Some People Just Want to Waste Your Time

Price points are a reflection of value. Set them too low and you attract the wrong people. If information is personalized free is almost always the wrong price. Some people will warn how little money they have, in spite of spamming for a half dozen sites in competitive high profit verticals. If they ask for services with the little or no money warning they are probably worthy of little or no attention.

Some customers will search for your old price or old offers on other sites and demand hours of your time and/or full refunds. No matter what you do that customer was going to want a full refund. You just have to determine how much of your time you want to give them for nothing.

Some clients have subsidiaries that will try to get free information out of you. If a company does not pay directly then they are not taking you seriously. To best appreciate this, it is worth noting that an advertising firm for a high touch fashion website (which tried squeezing free SEO information out of me) just emailed me an advertising request for advertising on Threadwatch. Could they be any more clueless?

Much of the free information also isn't worth listening to. Some platform speakers drone on about how everyone else in their industry is an idiot. If they hate themselves so much why are they still in the field? Why don't they move into a field they enjoy?

Published: June 6, 2007 by Aaron Wall in


June 12, 2007 - 5:30pm

You learn to qualify potential candidates. Not everybody can be my customer. Some have poor credit, others lack money, others motivation to pay.

June 12, 2007 - 5:30pm

You learn to qualify potential candidates. Not everybody can be my customer. Some have poor credit, others lack money, others motivation to pay.

June 7, 2007 - 8:22am

That is a hard issue. But in my little opinion I do not think (and sorta hope you don't think) that free information "isn't worth listening to".
Come on. Should I stop reading your blog because it is free? Should I stop going to the library and reading because I am not paying for it? Of course not.
The frustration you got seems to be motivated by selfish assholes. screw them.
Don't screw free advice though, how much did you pay for your parents to teach you not to cross a street without looking for cars first? Free info is valid. Assholes need only to be ignored.

June 7, 2007 - 8:29am

Hi Pat
My point was more that free information that claimed to be personalized and of value typically is not going to be good unless the person giving it is new to their field and naive to their value or just likes helping people even if those people generally just waste their time.

June 7, 2007 - 10:44am

There will always be two sides (and more) of one story. Some free content is good some not. At the end of the day the quality of that content is subjective, i.e. depends on the state of mind the receiver is in.

The point a lot of people in the business miss (mainly new people) is that like you say Aaron, there will always be freebie seekers, and those who ask for a refund almost always were going to ask for it right from the start - people like that dilute the value we provide...

Marketing Guy
June 7, 2007 - 10:55am

The ones that really bug me are the small companies with big plans but aren't prepared to pay to make their plans succeed. There is a limit to how far you can get for free before you really need to start forking out cash.

Personally I give away a lot of freebie SEO reviews to small businesses (mostly privately, but some on my blog) - my rule is that generally SEO can make a difference for them, but isn't so important to their business that they should pay for it.

On the other hand, I've had people ask for quotes for sites that had a national scope and would rely entirely on web traffic to succeed - yet went nuts at a 5 figure quote for a consultancy (which admittedly, I did overprice because I knew the guy would be a headache and there was no way he would fork out cash for something he percieves just to be "keyword stuffing")! :)

I think there is a lot to be said for giving some stuff away for free - in the UK (and I guess in every other country) there is a huge difference in the range of services offered by agencies / consultants (in terms of quality and effectiveness) - this is really harming the reputation of our industry and the anti-SEO crowd within the small business community is really growing because of this.

That's why I give stuff away for free - our industry really needs some reputation management. Of course there are the piss takers who are generally just idiots who don't have a clue what SEO is and expect something for nothing, but there are also a lot of businesses out there who are totally confused about SEO - some think they need it (and have been sold it by agencies and consultants) just to see no return - others have had it, been burned and now regard SEO with disgust (when good SEO could actually make a good difference for them).

A local business doesn't need to pay £10k over a year for SEO - they probably won't see a return (unless their service or product particularly lends itself well to web traffic) - on the other hand, an ecomerce site with a national scope can't expect to survive by reading blogs and forums (or begging for freebies). Sadly though, it is more and more the case that the former will pay for SEO (or rather, be *sold* SEO) and the latter will attempt DIY SEO.


mark rushworth
June 7, 2007 - 12:26pm

ive just moved to a new position in another firm having walked away from issues with my now ex business partner having successfully built that business by simply adding 50% on top of our hourly rate and itemising all work with associated fees whereas before we quoted "job = £xxxx"

clients were happy to pay more because they could see what they were getting, it also allowed us to steer clients away from things we didnt think would benefit them by raising the price of these aspects.

so my advice to you all is charge high and if the client doesn't want to pay then there will be another one who does. done chase pennies when there are pounds to be got! in the end, however much a client spends with you you usually end up spending roughly the same amount of time with them because they all go through a similar process.

mark rushworth
June 7, 2007 - 12:41pm

another thing to watch for is the following

"i just want a simple website that..." this means I HAVE NO MONEY BUT WANT SOMETHING COMPLEX


"can you just..." this means MAKE THIS CHANGE BUT DONT CHARGE ME FOR IT

June 7, 2007 - 1:07pm

The general market doesn't like you? They balk at the value you provide and expect it free? They want free traffic, day in day out, for next to nothing? They're pissed because you identified an opportunity before them, capitalized on it, and now want a return?

Wow, for a minute there I thought I was on a domain forum. Welcome :)

June 7, 2007 - 2:03pm

As someone who hires freelancers, one thing I can tell you is that I would never hire anyone who bitches about clients or potential clients, whether they are named or not, whether the criticism is justified or not, in blog posts or comments that pop up in Google, or anywhere else.

I think it's unprofessional. You just need to deal with this directly with the clients, but publicly you need to shut up.

June 7, 2007 - 2:15pm

Finding the right price to charge is very difficult to judge.

Some things I've learned:-

1. Don't charge too low thinking you're Mr Value For Money.

I've charged too low before and believe me, there's no better way to find time-wasters than charge low. There's a disrespect that comes with a low price, even if you're delivering a top-notch product (i.e. incredible value for money). No matter about the value for money, there's a negativity to low prices whereby customers treat you like you're a McCompany who can afford to charge low and they actually get more demanding!

2. Don't charge too High!

You don't need to charge the opposite either - charge too much and your customers feel they own you. They want value for their money in one way or another so they take up more of your time and will demand more.

3. Don't let your customers tell you what they want - tell them what they need (specifically for web design).

That sounds harsh, I know. But the amount of times I've had a client waffle on about some animation they want on their web page, or complex functionality that's totally unnecessary - all because they want it - not because they need it. Of course it's important to listen to the client and find out what their goals are - but you have to extract the necessary from the frivilous.

They need a professional image and exposure. This means clean design, SEO friendly site both on and off page, usability, accessibility etc. 9 times out of 10, it doesn't mean a Flash-only site with sound just because the CEO thinks it's 'snazzy'.

I've turned away clients who just won't listen or refuse to understand what their needs are.

Again, I know it sounds harsh but if I went to an expert, I'd follow his advice first and if what I want fits in with his advice, it's a bonus. If I don't trust the opinion of the person I'm hiring, I'm obviously hiring the wrong person.

Is 'the customer always right'? Look at the majority of websites out there - many of which indulge the wants of the website owner.

Just my two cents (sorry, tangential rant).

Tim Linden
June 7, 2007 - 3:53pm

Some people will buy something if they can taste what you have to offer free. They want to see if you are legit.

The key is being able to recognize if a person is in that category, or the waste your time category

June 7, 2007 - 4:39pm

Aaron, sorry for the totally off-topic question, but wasn't sure how to get this in here. You've been talking a lot lately about the "smaller is better" theme and how just adding a bunch of content to your site month after month risks diluting it, especially when some of it is crap.

Is there a systematic way to analyze a large site and identify the page that are being read as 'crap' by the engines. I mean it's possible to look at each one individually and make a gut guess, but is there a more systematic approach you would recommend?

June 7, 2007 - 6:50pm

Hi Aaron,

Sorry to contact you this way, but i dont have your email address.

I would like your help with a couple of projects i'm working on, but mostly i would like your SEO and business advice on

Do you still offer a 1 hour phone consultation for $500, as advertised on this page:

Many thanks for you time,


Andreas Moser
June 7, 2007 - 6:53pm

Hello Aaron,
sorry for the offtopic comment but I searched half an hour for a way to contact you and did'nt find anything.

I have a question about supplemental results and I really need some advice.

Please contact me at

Thank you


John K
June 7, 2007 - 10:43pm

Hey Aaron,

Sorry for the off-topic question, and even though I already have your email address, IM and phone number, I just wanted to post something here that's totally irrelevant JUST to keep the streak going.

I have a question about your golf swing. I need to know how far you hit a 5-iron? Into the wind. Carry only.

please contact me !


John K

Hamlet Batista
June 7, 2007 - 11:48pm

Ha, ha, ha, ha.

This is hilarious!

To keep the off-topic comments going. How was SMX?


June 8, 2007 - 12:07am

Well, I guess my only hope now is ... well, maybe there'll be a screencast someday or something. :)

June 8, 2007 - 2:31am


I disagree and agree with you. How did you learn about the basics of SEO? You said yourself it was by reading blogs, forums, etc. Granted a lot of what is said online is just noise, but it is all free and if you listen, there's an entire library (or internet) of free information that will make you rich.

Along those lines, Donald Trump wouldn't be loaded if he didn't haggle and bargain his way to the top. I give kudos to the advertising agency for trying to squeeze every last dollar out of you.

HOWEVER, if they are truly businesspeople, they recognize the value of a professional's services no matter what it is and should rightly pay for it when that professional shows draws the line and starts charging. You need to run a business too.

Don't undercut the poor guy too much. Every big business started with some guy/girl in a basement with a big idea and a knack for negotiation.

June 8, 2007 - 3:35pm

Hi Aaron,

Sorry for the off-topic question but I couldn't be bothered taking the 30 seconds it might take to get contact information.

I need your help with this pressing SEO question: which is better - strawberry SEO or chocolate SEO?

I've already discounted vanilla SEO because while it offers the versitility of going well with almost any sauce, I was looking for a solid underlying flavour on which I could eventually build a set of toppings like SEM sprinkles and PPC whipped cream.






June 8, 2007 - 7:45pm

Man Aaron you need a contact button somewhere or your phone # plastered all over the page. A little CSS I could teach you how to use it as your site background. :P

June 9, 2007 - 3:34am

Aaron, Everytime I read your book. I can't put it down. Its definitely years and years of experience and insight. Everytime I read a page I learn something I can use right away.

Thanks for the awesome book.

BTW, I had to spend around $10 ( in India its 500Rs which will fetch a meal for a family of 8 easily ) printing the book and spiral bound.

Why don't you get a publisher for your book?

Raja Sekharan

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