How Not to Get Ripped Off by Your Website Designer

Getting a new website is something to look forward to.

Whether you’re building a personal site or you’re taking your business online, it’s exciting to create a new project.

However, there are scammers out there and you need to be aware.

Imagine talking with a developer over email and they present you with a nice portfolio and affordable pricing.

You go back and forth a bit, and eventually you decide to work with them.

They ask you for a 50% down payment, which is typical, and you never hear from them again.

Scenarios like this are all too common, but there are ways to make sure you don’t get ripped off by your website developer.

It’s important to make sure you work with a skilled web developer and that you’re charged a fair price for their services.

What’s fair will depend on your project and the developer’s abilities.

To avoid getting ripped off, here are 10 things you can do.

1. Ask your developer to break down the total, itemized cost

Ask your developer to break down the total cost

If you’ve never built a website before, you’re probably wondering how much it’s going to cost. Ultimately, each website project is unique, so it’s hard to find even a general figure to estimate your cost. However, once you start talking to developers you’ll get an idea based on your needs.

Experienced developers are good at estimating the amount of time it will take to complete a project, but as the customer, you won’t know what’s involved. Always ask for a breakdown of the total cost of your project so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Some developers charge an hourly rate, while others charge a flat-rate. If your project is complex, you can expect to be charged an hourly rate, at least for the more involved aspects of your project. Either way, request an itemized list of how the project is being billed.

You might get a simple list sectioned off by stages of development with a cost attached to each one. Or, you might get a detailed list. It depends on the developer and of course, your project.

While website development fees might look large at first, there is an enormous amount of time and effort that goes into creating a website. However, your developer should make you feel comfortable enough to ask questions if you don’t understand their web design fees.

2. Ask for previous work samples

On the internet, it’s hard to know who is a legitimate website developer and who is just trying to scam people out of their money. Unfortunately, there are people who pose as experienced developers and end up ripping people off.

Always ask to see previous work samples from a developer before signing a contract. Good developers will have previous work samples to share. People with limited experience and/or scammers won’t have much, if anything to share.

3. Verify previous work samples

Verify previous work samples

In addition to asking for previous work samples, you’ll also want to verify ownership of the work samples you’re given. This can be a little difficult if the samples are live websites someone claims to have built.

Anyone can claim to have built any website online, so you can’t take someone’s word at face value. You also can’t trust that a portfolio website belongs to the developer you’re talking to because some people use other people’s portfolios in order to get contracts.

Here are some ideas to verify portfolio pieces:

  • When you’re linked to a portfolio website, ask the developer to upload a custom text file with a custom URL you define. For example, ask them to upload a file called ‘hummingbird1973.txt’ with your chosen custom text inside the file. Once they do this, you can view the text file and know you are talking to the real owner of the portfolio website.

If the person you’re talking with has excuses for why they can’t upload a custom file, they’re most likely scamming you and they don’t own the portfolio site.

  • When you’re given live websites as portfolio examples, look in the footer for information regarding who built the website. You might find a designer or company’s name. If you do, see if it matches the name or company of the person you’re talking with. However, don’t take their word for it. If there is a website associated with the developer, ask them to upload a custom text file to verify they are that developer.

4. Ask for client references

Client references are one of the best ways to verify you’re working with a legitimate website developer. Ask your potential developer for client references and be sure to get an email address, phone number, and name. Don’t accept an answer that your developer will have their former clients contact you. That is a red flag.

When you get names, numbers, and email addresses, search for them online to find out who they belong to, and try to cross-reference them to a website. Then, contact them to ask them about their experience with your potential website developer. If the details don’t match, move to a new developer.

5. Get multiple quotes

Sometimes you’ll find a great website developer, but their fees will be sky high. However, you won’t know if you’re talking to someone with high fees unless you get multiple quotes from other, equally skilled developers.

Search around for several developers and get quotes for your project from all of them. Use price as part of your decision process, but don’t make it the most important factor. You really do get what you pay for, but also, that doesn’t mean you have to pay a fortune.

6. Ask plenty of questions

When you’re new to the process of developing a website, ask questions so you can understand the process more. You’ll want to understand the process as well as the services you’re getting for the cost you’ve been quoted. For example, ask the following questions:

  • What specific services are included in your services?
  • What website platform will you use to build my site? WordPress? Shopify?
  • Is there a monthly fee for the platform you’ll use?
  • How does the revision process work?
  • What will you need from me?
  • Will you create all of my legal pages, like my privacy policy and cookie policy?
  • Will you connect my email marketing forms?
  • Will I be able to edit my own content?
  • Will you show me how to edit my content?
  • Are you available for help afterward? For how long?
  • Can I call you to make updates?
  • Will I need to pay extra for the software you use?

These are just some of the questions to ask your developer before beginning your project.

Most developers are used to clients asking questions, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.

If you find your developer getting annoyed with your questions, it’s probably a sign to find a different developer.

7. Ask for billable hours on a flat-rate project

On a flat-rate project, it’s critical to ask for a list of billable hours.

Some developers charge flat rates for projects that take an absolute minimum effort.

For example, they might spend three hours building your site with a free template and charge you $5,000.

When you get an itemized list of billable hours, it’s easier to see whether or not the cost makes sense. For example, if you pay $5,000 for a five-page website and your developer lists 20 hours of work, you’re paying them $250/hr. Although some of the best developers charge that much, it’s too high for basic website development.

Asking for billable hours forces a developer to quantify the time they’ve spent working on your site and will help you identify scammers just looking to make a quick buck.

8. Verify their identity

Working with a website developer entirely online means you can’t meet them face-to-face to discuss your project. That makes it hard to get a feel for who they are and whether you want to do business with them.

When you can’t meet with a website developer in person, it’s important to verify their identity. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a copy of their ID. Once you have their name, run a search for them through Google and append the word “scam” to see if other people have reported them as a scammer. Do the same with their email address.

It’s possible that they might give you a fake ID or fake name and nothing will turn up, so you still need to be cautious.

9. Ask for their business address

Ask for their business address

Before signing a contract, ask your potential developer for a business address. Then, use Google Maps to find the building and look at it from the street view option. See if it looks like a real address or if it’s a place that doesn’t make sense.

If the address pans out as a real address, try to find out if they are a real tenant in the building. If the building is relatively small, you can find out what businesses occupy the space. If things don’t add up, or if you feel like something is off, move on to a different developer.

10. Work with a reputable website development company

By far, the best way to get the website you want from a reliable developer is to hire a professional website development company from the start. Skip the sites like Craigslist and Fiverr, and find a reputable development firm instead.

A professional development firm will have multiple designers and developers with varied skills, which means you’ll get the best of everything.

Need a website? We’ve got you covered

If you’re ready to have your website built by a professional team of developers, look no further. At, we’ll create a beautiful website you can be proud of, whether it’s for personal use, your business, or an ecommerce store.

Our expert developers can build your site on just about any platform using any theme, or we can create a custom theme for you from scratch. If you need any custom programming, we can handle that, too.

Contact us today for more information and we’ll help you get your ideal website in no time.

Timothy Carter
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