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What if my web designer quits?

Heather Steele's Layout avatar

I want you to imagine for a moment that you recently hired someone to build your website. You’ve already cut them a check for a portion of the work, several weeks have gone by, you’ve given them a great deal of content and gone back and forth about the project extensively.

And then, suddenly…

*cue lightning strike*

Your designer stops answering emails.

The calls to their cell start going straight to voicemail.

You suddenly realize that your designer isn’t going to call you back.

You’re halfway through a project, and now you’re stuck with a half-built website you can’t access and a great deal of wasted time and money.

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What if my web designer quits and just disappears into the ether – How do I get my website finished?

It’s a totally legitimate concern. What if you start a project and part way through your designer is just… gone. They stop answering the phone, never return emails, and you turn up at their office and the place is empty.

It could happen. It DOES happen. Web development is no different than any other service industry where sometimes projects just run out of steam. You’re not the only person who’s asked themselves, after the second or third unanswered email, “what if my web designer quits?”

Maybe you picked the wrong contractor (*ahem* trying to pay someone a little shady to save a buck or two). Maybe you got hooked up with someone who misrepresents themselves. Or maybe you just plain get swindled.

Unfortunately, many potential disaster scenarios are out there—that’s why you have to protect yourself.

Take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your business

There’s a very good reason why contracts were invented — a percentage of the population has no problem agreeing to do something and then moving permanently to another country. They’ve never asked the question, “what if my web designer quits” because they ARE the web designer who quits.

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Thankfully, we have contracts (and other methods) of compelling scoundrels and scallywags into fulfilling their end of the bargain.

Here are some of the methods we use at Blue Steele Solutions to make sure everyone’s derriere is covered:

  1. Put an agreement in place and make sure you understand and accept all the terms
  2. Trust your gut: work with someone you trust
  3. Check references! Speak with someone who has purchased a website from this designer
  4. Look at multiple examples of their previous work to make sure they live up to their reputation
  5. Leave something on the table by breaking your project into milestones with associated payments
  6. Have access to the project as you make payments (this one can get a little tricky, but see what you can work out)
  7. Most importantly, if your gut tells you something is wrong—if you even begin to ask yourself, “Is this person trustworthy? What if my web designer quits?” then GET OUT OF THERE

What if my web designer quits while working on a custom site? Here’s why using existing solutions is almost always a better choice

When you don’t need something that is truly 100% custom and built from the ground up (like a turnkey solution), you can save yourself some trouble by having your project developed on well-known architecture.

This method allows you to more quickly (and with far less expense) transition your project to a new designer in case yours goes missing.

Finally, if all else fails and the digital sky starts to fall, end the project as quickly as you can – save what you can save and get out while the gettin’ is good.

We love WordPress. We love it for more reasons than I can list here, but one of the top reasons is that it is WIDELY known, adopted, and supported.

If you get a fully custom site on some other platform (or no platform) and your designer bails, you could be SOL.

Somewhere around 25% of the internet runs on the WordPress content management system. If you start building a website on WordPress, and your designer drops out of the game, you will find—literally—thousands of people waiting to fill their shoes.

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Not only that, but you can always count on a WordPress website being supported by a community of designers for a very long time. Being supported means the technology behind your website isn’t likely to become old and unused over time.

This is especially true if your website is developed on one of the more popular parent themes, like Genesis (which we use for all our sites). Parent themes, in general, have a great deal more support than a random free theme you might find lurking about the WordPress repository.

If you’re still unsure about what themes are or how to use them, take a look at our post on how to pick a theme.

Beyond the CMS (content management system, of which WordPress is one of many), work with your designer to make sure any frameworks, themes, and plugins they use are well known and supported as well. At Blue Steele Solutions, we use the Genesis Framework. It’s one of the most popular and well-supported parent themes available. If we got hit by a proverbial bus, our clients would have no problem finding Genesis designers to pick up and finish the job.

What if my web designer quits and moves permanently to eastern Europe? Find someone familiar with the platform to finish the job

When you set up with a new designer, make sure you cover all your bases this time through—you don’t want to be caught holding your hat in your hand asking, “What if my web designer quits again? What if my web designer quits answering emails? What if my web designer quits answering phone calls? What if my web designer quits the country entirely and—

Stop. Just stop the anxiety train right there. Here’s how we prevent all that.

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First, check references—speak, either on the phone or in person, with someone who has actually bought a website from this designer.

Make sure that both you and the designer know and agree to the scope of work, and realize you may need to pay for some discovery—who knows what your mad scientist previous designer left lying around in your website. It’s very possible that your new designer will have some cleaning up to do. Be prepared to cover this expense.

Finally, keep the lines of communication open and flowing more deeply than the rivers of Babylon. (Ok, maybe not that much flow) but seriously, keep regular contact, make sure you ask questions when you are unsure, and give the project the time and attention it needs to be successful.

And if the project goes awry, you have some advantages if you chose a local designer to work with. A local designer can be taken to small claims court if necessary, so you have some recourse if someone decides they don’t want to play nice.

No business decision is without risk – you’re always putting yourself out there when you make any sort of large purchase. However, if you do your homework, trust your instincts, and keep it local, you can minimize the risk of damage and, hopefully, end up with a smashing little website.

We do all our work on WordPress, a system that is not only widely supported and adopted (like 20ish percent of the Internet), but that also allows you to easily maintain your own website, with a bit of training of course. We build custom sites for customers on WordPress, but we also build our affordable website solution, LaunchPad, on the same powerful platform. LaunchPad allows our bootstrapping customers to get the smaller websites they need now with the built in capacity to scale their website as their business grows. Learn more at launchpadwp.com.

Comments ( 2 )

  1. Carol Stephen

    September 20, 2015

    Thank you for answering my question. For some reason, this seems to happen a LOT with website designers! I've even heard of one who was "kidnapped!" <<Note the quotes. He may or may not have been truly kidnapped. Who knows?

    Carol

    • Adam Fout

      September 21, 2015

      You're so welcome Carol. This may just happen a lot with independent designers or developers—we would never disappear on a client!

      As for being kidnapped, perhaps the designer kidnapped himself to Cabo—I may have to do that myself one of these days ;)

      • Heather Steele

        September 25, 2015

        Um, you better not!

        Carol thanks for raising such an important question! It's something people worry about (or should if they aren't already). DO everything you can to minimize risk and you'll sleep so much better at night.

  2. Gary Kanevsky

    March 15, 2017

    So, I could use a bit of advice from anyone who can help.

    I met a lyft passenger who said he could help me with my website and make it more mobile friendly and a bit more modern. I had just taken over the catering company I was working for and was looking into making my already up and running website a bit more to date.

    The website was originally built 8 years ago. And could use some modernisation. So, we agreed on $1,200 to do/revise (kind of clean up the site a bit, make it look a bit nicer) the website. He knew I just took over the company and was on a super tight budget. He seemed very understanding. I had zero capitiol or savings in the company. I was starting from scratch.

    Anyways, I asked if I could make payments, and we agreed on $600 down and $600 in 2 payments once it was finished. I paid $600 to get things started. Then just 2 weeks later he asks for $300 more before he can finish. Plus $60 an hour for labor on top of the $1,200. And something about more money for additional pages, Which I had not even asked for. Which is not on the invoice/contract he originally sent to me. In the invoice he sent it says final payment ($600 making the total $1,200) is due AFTER the customer is satisfied, and the website was finished!

    No contracts were signed but I have everything documented in our emails. When he emailed me asking for an additional $300, he threatened to sue me for non-payment!?! This was less than 4 weeks after I paid the original deposit.

    So, It's been 3 weeks since his last email threatening me and 3 emails sent by me trying to figure out why all of a sudden all the hostility? And with no response.
    What should I do now? To be honest at this point I just want my $600 back so I can find another designer to do the job. Any advice on what I should do now?
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated! What are the chances I could even get my $600 back?
    Thank you in advance,
    Gary

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