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Hiring a Professional Designer

This is an HTML-only excerpt from The Internet Escort’s Handbook Book 2: Advertising and Marketing from pages 224-234. Copyright (c) 2008 Amanda Brooks, all rights reserved.

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And now, the excerpt itself…

If you have no HTML knowledge and want a good Web site fast, a designer is the way to go.

Get the cost factor out of your head now. Some designers produce very good work for moderate prices, but they’re rare. Most good designers know their worth and charge for it. (Just like escorts, right?) The problem is, unskilled or mediocre designers often think they’re good designers, and charge good-designer prices. As with everything in life, you can’t rely on price as a gauge of quality.

You need a designer who is willing to work with adult material. Many mainstream designers won’t touch adult sites of any nature. Some will, but they don’t post it on their portfolio. If you find a mainstream designer you really like, go ahead and politely ask if they’ll take on your project. True professionals will respond in a professional fashion, even if turning you down.

There are plenty of designers who are escort-only or who mix mainstream and adult work in their portfolios. This makes finding a good designer fairly easy — you can directly contact the escorts they’ve worked with and find out what the designer is like. The easiest way of finding a designer is to find an escort site you like, and ask the escort who her Web designer is. Sometimes there is a link at the bottom of the site, other times you have to write and ask. Hopefully she won’t mind giving a referral for her designer.

If she designed it herself, you might think of asking her to do your site. This generally isn’t a good idea. Creating a site requires a lot of time, energy, and constant communication. She may turn out to be unreliable, or she just may not have the free time. If she doesn’t consider herself a professional designer, don’t try to make her one. There’s a reason she doesn’t want to pursue this path. Trust her judgment.

You can also find designers on CraigsList.1 Don’t just look in your city; look in San Francisco, New York, San Jose, Seattle, or Austin. Skilled Web designers advertise all the time, usually at lower-than-average prices. The market is teeming with designers. You could also try (a site for freelancing professionals).2 You can search through profiles or create your own project listing.

Questions to Ask

One of your first considerations in dealing with a designer is: are they discreet? You need to be able to make payments and communicate without compromising your own security. Ask them about their procedures and policies. Get it in writing. Ask them how they store client data. What information do they require from you? If it’s too much for your taste, will they make an exception if you pay X amount up front? (This works only if your offer is higher than their normal deposit amount.) Can they purchase a domain and hosting for you? If so, how much does the service cost and can you get the contract in writing?3 What will they do with your files after the site is done? What about your pictures, especially if you request blurring or cropping your face?

If the designer has built escort sites before, they’re probably familiar with your concerns and should have standard procedures in place. If this is new territory for them, expect a lot of back-and-forth and questions.

As discussed earlier, is the designer trying to steamroll you into buying a certain hosting package through them? Are they willing to work with whatever Web host you want? They’ll probably make recommendations. Read and compare the plans, then make your own decision. If you make a decision that’s contrary to theirs, will they still work with you? If the designer is that inflexible about hosting, they probably aren’t very professional, and you should take your project elsewhere. True professionals can work with whatever you give them. There should never be any extra fees for working with a host they don’t like.

Does the designer seem reliable? Are they able to give you an estimated working schedule? How long have they been in business? How long have they been building Web sites in general, escort sites in particular? What do their former clients say about their reliability? Do they get back to the client within a business day? If something unexpected happens while building a client’s site, does the client get a lot of excuses or does the designer simply get back on track?

Do they have a lot of attitude? If you already have a Web site, do they say your former designer was full of crap and didn’t know what they were doing? (I find male designers frequently have this attitude.) Do they bad-mouth their competitors or clients? Are they always ready to tell you how much you really don’t know? Or do they just say their approach is different from their competitors in certain ways and leave it at that? If they realize you’re ignorant of certain Web concepts, do they take the time to teach you or recommend resources so you can educate yourself? Do they seem to be generally positive, or volatile, unstable, and ego-driven? Are they nice but maybe a little less skilled, or not as professional as you’d like?

Are they able to build a site using standards-compliant HTML/CSS? For maximum SEO, you really want your site to be built using HTML/CSS. A designer who hasn’t kept his or her skills current is probably not who you want building your site.

Do they know what SEO is? Are they able to build your site as optimized as possible? Or is their idea of SEO simply to submit your site to search engines? Do they recommend bad SEO tactics, like writing lots of hidden text on your page? After this section, you’ll know some basic SEO techniques,4 and can tell if you’re dealing with an informed professional, someone who is out of date, or someone who doesn’t have a clue.

How do they react when you tell them what you want done? How do they react when you try to explain to them something they don’t know, such as good SEO techniques? A professional follows up on any information you provide and researches it independently. (A true professional is always current in the field.) If you get childish reactions from the designer, it’s time to look for a new one.

Ask what other services they offer. Many offer photo retouching services; some offer Web-writing or editing services, or can refer you to other service people when you need something beyond their field of expertise.

What do their Web design packages include? If the offer is “five pages, twenty pictures, one Links page, one contact form, submission to search engines — $800,”5 then keep looking. Many escort-oriented designers charge by the page. Mainstream professional designers don’t charge by the page, but by time or complexity. Should you be treated differently just because you’re an escort? (These designers see you as a money-making opportunity, not as a potential designer-client relationship. Not very nice, is it?)

Regarding complexity, if you want to use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress to run your entire site, it will take the designer some time to create your unique template and make sure everything works. After that, you can create your own pages at will. If you want a site that has e-commerce capabilities, a members’ section, and a number of public pages — all in PHP — expect to pay a lot more than an escort who only needs ten basic text/link pages, a simple gallery, and one appointment form in HTML.

All designers use a template, whether they create it (expensive) or use a premade one (less expensive). Creating new text/link pages is a matter of opening the template page, adding the text, and saving it as whatever page it’s supposed to be. Once the photo gallery template is created, adding photos is a matter of coding them in. Adding links takes a little more time than writing/editing text, but not much more. Creating a form can be time-consuming, though using a form template and customizing it is easy. Adding a blog is easy; customizing it is time-consuming. Creating a password-protected section is easy. Creating an entire members’ section and integrating the billing process is time-consuming.

Most of what you’ll need for your site is easy because a Web designer does these things on a daily basis.6 What you’re really paying for is their creativity in designing a site that is uniquely yours. That’s worth it. Paying $75 for every text/link/photo page over the first five is not.

Does the designer try to hustle you right from the start? Or are they honest about what they can and can’t do, as well as honest about the truly complex tasks they’ll do for you? Do they charge extra for every little thing, like forms? Do they have a more open-ended estimate for a basic site, or are they rigid in their preset packages? Is everything a la carte and you get to pick and choose?

Look at their maintenance plans. Do they charge something like $100/month for text/picture updates? This is ridiculous. You can learn to do it yourself in a couple of hours. If you don’t need their maintenance plans, will they still design a site for you? Are they willing to give you a tutorial in updating the site yourself?

Will you get a site that’s unique-looking? Look at their portfolio. Is every site basically the same? Does that irritate you or do you like the “look”? Are they obviously using the same template over and over again? Does it look like they allow creative input from their clients?

Do they suggest you pay with sex instead of cash (i.e., “trade”)? Run the other way if they do. There is nothing professional about them and you could end up losing your site if you somehow offend them. They aren’t professional; don’t expect them to behave professionally.

How easy is it to leave the designer? Do they give you a complete copy of your site when completed? Do they make you sign a contract to stay with them or use their service for a certain amount of time? Web designers, by and large, are freelancers. They work for you; you do not become an indentured servant to them. You should be able to walk away at any point with your site intact and your site’s DNS and hosting under your control. If the designer can’t give you that, you need to find someone else.

What about contracts? What does the designer expect you to sign? What rights do you have? What rights do they have? What if you have a complaint? It’s best to have everything spelled out in writing. Assume nothing.

Design Rates

Even a very simple site (several text/link pages, photo gallery, and appointment form) costs $300-$500 at the low end. With many escort-oriented designers, you could spend $1,000 by adding in simple extras you need or want. Because escorts are a “specialized” industry, designers are willing to take advantage of your income and the technological shroud of mystery surrounding Web design. As you’re about to see, it isn’t complicated. There’s no need to pay thousands of dollars a year for a site that takes forever to load, won’t get you spidered by the search engines, and only has five pages to it.

One way to keep the price down is to ask the designer to create a page template for you. Then you use the template to build your own site. Mainstream professional designers often offer template services. It’s not cheap, but it’s always cheaper than having a full-blown site created.

What You Need to Do When You Have a Designer in Mind

Have your text ready to go before contracting with the designer. It should already be proofed and edited, although the designer may catch mistakes (it’s best for you if they do!). Ask if they want indicators in your text to tell them how to format it, such as headers, lists, italics, and bold. Have a list of colors you like and colors you hate. Have a list of sites you like and dislike, along with the specific reasons why.

Your pictures should be Web-ready, unless you or your photographer weren’t able to edit them beforehand. Discuss photo requirements and your needs before you finalize the design contract.

Be ready to move fast. Your designer doesn’t want to spend the next six months working on your site. Make sure you have time to discuss color ideas, look at rough drafts of the site, and discuss other issues with your designer. You should be as prompt as you expect your designer to be. It shows respect for their time. Yours is not the only site they’re working on.

Pay as agreed. Most designers require a deposit before starting work. If they have a pay schedule (X amount up front, X amount when the design is agreed upon, X amount upon completion), send payment as soon as you’re invoiced for it. They should only have to ask for payment once. Make sure to get invoices — this is a tax-deductible expense.

Be honest with them. They’re working for you and want to make you happy. Give your honest opinion of their work. Explain why you do or don’t like a particular feature. This makes it easier for them to tailor the site to your needs and wants. It shows respect for the job they’re doing. Don’t be afraid to explain your ideas, no matter how silly you may think they are. Creative input is vital to a collaborative effort like Web design. They can’t create your perfect site unless they know how you think and what you like.

Listen to them. Sometimes you’ll want things that aren’t feasible for any number of reasons. Your designer probably isn’t being stubborn; either they cannot do what you want or they think it’s unwise. Ask them to explain and listen to their suggestions for alternate solutions. You don’t want them dictating your site, but they don’t want to be forced to create something that isn’t going to work.

When the site is done, you should love it. Make sure to promote the designer, either on a discussion board, on your own site or blog, or by providing a client testimonial to put on their site. This is the gift that keeps on giving — they get more work, which allows them to stay in business, which helps you anytime you need more work done on your site.


1 I haven’t had good experiences with designers on CraigsList, but others have.

2 There are more and more freelance sites forming every day, so if one doesn’t suit you, do a search and find another.

3 Every state allows you to give certain powers to someone to act on your behalf for a certain period of time. Research within your state to find out how to format this letter. It might be a little tougher to do via e-mail, but if the designer agrees to it, it should be binding. Contact a lawyer with questions.

4 The SEO in this book is very basic and general. It will be slightly dated by the time this book is printed. Still, bad search engine optimization remains bad search engine optimization.

5 This is similar to an offer I saw online as of the time of this writing.

6 If they claim to charge a lot per page because it’s “difficult,” I’d find a more capable designer. Creating new text/link/photo pages from a template is not difficult; perhaps time-consuming, but not difficult.