If you own or manage a business, you probably already have a website.
What you might not have is an ongoing relationship with a web consultant, developer, or web agency.
The vast majority of small business owners get their website built, and they and their developer go their separate ways.
It may be a year or two until the business needs an update to their site, or a related service, like site redesign or SEO help.
Oftentimes, the developer has disappeared, or the agency may have ceased operations.
Finding a strategic web development partner is difficult the first time. Imagine having to do this every two years. Ugh.
Because finding a web consultant isn’t something most folks have to do all the time, they may not know how to go about it. At best, they may make some of the same missteps that they did in previous searches, and end up back in the same position that they were before.
I’d like to offer some helpful advice on how to start a relationship with a web consultant in a way that won’t leave you stranded again in a couple of years.
Where To Search
One good way to find a web consultant is to ask a trusted friend or colleague if they have someone they would recommend. If your business colleagues have someone they swear by, and their site looks professional, follow up on that referral and see if you’re a good fit together.
If your city has local Meetups for web design or web development, that may also be a great place to look. Here, we have the Sacramento WordPress Meetup on the first Tuesday of each month. The attendees are usually a 50-50 split between seasoned developers and people looking for help with a project.
In cities of any size, there are usually specific Meetups for every kind of web technology there is. If you live close to a major city, it may be worth the drive to connect with capable web consultants face to face.
Another method for finding great web professionals is to simply Google [your city] + web design (for example: “Sacramento web design”). You can modify this search, depending on what you need (type of web development, marketing, etc).
This doesn’t mean send a request to the top 20 results and try to evaluate the responses that come back. That’s information overload, and top-notch consultancies may not bother responding if they know they’re part of a cattle call.
If you take time to inspect their websites, read what they have to say, and see if they sound like someone you’d like to work with.
Choosing a design partner shouldn’t be a one-time transaction. Whoever you choose, you’ll need them as an ally for years to come, helping improve your site as the web evolves.
Find a handful of companies that do good work, have a proven track record, and who you have an affinity for. Follow up with this small subset, and make a choice from a select pool.
Job boards are how many businesses seek a web developer. Many job boards return affordable, yet inexperienced web developers.
I can’t stress this enough. Most of the time, you get what you pay for.
Craigslist, eLance, and Guru are sites where you will spend more time weeding out unqualified candidates than the money you save hiring there.
By spending money on higher priced job boards, you will expose yourself to a much higher level of talent.
Consultants who know what they are doing will require you to invest more than if you hire your friend’s nephew.
But they will also bring you an actual return on your investment. Higher quality web consultants will be able to make changes that bring a positive impact to your business.
Start Slow To Minimize Risk
When hiring a web developer, it’s a great idea to start with a small web project first, to minimize risk on both sides.
By starting with a small project, you can both see what it is like to work together, and together decide if you want to move to a larger project.
By starting with a small project, it minimizes the overall financial risk for you. It lets both you and the consultant build rapport and find how you best communicate with each other.
If by some chance, it doesn’t seem like a good fit, you can both part ways, neither side having lost anything substantial.
If it does seem like a good fit, it can be the beginning of a long, mutually beneficial alliance.
Keep in mind, depending on the size and demand of the consultant or agency, a “small” project may mean different things to you and them when it comes to budget. The bigger the consultancy, the higher their project minimum may be.
Look At The Long Term
From now on, I’d like to challenge you to look at selecting a web consultant in the same light as you would selecting a lawyer or a primary physician.
Just like an attorney protects you from legal harm, and your doctor makes sure your body stays healthy, your ideal web partner will keep your website healthy. Like other professionals, your web consultant can give you helpful advice, and keep you on the right path when it comes to the online part of your business.
Your customers have internet access everywhere they go, thanks to their smartphones. This is how they find information, and evaluate services like yours.
Being thoughtful about selecting a strategic web services partner means you’ll have that person in your corner for years to come. That is a great benefit to your business as it continues to grow and evolve.