I’ve been building websites since 1999. I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. I now see a lot of problems with the way most of us do business. So, I’m changing mine.
Here are some of the problems I see:
- Paying for a website by the hour. Websites have changed a LOT over the last 15 years. We used to need someone to build our website in HTML. HTML was fairly limited back then and could only do a couple of things, so building a website was a finite task. It was more of an electronic billboard. My clients knew exactly what their electronic brochure needed to look like and what it needed to say to the people who found it or were pointed to it.Today, our websites are employees for our company. They are living, growing organisms that need to be cared for and fed on a regular basis. They need to grow. They are applications and interactive processes that can make or break our business. If you are paying me by the hour to get this done, your bill can run pretty high. I have to make enough money to live on and I’m no different from you, I want my profits to go up too. So I either have to work more hours or charge you more per hour to get my raise. Which would you choose in my position?I don’t want to charge you more and I don’t want to work more hours, so something has to give. I no longer want to trade my time for your money.
- When you pay by the hour, you choose to NOT make changes to your website that would make your site more profitable. When most of my clients need a change to their site – or they have a great new idea for their site, the first question I get is “how much is this gonna cost me?” I get excited with my clients for what they can dream to make their site better, but then when I put a pencil to how long this is going to take me to accomplish, I lose the excitement. I know that most of the time, they are going to choose not to do it, even though it would make them a much better site. Why? Because they can’t afford to pay that much – it’s just not in their budget. I can’t afford to take less because since there is only one of me, I must get the most I can for my hour of time. We both leave frustrated.
- Free Websites. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. You get what you pay for. Free websites are making someone money somewhere along the line. It may be that you need to upgrade to get the features your site really needs. It may be that you must have a lot of advertising on your site which YOU aren’t getting paid for. But, your free website provider is making money from your hard work. Hosting the site for you is costing someone money. They are usually not doing that out of the goodness of their heart. There must be an equal exchange of energy for a transaction to be complete. That a universal law. So, figure out where that exchange is taking place. What are they getting in return? Ask them.Oh, and ask them how you can move your site to another hosting company while you are at it. My guess is that they own your code and your content, so there’s no moving for you. You’ll have to start over when you figure out that you can not grow your business with a free website. If starting over is acceptable for you, then get the free website.
On the other hand, generally, people who get free websites are not serious about the website and it’s usually abandoned rather quickly. We value what we pay for. We take care of what we pay for. Getting a free website is like saying, “I don’t really care about my website and/or business and since I’m not paying for it, it can wait until last in my list of priorities.” Paying for the website AUTOMATICALLY moves it up your priority list.
- Bad Information. Too many people know enough to be dangerous and they don’t know enough to ask the right questions. It may be hard to find someone they can trust in this industry. They are getting mixed messages from too many places. Who do you trust?The information out there is overwhelming and few people know where to start. I consider myself lucky that I started many years ago and have been able to watch as the industry has progressed giving me insight into why things are done the way they are done now and what’s really going on behind the scenes. I can only imagine how frustrating and overwhelming it would be to start out today with so much overwhelming information from sources that I didn’t know if I could trust.
- It’s Hard to Get Started in this Industry. Most jobs in this industry require at least 3 years experience. Most students getting out of school don’t have that kind of experience. They need hands on experience, but they’ve had to learn so many different things about this industry in college that they just aren’t sure where to get started. They know a little about a lot of things, but not a lot about the things they want to do most. Where do they get started now? It’s often easier for a self-taught person to get started, but then they often lack the background education.
- Ugly Websites. In today’s world, your ugly website is something only your competitor loves to see. People won’t hang around ugly websites unless you are the only game in town. But, I hear you. You can’t afford a new design. It’s just not in the budget. And what you have is working. I hear it all the time. Unfortunately, you need a new design and you are losing money with your ugly website. I do know that feeling of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” too. Very few of us would admit to having an ugly website, but very few of us would deny that there are some things we could do to make our website a little better either. But, who’s got the money for THAT?
- Yes, I know there are typos on my site, but it costs me at least $20 to get someone to fix them for me. If there was only a way for me to change it myself, but it would cost me more to learn how to do it than to just get it fixed for the $20.
- Calling yourself a Web Designer/Developer does NOT mean you know what you are doing. Too many people hire a ‘web designer’ who doesn’t have a clue what they are doing. These web designers often cost them way more money in the long run because they have to eventually find someone to fix their site that the ‘web designer’ screwed up. Besides, there’s so much more to ‘web design’ than there used to be, and it’s HARD to be an expert on all of it. There’s SEO, design, programming, marketing, traffic generation, content generation, copywriting, user experience experts, accessibility standards and I could go on and on. One person can not do well in all of those areas at the same time. But, as a freelance professional, we are called upon for all of those things.
- Many people would love to be Web Developers themselves but don’t know where to start, can’t get the hands-on learning, or can’t afford to go back to school. I know a lot of people who would love to do what I do, but don’t want or need to go through the process I went through to get here. My career is 30 years in the making and growing up with the industry was much easier than jumping in now when it’s really deep water. This is one profession that would work well for apprenticeships or internships, but they are hard to come by. People who are serious about this business are usually working by the hour and don’t have time to train an intern. Those hours need to be billable hours. Businesses, as we mentioned before, want someone with 3 to 5 years experience. They don’t have the time or money to train. In this business, everything needs to be finished yesterday to stay ahead of, or even with, the competition.
- It’s hard to determine how much your time is worth. There are many sites I’ve had to turn down because the client couldn’t afford to pay for what the site was worth building at my hourly rate. I want to discount my rate for clients I really love, websites I would really love to build, or organizations just starting out, if I want to land the job. I often cut myself short. I love helping people and when I work trading time for money, I can only help one person at a time. I often spread myself too thin trying to help too many which leads to not helping any one person well. I can’t afford to charge what my time is worth, because I would charge myself right out of a job. It is my most valuable asset and one I want to guard heavily. I need more leverage to help more people.
It’s time for a change. I’ve been stewing on these problems for a very long time and now it’s time to implement a solution. I’ll save that solution for another post, but I want to list here the requirements for the solution:
- An affordable way to obtain and build a website.
- An easy way to learn how to care and feed my website.
- A way to build the site of my dreams on MY budget and within MY time frame.
- A way for my web developer/trainer to make enough money to live on too.
- An affordable, easy way for new programmers/designers to get into this business with hands-on training.
- Affordable, reliable tools for building and delivering my website to my customers/visitors.
- Someone to trust for honest answers at an affordable rate.
- Ways to get new ideas, tips, tricks and easy-to-follow advice for how to make my website better.
- Win/win situations for everyone involved from clients, interns, designers, experts, and visitors.
- Collaboration between groups so that no one person has to be the expert on EVERYTHING.
I’ll share my solution to the problem in a later post. For today, just know that I see the problems. I understand the requirements. I’m working on the solution. My business is changing. Hopefully, that translates into changing your world too.
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG & Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net