I am a freelance designer/developer. I am starting a registered business and will be offering other services soon and I am in the process of expanding the portfolio section of my existing website but have noticed that one of my previous clients has had a bit of trouble and has tried to mimic the design I created for him and do it himself on a Wordpress site.

I originally built him an actual website, on Windows hosting environment and the new version he has created (trying to mimic what I had created) looks terrible.

This is going to reflect badly on me since I am showcasing his website in my portfolio. Now when people go to check out his site, they will no longer see what I built, they'll be seeing a terrible clone of what I made.

How would you deal with this?

I have recently found out that my client had lost my number and spoke to my friend about contacting me but didn't. And based on what was said when I finished the website years ago, there's no reason to assume that he didn't want to contact me again.

Would you contact this client and see if they would like the website put back to its original state (and make any new updates that they wanted)?

Or would you just take the link down from your website's portfolio, and just include a screenshot of the work you did for them?

Or would you just show a list of logos on your portfolio for the people you've done work for?

Or would you include the link to the client's site, along with a screenshot and also some disclaimer somewhere stating that while the screenshots were correct at the time, they may change in the future?

I'd really like to contact this client to see if I can help them, because I know he likes his site to look perfect, and given what he said years ago, there's no reason for me to think that he likes what he's created. But I haven't contacted him yet because I don't want to be rude - because there's always a chance that he has changed his mind, or may be a little proud.

3 Answers 3


Joey, you asked several questions there, some answers are going to be personal preference, some others I have done myself and think they might apply to you as well. So, here it goes:

Deal with it

The web changes. A lot. Work done several years ago cannot and should not apply today. I have no clue on how many work references you have, but assuming you are in the business of creating websites and you do it well, your portfolio should either be filled with stuff or better, only showcasing a select few, aka. your absolute best work. Your work done a couple of years ago, does not interest me as a client. I want to see your current work, my expected output if I pay you to do work for me.

If I knew, I could

Contacting old clients is great service. Politely bringing your name back on the table is not considered rude. At least, I wouldn't feel that way. Actually, I would be flattered knowing that my designer is monitoring his old work and wanting to make sure that everything is in order. Even if it's years old.

Showcasing work, aka. what you write about your work

This is a tricky one. Basically, I am trying to only showcase work potential clients are interested in and are able to understand. Why? As a designer/programmer you tend to focus on your personal achievements during projects and not the actual outcome for the client. I always try to touch base with clients after work is done and ask questions like "how did your business improve after relaunch" and "what is the most awesome part you like with the new code/design". Sometimes this leads to follow-up projects, sometimes it leads to disappointing answers, but sometimes this leads to testimonials which are "golden". Conveying your unique selling proposition with the words of clients is big. In fact, my highest converting showcases portfolio work are the ones where the client does the talking.

Showcasing work, aka. what you show

I like to keep it simple. Every project gets a dedicated page, with more than one screenshot. I only focus on parts that I actually did. There is no point in screenshoting the homepage, if you didn't do most of it. I always link to the client's website. No matter, if the work is actually present or even made for the web. It's something I call pride. And customers do see the backlinks in their Analytics or their SEO tools. I am also trying to only showcase my top references, knowing that old ones will be replaced. This is unfortunate for the reference, since I am really proud about some older projects of mine, but do show them if I am asked to present more references to potential clients.

What's next

No matter if you are large or small, you should always touch base with older clients from time to time. Don't be shy to call them up, write them an email or try to sell them more. This is business and should be treated as such. There is no time in being an introverted business man. This also applies, if not even more, with clients it didn't work out so well. In fact, they might be the best ones to actually understand what didn't work and how to improve your business.

  • 1
    Thank you so much @DKOATED, I now see this in a whole new light. I am going to contact the client
    – jay_t55
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 14:31
  • 1
    Good answer. Relationships to former clients is a very good thing for every small business / freelance worker, not only for webmasters and designers.
    – Yves
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 20:08

It seems to me that you have nothing to lose in contacting your old client to see if they require work to be done to their website. You will achieve nothing by not asking and it could be profitable if you do. You don't have to be so blunt by saying "your site looks terrible", simply regaining contact and enquiring about work could be sufficient. You cannot force them to make changes as they might be (naively) happy with what they have, or simply not have the cash to do more.

Or would you just take the link down from your website's portfolio, and just include a screenshot of the work you did for them?

I don't think you should link to the website if it is not your own work, or you are unhappy with the result. This can only count against you. By all means include screenshots of your original design, date it and place a footnote stating that the live site has since been updated by a 3rd party - or something to that effect.

Or would you just show a list of logos on your portfolio for the people you've done work for?

Logos might be OK for large established organisations and perhaps where you have done development work, not necessarily associated with the design. But if you are wanting to build a design portfolio then a logo isn't particularly helpful; unless you have designed the logo.

  • 1
    Thank you @w3d, based on what you and DKOATED have said I am going to contact them.
    – jay_t55
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 14:33

I'm in a similar situation. I built a custom magento site for a client in 2009. I quit the agency I was working for and moved to the West Coast. He hired a very inexperienced webdev that didn't know magento but he knew Wordpress so he recreated the rest of the site in wordpress. The design is great but there are errors all over the place. I assumed he was happy with the current guy who was helping him but little did I know he was trying desperately to track me down! :(

One day out of the blue (after 3 years) he found me! Now I'm stuck with a two wordpress installs (several duplicate databases that cross reference one another), an oscommerce install, and one very out of date magento install. He never deleted any files, just kept adding on!

With all that said, the client is very happy to finally have it back on track and I'm happy to add him back to my client list.

Final answer: Contact him - keep it as friendly as possible. Perhaps just let him know you were checking up on previous clients to see if they needed any help or additional maintenance.

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