An Open Letter from a Small Business Owner to Freelance Web Designers

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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Dear Freelance Web Designer,

We need to talk.

As you know there are around 30.1 million of us here in the US. I know that after reading that your mouth is probably salivating.

The harvest is ripe for the taking! Right?

Hold on a sec.

I feel like there’s a disconnect between you, the freelance web designer, and us, the small business owners.

It’s like some times we’re sitting in the same room and you’re talking. But, you’re speaking a totally different language.

And, listen, I don’t want to offend you. But, I think it’s time I addressed the elephant in the room.

Okay, honestly, it’s more like there’s a herd of elephants in a small bathroom.

I really wouldn’t be a good friend unless I told you that you’re missing the mark on a few things when it comes to doing business with me.

So, grab a drink. Pop your feet up and let’s have a chat.

Every Dollar I Spend is Precious

I don’t know if you knew this but half of us used our own personal savings to get our businesses going.

You can imagine how tough that was right? We had to have “conversations” with our spouses about how this was a good idea and that we’d get the money back and then some, one day.

Let’s just say we slept on the couch a few nights after those “conversations.”

So, I’m sure you understand that every dollar we spend on our business is incredibly precious to us.

We have to make sure that what we spend money on is actually going to help move us forward.

In other words, if you don’t make me more money than I pay you, you’re not worth it.

And, you can’t just tell me to trust you. You need to show me how you helped someone just like me make a lot of money from the things you did.

Don’t have the data on previous clients of yours?

That just tells me you’re not that serious and you don’t care as much about my money as I do.

If you want my business you have to prove yourself.

You’re Not the First One to Reach Out to Me

I’m sure you listened to some marketing podcast by Gary V and started working on some strategy like DMing 1,000 small businesses a day.

And, listen, that’s fine. Honestly, I love me some Gary V.

But, you’ve got to realize. You’re not the only one doing that. I get so much spam every single DAY.

If you don’t stand out I will legit ignore you and not feel bad about it. And, to be honest, even if you do stand out I’m likely to ignore you.

That doesn’t mean I’m not interested.

It just means you can’t get your feelings hurt and give up if I don’t respond to you instantly on your first try.

You’ve got to be a big boy or girl and keep trying even if I’m not into it at the moment.

And, listen, I’m not annoyed. I realize I need to pay other people to get certain things done. I’m only one person and I can’t do everything for my business.

But, you’ve got to work harder for my attention than the average marketer if you want me to interact with you.

I Have 1000 Competing Priorities. Why Should I Give You the Time of Day?

I’m sure you think that having a new or redesigned website is worth every penny. But, I’m not so sure.

In fact, I have 1,000 small fires that I need to take care of before I even think about you.

Just last week my roof started leaking and 3 of my employees came in high.

One of them was my teenage daughter which is a whole other set of problems ??‍♂️

You can’t just assume that I understand what kind of value you bring to me and my business.

So, show me.

I’m guessing you’ve spent more time thinking about website stuff than I have. I mean at least I’d hope so!

Tell me why it’s a good idea to let you redesign my site. And, don’t just give me softball answers like, “because everybody needs a website.”

You don’t think I know that?

I need you to know my business intimately. I need you to understand the in’s and out’s and be a little more informed about why the website is a bigger priority than the dishwasher that just broke.

I’m not saying it’s not. I’m just saying you need to help me see how the value in a good website is more important than the other things I need to make sure I’m taking care of.

I Won’t Know How to Communicate the Way You Would Like me To

I hear how you guys get frustrated when people like us give vague instructions or feedback.

I’m not living under a rock. I see the memes.

I get that I don’t know how to communicate in a way that’s super helpful for you and I actually feel bad about it.

Believe it or not, I’m not trying to make your life miserable. I just haven’t learned the things that you have about web design.

You’ve spent tons of time figuring out how to express yourself when it comes to this stuff. You probably have a bit of pro-level training under your belt.

But, I haven’t.

So, you have to help me communicate to you in a way that’s helpful. Ask me questions that draw out what I’m really thinking. Give me examples that help dial in what it is I’m looking for exactly.

And, if I’m not making sense, you’ve got to speak up. Don’t just assume I’m trying to be a jerk. Have the guts to tell me what I’m saying doesn’t make sense.

But, do it in a way that isn’t condescending or rude.

You’re the professional here after all, right?

I Actually Feel Your Pain

At the end of day, I’m a lot like you. I have clients that I have to figure out how to please. I have deadlines that I have to meet and invoices that haven’t been paid on time.

I’m not trying to make your life harder. I’m actually trying to give you a shot. I want to see you succeed.

But, I need you to feel my pain, too.

I need you to see things from my perspective if this is going to work out in the future.

And, I know it will. If you’re smart enough to figure out things like JavaScript or the freaking Google Analytics dashboard then you’ll definitely be able to figure out how to talk to me.

I’m in your corner but I need you to be in my corner, too.

Thanks for Letting Me Get These Things Off My Chest

I hope this wasn’t too abrasive.

I know you’ve got things in your personal life you’re figuring out along with everything else you’re doing with freelance web design.

But, I think these tips can actually help you.

Remember I have to be really careful about what I spend my money on. You can’t just reach out to me like everyone else does. You have to show me why I need your services in the first place.

You have to help me communicate to you in a way that makes sense and at the end of the day I know where you’re coming from.

Get those things settled and we’ll be on the path to best friends for life.


A Small Business Owner

Man writing a letter


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



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