Welcome to Business Myths. Here’s the deal: we often hear business “truths” and accept them as true without stopping to question them. We’re chatting with solopreneurs and freelancers who have learned the hard way that these commonly accepted facts may not, in fact, always be true. In this case, Ashley shares her take on why “investing in yourself” isn’t always a no-brainer.
It’s commonly stated, and widely believed, that “investing in yourself” (aka buying a course, program, membership, etc.) is the best thing you can do for your business.
There’s a lot of wisdom in that advice. After all, you are your business, and the more you improve your skills and abilities, the better you’ll be able to run the show and the better your bottom line will look.
While I do agree that the right training can allow you to leapfrog ahead of where you’d be if you figured everything out on your own, I don’t necessarily agree that plinking down money for the program or course dancing in front of you is a no-brainer.
The value of learning
I don’t for one second want to give the impression that there isn’t value in identifying an area of weakness (or finding a new entrepreneurial front to move into) and then strengthening your skills in that area. In fact, there’s a lot of value in courses, coaching and programs, and I’ve taken advantage of quite a few myself.
Here’s the beef: “investing in yourself” this way is only going to pay off (making it a successful “investment”) if it’s the right education at the right time:
when you’ve hit a roadblock and this will get you through it;
when you need a new skill and taking a course will enable you to leap-frog;
when you’re just starting out and totally green and lost;
when it makes strategic sense and you can afford it.
Basically, investments need to pay off. That’s pretty much the definition of a good investment. And when you sign up for every new opportunity without really looking at how it supports your long-term strategy, you aren’t necessarily making good investments.
A justified distraction?
Often, a new course or program can be a dressed-up form of distraction, also known as procrastination.
As an entrepreneur, there comes a time when you need to stop learning and start doing. When you don’t feel confident landing new clients, for example, it’s easier to take a course on landing new clients than it is to start digging, marketing, pitching, and bracing for rejection. So instead of doing the hard and scary work that leads to actual dollars in your pocket, you sign up for one more webinar, join one more program, or study one more blogger’s advice.
In my experience? Not a winning strategy. You’d likely be better served by pitching and asking for peer reviews.
Fear — of failure, of rejection, of success. Boredom. Intimidation or inadequacy. Shiny Object Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome. Habit. Envy. Lack of vision or strategy. These are just some of the reasons so many of us reach for our wallets when a new opportunity to learn something comes up.
If you’re considering a new personal development program, take a hard look at why you want it in the first place. If it’s to fill an actual knowledge gap you’ve identified, have at it. It’s another thing entirely if you’re telling yourself this is “the thing” that will “get you there” — wherever “there” is.
Know what your goals are, be clear on exactly how this new investment will serve you and your business, and commit to following through. That’s the only way it’s going to pay off. (See definition of investment, above.) Anything less is just procrastination… potentially expensive procrastination.
There’s also the case where you may sign up for the next big thing without really considering the financial impact. Tune into your business for a minute, first.
Taking advantage of these opportunities indicates that we expect them to lead to a lot more money down the road. But before we get to the “down the road” part, they cost money now.
Money going out has a direct impact on profitability. Too much money going out could mean that you lose your profitability, and that’s obviously not good for business.
Learning how to run your business well and level up in your craft is important, yes, but so is operating without burying your financial future under the crushing weight of your friends Visa and MasterCard. Staying right-side-up matters! Possibly more than that $997 membership with $4,000 in bonuses! Know your business, and whether or not you can handle it.
Just be smart
There are many times when paying for personal development products is exactly what you need for your business — but with so many of these opportunities cropping up all the time, it’s easy to get swept away. Pay attention to how you’re putting these investments to work, keep an eye on your bottom line, and don’t let the idea of “investing in yourself” become such a no-brainer that it ends up getting in the way of real growth and development.
Ultimately, when you’re the boss you’ve got to manage all your resources — including money, time, strategy, and yes, your personal and business growth and development.
Tell me: how do you make the decision on what to invest in for your biz?
When we chose Motivation & Inspiration as our March theme for our 2015 editorial calendar, we have to admit: we were struggling to think of anything completely revolutionary.
Then, we received a guest post pitch from Jennie Mustafa-Julock aka Coach Jennie aka The Audacity Coach. The title? Motivation is a Solopreneur’s Worst Enemy. Yeah. Since we know business isn’t one-size-fits-all — and we like to mix things up here at OWS — we published Jennie’s post ASAP, then invited her to join us for a Google Hangout so she could tell us about her unconventional approach to motivation.
In this 45-minute video, we chat about:
What Jennie believes you need instead of motivation or inspiration
Why she believes the Law of Attraction is pure crock
Who “Hilda” is and how to tell her to get the hell out (hint: we all know her and we apologize to anyone named Hilda)
Tell us about yourself and your business – what do you do + who do you serve?
My name is Coach Joy Dejos and I’m The MommyProofing Coach. I’m in the business of supporting mamas in kicking Mommy Guilt, Mommy Shame, and Mommy Judgment to the curb, so they can start saying YES to themselves more often, without feeling bad about it!
I serve driven, passionate, ambitious moms who may have strayed off the path because they are just so exhausted trying to balance the complexities of motherhood. They know they want to do more; they just need the support to get going!
Are there any things commonly accepted as truths in the business world that you flat out disagree with?
I flat out don’t accept that just because you’re passionate about your dreams, it will happen. The Law of Attraction is powerful, but success doesn’t materialize at the end of that sentence. You need to work hard, create structures, get stellar help, and put in the hours to make that vision into reality.
What’s one thing people might not know just from reading your website and following you on social media?
I’m a tropical island girl, hailing from the Philippines! 🙂 I love to travel; I love fashion; I love art!
Tell us a funny story about something related to your business.
Not so much a story, but the funny looks – I get them all the time when I say I’m the “MommyProofing Coach”… instant reaction is always: “Mommy what???” Yes ladies! Mamas need to proof themselves from the dangers of motherhood!
If you could do just one piece of your business forever, what would it be?
Definitely the actual coaching aspect! What many people don’t realize about solopreneurs is that we do so much “other” work – marketing, selling, branding, back-end tech stuff. I would love to just coach moms all day long without having to do all of the other stuff!
What does community mean to you?
Community means support, celebration, inspiration, motivation, challenge, openness, service. Community is FAMILY.
What is the #1 lesson you’ve learned since being in business on your own?
Cheesy as it may sound – I can do anything I put my mind to… if I want it badly enough! 😉
Give us a shameless plug for your latest project/product/freebie!
“I love my kids, but sometimes, I just want to escape… I catch myself thinking: what about me???” If you’ve had these thoughts once (or many times over!), it’s okay. It’s time we reconnect with YOU – because when you give YOU a chance, you allow yourself to be a happier woman and that means being a happier, better mom too! This September, I’m launching MommyChoosing: Saying Yes to Your Self and Your Life, a shared group coaching experience for Moms. I hope you’ll join!
Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Joy!
As we were brainstorming people in our community who could speak to June’s theme of income and money making, we immediately thought of Rebecca Tracey, the head honcho over at The Uncaged Life and the creator of the awesomely-named Hey, Nice Package!
In addition to having a category on her blog called Kick in the Ass, she also writes extensively about pricing and packaging — a perfect complement to our money making theme.
We’ve been admirers of Leah Kalamakis and her online community, The Freelance to Freedom Project, for some time now, and also happen to be huge fans (along with many others) of her e-course, Stress Less & Impress. So, when we were choosing a guest to invite to chat with us about business streamlining, we knew we had to reach out to Leah (it doesn’t hurt that she also loves popcorn and wine — two of our favorite things).
Welcome to Day in the Life, where we peek into the lives and schedules of solopreneurs and freelancers. Today we’re chatting with Kiersten Kindred, founder of Kindred Communications, a communications and branding firm in Houston, Texas. Kiersten specializes in communications, media, marketing, and defining brands for medium-sized businesses. Visit her site to download Five Steps to Marketing Success: A Small Business Guide.
7:30 am: I wake up to my alarm song, Rihanna “We Found Love.” I still love that song. As soon as I get up I put on the Today show to see what is going on in the world.
7:35 am: After I lay in bed for about five minutes watching the news, I move to my floor to meditate. My mantra that I say over and over again is “God is love.” I say that on repeat to allow my mind to find my inner peace before I begin my day.
7:45 am: Once meditation is complete, I hop in the shower.
8:30 am: I begin to get my breakfast ready. I clean off a piece of fruit (a plum, blueberries or a banana) and heat up some Cream of Wheat or pour a bowl of Fiber One (with no sugar added). Once the breakfast is ready, I put it on a plate and head over to the table to eat and watch more news.
9 am: After I finish my breakfast, I go to the kitchen to prepare my lunch and snacks for the day, so I won’t have to stop and cook in the middle of the day.
9:45 am: I get on my laptop to check and respond to emails. I often forget how many email accounts I have, so I have to keep a check list of which email accounts I have checked. I keep many email accounts for my personal emails, business emails and fun emails.
10:45 am: As soon as I’ve checked my email accounts and replied to clients, potential clients and others, I get on social media. I try to automate my social media accounts, but it often becomes a mixture of me posting live and automatic postings. When I post automatically, it is great for me because I can proceed with my day and not worry about social media. My favorite tool for this is Hootsuite. I also take this time to look at trends and look for events in the area.
11:45 am: I do a conference call with a client to talk about the communications and branding efforts for the week. I love this part of the day because it so motivating to be able to help businesses improve their branding efforts for their business. It truly is enjoyable to be able to watch businesses grow through communications, branding and marketing efforts. Once I talk to one client, I call the next client and discuss their efforts for the week. I try to touch base with all my clients in some form in the day, so they know they I am on top of things.
1:45 pm: Once I have talked to all my clients, I go to the kitchen to get my lunch and eat it at the table while reading emails. I take a little break to try to eat and sometimes play Lumosity for a mini-mind break.
2 pm: After finishing my lunch, I then prepare my bag and leave to meet with potential clients that I have already researched and prepared a pitch for. I aim to meet with at least 10 potential clients a day, in their offices.
4:30 pm: Now that I have met with potential clients, I arrive back home and get on the computer again to promote my new book (Five Steps to Marketing Success: A Small Business Guide). I promote it on social media, search for media outlets and look for possible speaking engagements.
6 pm: Once I have completed tasks for my book, I look for networking events in my area and surrounding areas. I try to make it a habit to attend at least three networking events a month. I search Eventbrite, LinkedIn, Twitter and use a simple Google search.
7 pm: I head to the gym to have an hour-long workout filled with cardio first (I either get on the elliptical, stair master or treadmill for about 20 minutes) then I do either my legs, abs or arms. I typically do legs and lower body Mon, Wed, Fri and then I do abs and arms Tues and Thurs.
8:30 pm: I arrive home, check my emails and then try to watch TV, talk to family and friends, and prepare dinner. It depends what night it is for what I am watching on TV, but my favorite shows out now are Blood, Sweat and Heels, Power, and Empire. My dinner usually consists of something like salmon, always with two servings of vegetables.
9:30 pm: I write a blog post for my company blog. My blog post will be about branding, communications, marketing or media relation tips.
10 pm: Finally, I prepare for bed and get ready to do it all over again. What a day for Kiersten Kindred!
When a new member mentioned that she found out about One Woman Shop through the Bucketlist Bombshells’ email newsletter, we asked her to forward us the email feature. We were immediately sucked into all things Bucketlist Bombshells: their tagline and the name of their e-course (Work Online and Travel the World), their fun branding (love the teal!), and their reference to binge-watching New Girl. (Who’s that girl?)
We wasted no time in reaching out to thank them and quickly asked them to join us for our One Woman Shop Chats With… Live series to talk about all things location independence.
In this 55-minute video, we chat about:
How strange we entrepreneurs can be (think: silly nicknames and our excessive usage of acronyms)
How it’s possible (and sometimes imperative) to create routine and community while you’re traveling
Fresh Mexican tacos + coconut juice
The people best cut out to take on the location independent life
The greatest fears that hold women back from building a location-independent business
The (few) drawbacks of living the digital nomad lifestyle
How the Bucketlist Bombshells have built such a strong brand and community
The Bombshells’ favorite and least favorite social media channels
Pop in those headphones and listen and/or watch at your own leisure!
After you’ve listened, tell us below: 1) both the best and hardest part about location independence (for our current digital nomads) or 2) what’s holding you back from pursuing location independence (for our aspiring digital nomads).
What is the most surprising or unexpected thing you’ve learned from being location independent? (From the little tips to the life-changing discoveries — we want to hear it all!).
Here’s what they had to say:
The most surprising thing I’ve learned is that being location independent is not such a big deal. I know that sounds crazy, and it certainly feels like a big deal when you make the decision and take the leap! But once you live and work overseas you meet so many people who are doing the same thing that it becomes the new normal, and those people who aren’t location independent become the “different” ones. – Stacey Kuyf, One Travels Far
It’s the sheer newness of all the little details in the world around me – they blow me away on a near-daily basis. It has such a positive psychological impact to notice the different and the unusual with an attitude of joy and wonder. – Sarah Ball, Mango Sticky
I have an apartment in Buenos Aires, and while I like having a home base that in theory I can go back to anytime, and where I can leave some stuff, I’ve discovered that I don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of time there! My husband and I have only spent about four months there in the last two years. – Amy Scott, Nomadtopia
The most unexpected thing I learned is that there’s such a thing as moving too fast, and seeing too much. Just because I can set off on a whirlwind, one-month trip across six countries in Europe doesn’t mean I should. Instead, I’ve found joy in stopping, forming a routine, and getting to know the place I’m in. Much like my old location-dependent life, I guess! – Lauren Juliff, Never Ending Footsteps
I had no idea how much of my day would be spent trying to find decent wifi. And it’s shocking which countries have good and bad wifi — South Africa is awful, while many Eastern European countries are amazing! – Kate McCulley, Adventurous Kate
I didn’t expect to learn about the importance of a holistic lifestyle – running a location-independent online business and travelling the world is just not enough to live a healthy and conscious life. Along the way I unexpectedly discovered yoga, meditation and a vegan diet and realised how much more amazing this freedom can be when I incorporate them into my daily life. – Conni Biesalski, Planet Backpack
The most powerful thing I’ve learned from being location independent happened while sitting in the back of a car owned by a friend of a friend, in the middle of the night, after arriving in Lima (Peru), without my luggage, on a flight that was 14 hours delayed. I learned that I am much, much stronger and braver than I ever had imagined. – Marthe Hagen, The Freedom Experiment
The most surprising thing about being location independent is how easily it flows if you commit to it. Know that you can’t plan all of the details — even though they make the journey smooth. From border stamp adventures to the back of a dusty pickup truck in Nicaragua, to stopping for Tres Leches desert at a local’s home and sailing with new friends, a whole new world awaits you! And you can live and work from anywhere if you set up your business accordingly. All you have to do is say yes! – Lynan Saperstein, The Big Factor
After six years of location independence, my life-changing revelation is that no one truly has their work life figured out. Everyone from the freshly-minted freelancer to the uber-successful nomadic entrepreneur lives with plenty of doubt and uncertainty. What matters is how you approach the next challenge. – Kit Whelan, Seek New Travel
The most surprising thing I realised from living and working on the road for the last four years is the importance of a home base. Counter-intuitive right? But I’ve recognised now that I feel most free, most independent, and more importantly, most grounded, when I have a home base. It’s the knowledge that I’m not completely detached from a sense of belonging, and that I can drift along happily knowing I have somewhere to go back to if need be.” – Linzi Wilson, HelloGlow
The most unexpected thing for me is that even after four years of location independence, I still get these huge waves of disbelief and gratitude that I can do whatever I want – that I am the master of my days. On any given day of the week, I might be roadtripping through the English countryside and taking a client call in the evening. Amazing! – Heather Thorkelson
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Just because you’re a One Woman Shop doesn’t mean there are limits to the scale at which you can produce and sell — are we right? In fact, we believe the potential extends further, as you naturally incur less overhead and own the decision-making power. (#girlboss) So when one of our members posted in the private Facebook group about setting up wholesale relationships, we took to our network and checked in with three business owners with wholesale experience to give us the ins and outs and help you get started. Here’s what Amanda Wright of Wit and Whistle, Mei Pak of Creative Hive, and Jennifer Hill of JHill Design had to say:
Tell us a bit about your current wholesale relationships and how they tie into the rest of your business.
Amanda: I’ve been super lucky with wholesale. As Wit & Whistle has organically grown, the retailers have come to me! Over the years I’ve maintained a strongly branded, active presence on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and my own blog/website. This tangled web of Wit & Whistle has snagged many retailers browsing the internet for products to sell. A lot of retailers turn to Etsy when looking for potential vendors, so maintaining a retail shop there has been a great resource, too. Etsy Wholesale is fairly new, but it has already been a wonderful way for me to connect with new wholesalers. If you’re serious about wholesale, it’s important to have your own gorgeous, professional-looking website to build your credibility. Make sure there’s an easy to spot “wholesale” page that includes a link to your catalog and any other information a retailer might need to get in touch with you and place an order.
Mei: My jewelry business, Tiny Hands, currently sells in over 100 stores across the United States. Most of the stores I sell to are smaller gift shops so I have the opportunity to get to know the shop owners well. In the first two years of taking on wholesale, my business quickly grew to multiple six-figure sales. Half of that can be attributed to wholesale, so it has definitely played a major role in my business. I love being able to diversify my income streams. When it’s a slow month for online retail sales, I can count on wholesale orders to pick up. It’s been great for stability and has even helped grow my retail sales because I have a wider reach in the market and more people have seen my brand!
Jennifer: Wholesale is a small part of our business. Our main piece is direct-to-consumer via our website. But we are always working to grow our wholesale business.
What is your best advice for first establishing contact with potential wholesalers? Do you recommend stopping in to the store, calling, reaching out via email, or something else?
Mei: First and foremost, check the store’s website if they have product submission guidelines. If not, then always email a store instead of walking in. If you can’t find an appropriate email contact, then your best bet is to call the store to ask. The majority of stores prefer being pitched to by email. It doesn’t put them on the spot, and it gives them time to check out your line. It also helps them keep organized with the dozens, if not hundreds of product pitches they receive every week.
If you want to take it a step further, try to establish a connection with the store owners or buyers on social media before you send them an email. That way, they’ll be familiar with who you are and more receptive of your email pitch.
Jennifer: Knowing many store owners, I always think it is best to email first. They are so busy and rarely have the time to review a product at the drop of a dime. Make the email personable, showing that you have researched the store. You may want to mention display ideas so the retailer can begin to picture your goods in their shop.
What makes for a great wholesale relationship?
Amanda: Openness and honesty. I appreciate it so much when my retailers give me feedback on how I can improve my goods and ideas for new products. It’s important to keep in touch with your wholesalers throughout the year, and update them about new collections. This year I’m hoping to print a beautiful Wit & Whistle lookbook to mail out and start sending occasional email newsletters.
Mei: You are all on the same side — you want the store to sell your products well and as a result, they’ll make more orders with you. So make it easy for them. Ship your orders when you say you will. Package your products so they grab a customer’s attention. Offer marketing support to your store’s retail staff. You can educate them on your product’s background to help them talk about and sell your work. Offer to exchange items that aren’t selling for ones that are. Follow up with them to check in on sales. This will all help a store feel taken care of and will make for a great relationship.
Jennifer: Stay in touch and promote them! We always give a shout out on social media when we send a new shipment to our retailers. When we open a new account we send an email blast to our customers in the new store’s area letting them know they can get our goods in person. We also reach out to local press.
What’s one thing that you never thought of prior to establishing a wholesale relationship that you’ve since learned from?
Amanda: It took me a while to grasp that there are different packaging needs when selling wholesale. When a retail customer orders from my website, they get a complete product description on the page. When my products are for sale in stores, the packaging has to communicate everything the customer needs to know. For example, when I first started wholesaling, many of my greeting cards had messages printed inside, but I would package them in sealed cellophane sleeves. In store, customers had no clue what was printed inside the cards! I didn’t even think about it until one of my retailers asked if I could put stickers on the backs that disclosed the inside messages. Oops! My wholesale selling experience has mostly been trial and error, and sometimes I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing! I figure that’s probably normal. (At least I hope!)
Mei: It’s important to create an irresistible package that makes your product easy to buy. When I started doing wholesale, I just thought having a catalog was all I needed. Later, I put together a package of my best-selling products along with a display rack, tailored to individual stores. That way, instead of just giving stores the option to mix-and-match products, I presented an easy “starter package” for the store that eased the decision-making burden on them and helped tremendously to push sales for me.
Jennifer: Be flexible on terms. Some of our big accounts only pay Net 30; some of our small accounts prefer to pay by bank wire transfer or credit card. We are happy to work with each one.
Have you ever had a wholesale relationship that didn’t go well? What did you learn?
Amanda: I learned that when working with large, nationwide retailers I need to ask if I can read through their vendor manual before accepting any purchase orders (POs). This is especially important if the vendor doesn’t usually work with independent makers. Keeping up with some retailers’ vendor requirements is a full time job in and of itself. It’s difficult to follow hundreds of pages of requirements written for huge factories in Asia when you’re a one-woman operation working out of your suburban basement. Some retailers will even charge you expensive fees if you miss a single step (yes, I also learned that the hard way). Don’t be afraid of working with big retailers, just be vigilant and know what you’re getting into before you start.
Mei: There was one store that was so difficult to work with. They caused so much trouble and every email they sent was a headache to deal with. The last straw was when they tried to reorder way less than my minimum amount. I told them it wasn’t enough for a reorder but in return they berated my work and threatened that they would buy products similar to mine from a different and cheaper source. At that point, I fired them and took back all of my products to end the relationship.
It’s crucial that you sell to the right stores. Sometimes you won’t know if it’s a right fit until after the first order, so it’s hard to avoid these kinds of mishaps. Stand by your product and your wholesale terms and policies. They are there for a reason. When you start bending the rules, some people may take advantage of you. It’s okay to end a wholesale relationship. Some stores just don’t work out.
Have you discovered any downsides of wholesaling? Anything potential wholesalers should be weary of?
Amanda: For me, the only downside to wholesaling has been that it’s more difficult to introduce new types of products. My goods are made in small batches, which means they cost more per piece to manufacture than if I were having them produced in massive quantities. When I get an idea for a new kind of product, I have to make sure I can produce it at a low enough cost that I can sell it at reasonable wholesale rates (50% off retail). At the same time, I have to keep my inventory at manageable levels, because I can only sell so much product, and only have so much storage room in my studio! It’s a tricky balance. I have some products that I just can’t sell to my wholesalers due to the tight profit margins.
Mei: Be sure you have your systems in place. Doing wholesale really tests your process of manufacturing your product in bulk to packaging and shipping them out in a timely manner. The leaks in your systems become apparent with wholesale because you’re dealing with such large numbers compared to a retail order. Be aware of the time you’ll need to spend managing stores as well as acquiring new ones and fulfilling orders. Get your systems down pat and you’ll do great!
Jennifer: Putting together the orders can sometimes take more time than we expect, but in the end it is worth it. Also sending out cold emails to people can sometimes feel like a waste of time. That is one reason that we are looking more at trade shows.
Going forward, how much do you plan to keep wholesaling as part of your business?
Amanda: I hope the wholesale side of my business continues to grow like crazy. It has been a great source of income for me, and it’s so satisfying to watch the list of retailers that carry Wit & Whistle goods get longer and longer!
Mei: I would love to keep wholesale and retail sales an even split. But the market and technology changes so quickly that not everything is within our control. So, I go wherever my business takes me. If wholesaling opportunities keep coming my way, I won’t turn them down and if it so happens to become all of my business, I’ll just need to adapt and hire more help!
Jennifer: We are hoping to start doing more wholesale in 2016 and begin the trade show circuit!
Thanks so much, ladies!
OWS readers: after the fantastic information shared by Amanda, Mei, and Jennifer, what other questions do you have about establishing wholesale relationships as a One Woman Shop? Tell us in the comments below!
One Woman Shops can’t always do it all. But when it’s time to turn to an outside pro — and be certain we’re choosing the right one — we’re often at a loss as to what to ask to get the info we need. Welcome to Questions For A… a series where we interview the pros themselves on the questions you need to ask before hiring them.
Q: What is your preferred method of communication?
Tiffany’s why: I know that introductory Skype and phone calls are a major part of some people’s work processes, but I’d rather change a baby’s dirty diaper than talk on the phone. Therefore, I prefer communication via email, or through Basecamp, my project management system. If you’re a big phone/email person, it’s important to make sure that the people you’re working with feel the same way.
Erin’s why: If you want weekly phone calls to check in on progress, and the designer/developer only communicates via email, it’s better to know that right away.
Q: What should I have ready before we start working together? Do you require design assets and copy before starting the development piece?
Tiffany’s why: You should have all of your passwords ready, as well as any necessary notes, content, design files, etc. The majority of my projects don’t get started right away because passwords need to be found, and content and files need to be delivered. I’m all about hitting the ground running, and I’m sure most clients feel the same way.
Meredith’s why: Depending on how complex the project is, most developers will need all the pieces in place before starting. They may begin by coding the foundational layer but for any real website building, they will ideally like to have all of the assets complete before starting work.
Q: How does your process work?
Tiffany’s why: Everyone’s process is different. Some developers ask more in-depth questions, and others prefer to create exactly what the client requests, no questions asked. Because I like to think about user experience when developing something, I tend to ask more questions about goals and objectives. Some people may appreciate that, and others may not. So it’s important to understand what the developer has in mind prior to signing a contract.
Erin’s why: It’s important to know how designers and developers work and how long things are expected to take.You’ll also want to know how many rounds of revisions you get, when and what you need to provide the developer in order to let them do their job, and keep things moving. If a developer says they need final copy, don’t expect to change your About page text the night before website launch. When everyone knows what to expect it makes the project run a lot smoother and reduces the chance for misunderstandings.
Q: How do you track a project’s progress and deliverables?
Meredith’s why: I use Trello to track all my projects. Everyone who’s involved on the project has access. We assign deliverables, due dates and keep the majority of our communication through there to cut down on the number of emails. It’s best to be upfront with how the project communication will be handled so expectations are set from the beginning.
Q: What platforms do you work with?
Erin’s why: Find someone who specializes in the platform you want — it will ensure you get a well-coded site that won’t break every time you touch it. I’ve fixed plenty of sites made by developers who knew just enough about WordPress to make a site that looked good to visitors, but were a nightmare to update or maintain.
Q: I have my heart set on ____ feature, can you do that?
Erin’s why: Prioritize your features and make sure the developer knows how to do them. For example, if you have your heart set on a custom masonry-style gallery, ask developers if they know how to do that. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway into a project only to find out the developer can’t deliver what you want. I’ve picked up a lot of half-finished projects where either the client didn’t communicate features they wanted clearly, or the developer didn’t know how to add in the feature. Show examples and look for similar features in your developer’s portfolio.
Q: Will you code this responsively?
Lis’ why: Not to be confused with responsibly (which let’s hope is also the case!). We consume and read differently on mobile. If your designs don’t have this specified then you can ask your developer to code down the designs responsively. Responsive design increases time and budget on a project due to extra planning, additional coding, more testing and extra know-how but is well worth it as audiences increasingly use mobile devices to access your website (from buses, work and bathrooms!).
Erin’s why: It’s 2015. Websites NEED to be responsive. Not only will you be penalized by Google if your website isn’t, but visitors will have a hard time viewing your site on anything other than a computer screen.
Q: Do you design websites as well, or do you have a list of designers you prefer working with?
Erin’s why: Developers are not necessarily designers. And designers are not necessarily developers. Ask if your developer can design, and what kind of design they do. For example, I design websites, but I don’t do brand or print design. If you need something outside your developer’s realm of expertise, ask if they have recommendations — when designers and developers have a relationship it makes the process smoother. While developers CAN work with mockups from a designer they don’t know, it’s easier for everyone involved if the designer and developer already have processes in place and rapport with each other.
Q: How much back end functionality will I have?
Lis’ why: Depending on your project size, budget, scope and the skills of your dev, you’ll likely have a different range of functionality and access on the back end. For custom projects and development anything is possible so ask what platform (CMS) they’re building on, why they’ve chosen that one for your project, what access you’ll have, if there is any ongoing payment for support or maintenance, how you’ll update areas on the site and if you’re provided with training, instructions, guides or anything else.
Q: Are you responsible for all integrations, third party systems, hosting, setting up emails etc?
Lis’ why: Again, this will vary per project and developer. For example, I prefer all my clients establish their own accounts to third party applications (I.e hosting, domain, mailing services, payment gateways, etc.) so they have full control and access over the account and they can securely control their payment details and the like. I’ll take it from there to work with everything and arrange what I need within the overall website and systems flow. Other developers may have partnerships with companies, reseller programs or their own products. This is also the time to note who is responsible for setting up things like mailing list integrations, online schedulers, memberships, etc.
Q: Do you maintain my site or provide support packages?
Lis’ why: All sites need to have occasional updates and maintenance. Can you easily add things and do it in-house? Sometimes clients don’t wish to (or don’t have time or the desire) to add/change any of their own content. Do you regularly need new layouts designed or are you constantly tweaking and testing things and need a developer who can help out? Will you require extra phases of new items or functionality in the future? Do you want to look after your own updates and security or would you like somebody else to take care of this? If your server goes down or if there is any issue with your hosting do you go back to your developer and they’ll fix it? If you mess around with some code and it temporarily ‘breaks’ the site (the evil white screen of death!), is your developer responsible for fixing the code and are they on hand immediately?
Q: What is your payment structure & schedule?
Meredith’s why: Every developer has a different payment schedule. It’s good for the client to know how much the deposit will be and whether they will need to make a final payment before the site goes live.
Ready to grill (in the best way possible) your potential developer? Print these questions out + have them at the ready when you’re looking to hire! And if you want pros we stand by, check out the One Woman Shop directory.