I was invited to sit in at a small business networking visitor day this past week and as they went around the room and each person gave their 60 second “commercial” about what they did, I sat quietly in my chair freaking out. There was an accountant, a lawyer, a realtor, a mortgage banker, a chiropractor, and other very professional people. I’m just a web designer, well I do social media and seo too, and technical stuff, and graphic design…but…I’m just a web designer!
Time slowed and the world seemed to fall away as I slide my chair back to stand. Somewhere from outside my head I heard my voice “Hi! I’m Lisa…I’m a website designer”. A strange thing happened as my disembodied voice continued, I could have sworn a rainbow appeared above my head and a unicorn horn sprouted on my forehead as I looked around at the faces leaning toward me with big shining eyes. “I work primarily with small female owned businesses and non profits.” A sort of magical murmur pulsed through the room and with an ungraceful thud I returned to my seat.
The meeting continued and as we neared the end, the floor was opened for people to connect and give referrals. I heard my name being called out over and over and I sat in stunned amazement. It was then I realized the digital world I live in is like a magical mysterious forest to those that did not grow up there.
I was asked a ton of questions that day about finding the right web designer / social media marketer / seo specialist for a small business.
Those questions are the inspiration for this post!
Here are the things to consider when looking for a web designer that fits for your small business:
Check them out online!
Look at their website, reviews, social media profiles, blog posts, portfolio, and client’s websites (their portfolio or website should have links to some of the sites they’ve built).
Use your computer, tablet, and phone to look at their online properties. If things look good on all 3 you’ll have a good sense they’re building with responsive design.
Think about the following as you go through their profiles:
- Does their stuff work?
- Do they have reviews? Do you like what the reviews say?
- Do they have other small business clients or clients with businesses similar to yours?
- Are all of their online profiles up to date and uniform? Or is the last post from 2014?
- After looking at their work do you feel confident they could creatively represent your Brand?
- Is the information on their site easy to understand or do you feel overwhelmed with technical jargon?
- Are they close enough geographically to meet in person?
If they can’t pass this test – keep looking!
Once you narrow down your choices email or call the top contenders and monitor the following:
- Do they respond in a reasonable timeframe? If not, this could be an indicator of future communication frustrations.
- Are they able to answer your questions in a way you understand? Don’t assume that “Techno Speak” is an indication of their expertise. You’ll want to work with someone who can talk in terms you can understand, a good web designer will be happy to teach you along the way and won’t feel the need to talk over your head.
- Are they willing to talk about pricing for your project? Many designers won’t want to give you a price until they know a good deal about the project and that’s fair, but they should be willing to tell you their hourly rate and a ballpark range. The good ones will beat you to the punch and ask what your budget is so they can determine if what you are looking for is in their ballpark.
Absolutely -100% – the most important thing – Meet them in person!
You can certainly start with email and phone conversations but before you agree to anything, meet them in person. Small Businesses are unique and often have unique requirements and needs. You’ll want to know up front if the person you choose will be able to help you meet your goals.
Meeting the designer in person will give you the ability to get a feel for the designer’s style, personality, & technical knowledge. You should feel comfortable talking openly about costs and they should be willing to discuss what they can do within your budget. If your budget is small you may not be able to get everything done at once, but a good designer will break things down into deliverables by priority.
Trust your gut! If there are any red flags after meeting in person, move on!
Before signing anything or making a down payment
If you decide to move forward make sure you get a detailed project scope and estimate with costs, deliverables and timeline prior to paying any money down.
The project scope & estimate should include:
- A detailed description of everything they are going to do for you. These are the deliverables.
- A cost estimate – make sure to check for language on pricing for changes or out of scope additions.
- A timeline for completion
Questions to ask before signing a work agreement:
- When will you be able to start the project?
(Write their answers down and ask them to add them to the work agreement.)
- What will you need from me to get the project done on time and on cost?
- How do you handle payment?
- Do you require a down payment?
- When is the final payment due?
- What payment options do you offer?
- How do you handle pricing for changes or out of scope additions?
- Is this a one-time project cost to completion or do you bill on actual hours and what happens if you go over the estimated hours?
- Do you provide project updates? How are they communicated and how often?
- Once the site goes live and I find an issue or problem how do you handle that?
- Do you provide any data on how the site is doing after it goes live?
- Will I own my domain name and have access to it after the site is done?
Small businesses thrive on relationships. Your relationship with your web designer is no different. You are the co-creator and you should feel confident that the person you choose to co-create with you can be trusted to bring your vision to life! Doing your homework up front will lead you out of the magical mysterious forest and back into the world of business!