I'm angry and frustrated

I am sorry to say that my next book is born out of a frustration and anger at the prevailing attitude I see in the web design community.

April will see the release of my next book and podcast season. The book will be entitled “Client Centric Design” and introduces a different attitude towards working with clients, one that is in direct conflict with the prevailing attitude I currently see in the web design community.

I have just finished the initial draft and wanted to share with you the preface I have written. I feel it confronts a worrying trend that is making me increasingly angry and frustrated. I would love to know whether you agree. Post your thoughts in the comments.


I should begin by confessing that the motivation behind this book is one of anger and frustration.

I feel so strongly that I am departing from my normal habit of writing for website owners. Instead this book will be aimed squarely at web designers and the broader web design community.

The source of my frustration and anger is a growing attitude within the web design community that client work is a second rate choice.

Many are rejecting client work to embrace building web apps. This is not because they have a desperate need to build web applications, but rather as a way to avoid client work.

In itself I have no problem with this. If a web designer feels unable to have a good working relationship with clients and wants instead to work on web applications that is their decision. However, I do take issue when they imply that client work is in some way inferior.

I also take exception to web designers who treat their clients as a cash cow to fund their application development.

I love working with clients. I find nothing more rewarding than being dropped into a new organisation, in a new sector and wrapping my head around their unique problems before finding an elegant web solution.

I love working with clients in a collaborative relationship to produce something truly amazing and unique. I love solving real world business problems in a way that meets the needs of both the client and the target audience.

For me nothing is more fulfilling.

If you do not share my feelings, but are not yet ready to give up on client work, then this is the book for you. In these pages I seek to inspire and equip you to turn client work from a job into a stimulating, exciting and rewarding path that will transform your career.

Tell me when its available or download chapter 1 for free.

  • Personally, I very much enjoy the challenges and opportunities afforded by client work. But I’m also a creative person, and as such, I hope to do more of my own projects (apps, tools, sites, etc.) in the near future. 

    Working for clients necessarily means you are serving clients (if you’re not, what are you doing?), but creative people also have the desire to try things without those constraints, and that’s healthy and positive. I’ve found some of my personal projects have had a profoundly positive effect on my client work. And, many clients enjoy seeing my personal projects in my portfolio of work.

    Whatever the case, when I work with a client, I do so with respect for their challenges, and I try to deliver the absolute best product I can. That is what they are paying me for. If that payment allows me to do some of my own things, all the better.

  • I agree with your thoughts. I have had trouble understanding why so many designers think client work is a necessary evil. I think part of the problem is that they take on the wrong clients.

    As designers, empathy should be one of our strengths. Yet I do not see much empathy or sympathy as a lot of designers share about their “bad” experiences with clients.  I hope this book will cause many designers and agencies to think and reflect on their attitudes.

  • I agree completely, client work is by no means inferior. However at my agency we are at a point right now where we are considering developing a webb-application as a “creative outlet”. We have so many ideas that we never get the time to develop because we do so much client work. It has come to a point where we feel that we need to see at least one of them through to a final product. We see it as a chance to try something new, to learn and develop our skills and possibly to make money. I think it is only natural for a group of creative and talented people to want to work on their own ideas. 

    As i said, i do agree with you that client work is highly rewarding aswell. Like you mention, it is very intresting to learn so much about other businesses and to be able to help them achieve their goals.

  • Our agency also prides itself on the service we can provide to clients. We can’t all build and sell amazing applications, and the requirements to do so differ greatly from the ability to communicate effectively with a broad section of business owners, managers, and marketers to develop effective online systems for their businesses. Personally I don’t take too much offense at the musings of others about the merits of client work versus app development—I don’t believe you have to choose one or the other.

    The challenge of uncovering and then solving the business requirements of clients allows us to refine processes that inform our own internal projects. Those of us plying the trade for clients are providing an invaluable service that they can’t (and don’t need to) employ internally. At our best we help illuminate the gaps in their communication strategies and provide guidance to an appropriate solution. The mundanity of the everyday sees us helping business owners fulfill the simple obligation of communicating their services with our own. This is no small feat, just a different direction.

    And in the meantime, my kids need to eat! Looking forward to a complete read…

  • There are more and more solo professionals in the web design industry. As a solo freelancer, client work is not scalable, you only have a limited number of hours per week, and so, your income is also limited.
    Creating alternative income streams is an important way to grow your freelance business without “becoming an agency” – which many don’t want or can’t do.
    An agency can absorb more work more easily than a freelancer.
    Web apps, WordPress themes / plugins provide these addition “passive” income streams which allow freelancers to grow their business when they can’t absorb more client work.

    • Anonymous

      I have absolutely no problem with that choice. My problem is only when people those who choose otherwise.

      Paul Boag [ Web Guy, Writer and Polymath ]
      W: boagworld.com
      T: @boagworld
      M: 07760 123 120

  • For my part, helping clients is the primary source of fulfillment in my work. I have a very small studio in a very small town and for the most part I support very small businesses as my clients. 

    As you can imagine, my income is proportionally small compared to most agencies, but 90+% of my clients are sole proprietors who choose to work with me because they value what my design can bring to their business. That one-on-one relationship gives me the pleasure of seeing first-hand the difference my work makes to their bottom line, and the satisfaction of helping a friend to accomplish something they care about.

  • nattyman

    This looks great Paul.  I am looking forward to reading the new book.

  • This is really good stuff, Paul. Thanks for sharing the opening chapter. I think I spotted a typo in there on page 13, under the section about clients having valuable contributions. “Our,” should be are.

    Cheers! Look forward to reading more!

  • Amanda White

    Design is foremost about communication. Thus, it is about people. By avoiding people and working with them, we avoid tackling unique communication problems and challenges. In turn we may miss out on a brilliant new solution. That and it’s healthy to work with people and it gives the work more meaning. These are, of course, just my opinions.

    Love your blog, by the way. It is always very insightful.

  • This is sorely needed. Looking forward to it!

  • Hi Paul,

    This post (and your talk which I saw at DIBI) is a breath of fresh air. I worked in customer service training some years before I moved to web design, and if there’s one thing I learnt there is that the customer (or client) is ultimately the one paying the bill and needing a service, so their needs are crucial. 

    I always say to my clients that they know their business way better than me so only they can define what they need their website to achieve. My role is to work with them to build a site which will help them do that, and which they will be able to work with when I’m not there. The best work I’ve done has been on projects where the client is closely involved, has their own ideas and views, and where we work together to identify the best approach. It’s not the path of least resistance, but it does result in superior work.

    Thanks. I hope lots of web designers listen to you and stop and think before grumbling about clients!

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