On Deposits, Working For Equity and Net 30 Payments

Let’s face it. It’s tough to talk about money, but it needs to be done, and brought into the open.

Many independent web developers receive questions about what type of payment structure they will accept before a project starts. Do you charge a deposit? Do you work for future equity? What’s your policy regarding Net 30 (or longer) payments?

While I can’t speak for other shops, my short answers to these questions are yes, I require a deposit before starting work. No, I don’t work for equity. And I avoid working on contracts where payment is unnecessarily delayed.

Here are the reasons why I structure payment arrangements this way.

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The Rabbit Hole of Taste

It’s interesting how there is a renaissance of chasing good taste lately. Perhaps it’s the Ira Glass quote that has everyone refocused on taste. I think it’s something that seasoned creatives of all kinds try to pass to the people they mentor — this pursuit of good taste.

This has a curious side effect. We each filter these sources of design, of music, of art, of literature — through our own unique perspective and personalities. What emerges on the other side is our artistic expression, our style.

But first, we learn by imitation. We absorb the work of the popular culture first. We are exposed to music, art, and writing when we are young, and this ignites the flame of curiosity.

This initial curiosity is what ends up pushing us further down the rabbit hole. We discover more about our favorite artists, and we learn what influenced them. We keep researching until we backtrack the source material, and find what influenced our heroes.

There is nothing new under the sun. But we keep finding new ways to present ideas in a way that is acceptable for our time.

Every great artist (or designer, or speaker, or writer) arrived not in a vacuum, but after years of reinterpreting the works that came before them.

The Rolling Stones were Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson as interpreted by five English guys. John Coltrane is mind-blowing even today, but it’s doubtful he could have existed without Django, Bird, Dizzy and Eddie Lang before him.

Every motivational speaker and business coach that exists today can be traced back to Napoleon Hill and Jim Rohn. Though technically, you could really say that goes all the way back to Cicero.

Flat design has less to do with what screens want than it does with the De Stijl and Bauhaus movements of the early 20th Century. Though it’s cute to think we are inventing ways of communicating information because we were the first generation to understand technology.

How amazing is it that the works of Homer, Shakespeare, Mozart, Beethoven, da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Aristotle, and Plato will be considered relevant long after anything that we create for the web today is dead and buried?

How do you create something timeless, that echoes for decades and centuries, influencing generations after you? You find your own taste by distilling your heroes down to their roots, filtering it though your own life experiences, and rolling the dice.

You are an agent of change with a ticking time limit on this planet. Dig deeper than you dared go before. Find the bones that today’s art and culture were built on and find what the corpus reliquia say to you. Find your voice by listening to those echoes from the past.

Why Does This Business Exist?

Every business exists for some reason beyond “just making money”. At least the ones that survive.

Boiled down into a single phrase, Lockedown Design & SEO exists to empower business owners by giving them the structure and knowledge to do business more effectively on the web.

Every business is a little different, but the overall goal is the same: give you all the necessary tools to make your business prosperous, today — and long into the future.

Who I Help

The clients I get the biggest wins for are well-established bricks and mortar businesses whose sales are flat, and who are unsure of how to use the web to boost their revenue. Most of the business owners are well-respected in their local communities, and their business currently relies heavily on referrals and word-of-mouth for repeat sales.

Most of these businesses need to expand their current awareness beyond their current referral base of current customers, but are unsure of how to leverage their website for marketing to the customers they would like to reach.

They may have a website in place already, but it may be what is known as a “brochure website”. This means it lists what they offer and contact information, but there is little or no functionality built into the site. If they have a contact form, it is rudimentary. If they have products for sale, there is usually no way for the business to sell them online.

These businesses make few (if any) changes to their current site, because the publishing system is too complicated. These sites may not have changed at all in many years.

These prospective clients know that they need to do something with their website and other marketing efforts, but lack the infrastructure, knowledge and confidence to take the necessary steps forward.

What I Do For These Businesses

Businesses looking to make improvements to their web presence are aware we are now living in an attention-based economy. Every business, large and small, must realize they are in competition with similar businesses for the awareness that precedes a buying decision.

Businesses that build awareness by continually publishing content on the web have a decided advantage over those that do not.

I help businesses who invest in their growth by providing custom web design and development, so they have the infrastructure they need to compete. Though every case is unique, I often add website functionality that allows them to increase sales, save time and market more efficiently. Though I’m not a marketing specialist, I share with them the strategies that have worked for others.

I give them the tools they need to grow, and show them how to use them.

I can offer advice on what to do next, but the content marketing has to come from within their organization. It’s difficult to be an expert on subjects you don’t live and breathe every single day, so I defer the job of content marketing to the people who know it best — the businesses themselves.

I don’t disappear after their web project is launched, though. I continue to be an ally and adviser concerning their web properties. I keep my clients websites properly maintained and operating at peak performance.

Why I Do It

It’s simple. I want people to be empowered in their lives and business. I want them to have power over their situation, and have control over their own destiny. The tools I use just happen to be digitally based.

But why?

It sucks to feel like you are helpless to affect the things happening to you. When you are running a business, this can be catastrophic. My biggest goal (in life, not just in business) is to help people find their own path to a better tomorrow.

Why This Target Market?

I have a unique perspective. I spent over twenty years working in the blue collar world before finally making the full-time transition to the digital world in 2012.

Most people I know who are web professionals grew up in that world. 8 times out of 10, their parents had a connection to computers, or programming or design. They’ve never known anything else, or their experience with bricks and mortar business was a couple of years waiting tables or running a cash register. This isn’t meant as a knock, but it’s hard to relate to people when you’ve never walked a mile in their shoes.

I was lucky enough to learn what it takes to run teams day after day in different businesses, to work those long hours when there was no one to cover the shift, and learn about the hidden costs of running a bricks and mortar business. I say I am lucky, because I also spent a few years learning about the web, learning about design and development before moving into that space. I was able to bring empowerment to my own life and my own business by focusing on a goal and not quitting.

I believe that people and organizations alike are continually changing and evolving. It’s inevitable, because the world changes right alongside us. When we stop growing, we stop transforming ourselves. When we refuse to try new things because we’re scared of failure, we become frozen with indecision.

But that’s not what I want for you. When I talk with CEOs and Marketing Directors of traditional businesses, I see a piece of my own story there. I want you to succeed on the web, because I know it’s possible. My role is to be a mentor and coach to you, not just a vendor who disappears into the mist once your website launches.

When it comes down to it, I’m not in the web development business, I’m in the client services business. More specifically, I’m in the empowerment business.

My business exists to help my clients achieve the goals they set out to achieve.

Just Keep Swimming Upstream

If you work within the web industry, you probably chose that path because you’re naturally creative in other aspects of your life. Whether you’re a musician, artist, or writer when you step away from the screen, that creative energy isn’t limited to one facet of your world.

You may have also chosen the path of being a designer or developer because you value your independence. You value having a degree of freedom. The older you are, the more you’ve seen how the digital world has seeped into all the parts of our lives, as if it was always there. Today, it’s hard to imagine a world before the web existed.

But let’s come back to that idea of independence for a minute. If you’re skilled in technology, you have a better chance of surviving today’s economy, true enough. But a lot of you may be yearning for more independence than you currently have. You’re beginning to realize that your open office is more similar to a factory floor from the Industrial Age than you care to admit. You still don’t get to call the shots. You take have to do things you don’t always agree with and you have less input in your day to day dealings than you would care to have.

While there is no good or bad when it comes to what path you choose, some people cannot be be happy forever if they stay in the same spot, year after year. Growth is something you may crave, and you’re just not experiencing it.

I have no idea what it’s like to work in a product based company, where the project never changes, but I do know what it’s like to work in client services, where you know the people you’re solving problems for by name.

My advice to web professionals who feel small right now, but want to grow, is to just keep swimming upstream.

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Stop Spam Comments On Your WordPress Website

One of the most common frustrations for site owners is getting spam comments their website. Spambots bounce around the internet, seeking comment forms to fill out. Site owners are left to sort through the accumulation of gibberish comments cluttering up their website database. No one has time for that.

Fortunately, there is a practical solution. Akismet is an anti-spam plugin for blog comments from Automattic, the folks behind WordPress. It’s also one of the most popular plugins, with over 1 million active installations.

Here’s how Akismet works.

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On The Outside Looking In

Most decisions are motivated by trust.

When businesses make decisions about a web design and development partner, there are certain factors that help them reach that decision. One factor is ease of transfer and risk mitigation. If something goes wrong with their project, how easy will it be to find a developer who is a better fit?

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Message in a Throttle

I have talked to scores of people in your exact situation. You got a website up and running, but not much happened, so now you are looking into how much you should spend on marketing and SEO.

Those are good steps to take, but before you do that, I want you to take a deep breath and take an outsiders’s look at what customers might see if they come to your website.

Because all that money that you’re about to spend on marketing, ads, and pay-per-click will all be in vain if you don’t have your messaging right.

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