Realizing off the bat, this is a website company, I am sure many are wondering why am I blogging about being a sole proprietor. Like Farmers, I’ve seen a thing or two.
My own beginnings in the business world started off running my own business, I made and sold lollypops in the 6th grade. Until I was busted. Then I would run home to my horse, hope on her, gallop to the general store, buy $3.00 worth of candy, put the horse up, run back to school and sell out by end of the day, profiting $2.00 each day. Until I got busted.
Over the years, I have owned a few different businesses, a craft store, a gardening business, and now a web development company. The lesson I’ve learned over the years is if you put money into marketing, advertising, promoting, and good will, things will be fine. When you decide not or are not willing to test strategies, or your life gets too complicated too fast, well, don’t expect things to be rosy.
This past year, I have worked with 30 or so clients. Most of whom are determined to be successful. In fact, I have clients since 2009 that are still in business and doing extremely well. Why, because they kept adjusting and changing how to market their business. Many of my long term clients are forward thinkers, open to ideas and will spend some to make some.
This year has been very different. Though we have a low employment rate, the people I worked with did not want to put any more than necessary into their business or website.
Here are a few of my stories from this year so far
One client told me she was not going to network, write blogs or worry about all that. She felt if she had a website with good SEO that was all she needed to make millions. Yet, she had no problem calling me and using up 2 hours of my time, any time of the day, to complain about lack of hits to the site, her husband, working two jobs, and how come no one was calling her. The site itself was only a few months old. I worked on the site by the hour pay. She was nice to pay me for some of my time if it dealt with something she didn’t know how to do and wanted to learn. I finally got her to go with a monthly fee, for a couple of months, so I could focus on the marketing part of the work, local directory building, improving keywords and pushing out to search engines. I still got phone calls asking me to justify my fee. By the end of the third month working on her site, she sent me a Dear Jane email, but still wanted to stay friends. You can guess the outcome of that relationship.
As a note, I did talk to this sole proprietor after the email. She told me she hired another company for the same cost and she already got a call. When I asked the referral came from she said the person found her on Google Business, she was giving credit to the wrong person, I set that up the very first week I started working on the site. And made her post her recipes on it weekly.
Another sole proprietor client already had a business that was doing well, he decided to get into a related industry and his life would be easier, less stress, time-consuming, etc. I built the website, keep in mind, he had paid another person to do it, but it never got done, he paid me less and made a point of telling me such, and I did SEO for keywords he specified. The website was WordPress and if you know anything about WordPress is that it requires maintenance. Between updating plugins, theme, and core the job is never done. On top of that, I tried to get them to help me set up their Google Business account, they would never give me an address for the business. You can see where this is going, can’t you? They were not going to do blogs, they too felt the site would do all the work. During the time, I would send emails asking if they wanted the site updated, however, since they didn’t want to pay me to maintain the site and update it, I took it off my list.
I have to give them credit in that they did spend who knows how much on vehicle wraps and signage. They did some onsite promotions by holding an open house event and an end of the summer party. A month before their hosting was due, I contacted them and asked them if they were still in business. I noticed a lot of changes where they had the business and knew something was up. Sure enough, they closed.
Last week, I talked to folks who worked for a very high-end facility. They complained the guy updating the site was doing it as a side job and nothing was updated or emails weren’t answered in a timely fashion. On top of the one website, there was going to be another one that would need a total overhaul. And, they wanted someone to deal with the social media stuff since they wouldn’t have time. In all, I was looking at two websites, one I knew was going to be changing almost daily and the other in need of targeted audience marketing. Basically, it was going to be close to ten hours a week dedicated to these two sites. I gave them a proposal for $1000/month. Did they take it, no? breaking that down came to $25/hour. That is less than what I made teaching in the poorest school district in NH. I found it ironic that they insisted on having only the high-end clients that could afford their high-end amenities. But they couldn’t afford a highly qualified, experienced sole proprietor, committed web developer and very knowledgeable in their industry. Will they stay in business, sure, the owner has deep pockets, and you can see why. Will the facilities be booked at 100% or near capacity- No.
My advice to stay in business as a sole proprietor: spend money to make it, but know what you are spending it on and what your probable return will be.