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Finding the right people to help manage your online business isn’t easy. In fact, it’s getting harder every day. To an uneducated consumer, a simple Google search for web design services can be overwhelming.
Along with hundreds of services that offer cheap do-it-yourself packages, there are thousands of freelance designers, boutique agencies and large companies all competing for your business.
It’s a competitive market, and it’s important to be able to know what to look for and how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the things that consumers looking for these services need to be aware of before they go shopping for a professional. A little bit of information, and knowing the right questions to ask while shopping goes a long way, and can mean the difference between running a successful online business and struggling or failing.
Here are a few things we tell potential clients to be aware of when they call us with an inquiry.
Consider The Total Cost Of Running An Online Business Before Committing To A Service Provider
Price tags for just a basic website can be anywhere from do-it-yourself templates that cost $4.95/month to flashy websites that cost tens of thousands of dollars. That can be a big source of confusion that leads many cost-conscious business owners to start their search at the very bottom end of the cost spectrum.
To someone who isn’t aware of all of the different factors that go into creating a successful website, starting at the cheap end seems like a perfectly logical place to begin. The problem is that a search that starts at the low-end often leads them to marketing messages that are intentionally designed to mislead and confuse consumers into thinking that $4.95/month is going to give them everything they need to succeed.
It’s a bit like a car salesman trying to sell someone a bargain-priced car with no engine by telling them how good they’ll look sitting in the driver’s seat.
A little bit of good information can go a long way in preventing an otherwise well-intentioned consumer from wasting their time and money figuring out that they got a bad deal.
The truth is that successful online businesses are built on a lot more than just a few paragraphs of text and some pretty graphics. It takes experts years to learn what it takes to plan and execute a successful online strategy that makes a web-based business functional, findable and engaging for customers.
Being aware of the total cost to your organization for an online project can help you make more educated decisions about what you need and which service provider to chose.
Recognize That Successful Websites are Living, Breathing Things That Change Often and Require Constant Maintenance.
In order to build a successful business on the web, you’ll need to use a whole host of software and services that work together and change constantly. That’s the nature of the web.
Backups, analytics, security updates, social media… it’s all distributed across the web and needs constant monitoring and attention to ensure that everything keeps running smoothly. Just because your website is working well today, doesn’t mean that it will be tomorrow.
Knowing this ahead of time allows you to prepare and budget for ongoing maintenance costs that will inevitably arise. Business owners that choose the cheap, do-it-yourself website option often get burned later on in the maintenance phase.
The sad reality is that they pay eventually with their own time dealing with technical issues and taking calls from unhappy customers that could have easily been avoided and planned for.
Know How Much Time And Attention Your Team Is Willing To Devote To The Project Before You Start
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when considering options for an online endeavor is to forget to account for the time and attention your internal team will be devoting to the project. Before you start the project, do a cost benefit analysis that takes in to account the total impact of the per-hour wages of each of the team members involved from start to finish.
It’s smart to assign a dollar amount to the time that you allot for your people, because it’s money you’re spending to take their attention away from other things they could be doing that help your business run.
Once you have a handle on those costs, compare them to the total cost of hiring an experienced professional that may do the job faster and get better results, while allowing your team to continue focusing on what they do best.
Seasoned Professionals Provide Process, Structure & Project Management
Investing in a professional team means your project will be managed according to a structured process, which ensures that adequate attention is devoted at each stage of the project to the things that matter most, and that the project moves towards the finish line according to a plan.
When you’re considering a service provider ask them lots of questions about the process they follow and how they dealt with past projects they’ve been on. It’ll help you get a comfort level around how they work together as a team and how they plan on communicating and working with you.
Experienced teams will have detailed answers about how they do requirements gathering and perform design reviews, and how they report on their progress and how they collaborate with you.
If you start asking questions about these factors, and you’re not getting straight answers, consider looking elsewhere.
Are You Confident That You Are Aware Of What It Takes To Run An Online Business?
If the answer is no, or even maybe, start asking detailed questions. What you’ll find is that seasoned professionals will open your eyes and give you a new appreciation for what it really takes to be successful online. That appreciation may shift your thinking about what a good deal actually is.
Once you’re confident that you’re aware of what it takes to run an online business and you’ve got a handle on what it will cost your team to do business on the web, you can start shopping for services armed with good information that will help you level the playing field and separate the good providers from the bad.