Web practices for business owners and why I do this
By DEREK NEUTS, MS
There’s meaning to the madness
Before I was a developer, I was just a business owner. In fact, I’ve had a few businesses in the past, so this is not unfamiliar territory for me, and while I did design websites many, many years ago (we’re talking in the mid-90’s), those skills were out-of-date after just a few years of not using them. Just like many owners, I looked at options and eventually found WordPress. After learning the ropes, I examined themes and visual builders. I also experimented with bundled site builder tools to create static websites for small business use, because I had very little time to build a website of my own, nor did I have the budget for a developer at the start. I fell into what many business owners eventually try first, which is a DIY project.
I became quite comfortable again at working with layouts, code, and WordPress and its ecosystem, but I was lacking many, many technical skills behind the scenes regarding how to construct, maintain, deploy, and troubleshoot a site, as well as add custom features that I wanted for my ventures. Despite having four years of prior experience with WordPress and site building, I was honestly a rookie. Self-taught, but unstructured, and while I had attended college for a specific combination of disciplines, coding was a whole different animal, it was something that was learned systematically over time, sometimes slowly. I had to rely on others, some who considered themselves “experts” to supply me with expertise and snippets to modify existing sites, and looking back on it now, I was taken advantage of. Why? Because I didn’t know any better, nor did I understand how to effectively manage those types of IT projects, so just about anything they told me was plausible.
Who this blog is for
Who and what am I talking about in this blog?
I want to be clear that the experiences and knowledge that I share are not to be misused or misconstrued to otherwise “paint” all web developers, designers or specialists with a broad brush of scrutiny. It’s also not an excuse to treat them disrespectfully. Instead, use concepts from my blog to assist in managing your projects more efficiently and know exactly what you’re after. When I discuss amateurs or those who are fraudulently portraying themselves to the public as working professionals, there are distinctions within that description that I want to be very specific about:
What else will I be covering as time goes on?
Other than con games and lazy “easy buttons” that can sabotage your project, I’ll be covering ways to improve your relationship with your developer or designer, and we’ll also take a look at project management principles for web projects. Selection, hiring and retention practices are also important for your business, whether it’s an employee or contractor that you’re looking to bring onboard. We can examine the differences between websites frameworks, what works best for your business, and how professionals can oftentimes work together to achieve your goals. Essentially, all the stuff you should probably know so that you don’t needlessly spend your entire budget multiple times over still trying to find the right people to work for you. When time permits, I’ll expand on some of these topics through my podcast (coming soon at the time of this writing). There’s only one of me, and my cloning machine is out-of-order.
So what’s up with me?
I’m simply another choice for you. In fact, we may or may not get along, or your project may or may not be a good fit, but I might know someone who would take it if that’s the case. I’m a professional developer who’s constantly learning something new, daily, and my field is constantly changing. I have many years of entrepreneurial experience, and I have held some great positions in business, as well as put my time in serving my country in and out of the military (I’m an Operation Iraqi Freedom vet). I attended school in Oregon at Marylhurst University, where I earned an Interdisciplinary Studies degree (with the help of the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs) in business, human communications, and psychology, while I also earned a certificate in training and development. I moved on to a graduate degree at Capella University, and then finished online after another two-year period, finally being done in 2016 and earning a Master of Science in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. In August of 2016, while finishing my MS program, I started taking courses with the Reboot NW program to distinguish myself as not only a consultant and business professional, but I wanted to do more, and go back to something that I loved earlier in life. I’ve been in the program ever since and expect to be done this fall.
I made the decision to freelance early this year, and it’s not been easy, as the market is flooded with bad experiences and a price-race to the bottom. Business owners out there have been burnt badly, and it makes it hard for those of us who want to do the right thing to get work. However, I’ve been able to stay focused on skill building and quality over quantity, and I took huge risks in taking on projects that stretched my limits each and every time an opportunity presented itself. Fortunately, my clients knew how busy my schedule was, and we’ve been working on projects part-time on evenings and weekends this year, which also helps them focus and think about what they really want out of their time with me. I’m now finishing up junior-level development courses in object-oriented PHP programming before moving on to learn Symfony and Laravel (both are PHP frameworks for larger-scale projects and apps). My goal now is to stay on course over the next year to focus on PHP coding, learning the frameworks, and becoming proficient with PrestaShop, Magento, and dive deeper into WooCommerce (online shopping systems). My work is heading in a direction of being more available with these skills to agencies versus private clients, but I will still consider projects that come across my desk. Currently, at the time of this writing, I’m booked into the fall with daytime contract work, as I’m nearly 100% self-employed now and will be transitioning out of my in-house development role.
I hope that the topics we’ll cover together make you pause and think about what you’ve done with web projects in the past, and hopefully how you will handle them moving forward. That’s my intent: to educate, inform, and provide guidance. I’m also available to discuss your projects and what you want for your business. My methods are quite different, more deliberate, consultative, and purposeful. I don’t do “quick turnarounds” that are doomed to fail. We’ll take our time, we’ll talk, build a rapport, and eventually (hopefully!) develop a mutual, long-term business relationship built on trust. If that’s not your cup of tea, then I hope my advice helps you to find someone that’s a good match for you and your objectives.