Pro bono websites

Posted On November 24, 2009

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I’m doing websites for my friends and family right now pro bono.  Figured I would get back into it to challenge myself and make good friends better. The problem with free websites is that nobody takes them seriously.  One of the sites is finally done after eight or more months of waiting for content. My Mom of course is stoked with her site, the progress and so forth. She has an excuse, she’s back to school to learn a new profession. She’s studying the marketing aspect of her business as well as the legal ins and outs and is truly devoted to a new career.  I completely understand that her site has to wait. But the rest want the site to be magically done it seems, and yet somehow getting content from them is like pulling teeth.

I’m just a web developer.  I can easily take a few sites that my clients like and mash them together to build a similar theme, navigation and features that are similar or even better. I can whip up flash banners and photo galleries, make cool textures and graphics, throw php templates together to house the content and make updating and maintaining the site easy, and even develop content and features that my clients didn’t even know they needed; Content on the other hand has its own twist that I can’t seem to pin down. To me at least, only my clients know their business and how to market it, who am I to write their about page and fill in the blanks?

I think deep down, this little quandary is what stops me from building websites professionally and charging for them. Is it just that because my clients don’t understand how to market themselves and understand why they need a website?  Maybe because it’s free they don’t really care?

I wonder how the “real design firms” put this stuff together? Its no joy ride. Any thoughts about how to squeeze content from your clients would be appreciated.


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