"Hello World! We're out of a job :(" would probably be an appropriate first blog post for a webmaster utilizing one of the many do-it-yourself website builders or content management systems available today for the very first time. But how is it that advances in technology could hinder a Web professional's business progress, when fundamentally it could be harnessed for good? The answer is simple; Deceptive marketing makes people believe in things that aren't really there.
Websites have never been easy to create, regardless of drag-and-drop functionality, a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, or other popular lingo within the website builder space. Today, there are even AI (artificial intelligence) systems available on the market that will supposedly develop your site for you. Simply inject a minimal amount of content into a simple online form and there you go; Great concept, but in reality, it's just a sexy idea that will never come to fruition... at least not for anyone interested in developing something of true value for their visitors.
But this article isn't necessarily about how a DIY technology can be a more or less convincing solution than, say, hiring a professional to build out your next project. It's about how a Web designer, programmer, marketer, or agency can remain profitable alongside emerging applications targeting consumers. To do this, we need a clear perspective of who exactly our clients are.
Previously, a non-tech-savvy person wouldn't have any other choice than to delegate (and, therefore, pay for) the service of creating websites to a capable individual because, for the most part, it was done from scratch. With demand being so high, the average webmaster saw these as good times indeed. But was his/her work enjoyable, appreciated, and a true demonstration of their expertise? Probably not. So on this front, not much has changed.
This brings us to an important point. The small ticket customer (i.e. a person with a very limited budget) never was a good, longterm business decision to take on anyways. Right now, webmasters everywhere are experiencing turbulence, that's all. The industry is changing, so we too have to change. It's not just about charging more. It's about embracing the need to be dynamic, and as a result, the need to grow.
Increasing your prices as a Web pro might help you prepare for the difficulties that lie ahead, but by learning new skills today, you might not have to. This is why countless Web designers in 2016 (when this article was written) are learning how to code advanced functionality into a website, and existing developers are launching start-ups. There is uncertainty, but there is also opportunity.
But what about those who don't want to shift focus in their career? Well, many serious customers (who tend to be people that already have a business) are still around. They're willing to pay top dollar for results (i.e. more leads and/or high return on investment) and they're looking for the best person to help get them.
A few elements assist in making a Web professional stand out:
- Position yourself as an expert by blogging, vlogging, podcasting, or teaching locally
- Package some of your knowledge into a well-structured digital product, and give it to your target customer for free
- Create a simple piece of software (i.e. an application, plugin, etc) that solves one small problem in your target customer's industry, and give it to them, once again for free
It's obviously clear that offering something for free has its benefits. Mainly, it gets the attention of others in a way that builds trust. This can lead to a large contract, or a paid speaking engagement with a room-full of potential clients, etc. But the key to free is to not give away your services. Going back to what we mentioned earlier in this article, going after the small ticket customer is not a smart move. And it's a nightmare waiting to happen with non-payers because free has no end, and, hence, is not definable. This, of course, is unless you're in total control - a rare occurrence when there are two or more parties involved.
Your portfolio, your reach, your name, and your bottom line will grow when you grow. So grow past the hype, grow past the lies, and grow past the limitations of robot competitors and a dying industry.