago, I returned to Vancouver, BC, I’m Canadian, by the way.
I had a fair amount of money stashed away, not to brag or anything, but
I really felt that I wanted to get back to my roots. And so I started exploring and figuring out what would be the most sensible way to get back into the business. And it looked like this magical WordPress thing had taken over the web.
Though, that’s when I started
fiddling around with it, figuring out if that’s what I really wanted to do, or if I wanted to go to ASP dot, whatever version is the latest, I don’t even know anymore. But
yeah, I’ve started to get clients slowly filtering towards me. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today, I guess, is some of the lessons I’ve learned.
In past year and a half or so. Let the hard way.
That’s a really it’s really interesting discussion the hard way. And I think every agency owner, every Freelancer
every developer has been there. And you and I are both in several content groups and several web agency groups. And every day we pick it up. And somebody says, What about this? What about that? And there’s always five people said, Been there, done that. Here’s how you fix that kind of thing. Right? So we thought we’d have this discussion in this. This discussion kind of came out of a chat, Rashad and I had last week where we were sort of batting around some ideas that some stuff you were working on, right, if I recall.
Maybe here’s some things we should try to help make it a little better the next time. Right. So yeah, okay. Yeah. And just for everyone who’s listening in,
I put together sort of a bullet point, just to lay out a framework of stuff to talk about, because I forget stuff like that. That’s another thing that changes in 20 years of your memory.
Yep. I the same way, I’ve, I’ve got so much on the go that if I don’t write it down, right, don’t put it somewhere. I don’t do some gas. Yeah. So. So let’s get to the list. There’s 10. Good points, we’re kind of battling back and forth and see where we go. Number one,
you talk about never worked without a signed contract. Yes, I cannot stress this. Enough. Doesn’t matter what kind of project or work it is you are doing. Never, ever, ever work without a signed contract. Doesn’t matter if it’s for a friend or relative, or a legit business or a nonprofit, or your local church does not matter. You have a signed contract, saying no. In short, what it is you will do what it is you won’t do, how much it’s going to cost if anything. And
when you’re going to finish it by because project as a start and finish. That’s the definition of a project. Otherwise, it’s continuing process. That’s the big differentiator.
that will save you like trouble and heartache. right from the get go. Make sure you have a signed contract that everybody has signed off on, either electronically or with the good old pen and paper.
And that you both understand what the expectations are.
And I would go so far as to say not only sign off, because many of us use
electronic copies. So I know with myself, my office is paperless, I actually email clients by contract, it’s already got my signature on it, and say, Please sign it and send it back to me by email. I actually want I’ve gotten to the step where I require my clients to initial off every point in the contract. And I’ve done it at extense. So they say well, you didn’t slip in a piece of paper in the middle of it. You didn’t add to it. And then the other thing I would add is, and you sort of mentioned nonprofits in there, I would go so far as to say even if you’re doing a website pro bono for a charity, you should still have a signed contract. So there’s expectations made even if you’re doing it as a donation or doing it to help them I still think you need one in place to stop all the rigmarole as I call it. Absolutely otherwise, in my
hard learned lesson, you will get calls.
Like once or twice a week, Hey, can you add the this app? Can you
put us on Facebook? Can you add a shopping basket?
Do that can you improve our SEO?
app at that point you’re kind of morally obligated to
help them out. But if they if you had that signed contract saying no, this is not what I agreed to do.
up the river. No, no question and I would even go so far to tell listeners that if the contract is a large value, so my my run the fan of a large value of five figures 10,000 or more in my business.
Have a lawyer look at it at that point.
extra set of eyes is a good thing. And just note the cost of it if and when I thought while you’re looking at it and make sure you account for that in the contract value because and then your account
Even more, so you won’t get any legal house. Yeah. It’s a pretty good piece of advice. Yeah. So number two, don’t start to project work until payment has been made. Oh, boy, I like this one. What do you think about that?
Yeah, that, unfortunately, is something that I’ve learned the hard way and still kind of sort of learning. So the actual figure that you should charge is up to you. But my personal recommendation is no less than 50%. upfront, no questions asked. Unless you,
you you’ve had the initial call.
And the discussion about what it is you’re going to do you need payment. You need
Yeah, I have this thing called an appetite. And I have
I need to keep a roof over my head. So I need I need some money. Yeah, I mean, I mean, I’m, I’m gonna say my 50% is typical. Um, what I would say is, if it’s not a web project, so say, for example, it’s an an ad campaign, typical ad campaigns, or you charge a management fee, and then the client pays the ad spend, that’s pretty typical the way things go, I’d be charging 50% year management fee upfront. I would also go so far as to tell listeners, please don’t call it a down payment. Please don’t use the words refundable. callin coin, it’s an initial or a first payment towards the total balance. And I don’t like using the word deposit, I try to avoid that word at all costs. I’ll say it’s a first payment. It’s an initial payment. It’s a schedule payment has prepayment schedule, whatever you want to use, but don’t call it a deposit. Because deposit suggests they could get their money back. Correct? Yeah, that’s that’s an excellent point.
Yeah, one little
thing, which I’ve also learned the hard way is whenever you make a money transaction electronically, especially using things like PayPal, and whatnot,
you have to bake in the cost of the fees that money transaction is going to cost you. Otherwise, if let’s say it’s $1,000, you’ll only get 970. Out of that is true. 30 to $30. Doesn’t sound like a huge amount. But if you keep doing this as a continual practice, it’s eventually going to take a bite out of your burger money, you know,
or your slush fund to go buy beer or wine?
Or something like that, like Yeah.
Yeah, money is money. And
thankfully, there are a bunch of pretty good, accurate PayPal fee calculators out there. So you can just
and I would recommend to bake that into your contract. Also, that client is responsible for cash transfer money transfer fees. How do you take payments for
right now? I’m just using PayPal. Okay. Yeah, I, so a couple things I do one, we build in our agency, we build all the fees into the contract. So I look at it and make sure the 3% is accounted for. So I
I like the all in approach. So I don’t like to tell the client, there’s a fee, I just bury it and say, here’s a cost and I account for that when I do the pricing that’s open. The second thing we do is we actually don’t take PayPal payments. So the only pain pants I will take typically is either square which is Sq ua sorry, in front of me or by paying an invoice
besides square I’ll take cash. Cash is king still believe it or not.
I will take
any transfer in Canada we have electronic fund transfers, which most banks don’t charge for. And by the way, I don’t drop the price of the contract that they sent me the transfer doesn’t happen. And I almost never take checks but they do do some work for some political parties and they’re required by law to pay for check. So typically,
that’s how I take payments. Now fortune five hundreds I deal with it.
Couple there are a whole new ballgame making special rules, but they usually don’t have to worry about. So there. But the key is to be consistent and do what works for you. That’s the important.
Number three, always make sure that you retain the rights to these things. The website built by testimonials, recommendations, referrals and right to display screenshots.
That’s a tough one. So go ahead. Yeah, I have not had an issue so far. But I do you see it as a potential sticking point for some clients.
I fully understand that.
Clients should be able to choose that option. In which case, I think you should personally jack up the price. Yep.
But at a bare minimum, minimum, I think you should be able to get something in return. Yes, I would agree. I’ve got I know. Because the clients I deal with a lot of them don’t like that. But don’t give me a testimonial. So they don’t like the website done by just because of the nature of their business. And not that I’m doing anything aboveboard. I’d like it with some big companies, I deal with some people in tough business sectors that are potential hack attempts, believe it or not, so I’d rather not have that there to be honest with you, but and a lot of them don’t like their portfolios being displayed. But that said, If I ever need a reference or a testimonial, they’ll gladly do one. So you know, there’s some so you have to do what works for you on that one. I really think
that what’s a good point number four, and I love this one shot? Absolutely. set expectations and stick to them and set them early. What do you think? Yes, absolutely. And it kind of relates to what we talked about.
Point number one, regarding getting a signed contract and whatnot. Yeah. So
that’s, that’s basically
part of what number one is, is setting expectations and sticking to the for both parties. Yep. And one of the things you talk about in that is you say,
you say, also about non responsive clients. How do you handle that? Do you put a clause in your contract? Do you have a restart fee or penalty fee? If they go quiet? How do you handle that?
Um, that is kind of sort of a situation that I’m facing with a client right now. Okay.
And you’re here with it and refining your process would be a good way to put it? Yes, that is correct.
Okay, I’ll share with our listeners couple ways we handle that. I put a 14 day silent clauses in all my contracts. So the client goes silent for 14 days, and does not respond to an email for 14 consecutive days, the project is considered 100%, completed and finished in full, which means the paid final payment is doing full. That’s the end of it. And then if the client says after that period, they want to get going, as web projects typically is where this happens.
I charge a 25% restart fee up front.
So I need to hear the words up front. So the key is, if they’re gonna, because what clients gotta realize is just two ways to impact deliverable dates, one, the designer or the agency. Usually it’s not on that end. Usually it’s on the client send is when my experience, they don’t get you something. They don’t do something. Now, there’s always extenuating circumstances that happened, and no, she do one off case, right. So yeah, that’s kind of sort of the reason I’m giving this particular client some flexibility.
And after a good client, and they’ve been with you for years, I had one go through that last year, and he had some health reasons and he was in a position to get back to me, and I waived everything that was in the contract because he had been as a business he had been really good to our business. So you gotta you gotta assess those one at a time. Yeah. There’s a
give and take between playing hardball and softball.
Yep. And then the next one you say is set a hard time limit on meetings.
How do you go about doing that? And how do you run your meetings? Yes. So
my client is chatty. And part of that is because it’s He is also a personal friend of mine. Yep. And he tends to think out loud, and meetings that are scheduled for an hour or so sometimes run into hour and a half’s one time, two hours. Yeah. By the end of the two hours, my brain is just strike.
Yeah. And that’s no good for me. And
it sets a bad precedent.
Because then they’ll expect that an hour meeting
stretched out to two hours anytime they wish.
And the last time we chatted, Rob mentioned a very, very good idea, which I think I may implement in future.
Which is to say that you have a meeting coming up right after? Yeah.
At work, that works. The other thing I don’t do that helps is you always run over. So I don’t like booking back to back meetings, number one. Number two, I make my clients book their meetings with me. I mean, you and I did this over, when we booked this podcast, we booked over Facebook, but we’re friends, there’s no issue there, we are going to make our commitments. But I find if you get clients to book their own meetings, they almost always show. So they, in my case, I use, excuse me,
I use a service called appointment light, which interfaces with my Google Calendar, they just go in. And you’ve used that with me before you just go in your book a meeting. And the one thing I do when they book The meeting is I don’t automatically anymore have the system send them a zoom link, I do it manually, only because it means I don’t have as many choices in this system for types of meetings. If they say they want to zoom like I, I’ll just send it to them manually, which are fine for me. But that helps. I also set an agenda before the meeting. Often in the agenda, like we get for this podcast, you leave in separate notes and said, here’s the base for some notes of what we’re going to talk about at that time. So we we have a framework, framing the meeting out. And the other thing I really ask clients to do in meetings, is to take their cell phones, and I mean, mine’s on right now, but ignore them. Because they start doing other things and then you never get to. Yeah, that’s
really quite irritating to me. Yeah. I mean, you’re meeting with them. Show me some respect, right? Yeah. So that helps. Um, number six, swirl? Yes. Oh, have sure you have proper business project process management systems in place. And you and I know nothing about
project management. Right. So who are we that I just gave a? Talk about? You got project management background soda, why actually, and,
and things like, Can you say a 30 minute initial call and stuff like that? Go ahead and talk about that. Yeah. So before you even begin
getting into the larger projects, or medium sized projects, smaller projects, this might not apply. You just get them done in a couple of days. and off you go, bam. But for baking projects, I think it’s absolutely essential that you have your process in place.
Decide what your what steps you’re going to follow. This is this, this, I’m I’m old school, I like classic waterfall. I’m I’m cool too. So I’m, I’m open open to being agile and scrummy and all that good stuff. But in my head,
it goes from a to b to done to finished, tested. Release. That’s that’s how we go. And I would think it’s really important to have the client and there are exceptions when you deal with big companies because I do that too. So there you know for the purposes discussion, there are exceptions but small businesses is that the business follow your process and because if they’re working with you, I think it’s really important that they follow the designer the agency’s process, not what they think they want to do.
Yeah, so that’s that.
I know you talk about initial call
Little bit in your, in your documentation. And what I would say, too is, as part of my process and initial calls, I don’t do if it’s a web project, I don’t design the web, I won’t give a framework. If it’s an ad project, I won’t give them an ad mock up. And everybody says why. And I don’t like doing that stuff without a signed contract in hand. So if they want an ag mark, to see what I can do, or a framework to see what my agency can do, what I say is, oh, by the way, we provided the cost of 400 bucks. And if you then find the project, you can apply to $400 to the rest of the project. Because, yeah, that’s perfectly reasonable. Because once you set pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, that’s work. That’s actual work, and you deserve to be paid for that work.
evaluating your yourself, you are devaluing your profession, and devaluing all the other people in your profession. So that’s where we, we get we all know if you’re fighting the race to the bottom, it’s a question on price. It’s a question of how long until you’re out of business? Not? Will you survive, right? It’s just a matter of time. Yeah. So
that’s really good point.
Number seven, allow for some flexibility, but not too much. How do you find flexibility? And how do you work that out? And yeah, put that right in your contract? How do I define flexibility? flexible?
Yeah, I have not thought about how to bake that into a contract as much. I guess.
Like I mentioned in my, in our meeting notes, 5% is a good
In my opinion, yeah. In terms of free add ons, or upgrades, or
things like that, I’ll give you a hard example. So the project I’m working on right now, we had not discussed analytics. But
for the sake of good faith, and continuing business and giving, giving the client 110%, I’m going to pass in things like Google Analytics and
a couple of other tools to help them help them out the door to get running and be successful.
Kinda the way I we manage a data agency, we have a role that projects over $5,000. And that’s not uncommon.
The client has to put up with what I call a 20% change plan in advance. So the way the change fund works is, any change that affects the deliverable date of the project is subject to a cost.
When that 20% is exhausted, they’re not allowed any more changes or to replenish the cost of project that all said, there’s one full revision in there for free. So one big revision. But then if you come to me, and it changed, doesn’t have to be functionality, it could be
Johnny has a company called a manufacturing company. And Michael, his project manager, he fires today, and then the parachutes. His wife suing, well, guess what? That’s change.
And, believe it or not, even though it’s not a functional change, because you’ve got something new and you got bring them up to speed, there’s a time commitment change to that, whether people realize that or not, no, we have a policy, that major changes, there’s a cost involved. And nine out of 10 times what that stops is all the silly little stuff. Oh, I decided I want this red change to blue because my niece says that it’s a better color, or my niece would like pink.
It works really good. or, or, or that kind of stuff. And that’s the kind of stuff that actually bites you more than anything, right.
If you know what I mean?
Yeah, yeah. So we’ve a little bit of break up, but that’s okay. So, you know, it’s one of those internet days, folks, the pearls of technology. So, if you if you The point is you have to have a process in place to manage flexibility and change somehow. I love number eight by the way, always, always work exclusively on your own private state.
gin server? How would you handle that? And how do you tie that into your final payment for the project.
I will be in full admission, I have not actually done a private staging server to this point.
I’ve been in good faith with my clients so far. And as soon as it’s ready on my personal server, I had to hand it over and do a migration. And
because my clients are mostly not technical people, and I’m going to be up and running, and they asked, long, but
we’re not going to pay you the rest of the money at. Now, that’s not how it goes.
They wouldn’t know how to log in, they wouldn’t know how to make even simplest changes. So
I’m not too concerned about that is when my projects start to ramp up and get a little bit bigger, I do need to get this
concept of it as private staging server handed over, worked out properly. Now, in my in the investigations, every
post hosting service has a slightly different approach to how to set up a staging site server on their site.
Though, that is a little bit of a tricky issue. But there are certain tools that will help you migrate from one to the other. But having not tested them out. Personally, I can’t
say if they’re reliable or not.
The approach we’ve gone for web projects in our agency is we have a test domain setup that we use only for basically staging, we do all the work on a test domain.
We provide some clients with hosting, but we have other clients that we don’t provide with hosting, we will not make that website live until the final payment is made. And that’s actually in going back to number one, it’s in the contract. So until you pay your bill, your site’s not going live. If it’s the client wants to site on their own server, we won’t even do the migration until it goes live. Because at least if it’s on my server, I can pull the
I can pull the site. And there’s been some discussion there was one last week in one of the in agency Trailblazer the Facebook group, we thought was that one about people pulling site for non payment. And I always say to people, what does the contract say? You know, the business owner can complain, that’s bad business. But if he signed a contract saying if you don’t pay, he can you can pull site, pull the site. The other thing I would say is irregardless until that final payment is made. You don’t make you don’t give the client login access to the back end. So you don’t run into this whole technical thing. You don’t give the client any domain account. So if you registered the domain for the client, we’ve had cases where we’ve done that they’re in a separate account, we won’t turn that account over until the payment is made. It’s all about protecting your your business.
Yes. I mean, what happens if you don’t pay your rent?
Do you get free housing for a month? I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so. Either right way.
Yeah, it would be nice. Yeah. Well, you’ve done the work, you knew. It’s up and out in the wild. You need to get paid. Yeah. Oh, no, no question. But again, it comes back to the first point, the big one is what’s in your contract, right? Because you can always fall back. And I’ve actually had, I had one business owner years ago to me said, That’s bad customer service. I said, but you signed a document agreeing to that your contract. I said, so it’s not bad service, you should have thought about that for you sign that. That’s not my issue at that point. Right. So number nine, use the six w method or whatever works for you to establish the overall goals, people involved, etc.
So this is the
approach for those who haven’t used it before. It’s it’s sometimes it’s called the six or the five w plus one H. does ask basic questions like who what where, how, when and
Why I? Yeah. And those should be baked in right at the beginning, preferably in a
pre pre sales call form. So have them fill out a form, what’s your project about? What’s your budget, when you expect it to be done, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? And you have all your key stakeholders sign off on that. Before you move ahead.
I would agree.
If you don’t can answer those five or six questions, I think you’ve got a bigger problem than getting the project done at that point, right. And that’s what causes confusion. That’s what causes Oh, well, we thought the page should look like this. And we want to change it to something totally different, because you’ve changed your goals in the middle of it. And that is an issue. Yeah.
Yeah, it’s it’s when, in my particular case, where where your clients wants to go agile, but you are using either classic waterfall or consolidated waterfall, to compress things a bit. But they think, Oh, well, I don’t like this. That’s Let’s switch it around. I don’t like this either. That’s what’s around. No, sorry. Can’t do that.
Number 10. And I love number 10. Because Yeah, I can’t tell you the number of people that don’t get this Learn from your mistakes. And the isn’t that what we’re doing isn’t that the conversation that you and I had last week, this encompasses pretty much nine through one, if you don’t learn from those nine other mistakes.
Number 10 is kind of a moot point. You have to learn from what what went wrong.
During the execution of your project, from from the very first time you had your initial meeting, be physical, or by email, or whatever.
If you don’t learn, your processes will never improve. And you’ll repeat all the other nine mistakes that we just talked about. So true. And I would agree with that. I mean, you have to learn. I know over the years, even though for example, my contracts pretty sound, I’ve added stuff to it, you know, just stay out I’ve refined processes, I’ve streamlined things, we, we all do a bunch of things, and we’ve learned and we get better at doing it.
And kind of one of the things I’ve learned and studying and add an 11 to this list, is to make sure that the client has all rights to all material that they give you. So that’s all text, all images are there in the public domain. Because I ran into recently, a clause that my agency was doing. And the client actually provided text that they swiped off another website.
And they turned on even more. So I had been on the website personally.
Not one that the staff doing the work, realize, because I was looking at competitive stuff. And they stopped right out for competitors page. And I went back to the client said you can’t give me this, why don’t want to write it. And I said, so you have two options. You can either write it, or you can have me write it or you can pay a copywriter to write it for you.
And they kind of looked at me and said I won’t use that wording and I wouldn’t do it. I just said no. Because there’s liability to you as an aged shirt designer to if you knowingly use copyrighted material that’s not yours. Yeah.
cut this issue of at the past
for one of my recent projects, by alerting my client that any materials that they give me the need to do reverse image check
on and also go to the infamous Getty Images and there’s two subsidiaries shoulder Shutterstock and I stock photos. And maybe a couple more, but make sure that it’s not in their database, because Getty had is
quite insidious about coming up after people. Oh, no question. So if it is in their database, then I would even go so far to say prove to me the licenses you bought it saying you can use it
I mean, there’s there’s no, there’s no question.
So I agree gettys natori is someone that the biggest photo takers in North America and they, they come after people on a regular? And by the way musics the same. I mean, we all know copyright music in a video is a no no. And or video clips or loops or whatever. Yep. And any any kind of digital asset that the client gives you.
An example of that I’ll use is on this podcast, I actually add a trailer in a video, I’ve purchased the right to use that music. I have the license for it. So if I ever have an issue, I say, but here’s the license. Yeah. And software is the same, by the way. So the client says, oh, I’ve got this great premium plug in the save dollars that a friend gave me. I have a red flag that goes up right away and said, okay, and where did your friend give it? You know, or I have a premium theme. I’ve seen that. Oh, well. He found it on the internet on this really cool site? Yeah.
Yeah. Was it based on Sweden? Perhaps? Yeah. Or Russia or China?
And we, and we’ve all been,
we’ve all been through that. We’ve all been through that route. So
anyway, that’s, that’s great lessons learned. I hope some people can learn from Yes, we’ve talked about I’ve been through it, you’ve been through it. And every experienced agency owner, I know Scotia at some time or another has a problem and says, Okay, how do I fix this process? How do I help? What do I do?
If somebody would like to get ahold of you about a web project, how’s the best way to get ahold
um, the best way to get ahold of me is, quite honestly, through my Facebook page.
So right now, it is
just facebook.com forward slash rishad QRISH ad Q.
I didn’t. So if you’re if you’re doing Rashad is also in Vancouver. So if you want somebody local is a good picture, get a hold of and I’m sure you can help a few people out with some projects you’d like to write? Yeah.
I’ve worked with clients in both the US and Canada.
So that’s the beauty. That’s the beauty of working on a little bit of French. So a little bit cheaper.
Yes, that’s about the extent of where mine’s going. And I’m from Montreal. So there you go, folks. Anyway, everybody, have a great day, everybody. Bye for now. Right. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the STM interview show. This Podcast is a production of stunning digital marketing COMM The agency that can help you with your web design, or press security and digital marketing needs. Please subscribe to this podcast. This podcast can be found on Stitcher Radio, Spotify, Google podcasts, Apple podcasts, and more. Please don’t miss the next edition.
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