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Social Media: Web Developer and Agency Ripoffs


I am always a bit shocked when I see the prices big companies pay for bespoke sites – hundreds of thousands of dollars usually. Millions in some cases. I’ve seen quotes to my client from a big agency for $20,000 to move an email address field from the bottom of the page to the top. I kid you not. But that’s big companies with big Agencies. What about little companies using sole trader web developers?

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‘Cos it really gets my goat when small sole traders get ripped off adding minute things to a site.  “A whole reworking of the site which will cost you plenty $$$$” – to add a Paypal button! That was one I heard last week –  and the developer had added a Google blogspot blog to the self hosted site rather than WordPress.  Now Blogspot is fine if you want a hosted blog but selfhosting? Ok, maybe that is personal choice – yuk – but a paypal button costing thousands of dollars? I don’t think so.

$30,000 to add ubercart or opencart or some other shopping cart plugin, so the woman (student) can sell a dozen CDs. Not a sophisticated setup. WordPress comes with shopping cart plugins and even something bespoke shouldn’t be 30k.

We had a giggle at another teacher’s expense on the weekend – she paid 8 days development work for a … Facebook Connect badge . I’ve paid a fortune for a wordpress blog theme… that turned out to be a free one. How about you?  Ever got sucked in?

Anyway I’m in the mood to be Shocked! Outraged! Dismayed! Saddened! and so on. Come, tell Auntie SilkCharm your tale of woe. You can just call them Agency and Client if naming/shaming/sueing isn’t on the agenda for the afternoon.

And if you’ve had a fabbo experience, please share it. @karenmarree – met her on Twitter, she did an awesome job with my own transfer from blogspot to wordpress.

Laurel Papworth

Named by Forbes™ Magazine in the Top 50 Social Media Influencers globally, named Head of Industry, Social Media (Marketing Magazine™) and in the Power150 Media bloggers (AdAge™). CERT IV Training and Assessment certified trainer (Diplomas and Certificates etc) Adult Education. Laurel has manager Facebook Pages for Junior Masterchef, Idol, Big Brother etc. and have consulted on private online communities for banks Westpac, not for profits UNHCR & governments in SE Asia. Lecturer, social media, University of Sydney for 10 years and Laurel has 11,000 online students. Laurel Papworth personally connects to 6 million followers online and has taught around 100,000 people in the last 10 years how to be social media managers.

36 thoughts on “Social Media: Web Developer and Agency Ripoffs

  1. I’m glad to say that I didn’t get ripped off before, but I used to work for a big Agency that did charge big money. I do think that big Agencies overcharge sometimes, but I sometimes think it’s a big PITA (pain in the ass) markup because some clients can really be that way.

    I’ve since left the industry and now I help small businesses learn to DIY (as much as they can) to save money and to empower themselves to take ownership of their online marketing and social media.

    1. Good for you! 🙂
      We should get capes and superhero outfits for those that ride in and save small businesses from making mistakes. And yes, I agree, big business get a PITA tax, but I hate it when small business get a TSTK (Too Stupid To Know) tax.

  2. We’ve been fixing 30k tiny, static, lifeless agency websites for years. A couple of years back it was pretty typical for me to receive design files from agencies to code. At times it would be so unpractical we’d literally have to redesign it.

    The worse was this one time (band camp leave me!) an agency sent me a particularly unfriendly design, I was a baby designer then and gathered up the courage to tell them in a tiny voice you can’t have a menu ONLY in the footer of a website because you know .. people won’t see it. The exact reply I received was “you are our web designer thanks but we’re in a hurry and can do without time wasting comments” it went live with a menu only in the footer they were charged 40k for that from memory, a 5 page brochure website with a very shy menu. These days I let rip, its worked out well (if well means we don’t work with many agencies any more 😉

    thanks Auntie Silkcharm I feel much better now.

  3. Oooo….that stuff makes me MAD. As mad as I get when I hear about media sales reps who convince some poor small business to put the entire budget into a 30 x 30 campaign of mid-dawns, or $5000 a year on an ad in Yellow Pages. I’m helping a small biz at the moment who has, basically, just a shopping cart site….Can’t seem to convince their web-provider that things like CONTENT may be beneficial (Current quote $1800 for a blog to add to the shopping cart site). Then there are the so called SEO experts….oh don’t start me….

    Let’s get those capes designed. Or maybe Joi can do a little badge that we can run on our sites….Our pledge not to bullshit small business and to protect them from the aseholes.

  4. How about losing a client to a Queen St design co, that charged twice what I did and got a 10% stake in the company… for doing the updates for “free”.

  5. All these stories make for entertaining jokes, but it is up to the client to research the best agency/quote to fit their budget. Honestly! If you agree to pay 8 days dev work for a Facebook connect badge, should you really be in charge of business decisions of this nature?

    1. Many clients are in marketing or have a small business – managing email is about the most they do. It’s particularly annoying when it’s the digital strategy agency quoting these prices, the very ones employed to “make business decisions of this nature”.
      But yes, the humour is “now we know” – the price of learning! 🙂

  6. Firstly, thank you for the endorsement, I very much appreciate the free marketing!

    Secondly, to the actual message in your post. Absolutely I couldn’t agree more. I work mostly with 1-3 person businesses who are novices to WordPress, Social Media and internet systems in general. Unfortunately I see travesties every day. Definitely not the end clients fault, they took advice from “experts” without knowing how to qualify that advice.

    I’ve worked on developing systems for government back in the old days, the multi-million dollar projects, but these days small businesses have so much access to open-source tools which can be gained for free, some of the pricing going around turns my stomach. Of course, the downside of open-source “free” systems, is they must be researched, tailored, and don’t always work as advertised, so some assistance is usually a good idea to work these projects to ensure an end product which gets the job done.

    There is the flip side, where clients think they can get a superb quality job done for $5/hr, that can definitely be a case of “you get what you pay for”.

    As always, we live in interesting times.

  7. Out of the box and open source solutions often don’t fulfill functional specs and a bespoke e-commerce solution can easily take months to build – I don’t think I’d ever quote under $20000 to build one. Not every company can depend on PayPal for processing either.

    1. Sure, but it’s a matter of the amount of work vs the price that is the ripoff… $30,000 for a 2 page site to sell 6 dvds is a ripoffffff. Quarter of a million to put up ONE blog and a forum is a ripoff. 15 million to provide a social network to a few thousand sick kids is a ripoff.
      I have no problem with $20,000 and upwards to place complex ordering and payment carts etc. But selling six dvds on a page for a hobbyist is $30,000? Nah.

      Happy to see that those willing to stand by their work/prices linked to their sites in their Commenter Name… 😛

  8. yea that sounds ridiculous. for our long term clients, we bill them hourly. adding a paypal button takes between 10 min and an hour, depending on the site. should not cost more than $100.

    This comment was originally posted onSocial Media Today

  9. @Marc-Oliver I was brought in as the online communities strategist to rebuild the site with more social elements. The build was going to take 3-6 months so the client asked the incumbent digital strategy agency to ask the developers to move the email field on the current site. They insisted on it being a chargeable item and when the quote came in, the client asked me to look it over to see if it was "reasonable". I didn’t think it was. @Emcee I agree. One of the issues is that large companies get ripped off because they "have the money" and small companies get ripped off "because they don’t know what they are doing". Rather a dangerous strategy in today’s climate of transparency and peer reviews.

    This comment was originally posted onSocial Media Today

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  13. Irony alert!
    When writing a piece about rip-offs it’s generally not a good idea to illustrate it with a cartoon you haven’t paid for. It would only have cost you a couple of dollars to license it through Cartoonstock. It’s not much – & it’s how I scrape a living.

  14. Can you send any clients that pay $30,000 for two-page website my way, please? Oh, and how about not stealing other people’s work. You should write about cheapskate scam artists who thieve copyrighted material – you know more about that, after all.

  15. I agree with Clive and Dan, I’d expect Cartoonstock to be sending you a strongly worded email pretty soon, asking for the licensing fee for the cartoon by Goddard that you’ve used without permission. Pretty basic stuff for someone who advises others on how to use social media.

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