Tips For Hiring A Web Designer | My $1225 Mistake!

Last updated June 4, 2019.

Update – The Short Version

Anne here, sharing the BEST webdesign experience I have ever had. I worked with Dabble Media, who do FIVE DAY website redesigns. That makes them absolutely remarkable in the world of websites. Way more folks, myself included, have experienced the multi-month, drawn out, disappointing web design experiences.

You can read all about my amazing, easy, satisfying redesign project here.

Brea’s Previous Experience

Everything happens for a reason, right? Well, this particular thing ended up being a big mistake. Follow my tips for hiring a web designer, so you don’t make the same costly mistake.



Y’all may have noticed that over the weekend this site changed a bit. It got a “new” look…but that new look wasn’t without a lot of headaches. Back in April, I purchased a “total” design package from a designer on Etsy. She had great reviews but will admit that I kind of glossed over them. Looking back, this was my first mistake. She had an absolutely gorgeous portfolio, and I think I got sucked in by the “design experience”.

Who doesn’t want to have a package created from their ideas? It’s great salesmanship. And at first, it was a great experience. Granted, the “two days” that were promised for review took more like a full month. I tried really, really hard to be patient. There were redesigns, and she did work with me on the logo…and in the end, I was happy with it.

tips for hiring a web designer

Hiring A Web Designer

And then we moved on to the website. I had explained that I already had a blog, but it became apparent that this wasn’t high on the priority list. Which should have been another red flag. And the fact that the package price dropped by nearly $200 after I purchased, which I would have happily overlooked. Until we got to the final product.

I approved my design on the test site and waited for the install…and waited…and waited. And was told “Friday!” And I waited some more. Nearly 120 days after purchasing my redesign, my site was live!

I felt like Dr. Frankenstein! I had been waiting so long for this day…but it wasn’t perfect. There were elements that just didn’t look right or weren’t working the way I had envisioned them.

So I contacted my designer. I was upset, but not angry by any means.

I had paid good money to have the website work the way I wanted it to. I’m not a designer (if I was, I would not have had to hire one), but I did expect that my site’s functionality would not be affected. Now, perhaps this is ignorance on my part, but when you pay someone $1225, I think it’s safe to say that is something that should be unspoken.

Obviously, it needed to be spoken, and I should have been more clear. I think that because of the way that the package was sold, I felt that I could be more hands-off in my approach. This obviously didn’t serve me well, as I had to call on a designer friend to fix some glaring errors.

My Costly Mistake

When I asked my designer to fix them, I was rudely told that it wasn’t her responsibility. Up to that point, I was just frustrated. That brought me to tears. And then she terminated our “relationship” at that point and refunded me $125 of the $1225 that I paid, stating that was all she owed me.

I still do not have business cards, social media headers, nor do I have my stationary. Sadly, I purchased a full experience and was left desperately wanting. I understand that I’m not innocent, but I paid good money to someone I thought I could trust. 140 glowing reviews couldn’t be wrong….

But when I asked her why my photos were all skewed and badly cropped, this is the response I received:

I am not responsible for resizing all of your current blog post photos.

Lesson Learned: Be extremely clear about what you are purchasing and the IMPACT of a new design on your existing content. A good web designer should be able to highlight these types of things as being an issue in advance.

I Paid $1225 For What?

At this point, I went from frustrated to disappointed. What had my $1225 paid for? Sure, I have a beautiful logo…but now I feel like it’s tainted with distrust and misrepresentation. Not only that, but I never received items that I had paid for. I understand the need for refund policies, and the fact that a designer works hard to create their product…but at some point, the customer needs to be considered, as I stated here:

“I paid you an insane amount of money, and this is unacceptable. If you are using a theme that is not capable of resizing images, then you may want to reconsider the theme that you do use. At this point in time, I feel that there are two options:

1. You need to figure out how to fix the images IN the theme.

2. You can refund me the cost of the non delivered items and I will move forward with a different designer.

I will say that I love your work, I love what you’ve created, but I paid you over $1000 and I should NOT have to be modifying things on my end. I chose you because of your professional packages, portfolio, and reviews.

As a business owner, it’s my job to make sure that my customers are beyond happy with the product that they receive from me. That’s just part of doing business. I should have asked some very pointed questions about exactly with was considered “included”.

My sidebar widgets had been stripped out, my analytics tracking code was removed, my SEO was broken. It was a mess. And I removed her as a user just as she was doing a hard resize to all of my photos, which is not a professional solution.

**UPDATE 9/15/15**

In the end, I recovered $125.00 that I had paid for social media icons and another $225 for the unfinished product. I was also able to recover $650.00 for services not completed. For those of you keeping track (or math challenged), that’s a total recovery of $1000, which means that I’m only out the $225 that she currently charges for logo design-which she did deliver to my satisfaction.

And I still have to pay someone to come in and start from scratch again to make it look like it currently does. Thank God for Kelsey!

My girlfriend Kelsey is amazing, and she gave up her Sunday to help me. She is also doing a total redesign for me that is going to be amazing, fun, energetic, and done right. If you’re looking for a designer, you should definitely check out her portfolio. She rocks.

The thing is…I shouldn’t have had to call on her. At all. I should have just hired her in the first place (I hadn’t met her yet, unfortunately).

Tips for Hiring a Web Designer


Tips for Hiring A Web DesignerPlease, please do yourself a favor and do what I didn’t do. Ask questions and demand to see their work. Don’t assume that the images and pictures (and even reviews) are accurate. Make sure you take your time picking a web designer and just don’t jump because they have two good reviews. Ask the questions, look at their work, and dig deep.

Dig Deeper

Make sure that you look beyond their flashy front page. Pay attention to the little things. Are buttons centered? Is the text easy to read? Is navigation usable?

Read All The Reviews

Pay attention to what other purchases have to say. And look at what products the designer is selling. If you can’t find a lot of buyers for their website design, look elsewhere. And if they have reviews disabled anywhere, RUN. 

Remember that Etsy has a 60 day review policy. This means that reviews are only available in the first 60 days after purchase. This explains why all of her reviews were of a half-finished product. I was happy in the first 60 days, too!

Review The Payment & Refund Policies

The designer that I hired had a ZERO refund policy for items delivered. Even though I was not satisfied, so that is something to be aware of. If you are unhappy with work, will they make changes, offer refunds, or is it paid and done in their policy?

Quality designers will charge you a deposit when the begin your design, not the whole amount.

I didn’t realize this, and was so blown away with the portfolio that I went ahead and purchased without due diligence.

Contact The Sites in the Designer’s Portfolio

How was their experience? Are they willing to talk to you about what it was like to work with the designer? Was the designer attentive and prompt in their communication?

Or better yet, find a website you love and look for their designer. Shoot them a message and ask who they used and how their experience was. If I’d done this, I would have spent about $500 and had an amazing site.

Build or Design?

There’s a big difference. When I hired my designer, I was doing so based on visuals only. After the fact, I will admit this was my mistake. She has an amazing talent for design…but she really doesn’t know how to code. The framework she chose was very strange and not customizable.

Ideally, you’ll find someone who can do both,  like my friend Kelsey.

What Theme Will Be Used?

The designer used a theme that I’d never heard of. Most WordPress sites use Genesis, Divi, Beaver Builder or Thesis. I trusted her, but I shouldn’t have.

If you haven’t heard of it, don’t just trust them. Do some research.

Once you’ve found your designer and done your homework, be crystal clear about what you want:

  • Which websites do you like?
  • Do you like a certain font?
  • Do you love plaid or hate chevrons?
  • What do you DO?
  • What do you want to communicate?

Be specific, dynamic, and demand good communication. Don’t shrug it off. It’s your site. They should be making your vision come to life. Be involved.

In short, you’re better off asking around and getting a personal recommendation. Trust me on this one.

Anne’s strong recommendation is to start with Dabble Media.

Have you had an amazing experience with a contractor?

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  1. Misty Blue on August 6, 2015 at 9:29 am

    Pinned. I still can’t believe this all happened. EVERY designer should offer post installation support, and she was nasty with you from the second you mentioned it. She could’ve been much less rude and avoided the whole mess. I will never order from her, and I am SO glad no one else in our blogging group will either.

    • Brea on August 6, 2015 at 9:35 am

      LOL. I am just so thankful that this gave me an opportunity to hire Kelsey!!

  2. Amanda on August 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Oh wow, Brea. That is just awful! I knew you had problems with your site, but never to this extent! That is so unprofessional. Although you learned this lesson at a high cost, I truly thank you for sharing this with everyone so we all realize that we should do a lot of research before paying someone to do work for us

    • Brea on August 6, 2015 at 10:04 am

      It was definitely a good lesson!

  3. Lindsay on August 6, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I’m so glad you wrote this. So unfortunate you had to deal with all this crap and jump through hoops in order to get what you paid for, which was still not delivered. Let this be a lesson to many others, myself included.


    • Brea on August 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

      Trust your gut 🙂

  4. Tara on August 6, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am looking for a designer now and was very unsure what to look for. I will certainly be using this as a reference on what to ask! Karma is real- you must have something great coming your way!

    • Brea on August 6, 2015 at 10:59 am

      Kelsey is amazing!!!

  5. Charlotte on August 6, 2015 at 11:21 am

    I had an experience once like this (not nearly as bad though) and I was so disheartened by all of it too 🙁 I’m so sorry to hear this happened, and that it was such a time-consuming and $$ lesson to learn. In the end, I’m glad you had a redesign by someone you know/trusted and hope that you have been able to leave her honest feedback about your experience on Etsy and anywhere else she is advertising. I would absolutely want to know!

    • Brea on August 6, 2015 at 11:23 am

      I can’t leave feedback on Etsy because of their 60 day rule. Hence posting here.

  6. Trish on August 10, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    This is such a horrible thing to go through, Brea. It just breaks my heart. What an amazing and positive thing you’ve turned it into by making sure others don’t fall into the same mistake. Thank you for putting it out there and being such a positive influence! 🙂

    • Brea on August 10, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      I have to believe that it was a lesson I needed to learn.

  7. dina on August 10, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    oh my gosh I’m so sorry to hear that! I have decided after my much smaller Etsy designer disaster which is what is going on my blog now, to hire someone I knew. Also this designer was clear and up front with me about what is going to be doing on in the design process. The designer of my blog now took almost 3 months to finally get my blog up and running. Although, I’m okay with the blog I don’t love it.

    And I’m like you. I should have done a lot more research and saved up for blog design rather then getting distracted by an Etsy designer. 🙁

    • Brea on August 10, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      I did save up. For almost 2 years. I figured you get what you pay for-not the case apparently.

    • Brea on August 10, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      I saved for nearly 2 years. I am sorry you are going through something similar!

  8. Chelsea on August 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I am literally speechless. I am SO SORRY THIS HAPPENED TO YOU OH MY GOSH!!!!!!! I can’t even imagine putting that money down and having to deal with that headache….if it makes you feel any better, I think your site looks fabulous.

    • Brea on August 10, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Thank you! It’s all Kelsey’s doing! She is amazing, and stepped up when she didn’t have to! I can’t wait to see the final product she comes up with (what you see now is triage! LOL)!!

  9. Shann Eva on August 10, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    I am so sorry you had to go through all of this. In the end, I’m glad you got your site looking the way you wanted, but it is ridiculous that you had to spend so much extra time and money. I’m so glad you wrote this post to get the word out there. She really is unprofessional, and other people should be aware.

    • Brea on August 10, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      It was a good lesson. And I hope that by sharing my mistakes I can help others.

  10. Cynthia @craftoflaughter on August 10, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I’m so sorry this happened to you and I’m so glad you found a different designer whom you have faith in.

  11. Leelo R on August 10, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    wow! I don’t know what to say :S I’m so sorry this happened to you!
    I have been thinking about paying someone do redsign my blog, but I’m just scared that I might end up spending a lot of money and still not be happy with the result.

    • Brea on August 10, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      The best advice I can give you is to do your research! A good designer is well worth it.

  12. Claire on August 10, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Um this is TERRIBLE and I’m SO sorry you’ve gone through this. I do wish you would share the name of the designer though so that we all would know not to use her – although I understand why you didn’t. Just remember Karma will come around – depending on how you paid you may have a way to file a claim to get your money back. Definitely file a claim with Etsy if you figure out how to – and if she has a business license look into filing a report with the BBB. Pull out the big guns girlfriend and keep messaging her until she refunds ALL of your money – this is 100% not acceptable!

    • Brea on August 11, 2015 at 12:07 am

      Thanks Claire!

  13. Jennifer Williams on August 11, 2015 at 12:04 am

    I am lucky to have a great designer that is amazing and a lot cheaper. I as well as several of my blogging friends have used her again and again because she is good at what she does and the prices can not be beat. Always ask a group of bloggers who they use, you will get honest opinions from them and it allows you to check out their websites to see if you like what you see!

    • Brea on August 11, 2015 at 12:07 am


  14. Brooke on August 11, 2015 at 9:06 am

    What a NIGHTMARE! I feel like it’s a naive/inexperienced business person that will not absolutely rectify/refund/fix the problem when a client is so unhappy. The cost is small when compared to developing a bad reputation. I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with such a mess, and such a costly one, at that. How great that you can now fully support your friend doing the redesign, at least. Your advice is great and I didn’t know/wouldn’t have thought of most of it either. Best of luck moving forward 🙂

    • Brea on August 11, 2015 at 9:07 am

      Thank you!

  15. Kim S on December 7, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    OMG, what a cluster……I’m so glad that justice was served in the end!! Sorry you had to go through all of that!!

    • Brea on December 7, 2015 at 8:34 pm

      It absolutely was! I am SO excited about my new design!

  16. Isabelle on February 17, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    What a pain! I just went through a similar scenario with an Etsy designer as well (maybe it’s the same.) I paid her in July to install a blog on my website. Long story short, I paid in July, and in February I still didn’t have a functional site! Had to pay someone else and it was done in 3 days! Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Brea on February 17, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      I am so sorry that you had such a horrible experience! I would report it.

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