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Yesterday I had this crazy idea: People pay me $15, I make them a web design (designfor15bucks.com)
230 points by TheCoreh on Dec 8, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 176 comments

  You allow me to put a screenshot of the design
  on this page; ($5 extra if you don't) 
You could reword that clause so your clients feel they're getting something valuable for their $5.

  Please note that I post all designs to my public
  portfolio and this website.  If you need the design
  to stay secret, it only costs $5 more
Or you could invert your pricing. So you start off as "designfor20bucks" and offer a $5 discount if you can add the image to your public portfolio and post it on the site. People generally feel better about getting a deal than getting hit with extra costs unexpectedly.

Or, you could simply make it a feature. I would certainly not mind another link to my new page.

Really good advice here, problem is, it'd require changing of the domain name. :P

or two domains point to the same site, and have a $20 in the logo slashed out, replaced with $15.You're the creative one - make it work :)

This would make for a fun A/B test: "$15 + $5 extra" vs. "$20 - $5 discount".

You might collect some evidence that people like getting a deal more than getting hit with an extra cost.

to get a design for <$30, your not going to notice a huge difference in acquisition for the $5

Probably, yes, but hard results from testing FTW.

  it'd require changing of the domain name.
So? He only started yesterday. If the domain isn't already taken then what's the big deal... it's not like he's spent a lot of money advertising it. :)

I don't think the $5 makes a huge difference: and this way, the designer has more chance that people will allow him to post the design into his portfolio.

I'm pretty sure he is not doing it for the money, but rather to get some experience and build up his portfolio.

$5 out of $15 is 33.3% and $5 out of $20 is 25%

I'd say thats fairly significant.

It depends on the context; if you offered me 1 penny or 2 pennies, I really wouldn't care. (even though it's a 100% difference)

Yes, it does. On the other edge case, with really large amounts of money, the perceived value of a differences might be hard to grasp. It's hard to see a penny as worth anything, and it's also hard to really grasp the difference in value between a trillion dollars and 1.1 trillion dollars.

Since 5 dollars is a denomination of US bills I think it has a significant psychological weight to considering it's value (for anyone familiar with US currency). You think of $5 and you know what it is,what it's worth to you, what you'd spend it on.

This might be a hold over from handling cash, where that $5 spent on a service might be competing with your lunch or bus ticket. I suppose dealing increasingly with debit/credit cards in place of small cash transactions where it's "just $5 in your entire bank account" will likely lessen this effect.

Don't worry about all that, run with what you have now. Spend your time on real customers.

Hitchhiker: Think about it. You walk into a design store, you see designfor15bucks.com sittin' there, there's designfor14bucks.com right beside it. Which one are you gonna pick, man?

Ted: I would go for the 14.

Hitchhiker: Bingo, man, bingo. designfor14bucks.com. And we guarantee just as good a design as the designfor15bucks.com folk.

Ted: You guarantee it? That's - how do you do that?

Hitchhiker: If you're not happy with the first 14 bucks of design, we're gonna send you the extra dollar of design free. You see? That's it. That's our motto. That's where we're comin' from. That's from "A" to "B".

Ted: That's right. That's - that's good. That's good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with designfor13bucks.com. Then you're in trouble, huh?

No no, not 13. I said 14. Nobody's coming up with 13. Who makes a web design in 13 minutes?

14's the key number here. Think about it. 14 days in a fortnight. 14 - the atomic number of silicon. 14 stations of the cross. 14, man, that's the number.

but on the web, there is no street on which to see sites next to each other.

I knew a jewellery company once which had two sites. One was all red and gold and stars and flashing things, the other was all purple and white and curvy things. The items on the purple posh looking one were 15% more expensive. Same products on each - heck, it was the same database, product description and images on each site!

Point is, this is the internet, you can do that kind of thing.

Having multiple sites is genius. It's great market segmentation.

Actually I think that street would be Google search results.

that's the obvious reply, but it fails for two reasons:

1) SERPs are not fixed; they vary from month to month, and even from day to day as new sites and pages appear and are added to the mix. This is akin to the houses on a street changing order frequently, and ruins the analogy

2) SERPs differ between terms - you and I might be adjacent for "cheap widgets" but for "budget widgets" the SERP might look entirely different. This is akin to shops having a million doors, each on different streets, and ruins the analogy.

PPC advertising on said search pages fixes the analogy. As do link directories and, erm, front pages of link sharing sites such as HN (if submitted within the proper timeframe)

Well in that case, Fiverr has this guy beat.

To be honest, if I see:

Design for $15


Design for $50

I'm choosing 50 because I'm hoping that he has fewer clients, values himself more, and isn't going to give me crappy design.

It depends on what you're looking for.

I'm thinking of throwing $15 his way just to see what comes out, and see if it sparks some new ideas for me -- i.e., I'm not paying him for a polished final design for my site, I'm paying him for his thoughts (in PDF form) on how my site might look different.

I might not like his idea, and it might just offer a contrast that helps me suss out what I like about my current design. But as it was only 15 bucks (not much invested from me OR him), I won't feel bad about just chucking the results.

If I were paying someone for a real site redesign, I would lay out a lot more than $15, but I would also expect to go through whatever steps necessary to come up with a finished product that I would actually use (because if I'm paying real money, it had better not be a waste).

In any case, I'm waiting until he has some example sites online... so I can tell if he's a talented designer doing rapid/rough work (useful to me), or a weak/inexperienced designer who is just making bad designs (in which case I'll pass...).

Assuming it takes you at least 1-2 hours per design (and even with mad photoshop skillz it's unlikely it'd be much shorter than that), you're probably better off getting an office job somewhere, or even maybe a burger-flipping job. Given all the additional expenses of running your own business, this is probably not a viable business model (i.e. you will lose money on the whole).

The only way this would be justified is if you use this as a source of clients to up-sell more expensive work to.

I don't know where this guy comes from. But, USD15/hour is a very high rate in many countries. Or, he is just trying to build up his portfolio and get his name out there.

This seems like a very good approach to attract people attention.

Looks like he's in Brazil from his paypal page. Not sure about the cost of living there, but that's probably a decent wage for a lot of people there.

This is actually a decent wage in Brazil. When I lived there (15 years ago) minimum wage was equivalent to $100 a month.

But it's completely different if the person works in the IT industry. I do live in Brazil (Sao Paulo), and I can't hire a GOOD web designer for my company paying less than $3.000 USD/month (R$ 5K). Here, an experienced designer can easily ask $5K USD/month for working fulltime.

Out of curiousity, are people with these jobs considered high status in Brazil? Is the profession held in high esteem in the sense that being a Doctor in the US is? That seems like a lot of money compared to the median salary, and I'm trying to imagine what impact salary discrepancies like that would cause.

Consider that the middle class is only 15%~20% of the population in Brazil. So if you have a university degree you're automatically high status.

Also, IT jobs pay in average better than most white-collar jobs. An IT manager or a very good lead developer might even make more money than a mediocre doctor (but that's true in US too, I guess?). That said, given that there's no regulatory barrier to entry, IT professionals in general aren't seen as high status as doctors or lawyers.

I'd rather do something I enjoy for slightly less money than get an office job or flip burgers.

You must have very cheap rent.

If you don't ask for money for what you do, then you are saying that what you do is worthless. You probably don't actually believe that, and the only reason to sell your work for less than the most basic labor is because you don't know how to get paid properly. But customers see your pricing and conclude that designers do not need to be paid even the normal minimum for other kinds of work.

If you keep working like this, you will find yourself unable to ever get a design job that pays well. Everyone who calls you will do so because you are cheap. When you go to visit clients who have money to spend, they will not want to hire you. Not because their is anything wrong with your design; but because they are not designers, and so they will try to estimate the quality of your work by the visibility of your financial success. If they notice nothing that suggests you can make money, then they will assume that you can't, and they will assume that the reason you can't is because your designs are no good, and hire someone else. Later, when you want to get married or have a family or just enjoy a better standard of living, but you can not afford to do so because you undervalued your work, you will realize that you designed yourself into poverty. It's true that some very rich/successful people dress or act like they don't care about money. This is because they have so much money that they don't have to care about what clients think. They have agents who take care of all that annoying business stuff for them. Agents only work for people whose work can be sold for high prices, because agents only get 15%, on average.

A lot of creative people fall into this trap, I have made this mistake on some occasions. It is a bad pattern, for you and also for your colleagues in the same profession. Also, it's insulting to people who work in offices or flip burgers. Maybe they would like to work at something creative, but when you price your work so low you are demonstrating that creativity is worthless, and that skill and hard work do not deserve a reward. Here's my advice: it's OK to do some work for free for your friends and family, but when you work for money your minimum should be 5 x the minimum for a 'boring' job. Some people will refuse to pay so much, and then you must refuse to work even if your bank account and your stomach are empty. Many will agree. You should use your price to drive bad clients away. Good clients will either pay or negotiate. If you do not make them work in negotiation, they will understand this to mean that you are not going to work on their commission, and hire someone else.

If you cannot make a living this way, then get a job flipping burgers. First you will learn some humility, second you will get free food every day, third you will have some more financial security and fourth you will be very tired when you go home every day. Now, do a few hours of design work every week too. Of course, it will be much more difficult now because you are exhausted by working in a hot kitchen before you draw a single line. Now you will start to understand the value of time, and charge accordingly.

> If you don't ask for money for what you do, then you are saying that what you do is worthless.

"Um, what?" --Every open source developer, ever.

Not charging for everything differs from never charging for anything. The latter is impossible unless you are independently wealthy; and even then, most open source developers take credit for their work rather than doing it anonymously. But more to the point, open source software is something you choose to provide to the general public, rather than at the request of a client.

Outside of the development community, commercial software is still profitable because most non-technical buyers assume that free-as-in-beer software is less good. Same thing with graphic design or video production. Working for free/cheap signals interest to industry peers very effectively, but people outside the peer group just see it as a price signal.

Those developers generally make a big distinction between "work I do for free because it's fun or intrinsically rewarding" (like helping a charity) and "work I do to make a living." They will try to get maximum pay for the latter, partly to enable the former.

So I think a better statement would be "if you don't ask for SUFFICIENT money for what you do SOLELY FOR PAY, then you're saying your work isn't worth much."

most open source software are tools, not products.

So what about the Open Source Software that are products?

Do you have any data to support this? That seems somewhat right to me, but i'm reluctant to trust a random declaration like that.

Hm, how did "for slightly less money" morph into "you don't ask for money for what you do"?

Because it's "slightly less money" than working in an office or flipping burgers (which a previous commenter suggested would be more economically sustainable kinds of employment).

Yes, you are still getting some money. But those jobs mentioned above are boring and poorly paid because they require little skill. They don't add a great deal of value to the business, and if someone quits or is promoted to do something more useful, it's easy to find and train another worker to replace them. Mostly what you're paying for is someone who will turn up on time every day and work for the length of a shift. There is not a huge wage differential based on experience because you can teach a completely inexperienced person the basics in a single day. So if you are selling graphic design services but charging the bare minimum required to hire a warm body, then "what you do" is essentially given away free.

It seems I can't reply to messages past a certain depth so I'll respond to your latest comment in the previous one.

The design website guy's name is Aurelio, and the person you were responding to who had said he would accept slightly less pay for work he enjoys is Robinson. When you replied to Robinson, were you really addressing Aurelio?

Also, are you making any assumptions about how long it takes Aurelio to make a design, and what might likely happen to him after having developed a professional reputation and portfolio. Also, if he does 5 designs a day 20 days a month, 100 designs, and makes $1500, is that really nothing compared to $54 a month, which is more than 40% of full time workers in Brazil (where he lives) make?

HN is configured to delay the reply as the thread gets longer, like a brake. You could reply to my previous message now, as you can probably see.

Of course I was replying to tlrobinson, who said :I'd rather do something I enjoy for slightly less money than get an office job or flip burgers. That was in reply to swombat's question about whether the design thing is sustainable economically.

In Brazil it may be, in the US it probably would not. I have no opinion about Aurelio or his $15 site (although I am pretty sure someone else will do the same thing for $12 soon). I am well aware that Brazil has a different kind of economy from the US; what he is doing may well be sustainable in Brazil - although the cost of having a western-style standard of living with a computer, reliable electricity, and internet access is much closer to the cost of living in the US than it is to people earning $54/month in a favela or rural area.

I also completely understand the idea of doing something you enjoy, even though it might pay less than a conventional job. That is why I was working for an email/groupware startup before NCSA released Mosaic, to give you one example. There are certainly times that you should be willing to take a big economic risk, and refine your skills even if it is hard to sell your product/service in the market right now. I am just pointing out that doing this can also become a limiting factor, because you are associating your service with very low cost. You would not go into a Burger King restaurant and pay $100 for your dinner. Even if they hired a great chef and actually made a gourmet meal, almost nobody would risk paying $100 to try it. Similarly, if you try to get a job in a top restaurant you will need something more persuasive than previous experience cooking at Burger King. You could be an excellent self-trained chef, but they will judge you by the price and quality of food at Burger King. You could say 'I made a lot of delicious meals for my friends and family, they said my food was great.' The restaurant owner will probably suggest you get your friends and family to help you open your own restaurant.

why? Because life is short and people are busy. They don't have time to judge every job applicant or supplier individually. Instead they will look at price information as a proxy for quality. This is why companies sometimes ask job applicants for a salary history, they want a simple filter. If you get a bank loan to expand your business, the bank will want to see the last few years' accounts for the same reason. They don't understand your business, but they do understand cash flow.

I think you might be misunderstanding his post. It's a pretty short post. He said that he is willing to work for a "slightly less" pay (slightly less likely means 1-5% less) doing something he enjoys than something he doesn't enjoy.

That sure sounds like a reasonable statement.

In your response, you stated that "you don't ask for money for what you do" and then proceeded to knock down that strawman.

Working without any pay at all is not the same as doing something you enjoy for "slightly less" than you would accept to do something you don't enjoy.

I think you're interpreting mine over-literally. I went on in the second sentence to make it clear that I was drawing a contrast with pay for 'the most basic labor,' so as to avoid confusion. Once again "what you do" is what distinguishes you from any other warm body in the workplace. The poster is not talking about opting to earn slightly less than he might in a variety of other popular careers, he's talking about opting to earn slightly less than he could get in an entry-level unskilled job.

In economic terms, his choice to sell his services below the labor market's lowest rate for doing anything at all has a significant opportunity cost, to say nothing of the fact that he still has overhead and so on. A person who gets paid nothing at all is losing money because s/he still has to eat, buy clothes and so on. A person paid the market minimum is making a very small amount of money after life's necessities have been paid for, which is why we don't think of burger-flipping as a profitable career choice. Anyone charging less than this is working for zero profit, unless they are lucky enough to have free rent, food and so on.

What do you call a business plan which does not acknowledge any need to make a profit? Would you invest in such a business?

reminds me of 7 minute abs... I'll release a new website called designfor14bucks.com and take all your customers!

I agree. If he wants to do some for free, do it for free. There's nothing damaging to your reputation about doing pro-bono work. I suggested my wife redesign some libertarian party websites for free as she was making the transition from print to web as a way to get experience and build a portfolio. This worked out well and actually led to some paying work through the contacts.

She adamantly refuses to work for less than pay for less than what she thinks is a long-term viable rate on the grounds that once you quote someone a price, you can never go back to them and say "oh, yeah, $60/hr was because I was desperate, now I'm charging $90". If you need to cut the price, charge the going hourly rate and throw in freebie hours.

"It is a bad pattern, for you and also for your colleagues in the same profession."

Agreed. I once had a photography professor who was adamant that we not work too cheaply, because it sets expectations for the profession. His take was that you charge whatever you need to in order to live, buy equipment, etc.

If you want to help someone, do some work pro-bono, and make it clear that "normally this would cost X dollars, but I'm donating my services." That way they simultaneously get the ideas that "this person's work is valuable" and "they've done me a big favor." As opposed to just "he/she can afford to work cheaply."

Wow, I don't normally disparage comments, but if OP you read the above, I really hope you ignore this advice. There is no evidence in the above comment supporting any of it. Take a look at rates charged on independent contracting websites (e.g., Freelance, ELance, etc.) and you will see that consultants raise prices over time as they develop establish relationships and solid references.

Anecdotally, I spent 2 years 'flipping burgers', and then started out charging $20/hr doing consulting work. I was happy and my clients were happy. Over time, I slowly raised rates and haven't looked back since.

I thought the phrase 'If you keep working like this' in the context of a discussion about sustainability made things sufficiently clear. I guess not.

Sorry, it was a lot of text and I did not see that part. Yes, that puts it in perspective, though I guess my comment was mainly to indicate that I don't believe anyone would stick with that as the status quo moving forward, that this would just be the beginning.

I think the scenario you imagine whereby him doing a few designs for $15 leads to him being old and alone with a ruined life is pretty far fetched.

But this will be a short-term solution. Getting paid a little for something you love will eventually burn you out. It might take a week, a month, a year : eventually you'll tire because of the need to keep feeding the meter.

It's not the design work that will cause this; it's dealing with the people that will cause the problem.

In Brazil a $ goes a bit further than in the US.

Can we quantify "a bit"? How much further?

Price of a Big Mac in USA: $3.73 Brazil: $5.19

(Big Mac index, http://www.oanda.com/currency/big-mac-index)

Jokes aside, in Brazil you need ~$1000/month to live* in a big city, ~$700 in a smaller one, ~$500 as a broken college student.

(live* as in small apartment, internet, public transportation, entertainment but no luxury).

I spent 2 years in the greater São Paulo area ('05-'07). The exchange rate went from about 2.7 Reais : 1 USD when I got there to about 2.1 when I left.

I lived in an apartment off the beach in Praia Grande for a few months. Rent was about R$650 (~$300 US) for a little 2 bedroom.

I met a number of people who lived on less than R$300/mo (granted, that was in some of the poorer areas).

Lunch in the financial district (where I spent about a year) was ~R$10 (for a pretty good lunch - chicken, rice, vegetables, and a drink). Most American fast food restaurants, however, had prices comparable to the US (McDonald's dollar menu items were about R$2.50, it was R$30 for a pizza at Pizza Hut, etc).

I like the idea, and I believe you have a market, but your prices are too low. More importantly it won't scale with inflation. In 10 years, that $15 will be worth around $10 but you will have all SEO links pointing to a domain that is most likely in need of change (You are stuck with a particular price with the domain name you have now).

$15 is way too low. I don't know where you are located, but you need to do some market research to figure out what you want to make per hour, how long the average project will take you, how many projects you can do a week, and what your overhead is per week (to figure overhead per project). Once you have those numbers, you will have a better price point.

Also, keep have a plan for what you want to do if there is more demand than you can support. Do you hire others? If so, will others work for that price and if so, how much do you need to make to pay them appropriately?

I hope above all you do not find my post discouraging. Instead, I hope you continue on with what you are doing, tweaking it to make is sustainable for as long as you wish to do it!

He can always do a 301 redirect to another page and send the google juice that way. He's getting a lot of advertising from this outlandishly low price.

Or portfolio building.

Please don't build a portfolio based on work you spent 2 hours or less on.

Who says he's spending two hours or less? Normally, you'd spend hours on a portfolio for free. Now he's making a small amount.

True, but given his advertising and rate I would imagine he'd be busy enough. And yes, you spend hours on a portfolio for free, free from the pressure to do inane, boring corporate work for example. I mean, at the end of the day it's just advice, but I don't imagine there are many designers would agree this is a good thing. Entrepreneurs, maybe; designers, no.

Who says he's spending two hours or less?

If he spends 1-2 hours on a design, that's $7.50-$15 per hour. Any longer and he wouldn't be making enough to be worth his time, even in the Philippines or India. For a true portfolio, you'd want better designs than 1-2 hour quickies

If he's trying to build up a portfolio of work, he'd normally be doing it for free, why would he be trying to make market rates? You're assuming that this is someone building a living from this.

But if he spends more time on the early projects (say, 10 hours each to showcase his best work), eventually he will have to cut down the time per project or increase the price to make it profitable. In that case, he would Need complete rebranding, which would be tough, since people would know him as the cheap design guy. If he were just after the portfolio, he should design 10 designs on spec and put them on a site that pitches high end design from the start.

It's not that tough. Does this site say who he is? Or what he's doing? He could drop this next week and nobody'd know the difference.

You're assuming that he's going to keep this domain and brand to build a later business. This doesn't have to be forever.

No, it's not done for free. It's an investment of time designed to earn a return. The value of that time is supposed to be included in the price charged to the client. 'Doing it for free' is about giving value, not the inability to get paid.

It's possible that maybe he's only spending an hour a piece on these, but he might go back to them later and build on them more for a portfolio. It's good to make a bunch of quick and diverse designs just to see what happens.

His portfolio should be relative to what he wants to do in the future. If he intends to do full-scale designing, then of course he should focus on getting that into his portfolio. But if he intends on doing quick, small design deals, this is perfect.

Time invested is not a measure of quality.

Interesting. Can you look at any logo or webpage and tell how long the designer spent on the mockup?

Although given that this seems to be run as an experiment, so far it seems to be rather successful. Granted, in the long term it might not be sustainable, but for the short term it can provide a number of benefits. First of all the designer will be getting lots of practice and making a number of contacts while building up a good portfolio of examples. Also the low price makes it a low risk for anyone trying it out, so it is the type of experiment they can be tried with little cost and quickly.

I would find it interesting to see what the designer ends up doing as a result of this experiment.

Instead of penalising the customer($5) for not listing their design, offer it as a discount for listing their site. So, base cost $20, but with listing only $15!

This is Genius.

You should only do one a day, and if someone wants to jump the line they can big higher than $15!!!

I'm going to put the Launch conference www.launch.is/conference and ThisWeekIn.com up for $50 each right now. $100 is no risk... if you have one good idea in each design it would be worth it.

i love this idea!

Not a bad idea if you can make the numbers work.

One variation would be to charge $15 per iteration. The first one might take you 2 hours, but each additional iteration might only take 15 minutes, in which case it becomes more economical.

Then you're possibly incentivized to do subpar work the first time around to ensure a second round. On the other hand, if you push that too far it will make for a bad reputation. Also, if there is enough new work coming in then it's probably better to spend the time with new clients (with the aim in mind to up-sell later).

Initial thoughts:

- the linked images have blue borders around them, look ugly

- you could put a couple of samples up if a design costs just $15 worth of your time

- I hope you don't live in North America or Europe, otherwise, you're undercharging.

Thats why i quit making colorful pictures for "blind" people with small pockets long time ago. Time (effort spend) to return (money) equation is terrible. Its shameful that todays perception on web design is PSD layered file. Web design is a process of communication of an idea/marketing concept to a consumer. Web design is UX thinking. Than: Web design is UI doing. Than: Web design is a illustration.

I don't see how the Client will perceive this low price PSD oriented service with less expectations. The price is so low that its not serious, it's a joke.


Make some sassy layouts, put them online in portfolio section. Than put up your price per hour. Give a client full service, feedback, comments on their ideas, professional advice etc.

But: Value in web design is not in pictures. It is in successful conceptualization of your professional view on clients problems.

Years ago i stop offering cool pictures, and start learning more about technology in front-end (html.css.js), UX, marketing, communication with customer and now i perceive the web design process as a whole of many valuable parts.

If you are in desperate position, do some freelancing or get a routine job and invest in your self in your spare time:))

I'm wondering, as I'm not making any money (devoting time to a startup idea) right now, if anyone would be interested in a similar service for the markup?

I'm really quite good and would charge $15/page. I can offer impressive turn around times and even CMS(WordPress) integration for an additional flat-fee($250?).

Yes, definitely. If you offer it, I'll take you up on it once he's open for design applications again.

Cool! I'll setup a page for the service now.

Edit: http://staydecent.ca/markup

Might want to check you spelling (intergration) and validate ("5 Errors, 1 warning(s)", http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http://staydecent.ca/marku...) before claiming standards compliance.

Thanks for spell checking! As for the errors. Oh well. The main site structure is valid and works on the 3 major browsers I tested(Chrome,FF,IE8).

The first error is too beneficial to give up, and the rest are for a shitty form code (but this keeps my hosting cost at ~0/month which allows this stupidly cheap service).

But, you are right. And, I shall no longer advertise standards compliance. =D

Awesome, I bookmarked the page for future needs.

A service already exists for this -- http://psd2html.com . Not trying to dissuade you from doing it yourself, but you should take a look at them (I've used them in the past -- it's about $100-200 for basic pages, and was totally worth it as it saved me a few hours of work).

Good point, definitely aware. But, I have zero-overhead and am quit fast so $15/page is possible for me. And, of course it would be my intention to deliver equal quality work as those services.

Would you be cutting it up onto a 'backbone' of our choosing (like 960.gs or blueprint) ? (Obviously this will depend on the overall design, but hopefully the idea is clear).

I was just thinking of something similar; Would everyone want HTML5 elements or rather not?

My thinking right now, is I would build an order form that has a few predefined options. I usually use my own CSS starting point but am familiar with 960.gs. Blueprint seems to be the other big one, so I could look into adding support for that.

But mostly, the markup and css would adhere to my standards. I would have to do this to make the development time minimal so charging to low price makes sense. I would of course offer example markup on the order website.

The benefit for a coder of having it built on blueprint is that it can be worked with immediately - otherwise one might as well be working with a template from a theme site with unknown/inconsistent markup.

Basing it off a well known framework should (a) make life easier for you, (b) give your work a hook other than low price-point.

Valid points. If there was interest in this I would offer the choice of Blueprint or 960.gs. As for HTML, I would use my starting template which resembles HTML5-Boilerplate and the choice of HTML5 elements(header, footer, article etc.) or not.

In theory, this would be a decent paying day-job. I spent the year of 2008 converting PSDs to WordPress themes for $500/theme. With that experience I can convert a PSD to markup in under an hour per page.

I just started a new blog and wanted a nice design for it. $15 is definitely a good price, if it's a decent design. (Note that I said 'decent' and not 'outstanding'. I know what design is really worth.)

But without some samples, it feels like I'm just throwing away $15.

For $15 you can test the waters. How much do you make in an hour? How long will it take you to design your own web site? In other words, is it worth the $15 gamble to see if someone can come up with something to blow you away?

No, I don't think it is. I could give random people $15 all year long and still not end up with a decent site.

Now, someone who has a history of decent-looking sites is a good gamble.

And it is a gamble, since he says it's non-refundable and no changes can be made.

Agreed -- it's a better idea to wait until he has posted some example $15 designs.

Somebody delivering the same service, but including HTML/CSS, could easily charge $150 and have more customers than they could possibly handle.

Somebody could offer it sans HTML/CSS, charge $150 and still stay busy IMO. My basic mate's rates fee for that sort of job is $1000-1500 for a PSD.

That said, $15-20 is comfortably in that "If it doesn't work out, who cares" bracket. The problem will be that for many people, time is far more crucial than the cost. If I need a turnaround of 3-4 days, and the queue is 7+ days, it won't matter if it's $15 or 15 cents.

Really? Where do they get clients? I'll start tonight!

Have a good portfolio and gradually build up awareness. If you offer this service, link to a portfolio in your profile.

Don't compete on the same turf as elance types. I've used PSD2XHTML type services for $150-250 before and the main reasons I stopped was that the product wasn't really done to our house style and they couldn't hit deadlines. (Now I have staff that do these jobs for me.)

Intermediate level front-end web developers are costly due to high demand and the work is arguably more difficult. I agree the $150 might be great for someone offshore though.

In any case I like the idea behind the $15 blind design since designers tend to suffer from "I like it but..." with indefinite tweaks and last minute changes. I wouldn't be surprised if customers end up going through several iterations...which would still be inexpensive in this case.

I find this extremely hard to believe. Have you visited freelancing sites to check this assumption?

There's a class of customer that won't even hit the "rent a coder" type sites for work, but will instead pay significantly more to someone with a full, proper site and a reputation.

The real problem here is attaining that "full, proper site and a reputation." Getting those two elements in place could take years of work, some of it completely unpaid. I suspect the OP doesn't have either of those, and is using this as a way to build up some kind of portfolio (and certainly a lot of online visibility, which can be surprisingly hard to come by) as rapidly as possible while still pulling in some income.

Not that he needs to use any of the $15 work directly in his portfolio -- but if he hashes out lots of designs in a creative way, he's going to end up with some obvious winners that he can polish up.

Just out of curiosity: why did you buy the designfor15bucks.com domain and STILL setup a gmail account for contact?

Related: http://www.google.com/a

Because Google Apps isn't free and gmail is?

There is a free version of Google Apps: http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/group/index.html

There is. I used that for several years. However I don't anymore because if you work alone or small groups I strongly suggest to use a regular gmail/google account and forward your @domain.com email there instead of using the gmail/app.

Otherwise you will be always be running an outdated version of all gmail services and there is no real benefit really in having gmail handling your MX.

That requires you to maintain a mail server of your own and everything that comes with that. I prefer to have pagers go off at Google's HQ instead of mine when something happens.

What features are you using in Gmail that I'm not getting in Google Apps? I have priority inbox and all the latest Labs experiments. I haven't heard of anything I'm missing.

As I said, I closed down my google apps account a few months ago because things were missing or they arrived later compared to the regular gmail, so I don't know what you may be missing right now.

Also, if you have an android phone you cannot buy apps if you sign in only with your apps account, you must use a regular account. That is a PITA, believe me.

With the new multiple sign in, I use my gmail account as primary, then sign into my other two gApps accounts (personal, work). That way, all my analytics, web history, and such remain under my [primary] gmail account and I can still open multiple Gmails with different accounts in them.

I've found a little lag in gmail to apps features, but not long enough that I've worried about it.

Apps accounts don't play well with a lot of google services. It's quite complicated to grant Google Analytics access to an Apps account.

You don't have to use your apps account only, you can still use your regular one for buying Android apps etc.

Here is the scenario: you have google apps account that you use for all your stuff and you sync it with your android device to access email, contacts and such. This is account A. Then you realize the market won't work, so you sync the regular google account, account B.

Now, you have the hassle of having to deal with multiple account on your phone, but is not too bad. It comes bad when you discover that if reset your phone and sign in only with account A or only with account B or even in the wrong order (B, A), all the apps you bought are simply gone.

Yes, the market sucks that much.

The second part of your answer isn't correct anymore. Google recently (about September) migrated all of the apps emails to the wider gmail infrastructure


At least Buzz and Profiles are still not working for Google Apps users.


I bounced out immediately due to lack of Latest Design samples. I get the concept, like it, but gotta have examples.

I believe that's the reason this entire site exists. (Portfolio building).

It's a visual product so you got to prime the pump with visual samples to entice the first customer.

Unless he's selling his skills for $15...which basically primes the pump itself. According to his website, he's already got more customers than he can handle for a week. Come back in a week and he'll probably have 5-10 items in that portfolio.

You know... most of the comments in response have been negative. Some have said the $5 charge for keeping the design off the portfolio is phrased wrong. Some have said the price is too low. Some have criticized the site design, but you know what? In about an hour, this guy got more customers than he could even deal with.

He now has a collection of email addresses he can send an announcement to when he launches a "real" web design company. He has a bunch of examples he can show of real customers using his designs. He has the experience of actually having someone pay him for his work. Heck, he even got over 200 HN karma out of the deal.

How can this be a bad thing?

I need a logo for my website, do you also make logos for $15?

You can get a 'horrible' logo for five bucks: http://www.horriblelogos.com

those logos are better than what I can do.

Perhaps I should start a site called really horrible logos. I will guarantee all logos will look like a 2 year old on something did them.

You can try to contact artists on fiverr.com and see what they can do for 15 usd.

I agree, logos for $15 would be a steal!

Nice! Do you want to tell us something about your background? I'm thinking a lot of people will see this as absurd, but if you're not spending too long on each individual design, $10-15 and hour is great money for a student or hobbyist, especially since you're developing a marketable skill at the same time.

Also, the #1 recommendation here is gonna be to put something up under "latest designs", even if you haven't had any clients yet. The first customer is the hardest, and you can help that along by putting a few coins in the proverbial hat yourself. (Although I realize the site itself is an example of your design :)

As psd file - so I would have to spend another few hundred $ to get a legal Photoshop to watch it?

Gimp will work

Sometimes. I actually posted it because I had exactly that problem in the past with an artist delivering me .psd's while I'm using The Gimp for everything.

Or you could spend $3 by going to a local internet cafe (or Kinkos or whatever) and downloading the free 30-day trial vesion (Assuming they don't already have a copy there)

Or use Paint.net along with a photoshop plugin to open it for free.

Uhm, how about you team up with one of the many PSD-to-HTML services and do it soup-to-nuts, or at least get referral compensation from said services?

Great concept, love the branding, and love the marketing built into the concept. Not a lot of fluff on the page, just the necessities. And once you get busier and have a portfolio, you can start charging more, more, and more until you're getting a good return on your time.

Helluva business model, love the thought that went into it. If there's anyway I can help, let me know. Tweeting commencing right....meow!

Is the "Hire my services now" button supposed to have a 2px blue border around it?

I think you guys are looking at this all wrong. This isn't $15 for a complete and polished design. This is $15 for Marco's inspiration and thoughts being invested into my product! $15 is nothing to lose out on if it falls on its face, but imagine the benefit you could be missing had you not tried?

It is crazy. I really think you should charge more.

Right now it says "Latest designs: COMING SOON". Put up a template or something!

Also, charge $30.

If the sample designs are actually somewhat good, $30 is worth the gamble, maybe $40-50. I'd probably pay $30. But I'd need to see at least 2-3 references/samples/templates.

The thing is, the more he begins to charge then the less and less he'll be able to say "first design is final, if you don't like it then buy a second one." At this point in time, anyone buying from him is just throwing away $15 since he has no examples of previous work.

I hope this guy thought ahead and registered designfor30bucks.com and designfor60bucks.com.

Relevant to my interests. I'll probably be giving it a go shortly. My buddy (who has taste) suggests toning down the front page, though.

While others say 'raise your prices' my suggestion is to keep them low, at least until you have more work than you want to handle. at $15, I might as well give you a shot. at $150? eh, I'm much less likely to blow that on something I have no idea if I will like or not.

Oh, also, if I like the design, it'd be pretty cool to slip you another $100 or something and get the html/css, I mean, if it's possible to get that sort of thing at that price.

A couple weeks ago I built http://www.hackeress.com with the crowdspring / 99Designs clientèle in mind (who seems to be your audience).

You could expand your site and add a section for designers who specialize in the code-writing aspect of design. Just a thought.

EDIT: Fixed. I'm still working on the site's content; got busy over the holiday. But the design of the site is done, as are the custom 404 error pages. :)

Since you're probably using that website to get clients, you might want to verify that all the pages work. (The link you used works, clicking on any of the links gives me a 404.)

I just came across this site, which lets people sell their services for $5: http://www.fiverr.com/

I had never seen fiverr.com before. Interesting. I just tried them out, paid someone $5 to take a look at one of my sites and send me some feedback. I was honestly impressed with the comments.

Where are you located? $15 doesn't sound like a lot of money for what could take about an hour of work (simple 1 page design). Unless you live in a country where money goes farther, or you can do designs much faster than 1 hour? Will this be profitable?

EDIT: I see that you are in Brazil, and a quick Googling shows that web designers make $4-$8

If you're doing the designs yourself you're doing yourself a great disservice by charging so little.

Often times most people assume they have an endless well of creativity in them but in actually its a feast and famine scenario. Assuming you want to do this full-time you will burn out eventually.

But he can stop at any time. He can even send back the money for unfinished jobs.

A PSD file does not a web design make.

$15 does not a web design make either. This is why it is so cheap.

Just use a slice service like http://codingheads.com/. Then, if you like a design, total cost is $170, and if you don't, you're only down $15 instead.

Indeed, a crazy idea. Considering any decent design would take at least 3 hours of work, you'd be making $5/hour.

To make it worthwhile for you, you'd have to spend at most 1h per design, in which case it wouldn't be worth the $15 for the client, or a spot on your portfolio.

I like. I'm sure you are at least three times as good as this alternative, but I have enjoyed using a few different (similar) $5 services from fiverr: http://www.fiverr.com/

I wish I could do this for application prototypes. But from experience I know that prototypes can take much more time than $15 justifies. Or maybe I could just accept the ideas which interest me. Hmmmm....

Just a thought, you can consider teaching design which allows you to meet customers and give back to the community. http://skyara.com shameless self plug :)

I know you're not taking any more design requests at the moment - but could you put a reminder form on your site that emails when you are? By Monday I'll have forgotton all about you.

I don't understand why so many replies assume that this was intended to be long-term, sustainable business model. It's a brilliant marketing exercise, nothing more, nothing less.

So true. Look at the comments here...has HN in a frenzy. I hate it, but it's brilliant. Seems like something Tim Ferriss would do.

He doesn't say anything about the design being unique. Odds are he'll make 50 templates at a loss and just reuse them.

Eventually, he turns a profit with an automated muse and everyone is happy.

Closed already - dang it - was going to send in a request :(

This looks great. I'd like to submit a few designs, so please re-accept submissions. As long as they're done within a week or two that's fine.

Well, as you said, you had "this crazy idea" sounds crazy indeed!

Hope to see some designs in the lastest section ;)

Love the Idea. I know for my few websites I have, I would be willing to spend the $15.00...

Everyone watch as this fellow goes from zero to burn-out faster than any web designer ever.

Good job, I think that it is a good way to earn some bucks while gathering experience.

You could probably charge double, triple or quadruple and still get customers.

HN, I will make your psd into html/css and even javascript for $200.

Just ordered design and looking forward for the outcome in 2 days :)

Great idea, good marketing. Hope this does well for you.

After 18 hours, still no example designs.

viral/discount/link juice - Offer a $5 discount for anyone who tweets/blogs your site

How do you convert the PSD files into HTML & CSS? Does Photoshop have an option for it or what?

You learn HTML/CSS, fire up your favourite editor and start slicing.

I'd really like to see the quality of these designs. I sure they'll reflect the price.

he's loaded some designs

HN, yesterday I had this crazy idea: People pay me $100 and I build them a car.


...as in "dentist" or "male prostitute"?

Normally, I find the remains of partially-deleted comment threads on HN disruptive and irritating.


I really want to know the context of this comment, now the parent is deleted...

Original was something like "give me $x and I'll fill your cavities"

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