Is Hiring A Web Designer or Web Developer A Good Business Decision?

Web designers, and especially web developers, don't often consider a client's business goals or business marketing. They'll build you a fancy website, without concern as to whether or not it will actually help grow your business. 

Hiring a web designer is fine for getting your website online. But it needs to be part of your overall, entire business plan. It needs to draw people in, and then lead them to the next step. 

But most business websites are dead-ends. They look nice, but they essential do nothing. They don't tell customers what the next step is, they don't lead customers to enter their email address, or clearly inform what your business does on a website. 

Your website designer should have a basic understanding of business models, of email marketing, and capturing leads. They should be able to inform you how your website can be a true asset instead of a liability. 

Here are the essential things your website needs to do:

1. It shouldn't break down
The old-school way of thinking for websites is to build it "fully custom" on something like WordPress. But WordPress is a liability for most businesses. They break down and cause clients long-term headaches.

2. It needs to capture email addresses
If it doesn't, then your website is essentially a dead-end. All websites, and pretty much every single web page, must capture emails and leads to help customers "take the next step" towards a purchase decision.

3. It should clearly communicate your business
50% of website visitors only look at one page of a website. They should not have to click to the "About" page or try to figure out what's going on. Your business website should have an elevator pitch right on the front page of the website. Something that can be said in 7 words or less. 

4. It should be mobile responsive and focus on 1 or 2 main pages
Today, pretty much all websites are mobile responsive, but they aren't necessarily user friendly. Over 50% of website traffic is now on mobile devices, so designing super, super, super simple websites are more important than ever. 

5. Clients should be able to make edits easily
This is another thing that WordPress developers or web coders don't think about. Clients are frustrated if they can't easily edit their own website. Your website should be built on a platform that is super simple, so you can focus on growing your business, rather than focusing on how to do code.

How To Teach Yourself To Do Basic Website Coding, CSS, HTML for Client Projects

My opinion is that if you really want to learn something towards building a real-life business skill and build your own business, you have to put yourself under pressure and find someone willing to pay you first. 

If you are just getting started out as a web designer, web developer, graphic designer or other creative businesses like photography or artwork - the best way to learn is to find a client first, then build your skill. Otherwise, you sit in a vacuum and learn skills that no one else is really willing to pay for. 

This is how schools and universities work. They teach you years of concepts and theories in a vacuum. Once you start getting your own clients, or even working at an office somewhere else, all the things you learned in theoretical classes will be essentially useless.

What's better is instead to build a minimally viable website and start looking for clients. Look for anyone willing to pay you anything at all. Even if it is $50 USD to get your first client to develop a one-page website. You might spend 50 hours on your first project, for $1 per hour of work. But you will have spent 50 hours spending time on a really project and made even a little money, than to spend thousands of dollars on a college education where you never dealt with a really client at all - being in total debt.

How do you learn web code or web design skills for projects?
It takes lots and lots of practice with real clients, looking up things in Google like in overstackflow.com and doing searches for CSS, HTML or Javascript solutions. Even today, I learn new things every couple days that I have to Google to figure out. The most motivating factor for me is to get clients, and then learn by the project, researching things that the client asks for. It definitely helps me to learn things faster than through a course on my own. Even after having designed over 600 projects for other clients, I am still researching solutions to new web design problems on a regular basis.

But the first year learning Squarespace CSS was really tough. Often times it was a lot of brainstorming ideas, since there are so many ways to do things with code, and then learning from previous projects. There are things I do today that I remember "I have done that before" and then look at an old project to see how I did it. There are thousands and thousands of things you can do with coding, and too many too remember, so it's important to be able to research and pull from previous experience, rather than trying to learn it all at once. 

 

What about learning things other than web developing coding, like SEO, online marketing or graphic design?
That's another thing I have learned over several years is through the same methods of finding clients and learning as quickly as possible to find solutions, such as working with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads and email marketing with Mailchimp. I do all of these services for clients.

Again, learning from new projects is more helpful than trying to learn it before taking on a client. You'll never know everything you need to know until you start working on real-life projects.

When you start out with your first few clients, it's a great opportunity to tackle a project (especially with a client that only has a low budget) and the learn as-needed, doing google searches for what the client needs. You probably wont do an amazing job, but if a client has a $200 USD budget for doing SEO or Adwords, then they aren't going to get the best work in the world anyways, so it is a good way to get experience. I would put up your services on your website in all the things you are interested in, and take clients that are willing to learn with you. That's always been my style of learning, because I only learn things that clients actually find valuable, instead of learning things that no one is willing to pay for. 

I teach people how to start their own online businesses - like Squarespace web design, SEO, photography, Mailchimp email marketing, online advertising - As well as finding clients, bidding on projects, negotiating terms and the like. Inquire about available mentoring programs to contact@jpwdesignstudio.com

Is Squarespace The Right Platform For Small Businesses?

I've seen businesses fail because they chose the wrong platform for their website. 

As a business owner, you can't afford to have a website that works like an old VW bus. It might look cool, but it will break down all the time, costing you thousands every year just to keep it running. 

From my experience in helping over 600 businesses build a website, platforms like WordPress are like old VW busses that keep falling apart. Everyone knows about a VW bus, and everyone thinks they look cool. But more and more people are realizing that WordPress websites suck up your finances and capital faster than they make money. 

If you are a small business that makes less than $200,000 in revenue per year, you cannot afford to hire a WordPress developer that will charge you $10,000 for a custom web design, and then $2,000 every month just to keep it "running" properly. And that's not including the cost to make major improvements to your website as your business grows. 

Not every WordPress developer will charge you those rates. You'll find people who promise they can build a $2,000 USD website which requires "no maintenance" and that it will be "so easy for you to manage." They can certain build it - but it will be like building a house with cardboard - a complete waste of your time and money. You'll scrap the whole thing in a couple months and have to rebuild.

I have built hundreds of WordPress websites for real clients. I also started out in 1999 building websites from scratch using HTML, and in 2010 I built Adobe Flash websites for clients because that was what everyone was raving about back then until Apple announced they were discontinuing the use of Adobe Flash on all their mobile devices. 

I have seen too many small businesses close their doors because their website depended on a strong website presence. And WordPress was just too expensive to maintain. The costs didn't pay themselves off, or they were a big hinderance. 

That is why, in 2016, I stopped working on WordPress websites entirely, and focused solely on building websites in Squarespace.

So you know, I have zero financial ties to Squarespace. I make money building websites for businesses with Squarespace, but Squarespace (the company itself) doesn't pay me a dime. I wish they did - I have referred probably thousands of clients and non-clients to Squarespace because I felt it was the right thing for their business. If Squarespace paid me $50 USD for every referral I gave them, I'd be on vacation for probably 3 months straight.

Instead, here I am working to try and give you the best possible advice. 

Here's how it goes:

WordPress developers are code people who like endless customization possibilities. They like solving complex coding problems because it's fun. Completing a super complex WordPress website is intense, requires a lot of thought and hard work, and there is a reason they are so expensive. When I was in my early 20s, solving WordPress websites was a challenging and fun hobby. The problem is that complex, fun challenges are not always the right business choice - especially if you run a small business and need to keep your costs low. 

Platforms like Shopify or WordPress require ongoing involvement from web developer to maintain and grow the business. Every time you want to make big changes, or sometimes even minor edits, you will need a web developer to get involved. 

As a small business owner, however, you need the freedom to make edits on your own easily - or to hire employees to manage it for you without paying professional rate. For instance, my hourly rate is $180 per hour. Could you run a business hiring me for 5-10 hours per week and justify the cost?  On a good month, you'd pay me $4,000 USD to stay involved in your website and do a high quality, professional job. But small businesses cannot afford that kind of investment. 

If you built your website in WordPress and wanted to manage it yourself, you'll need to know at least a little bit of code and learn more about web development - which is time wasted where you could have been marketing your business with an email newsletter, blog posts, social media or advertising. 

You need to be hiring an in-house assistant at around $15 per hour who can update your blog posts, change images and text, as well as do other in-house marketing and sales work. Then, you would simply need to hire a web professional every 3 months or so to tackle the occasional complex problem. 

The only way to keep your costs low as a small business is to build your website in Squarespace. Then manage the website yourself or have your office assistant or virtual assistant do the day-to-day simple management at an affordable hourly rate - something that's a real investment, not a liability.  

That's the main reason I recommend to my clients that Squarespace makes the most sense financially and in terms of saving time and being more in control of the marketing on your own. Rather than having to hire a web developer, or marketing expert, which will eat up your finances and savings. Squarespace puts you in control of the tools where you can learn virtually everything on your own, and occasionally get help from experts as needed. 

I personally like Squarespace because it is the most client-friendly platform available. It is the most easy for my clients to add new products, create blog posts, and change things around without having to hire a web developer to make lots of little changes. 

I get a lot of nagging from people who would die for the sake of WordPress. You'll get all sorts of arguments why a WordPress site is necessary - such as "you wont be able to do everything you need to do" or "WordPress is the only site that works for SEO" and things like that. 

Sure, there are benefits to having a WordPress website. But the Cons greatly outweigh the Pros. 

After all, you are running a small business. You are not running a charity to keep WordPress developers in business. 

I write this to defend the business owners. Not web developers or web designers. You need to know which platform is going to benefit your small business, and make a sound investment decision. 

The only reason you should choose WordPress is if you can clearly be willing to spend over $20,000 per year and that investment cost is going to generate $100,000s per year in revenue that is clearly coming from your website, and not other sources. If you are willing to spend that kind of money on your website, the WordPress might be a good option. 

But most small businesses have no place in spending that kind of money on their website. Which is why I always say: go with SquareSpace. It will save you thousands of headaches.

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Business Owners Make When Building Their Website

Your website is the most important marketing tool your business will have in 2018.

Today, the internet is far more important than tradition marketing. Recent research is even showing that word of mouth referrals have become less important as well. People are able to "see for themselves" and do additional research on the internet to find the product or service that is right for them. 

You already know that your website is an important marketing tool - but it is likely even more important than you realize. And it will become even more so as the years go on.

Today, a website can make or break your business. And I see it all the time. Businesses with poor websites are more likely to fail. And businesses with strong websites are more likely to succeed. And that is because it is the most important sales tool your business has in 2018. 

Since 2010, I have helped over 600 businesses develop websites. Back then, you could get away with a poorly designed website, because it wasn't quite as important as it is now.

After seeing what the most successful businesses and least successful businesses do with their website & online marketing, here are the 5 biggest mistakes business owners make when building their website:

1. Choosing A Platform That Is Too Complex To Manage
I've heard of this from hundreds of clients and also prospective clients who end up not working with me because I do not work with WordPress. Non web-experts, website developers, and people on the street know that WordPress is the biggest and most popular web platform to use. Second is Shopify. The problem with these platforms is that they require tens of thousands of dollars per year to work properly. Not only in the set-up costs, but even more so for maintenance costs. They are so code-heavy, that in order to fully use the website, a web developer must constantly be involved, which sucks thousands of dollars per year (sometimes tens of thousands) out of your business. I see this all the time, and it's not fun for the business owner. Custom WordPress & Shopify websites only make sense for very large companies with very large budgets. For everyone else, Squarespace is the best web platform. I don't get anything out of promoting their platform. I have just seen hundreds of businesses thrive with Squarespace, because their costs are lower, they can manage the majority of the site on their own and the website stays up-to-date with the best technology on its own. These are the reasons I decided about 2 years ago to exclusively work with Squarespace. It's the right move for small businesses, and I will no longer touch WordPress or Shopify. 

2. Building A Website With No "Call To Action"
Without driving people to take some sort of action on your website, your website then becomes a dead-end. If someone comes to your website and says "What should I do now?" with no clear way to take the next step, the your website has become a waste of money for your business. There are 2 kinds of "Calls to Action." One is a "Soft Lead," and the other is a "Hard Lead." A "Soft Lead" invites users to learn more and initiate in the process to learn about your brand over time, such as an email newsletter, a free online course, or a PDF pricing sheet download. A "Hard Lead" is typically when someone is ready to make the jump towards making a purchase very soon. For instance "Buy Now" or "Get Started Now" are hard leads, because they are geared toward the client or customer who is very close to making a decision. They just need you to give them the right place to jump into. If your "Calls To Action" are vague or nonexistent, you will have a severely ineffective website. 

3. Building A Website That Does Not Capture Email Addresses
The most important ongoing marketing tool you have is email marketing. While about 50% of Americans have a Facebook account, and about 25% of Americans have an Instagram account - about 90% of Americans use email. What's more is that people who use email are more intention about their decisions, while Social Media users are often using the platforms for social means, and not productive means. Yet most business owners are tempted to use Social Media and not Email Marketing for their business. Even today, the most effective marketing you can use for your business is Email Marketing. Typically, you collect emails from "Soft Leads" on your website as well as the "Hard Leads" - and if you are not collecting emails or sending our email marketing on a weekly basis, your business will stagnate. Most of my Clients do not use email for fear of the time commitment or not knowing what to say. But I believe you should be afraid of not using email marketing, for the sake of your business. 

4. Building A Website With No Blog, SEO or Value-Added System
As soon as you become an expert in your field, you should be blogging on your website. That is because the majority of people looking for products or services do their homework to become educated, typically through Google Searches. People want to look at reviews, to learn about something - at least mildly learn the basics - and weigh their options. Creating an ongoing blog each week will establish you as an expert. Your posts will also be picked up by Google. And when you post valuable knowledge about your industry to help people's lives become better, people will trust your brand more than other brands. Starting a blog right away isn't always the easiest thing to do for business owners, but the long-term benefits are impressive. For my own websites, and for my clients that blog, the weekly or daily work can result in thousands of views per month to your website to ensure your business will be sustainable for many years to come. 

5. Not Channeling Online Marketing Towards Your Website
Finally, if no one goes to your website - then your website sits dead with no value a all. Email Marketing and SEO are basic building blocks to build sustainable ongoing marketing on your website. But having other third-party websites bring traffic to you is also crucial to build sustainability online. My personal favorites for online marketing are Yelp and Google Business - which are business-oriented platforms and are free to set up. The final stage of marketing for your business should be paid advertising like Facebook Ads & Google Ads. Online ads can cost hundreds of dollars per month and take about 30 days to optimize, so it's not typically my favorite to start out with. But once your website is up and running, and working properly by collecting Leads and Email Addresses, Blogging & SEO integration - your final investment into Online Advertising will be worth it when all the other pieces of your website are already in place.

These are the 5 major areas that business owners fail to think about. Often times, business owners are given opinions by non-website experts, especially when it comes to which platform to use. But focusing on these 5 areas will only bring your business stability in the coming years. As retail stores and malls close across the United States and the world, your website is now your true "storefront" that you should work hard to make sure it is never torn down.

The 7 Best Tools For Growing Your Small Business Online

There are all sorts of tools businesses can use to grow their business online. Some are extremely complex, but my favorite are the tools which are the easiest to use and most simple to use - especially for small business owners. After helping businesses with their online marketing for over 8 years, I've tried all sorts of web platforms and tools - and have found that the following programs are the best ones currently in the industry for small business owners. There are a lot of opinions out there for what tools are best, but these are the best ones that I've found by working with over 600 businesses in the last 8 years. 

Squarespace - for websites
While virtually everyone in the web development industry argues that WordPress or Shopify are the best ways to go for building your website, over the 8 years I've done web design professionally, I've seen too many small businesses fail because they used WordPress or Shopify. Squarespace is by far the easiest platform for a small business to manage without too much help from a web developer over time, which helps keep costs down and allows you to market your website and make edits on your own pace.Use code JPW20 at checkout on Squarespace to get 20% off your annual bill as well. I am an Authorized Squarespace Trainer. 
www.squarespace.com

Mailchimp - for email marketing
This is another underdog in the industry, as everyone knows Constant Contact. But Constant Contact is out of date and certainly not an industry leader. The easiest tool for small business owners to learn is Mailchimp. They constantly improve the way you can easily create email marketing, and the tools for tracking Analytics on how to make your email campaigns better is even easier. 
www.mailchimp.com

Google Analytics - for website analytics
No one disagrees that Google Analytics is the most powerful analytics tool in the industry. While the amount of data it provides is incredibly overwhelming, if you check in on it at least once per month and work to get familiar with it, Google Analytics is an incredibly helpful tool to help figure out how to optimize and perfect your website's page structure and which pages, forms or products are performing best, and which are performing worse.
www.google.com/analytics

Google Search Console - for SEO keywords
This is a lesser-known tool, but absolutely essential if you want your business to be found more through SEO (when someone does a search on Google and finds your website). The Google Search Console tells you which keywords your website is performing best at, which then gives you ideas for new blog posts or pages to create. For me, Google Search Console is the most powerful marketing tool that brings in new clients & customers and thousands of page views per month. 
www.google.com/webmasters

Adobe Photoshop - for graphic design
Photoshop is the leading graphic design tool in the industry, and is essential for creating shareable graphics. My favorite reason to use Photoshop for my website is to create images that people can "pin" on Pinterest. This is because Pinterest is not really a Social Media platform. Pinterest is another very powerful SEO tool that can help your website get thousands of views over time. When people pin your images onto their Pinterest boards, it has the opportunity to be shared over and over on the internet, which is unlike Facebook, Instagram & Twitter which focus on short-term trending topics. Pinterest is based on SEO keywords, which makes it extremely helpful to build a longer-term stable presence on the internet, and why creating graphics in Adobe Photoshop is important for building your website blog or portfolio pages.
www.adobe.com/photoshop

Asana - for project management
I have tried numerous kinds of online project management tools over the past 8 years. And most of them feel more like a chore than a helpful tool. Asana took me just 24 hours to learn and adapt to for keeping track of client projects, internal marketing and business ideas. The interface is simple, and your team can easily jump in and adjust to the workflow quickly. Just like Squarespace & Mailchimp, Asana is probably the easiest project management tool to learn and manage. 
www.asana.com

Paper Planners - for tracking daily tasks and goals
I've used digital planners like Google Calendar and Apple's iPhone Reminder app, but all the studies show that hand-written daily planners and writing out your schedule on paper is exceedingly more effective than using a digital planner. So I've personally made a strong effort to get as many plans, ideas and goals on paper. I also have put together digital download planners on Etsy for others to purchase and use for their own personal and business goals.
https://www.etsy.com/shop/JPWDesignStudio

 

Here's Why You Should Not Hire An SEO Company For Your Website

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SEO is a buzz word that a lot of business people hear about, but don't quite understand.

Even worse, SEO companies around the world take advantage of this trendy topic and sell streamlined services for thousands of dollars that provide the client little to no value. 

Here is what most SEO companies do:

  1. They do an audit of your website with an automatic tool
  2. The tool spits out almost the same exact suggestions for every website in the world 
  3. This audit is way out of date. The SEO that Google looks for in 2018 is almost 100% different than it was 5 years ago. But these audits-style SEO consultations are over 5 years old.
  4. The SEO company doesn't even do any work! All they do is spit out a PDF document that you are supposed to understand and follow, or hire a web developer to implement. To the average business person, all the garbage data they give you makes absolutely no sense. 
  5. You get left with a totally useless SEO audit.

As a business owner, you should understand what SEO is and how it really works. 

Here is what you should know & what Google cares about in 2018 for SEO:

  1. You should be blogging weekly, at least, on high-quality useful topics that will make people's lives better and that you have specific expert knowledge on. Posting blogs daily is even better.
  2. You should use a website that has up-to-date technology. My personal favorite is Squarespace.
  3. Your website should be mobile & tablet responsive (which Squarespace is).
  4. Your website should be secure with SSL certification (which comes free on Squarespace - with a platform like WordPress, it's an extra $100 USD plus developer fees, which can range from $150 USD to $1000 in set-up fees).
  5. You should make images that people will want to pin on Pinterest for extra SEO value. 
  6. Add your website to the Google Index with Google Webmaster Tools at www.google.com/webmasters

There are a few more things than this, but if you get these 6 things down, you'll be off to a better start than 90% of the websites out there in the world. 

SEO companies are out there to make easy money - and they do every day. Don't fall for their fees and schemes. Instead, write your own blogs daily on a platform like Squarespace. 

Best Squarespace Template For Blogs

Unfortunately, Squarespace does not have many templates which have the ability for a traditional, side-column layout. Side columns are especially useful to have an email capture system, or highlight categories or add a search bar so people can easily find multiple blog posts. 

The FIVE template from Squarespace is the most versatile and useful for bloggers. Here is the link to the Five template: https://five-demo.squarespace.com/

This website uses the Five template, and you can see the side bar on the right hand side if you are on a desktop. For mobile devices, the navigation bar shows up down the page.

Five is really the only decent template for bloggers on Squarespace. Nothing else as a fully customizeable sidebar, so it's pretty much your only option if you want a traditional blog layout.

 

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