Moving Toward a Better Business Model

Screenshot from The Huelsman Way's Pricing page

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a pair of memorable experiences occur that has me recognizing that I need to work on my overall business model and how I should go about providing services to my clients. Again, I’ve spent a lot of time (and money) over the past three months to build a cloud-based web server where I can host a potentially unlimited number of WordPress sites. But getting my current client sites converted over from DNN is proving a little more challenging than I had hoped…and it’s mostly my fault.

A Great Experience!

Last week, I met one of my clients in Waunakee to discuss some important business needs. Honestly, all the client wanted was a dedicated email address, which was easy to setup on my existing Rackspace mail server. Afterwards, my client asked how much I wanted for the consulting and work, and I promptly replied that he didn’t owe me anything–I merely considered the work part of my annual hosting fee. However, my client absolutely insisted that he properly compensate me for my time and handed over $200 (which is more than what I charge for his site for an entire year!). We departed having substantially helped one another and I came away from the experience rather amazed.

A Not-So-Good Experience

Since December, I’ve been working on a new WordPress installation for another client of mine. I went through all the same steps that has worked for me in the past; I proposed a theme on ThemeForest, received approval and installed that theme, configured the new site to meet my client’s expectations (or so I thought) and I migrated substantial amounts of his existing DNN site to the new WordPress site. However, in my zeal to whip yet another WordPress site into shape, my client became increasingly disappointed; he really had a firm expectation of what the site should look like and I wasn’t able to meet those expectations (not without hacking the theme directly with custom programming). Now, neither of us are happy and I need to figure-out a Plan B.

Lessons Learned

I’ve taken away two important lessons from these experiences:

  1. Be sure to completely understand a client’s business need before moving ahead
  2. My time is valuable and I need to stop giving so much of it away for free

Understanding Business Need

In both cases above, I probably could have done a better job at truly understanding my client’s business needs. While the first experience was a welcome surprise, it was still my fault that my client was so desperate to meet his specific business need that he was willing to pay a fair amount of money just to receive what he wanted. In retrospect, I was meeting his needs retroactively instead of proactively and that’s simply not good customer service. In the future, I need to better understand what my clients truly want and then be sure that those needs are met quickly, professionally and completely.

Time is Money

Sometimes my desire to provide fanatical customer service (to borrow a phrase from my original web hosting provider Rackspace) leads me astray in forgetting that, in the end, I need to earn money in order to keep my business going. Sometimes, I let the line between business relationship and personal friend blur and it’s easy for me to provide substantial services to my clients for little or no compensation. Frankly, this attitude of mine basically sunk two previous companies I founded and if I’m not careful it could sink this one. Hence, I really, REALLY need to better focus on the financial aspects of my business and ensure that I’m being properly compensated for everything I do.

A Better Business Model

While rebuilding my website a few months ago, I put some careful thought into the development of a new pricing page for smaller organizations where I provide my one-time setup fees, hourly rates and web hosting fees for clients needing a relatively small (1-5 page) site, a medium (5-15 page) site or a larger (15-30 page) site. This pricing is based on years of site development experience, knowing how WordPress sites are developed these days and attempting to provide everything that a small, medium or larger organization may want from their website. I think the pricing is fair and its something I need to stick to.

Additionally, I want to go beyond just building websites for folks. Ideally, a website is just one way for businesses or organizations to communicate and there are many more available (social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, printed materials such as business cards, brochures and postcards, traditional media such as radio, television and so forth). Again, the absolute best way for me to help my clients is for me to truly understand their business and their needs, which all begins with a communications plan and/or a web content strategy. I’ll blog more about these elements down the road but I encourage all of you to engage in a conversation with me regarding where you want to take your organizations online and help me better understand what it is you want to do.

Site Conversion Reminder

Finally, for those of you who are hosting with me right now on my original DNN web server, recall that I’m offering a special, one-time deal to migrate your site to WordPress for 50% off of my pricing plans referenced above. Originally, I was hoping that I could convert these sites quickly and not have to charge anyone anything, but it’s clear to me now that freely developing sites is not in anyone’s best interests. However, I also recognize that many of you aren’t exactly screaming for a new WordPress site, so to make it fair to both of us I’m willing to do the work for half my normal asking price. Again, contact me soon to get the ball rolling!

Upcoming Announcements

p.s. – I’ve got some really exciting news to share soon, a whole new set of services that I’ll blog about once my imminent plans are all finalized later this upcoming week. Stay tuned…!

Professional web developer residing in Waunakee, Wisconsin.

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