Related to my last question, I'm trying to gain experience and a portfolio and offered to make someone a website for free. Things have not gone as smoothly as hoped for a number of reasons:

  1. The website she wants is more complex than I had anticipated. She wants to sell things through the website.
  2. If she's making a profit I don't think it's fair I'm doing the work for free.
  3. The website contains some profanity and a little bit of nudity (definitely not pornographic). I'm not sure if it would be good to have such a website in a professional portfolio.
  4. She has been a bit difficult to work with. For example, she complained I wasn't working fast enough. Also she didn't install a messaging app I would like to use and I think that's the least she can do if I'm doing the work for free.

I was with her when she registered the domain and for hosting. I have already made part of the website but then she told me she started getting emails reminding her to renew the host. I thought she understood in the first place that hosting is a monthly fee. She wasn't happy with that and I had been under the impression she would not renew. However it's been over a month and the website is still there. I guess maybe she registered the host for a whole year? I don't have access to her email or the hosting account so I can't know these things.

I do feel obliged to explain to her that she may have signed up for auto-renewing hosting or something, and that is not something I control and just because I'm not making the website for her anymore doesn't mean they will stop charging her?

How can I tell her I changed my mind about making the website? The last communication I had with her was asking for a logo.

  • 2
    I voted to close for now, as this post is asking multiple questions, several of which are off-topic for this SE. I think you should firstly decide exactly what it is you want to do, then maybe we can help explaining it. Do you not want to make the website anymore altogether, or just not for free anymore?
    – AsheraH
    Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 9:58
  • 5
    If you're saying she owes you money, is that money enough to be worth going to court? If not, why not chalk this up as a learning experience, and next time get the contract terms more clear before you start work? Commented Aug 7, 2020 at 23:09
  • The comments about auto-hosting don't seem to make sense. If she wants a web site for the long term (e.g. to sell stuff) it needs to be hosted, and paid for. If you choose not to build it, if she wants the site she will get someone else to do the work.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 0:55
  • @alephzero: You know that, and I know that, but a lot of people seem to think a website is a thing you can "just buy" like a car or a pair of sneakers (i.e. you pay once and you own it forever). Explaining why that's not true is, well, complicated.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 3:26
  • 2
    P.P.S. How old are you and what nationality? If you are a minor, you can't be held to a contract in many countries. Commented Aug 9, 2020 at 12:18

1 Answer 1


I am part of an association where we offer to make websites for free given certain conditions to people that aren't all very tech-savy. We have to manage our day work and several projects in parallel, so we have experience and tips in avoiding throwing our time in a sink.

The key point in our exchanges with project owners is that we establish collaboration boundaries as early as possible.

As being on the technical end, at the association, we know what is complex and what is not, and state clearly what we are willing to do to, and refuse everything else. We state what we are willing to do in terms of nature of the work (for example, we ask to provide creative work, we refuse to do for profit websites also) and in terms of allocated means (for example, no more than a few hours a week, we don't host nor manage domains). Because we are transparent about what will be possible and impossible within that, the project owners have the elements to ponder whether they want our help or not.

On the contrary, when you say "I can do your website for free" you are essentially giving a blank page, inviting the project owner to decide what to do of your time, without clarifying how long this will take and what kind of tasks can fit, possibly providing frustration both ways.

If you have failed that step, or if it has been ignored by the project owner, you can still say that you would like to discuss again what the collaboration is about. It can be be because you weren't clear enough about it in the first place or because you changed conditions. Draw a line between what you would do for free, what you would do for a price, and what you wouldn't do at all. This will give you ground to dodge requests but still remain collaborative instead of looking as being someone retracting an offer.

If someone is being difficult to you, and don't accept your conditions, you can remind them they can still probably find people to finish or redo your work for a price. Eventually, if they are not willing to pay the price of a professional nor respect the conditions of a volunteer, it's likely they don't value your work for what it is and I would be happy to stay away.

For the hosting renewal I'd say it would be professional to warn the owner. Would she ignore the warning, it no longer is your problem.

  • 1
    I was going to talk about making a Statement of Work and Service Agreements; you have touched on that. I completely agree about your being willing and able to walk away from a project that is suffering scope creep. My contractor had a saying: people would ask him to "put in a short pipe and while you're at it, can you put a bathroom at the end of it?" I would suggest drawing up that agreement before taking one more step. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 21:24

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