A guide to recognising tyre kickers

This website does very well for the search term, ‘freelance web designer manchester’. This means I get more than my fair share of emails from people requesting quotes for projects whereby the people requesting the quote have never commissioned a website before and don’t know how much it should cost or what’s involved.

I don’t like the idea of not responding to them at all–although it would save my sanity if I completely ignored enquiries that I was 90% sure won’t lead to paid work–as I feel it is my job to educate people like this, a little. In order to make my life easier I wanted to write this post along with some examples of briefs from so-called ‘tyre-kickers’ so people can hopefully learn something from them.

When I first started freelancing I created quotes for some of these people and then never heard anything back. I have therefore had to learn the warning signs so I don’t waste any time working on quotes for people who aren’t going to take them seriously.

Here are some examples of the type of brief I get.

Brief 1 – the limited brief

From: Dave Smith <dave@hotmail.co.uk>
Subject: Quote request


How much you charge for design – after some work for a personal project.

I’d be looking for:

homepage design
Order page design
Logo / logo evolution

I’ll be able to provide a wireframe but might be good to have some input on it.

Let me know prices – broken down & I’ll get back to you.



After a couple of emails back and forth where I tried to explain costings to this person they revealed that their personal project was actually a business venture that they were undertaking in their spare time and that they worked (supposedly) for a top digital agency.

I’ve had a lot worse briefs than this, but I wanted to include it for the very fact that this person, in further correspondence alluded to the fact they had some experience in this industry and therefore they should have known better.

The examples get worse, I promise…

Brief 2 – possible spam

From: Mike <mike@hotmail.co.uk>
Subject: We just love to send spam (Note: this a drop down option on the contact form)

I’ve recently had a website designed for me.

It’s 90% complete.

I wanted to know whether you might be able to finish it off?



This could just be general spam but I’ve reason to believe a real person is behind it as the person did fill out the whole contact form. What does 90% complete mean? What does the website look like, what’s the website for? Is it a 90% designed 1,000 page ecommerce site or 5 page brochureware site?

Brief 3 – text speak and cutesy personal email address

From: Keith lemon <random.cute.email@btinternet.com>
Subject: Our company does not currently have a website but needs one

We are a very small, start up company looking for someone good and reliable to build us a website.  Please can u let me know ure prices or forward us ure phone number.
Many thanks


Keith Lemon
websiteaddress.com (URL was potentially rude)

Look, I know I’m a grammar/spelling snob and I know this blog may contain spelling mistakes too, but ‘your’ is not spelt ‘ure’. Take away the cutesy email address and yoof-style text speak and the brief isn’t awful – it’s a simple first contact: it tells me a little about them (i.e. they’re a small company) and they provided a link which means they may have inkling of a clue.

Brief 4 – gimme free stuff

From: Mary Portas <mary_x@hotmail.co.uk>
Subject: I need help or advice about web design


My name is Mary I’m 15 years old and I set up a blog called [name removed] http://example.blogspot.com/ recently I had the idea that I wanted to expand and make it bigger so that where the idea of my company [name removed] came about. The idea is to have it as a well known name like Run Athletics where they sign artists and have clothing lines to their name. My first line ‘Name of product‘ has recently had some interest and I have a company willing to design and advertise the brand for me, however they said I need a website. I understand that this is your business and you need to make money from what you do but I am praying so much that you would agree to this one website design for me for free. I have no money and this could be my big break, if I make money from this then I will definitely compensate you for your time but for now I am wondering if there is any slight chance you would design a website for the URL i just bought (example.com)

It would honestly mean the world to me if you could do this,

Please get back to me and if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask me,



Honestly, I quite liked the cut of this girl’s jib. After all, if you don’t ask you don’t get but surely people realise it’s not fair to ask someone to give you a product/service for free just because you’re young and a nice person. I explained this very nicely to her and also suggested there might be a nice nerdy boy in her school who’d probably move heaven and earth for the chance to give a her free website.

Brief 5 – where do I start?

From: Delia Smith <random.name@hotmail.co.uk>
Subject: I’ve never hired a web designer before and just want to know costs

full website that can take online payments, track orders and recieve web updates regularly

I find it very difficult to even begin saying what’s wrong with this but I need more than one line in a brief in order to work out a cost. This brief is essentially a list of requirements – with no details about the project or the idea.

Common threads in these enquiries

These quotes all have some things in common – personal email addresses (a lot of hotmail.co.uk addresses which is a real indicator of danger) and poor grammar.

A lot of people who get in touch don’t want to reveal anything about their project/idea I’m not sure why; perhaps, they think I’ll steal the idea in a Social Network style but the truth is, there are very few unique ideas and the idea really is the easy part. Creating a business based on the idea is the hard part.


I’ve not written this to make fun of the people who’ve emailed me – honestly that is not the intention – I just wanted to highlight why sometimes I can’t take the chance to spend time writing a proposal for every enquiry I receive, if I didn’t learn my lesson from the emails above then I’d quickly go out of business.

This website used to show my contact number too but I found that people were even more likely to call if they were tyre kickers and me spending 10 minutes on the phone explaining to them how the web design process worked was mentally draining and distracting from the whatever task I was currently working on, so I took the phone number off and never looked back.

What’s your approach to dealing with enquiries like this?

2 responses to “A guide to recognising tyre kickers”

  1. You should do a client brief/ ideas form that covers most of the points you need to establish they are not a tyre kicker. I think Clearleft do something like this.

    I reckon most tyre kickers would baulk at the thought of filling in an extended form, it’d certainly help you sort the wheat from the chaff.

    • I think I definitely need to rethink my contact page and give people more instruction of the type of information I need from them before they get in touch.