I’d been in business as a web designer for several years when the other web designer came to town.
When I saw his sign up on the local bulletin board, I was surprised, and thought it might be good to have someone to compare notes with. Maybe this was someone I could learn something from, I reasoned. Maybe it was someone I could share contracts with if my work load got too heavy. My mind was open to all of this.
I was also a bit distressed. I was struggling to find enough work to keep me busy in our tiny, isolated town of 1200 people. Most of my jobs came from local people. Naturally I thought this would cut into my business prospects. Because he had a sign up, I put one up too, just in case some people in our town didn’t already know about my amazing low prices and my eight years experience and all the cool things I could do.
I met the new designer, and liked him and his girlfriend. They seemed like good spirited, big-city refugees. The new president of the Chamber of Commerce had already taken to him too, and wanted to take my job working for the Chamber away from me and give it to him. She arranged a contract with him to host a website for one of our big local events. I already had the contract to develop the site, so I did it and put it on his server.
I asked him where his hosting site was – I wanted to look at it. He told me his domain name but the site wasn’t up yet. I waited a few weeks and looked, and there was a terrible mess. The most obvious thing was that this person didn’t know anything about building a website. He didn’t even know how to form the tag to get contact email. It looked like two styles of pre-made templates jumbled together on some of the pages. It was clear he had nothing to teach me, and plenty to learn.
Then I went back to look at one of the many signs he’d put up around town. To be honest, the signs he posted were quite attractive. They said something like this: “Don’t pay a web designer big money to do your site. I can help you do it yourself with the software I’ll give you free. Or have me do it – only $200 for four pages.” And of course he also advertised that he could do shopping carts, photo galleries, and hosting.
Now, seeing this all clearly, I was somewhere between rolling my eyes, snickering, and having my blood boil. He had no clue how to create a website but was advertising on every bulletin board in our town as if he had expert services to offer. At the same time he was telling people my services (based on eight years hard-earned experience) were worthless and overpriced!
I waited for his web hosting site to improve, but it continued to look like a mess for months. Meanwhile the site for the Chamber event which was hosted through his hosting service went down, â€œover bandwidthâ€ time after time, and the Chamber president kept having to contact him to make arrangements to pay more to get more bandwidth.
I’m going to make some guesses here about this man who thought he could slide right into a career in web design without knowing much about it. It has been my experience that many people don’t have much respect for web designers. Either, like this man, they think anyone can do it with a WYSIWYG HTML editing software program, or they think that web design is far overpriced and we web designers are out to get them.
Fortunately there’s plenty of people who are willing to pay a fair price to an experienced designer to get their businesses represented on the web, and those who already have a web presence are often looking for new people to maintain their sites. So there’s plenty to keep us busy unless we happen to live in a tiny remote town, having to deal with small town politics from small town people.
That’s what happened to me. Though I was still getting design jobs, I got tired of the attitudes here and decided to do something else for money, so as of March 31, 2007, my web design business is closed. I now cook pizzas for a living. After being a stay-at-home mom, homeschooling parent, and work-at-home mom for 18 years, I am delighted to be able to work outside my home.
I still love web design as a hobby and can’t imagine my life without doing it. I decided to convert my former design site (this one) into a blog to help others wanting to get into the web design industry. I know enough about it to give some fair advice and let you dwell on the lessons of my experience.
If you’re just now learning about web design, what I hope this story has taught you is that if you’re going to get into this business, make sure you know what you’re doing first. Don’t think that anyone can do it without a lot of training and practice. There’s lots you need to know, and I encourage you to keep working at it until you’re proficient and capable before offering your services to the public.
Learning about web design never ends; that’s part of the beauty of this job. And no two designers have the exact same skill sets. You are developing your own unique styles and when they are perfected, the public will gather around your door, asking to be let in.