Friday, June 29, 2007

Building a Website for Your Consulting Business

Building a website for your consulting business is an important marketing task. In addition to your networking, which you should be doing on a regular basis, your website is another vehicle for people to get to know and learn more about you, your products, and services.

While a website is not as personable as one-on-one networking, websites and web searches have become the leading method business professionals use to find new products and services. To take advantage of this trend as an independent business professional, you need to have a presence on the world wide web. Your website is where you start.

Now, I’m going to say something that might offend some people. I say this out of love and concern for you and your business.

If you are not a web designer or a graphic designer do not design and build your own website.

I know when we open our consulting businesses we do everything we can to save money so we can put it toward other things (such as food). Sometimes we cut corners in spite of ourselves. Unfortunately, the corner cutting can lead to displaying a less than professional image.
If there are two things I’ve learned in consulting it is this:

  1. Your image precedes you. Prospective clients base a good portion of their buying decision (whether or not they hire you) on the image you present. If it is not professional or unpolished they will associate amateur status to you.
  2. Focus in on your core competencies and leave those tasks and projects you don’t like, are uncomfortable with or not good at to those who excel in them.
When it comes to your website, you have your choice of a number off the shelf products that will help you design a website. Unfortunately, when those of us who are not technically inclined or very artistic use such products it is akin to only using the knife blade on a Swiss Army knife and never touching or using the other tools. Overkill.

Hire a Web Developer
Hiring a web developer will free you from the duty of being both webmaster and content provider. As a consultant, who is often a solo practitioner, it’s better to simplify your workload so you can concentrate on developing your client base. You don’t want to spend your time coding web pages and building graphics. You want to do the work that led you to consulting in the first place.

If you choose to hire a web developer to build a new website or overhaul the one you already have, here’s what you can expect along with some things you need to do to help facilitate the relationship:
  • Many web developers charge at a rate of $50 - $75 / hour – some higher. Have a budget you want to spend in mind before you engage them and be realistic. Don’t expect magic if you can only spend $500. You won’t get much for that amount. For a good website, depending on the amount of content you want to present, you are looking anywhere from 10-15 hours worth of work, maybe 20.
  • Don’t just walk in and say, “Build me a website.” Developers need a plan that includes what your business objectives for the website are, a description of your target audience, a structure of how you want your content organized and content. A developer will know nothing about your business so you need to write some content to go into the website.
  • Have some ideas of how you want your site to look. Give the developer the URL’s of sites you like and highlight features and elements you’d like to incorporate.
So, if you do your homework and present your chosen developer with a plan, structure and content, it's helpful to them and it will save you money in the long run because they’ll have a roadmap to follow. Think about it – it’s hard to deviate from a path when you have map in hand.

Again, I don’t want any consultant or independent business professional to think I’m criticizing them if they chose to build their own website. If it’s working for you – great! If you’re not generating the traffic you would like to your site or see lots of people coming, but not engaging you in some fashion ,it might be time to reconsider your web strategy and look to hiring a professional for help.

Two TVCNet members within the last year overhauled their websites through web developers and made considerable improvements to their visual presentation and content. Johnna Johnson made the leap (excuse me for stealing that phrase, Johnna) and had ABD Insights recreate her website. Dan Bobinksi made a radical change, not only to the name of his company, but also by integrating his blog into his website through the help of Blogging Expertise.

Note: both developers are TVCNet members.

Personally, I can’t testify to the success they may have had from these changes, but if you asked them I’m sure they’ll tell you.

If you’ve been maintaining your own website, a change may do you good. Relinquish the design and development duties to a professional. You’ll free up your time to focus in on your content and the message you are trying to deliver.

1 comment:

Dan B. said...

Hey Justin,

As a matter of fact, the change has helped tremendously in terms of SEO. Bottom line, Google loves blogs.

I've learned, though, that Google loves blogs only if the blog is active and has frequent posts. And that, as a business owner, takes TIME.

I'd be happy to talk w/ anyone about my experience in making the switch. People can review the website and contact me here or by calling 208.375.7606.