Imagine walking into a a new model home and checking the whole thing out. As you move through its rooms you fall in love with every single feature in every single room. Then, when you hear it costs over $400,000 you ask if you can get it for $150,000.
Imagine stepping onto the dealership's lot and walking around until you find the perfect car – it looks good and it's your favorite color. You sit inside it and notice it's all leather and has tons of cool features. You take it for a spin and it's fast. But you then hear it's $15,000 more than you can spend. So you ask if you could get the same care but for much less.
Hiring your next web developer
I ask you to imagine these situations because likely they've never happened to you. That's because the prices are on the window of the cars and you know that if it's way too expensive you'll just move on. The same is true for homes. At minimum the price range is flying high up on a flag. And then the price sheet gives you the minimum prices (pre-upgrades).
But websites don't have price tags on them. So it's impossible to know how much you could/should spend, right?
Well, today I want to help give you some tips that will help you avoid those awful interactions with web developers where you find that the whole conversation isn't working for you.
Do: Know your budget
I know everyone wants to spend as little as possible when it comes to their website. But you wouldn't do that with your retail space, if you were renting a storefront. You'd pick your location first.
And then you'd find out the going rate and decide if you could afford it. Sure, low prices exist, but in parts of town that won't get you the customers you want. So what do you do? You figure out what you can afford, and then go from there.
There's nothing different here. You need to know how much you can spend. That's a function of your business plan and business model, not a function of the developer. Your budget is a line item in your cost model. Figure it out and know it. It will help you rule out developers that are too cheap, and those that are too pricey.
Plus, every developer likes to hear from a client that has a clear sense of what they can spend – regardless of the amount.
Don't: Collect a list of sites you love
Everyone likes to do it. But it's a waste of time. Why? Because you will always love sites that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and hate the ones that are in your budget. You know it. I know it. And yet we all act shocked when we all pick the same sites.
Instead of doing that, take your budget from the last step and cut it in half. Now, ask developers to show you what is possible for three different budgets – half of your budget, your entire budget, and 150% of your budget. That will give you a range of their capabilities at different budget levels.
If they have a portfolio, ask them to tell you which of those sites fall inside those three ranges. That gives you the context you need.
Do: Have a clear sense of your objectives
I know you'll want to start by talking about the look of your site. Don't do it. Hold yourself back. Instead, think about what would cause you to double your budget for your site. If, for example, it netted you 150% of your current leads, would that make it a worthwhile investment? Maybe that's a good goal. Or what if it removed the worst 50% of your current leads – saving you time and heartache – is that a worthy goal?
I can't tell you what your goal is. But I can tell you that it's way more important than if your homepage has a slider on it. So get really clear on that. And then step back. Great developers have awesome tricks for how to implement features that will support your objectives. Listen to some of their suggestions.
Don't: Act like you know what you don't
You wouldn't tell an architect where the walls should go in your new home. You wouldn't tell the car manufacturer how wide to make the seats. Don't get caught telling the developer how to do their job. They're professionals. They've likely optimized web form data collection many more times than you have. And they read that article on mobile viewing statistics just like you. Invite them to be a partner in your success, not just a hired hand.
Do: Articulate a schedule of key milestones
Unless you're working with an agency, you will likely be the project manager of your own project. It's your job to make sure progress is happening. You're making a business investment. In no other world would you drop off a deposit and walk away without ever checking in.
So collaborate with your developer and come up with some agreeable milestones where you can check on progress. It might be weekly. It might be monthly. It might simply be at the 25%, 50%, and 75% completion marks. But whatever it is, make sure you're tracking progress.
NOTE: if you get to see things before they're done, restrain yourself from making wild changes. When my house was getting built, the framing made the house look really small. I didn't go back and ask them to move walls around. When it was done, all the rooms were big again.
Learning to be ok in the interim is critical.
Don't: Work with developers who treat you antagonistically
I know some developers who hate clients. It's insane, given how they earn a living. But if you start interacting with someone who is rude or doesn't want to communicate with you in a way that you're comfortable with, don't sign on the dotted line.
For this reason, I suggest stepping into an agreement only after an interaction or two. Don't let price be the deciding factor. Make sure you're working with a professional that you're comfortable with.
That said, construction guys are most comfortable on site, wearing hard hats. When I wanted to talk to them about the house, it was normally on the job and I had to put on an ugly vest and wear the same hard hat. Developers may not love phone calls and in-person meetings. Know this and work with them, in a way that lets them be valuable in their own context.
That said, if you need the phone, then only hire someone who is good on the phone. After all, it's your investment.
Do: Recommend your developer to others
If they do a good job, praise them and become a lead generator for them. Word of mouth is stronger than any other kind of marketing and you should let the world know that your developer was amazing.
Don't: Tell others what you paid
This may sound counter-intuitive, but here's the thing. Since you and your network may not be web experts, it will be easy to think that all websites are the same. And therefore, if you announce that your site was $4000, they're likely to think their site will be as well. But we both know not all cars are the same. Even when they have four doors, four wheels, all have power windows and do well on the road.
As you're telling others about your developer, you'll likely hear questions about cost. Your best answer is, “What I loved about my developer was that they worked with me to figure out a solution that worked with my budget. I'm sure they'll do the same for you.” In this way you're honest and help refrain from anchoring your friends to a fixed budget that may be incorrect.
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