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How Not To Get Web
|I get the
occasional web design lead from my website. I wanted to find a
company I could pass these onto. So I put an ad on a freelance
site. It specified the programming qualifications needed, stated
that the successful candidate should have good English, and was
for companies only.
The replies I got were enlightening. So much so, I made a list of things
applicants did wrong. Here it is.
I should point out I was initially prepared to give everyone a fair go.
After the first twenty-odd emails, my attitude changed. I was
looking for reasons to delete applicants. I only needed one
successful one; with 100 replies it was getting to be a
headache, so I decided a brutal approach was needed.
1. Failed to read the spec.
Many applicants couldn't write properly in the English language. Many were
individuals only. Result: instant deletion.
2. Failed to address the spec's criteria.
Applicants bragged about how great they were. Many copy-and-pasted standard
marketing guff about 'solutions' and 'partnerships' into their
To engage anyone's interest about a proposal you need to talk less about
yourself and more about the benefits to *them* of using you. One
of the first things I learnt about applying for jobs is you need
to show how you meet the criteria in the job description; see if
you can find the employer's wavelength.
3. Lots of jargon.
You quickly tune this out. Anyone dealing with web companies probably gets a
lot of this. Applicants should talk to the client about *the
client's* site and *their* needs, and avoid techno-babble.
Write an application letter. Leave it for a while, then edit it. Brutally.
Short punchy sentences, no guff. Talking convincingly about how
you can make the client money would be an attention-getter.
4a. 'Coming soon' client-listing pages.
You say you've done work for lots of clients, then put up a 'coming soon'
sign on the web page where your client list is supposed to be.
4b. 'Under construction' pages on your company web site.
This looks bad; something you'd see on an amateur's site. Another reason to
bin your application.
4c. Only put up pictures of sites you've done, rather than links to the
I'd have liked to see some working example sites. Pictures can be faked, and
they don't show background programming.
4e. No mention of your main web site URL.
Let us guess where your own site is (if you have one). It's more fun! I
tried guessing from the email address. After a while I didn't
4f. No hyperlinks at all.
Just a short email spiel saying "I am great designer, hire me". Next!
5. Using Yahoo.com or Hotmail.com for your email address.
A pro designer shouldn't use a freebie email address service. Basic web
hosting costs $5 a month these days.
I can conceive that a web designer might use a freebie account for some
special purpose, but your own domain name is a basic advert that
goes out in each email you send.
6. Bad spelling and grammar.
Western civilisation is doomed, if using SMS jargon becomes the standard way
to write to people. It doesn't impress old frts lik me, fr
strtrs :( Especially if you're looking for work where good
spelling and grammar are important.
7. Front-loading Flash designs.
I admit it, I don't like Flash. I especially don't like it when it loads
slowly on my broadband connection. I suppose it might impress an
ignorant client, who doesn't know the economic consequences of
having a Flash-heavy site.
8. Don't phone the employer up.
Unless they say 'canvassing will disqualify', 'phoning the employer is a
good idea. Why? Because geeks are famously introverted and
tongue-tied, supposedly. So if a web site designer can
communicate clearly over the telephone, that, coupled with a
good application, puts you streets ahead of the email-only
No need to jabber. A polite enquiry to establish contact will do. "Just
checking you've got my CV", that sort of thing.
9. Keep yourself mysterious.
Emails are impersonal. Anything that can establish you as a human being, a
person, a potential ally and friend, is good. It'll make you
more memorable. No need to jump out of a giant cake, 'though!
However, you have to fulfil all the other criteria as well. However great a
guy you are, if you're a Unix man and they want Windows, forget
10. Leaving unclear phone messages.
One chap left a phone message, in which he mentioned his site, twice, but
not his 'phone number. His pronunciation was bad, so I guess
I'll never know how good he was.
11. Too far away.
Most replies were from India, Ukraine, Romania etc. Anyone who was closer to
home (the UK) stood out. I mention it simply as a winnowing
Also, I needed someone who could land contracts from UK residents; good
English, written and oral, was important.
12. Give your rates per hour.
Forget that. You're not a lawyer. Web design jobs can be clearly defined, in
terms of time, work and software required. A definite price can
be agreed on in advance. It's called a contract. Otherwise, you
leave the client open to escalating bills, and yourself to
13. Delay applying.
The first few applications were more scrutinised. After that, fatigue set
in. After one hundred, only an applicant who seems a real
prospect would be given more than five seconds' scrutiny.
About the author:
T. O' Donnell (
http://www.tigertom.com) is an ecommerce consultant and
curmudgeon living in London, UK. His latest project is an ebook
on conservatories, available at
http://www.ttconservatories.co.uk.T. O' Donnell freeware may
be downloaded at