Tale of two clients….

Names have been changed to protect my client’s identity. While the names are changed, the stories are true.

manlookingatwatch.jpgLate last year, my client Barry Smith landed the consulting gig that most consultants dream of landing. He signed with a Fortune 1000 company to do the work that he does best. He signed a one year contract with the company and near the end of the contract, the company began making inquiries as to whether Barry was interested in “conventional” employment with the firm.

Visions of benefits, paid vacations and 401K plans began dancing in Barry’s head. Meanwhile, the domain name registration and web site hosting were both coming due. Barry contacted me to see if he could put his domain name registration and web site hosting accounts onto a monthly payment plan. After all, in a few short weeks, it didn’t look like Barry was going to need to keep his web site up for much longer.

I completely understood Barry’s excitement at the prospect of returning to corporate America. I too have been known to browse through the Monster.com listings and dream of a position where I’m not responsible for taking out the trash and cleaning the “corporate” break room in addition to all of my other fascinating and thrilling tasks for which I’m responsible as a solo entrepreneur.

However, I also fielded a similar call from another client about 18 months ago. Karen left her position at a Fortune 100 company as the director of training and communications to launch her own training and communications firm. Five years after launching her own company, Karen LEPT at the chance to go to work for her biggest account on a full time basis. Karen had never enjoyed all the peripheral duties that come from running your own business. The financial side of the picture made her head spin and she absolutely DESPISED managing the technology that was essential to her business.

I encouraged Karen to keep up her web site, just because it did such a GREAT job of highlighting her talents. I explained to her that any clients who contacted her via her web site could be directed to her employer. Karen was comfortable with that, so we kept her web site intact with the exception of changing the contact information to inform visitors of Karen’s new employer.

Eighteen short months later, Karen’s honeymoon with her employer had ended quickly. It wasn’t long before the comforting blanket that had enveloped her in security was now acting as a tourniquet around her neck. Karen jumped to another “ship” and tried another turn at being a “9-5 employee” but her second stint was even worse than her first. A little more than 2 years after our initial conversation about taking her web site down, Karen found herself back at the helm of KarenJ Training and Communications.

Fortunately, because Karen had left her web site up and kept her hosting account active, it didn’t take much to rev up the marketing engines and get her web site “active” again. During her “time off” her site had aged two years, making her a “Grand Dame” among web sites. A few new articles, a change or two to her “about” page and she was off and running again.

So when Barry contacted me in December, I was able to tell him the WHOLE story of Karen’s quest. I told him how her hosting fees for those two years were small in comparison to creating a whole new web site from scratch. I also told Barry that, if he decided he was happier back in Corporate America, he could always convert his web site to a blog, where he could continue to share his expertise and create a virtual resume for his next job in Corporate America, not to mention a following should he ever decide to publish his thoughts in a book some day.

Lessons to take away from the story above:

 

  1. If you haven’t registered your name as a domain name, do so immediately. Because these two coaches had domain names under their “given” name, they could easily switch to a blog without hurting their standing in the search engines. The blog could then be used to promote their expertise.
  2. There is a severe and harsh penalty levied against “new” web sites by Google. It’s usually WELL worth the $10-$45 per month to maintain your web hosting account even if you “transition” back to traditional employment.
     
  3. Should you decide that the carefree life of a solo entrepreneur is not for you, it is possible to sell your domain name and web site. Because of the penalties imposed by the search engines on new sites, an established site that hasn’t been used for porn or spam is probably worth more than you think it is.
  4. A blog is a great way to showcase your knowledge and expertise. Its ease of use makes it ideal for anyone to strut their stuff and show what they know.

By the way, Barry decided to keep his web site and actually turned down the job offer. Seems the story of Karen Jones reminded him of why he left corporate America in the first place. He has decided to launch a blog so he can effectively demonstrate why the Fortune 1000 company was so interested in bringing him on board full time with other potential clients.

Why I don’t claim to be a “web developer” anymore….

Ten years ago, I launched my own "web development" firm and called it Virtual Impax.  I left the wild and wonderful world of advertising (these were the days when the web wasn’t viewed as yet another advertising medium) to venture into the unexplored lands of the Information Highway.

greatidea.jpgAs I’ve written before, it didn’t take long for me to recognize that my clients came to me seeking a more effective way to advertise or market their businesses.  While they were ASKING for a web site, their DESIRE was for said web site to act as an effective marketing tool.   Because I had nearly 15 years of experience in the advertising arena… and because  I had learned by working with literally HUNDREDS of small businesses to create effective advertising campaigns…. I found myself providing a LOT more than just web development services.

KISS should have been my motto:  Keep It Simple, Stupid!  They ask for a web site, I should have DELIVERED exactly what they hired me to provide: a web site.  However, I just couldn’t provide JUST a web site….  I was dedicated to "Creating exceptional online marketing vehicles for your business."

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Is 800 X 600 really dead?

When a blog (Daily Blog Tips) that has an Alexa rating in the 15,000 range tells you that the 800 X 600 screen display setting is dying, I have to take notice.

It’s times like these that I feel like a REAL dinosaur as I reflect back on the days when 800 was "wide screen"…. and now those 800 pixel wide displays have grown into 1024 x 768.  Sniff!!!  Get out the photo album Pa and we’ll remember the old Compaq computer with it’s 1 gig hard drive that we were SURE would last forever! 

OK, nostalgia rantings aside…. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has a poll on his zdnet blog on screen resolutions where he asks what your screen resolution is.  I went to vote and realized… I don’t even KNOW what my current settings are for this computer. 

I’m running Windows XP so I begin by Start > Control Panel> Display >Settings.  Ah, there…. 1440 X 900

Out of 581 votes on his blog, 6% are running 1440X900.  1 out of three visitors is using display settings of 1280×1024.

Ah, but here’s the rub…. Adrian’s blog is targeted towards web savvy users.  Hardware 2.0 readers are probably VERY different than readers for other blogs.

Is 800X600 "dead"…. well, maybe in some circles.  One of my clients just laid to rest three Windows 98 machines in her office.  Until last week, she was DEFINITELY running a business where 800X600 was the rule of thumb. 

Again, it boils down to YOUR audience.  Is your audience the tech savvy kind…. then by all means, assume the 800X600 screen resolution is dead for them.  However,  recognize that 4% of Adrian’s tech savvy audience is still using that screen resolution. 

More than one of my clients are targeting less than tech savvy audiences and while I feel it’s safe to assume the 640×480 users are used to side scrolling, for now I’m just not comfortable assuming the 800X600 is dead and gone.  Besides… what’s the harm in targeting the lowest common denominator?

Some people REALLY aren’t ready for a web site….

I had a client who apologized for all the "support" he required to get his blog up and running.  He was more than ready to wear the "I’m Stupid" cap…. which, quite honestly, he had not earned the right to wear!  So I shared with him my current GOLD STANDARD for the ultimate in "un-savvy"…. (which sounds much better than "stupid")…

I once had a client for whom I put up a one page web site as a placeholder as we waited for her to find her "direction" for her business.  The web page was her logo with an email contact.

asleepatcomputer.jpgShortly after letting her know her placeholder site was "live", I got an email from her protesting the posting of personal files from her computer to the web site. 

She didn’t WANT everyone on the web to have access to the pictures on her computer.  (Remember, this was a one page web site consisting of her logo and a link with an email address…. there were no links.) 

She later called me an insisted that there was a button on her web site that she could click and see everything on her computer. 

I looked at her site and didn’t see the button to which she referred.  I looked at the CODE to make sure someone hadn’t hacked her site and installed some new script…. nothing in the code.

I was baffled.  The next day, she called to tell me that while she was at work, she went to her web site and was relieved to see that her files from her home computer were no longer visible, however the button revealed the files of her work computer which  were now on display for the entire world wide web to see.

Then it became clear to me what the problem was.  Turns out, she thought that her "start" button on Windows was part of her web site.   When she was at home, she could open her "my documents" file with her browser open and thought that was part of her web site.  The same at work.

What  made this situation TRULY frustrating is I could NEVER convince her of the "reality" of the situation.

Needless to say, her trust in my competence was destroyed and we never got a web site built for her because I had installed such an intrusive application into her web site.

The moral to the story: Some people just aren’t READY for a web site.

You’ll catch more flies with honey….

I am approached frequently by people who are pursuing the "dream" of self employment.  The vision they have is of being in control of their destiny.  No politics to play, no rules to follow…. then reality sets in.  Starting a business is HARD!  It’s even harder when you don’t play well with others. 

manwithheadache.jpgI was recently contacted by a mental health professional who is in hot pursuit of launching his own "American Dream". A highly educated man (as indicated by the alphabet soup following his name), he attempted to contact me first by phone unsuccessfully.  (I didn’t get a voice mail so I assume he left a message on someone else’s machine.)   Wisely, he followed up the phone call with an email.  The email contained two image files and a deadline, but no other details about the proposed project. 

I declined the project and suggested that, if my assumptions about the project were correct, I could recommend someone who could deliver exceptional results. The response was along the lines of "get it to me quickly.  I need to make a decision!"

Excuse me?  Help me and be quick about it?   I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since the first email was basically a "Take a guess on what the specs are for this project and quote it."   

My mother used to tell me "You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."  The same principle works  when dealing with small business owners and freelance service providers.

One of the main reasons most of us fled the world of W-2 forms and group health coverage is because we were fed up dealing with bosses who imposed ridiculous deadlines upon us and treated us as if we were cattle…. easily slaughtered and easily replaced.  When clients approach with the same demeanor, those of us who have achieved self-sufficiency in our businesses tend to run from such a proposition.

Just like many business owners, not only do I offer my services for hire, but I also hire support staff.  Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way myself. 

It’s only been within the past few years that I’ve been able to retain the services of my support staff.  I used to be a horrible boss.  I say that because I had really BAD experiences trying to hire support staff during my first few years in business.  It’s only now that I can look back and see that I was expecting my vinegar spouting ways to attract and retain a highly skilled support staff.   Since those providers were freelance providers as well, they dumped me for sweeter clients. 

For a long time, I thought it was just that the world was populated by idiots.  Now I realize, I was the Queen Idiot!  I’m just grateful that as I look around now, I see that things are different.  I must have changed because I have some INCREDIBLE support staff in place…. and am working with some really amazing clients.   I suspect it has something to do with changing from vinegar to honey in my diet!