The Big ‘O’ – Hang on in there

The Big 'O' - Hang on in there!

For those of you who are wondering why I've started doing the 'blog' thing, I turned 40 last year. This is what turning 40 has taught me…
1) it's definitely the age where I care less about what people think about me (I still care, just a little less)
2) you can choose to speak your mind and;
3) be confident that if what I say upsets someone, this was not my intention so I can give myself a break and remember I'm still a nice person.
4) Finally, I am allowed an opinion and it's allowed to be different to that of someone else.

Somewhere inside me I feel I have some interesting things to say, and today is the day for me to talk about the 'O' word, 'Opinion'.

I see memes on facebook all the time, little clever pictures and phrases pondering the idea of 'What would you say to your younger self'. Well, if I could go back to the time when I nearly gave up my business, just before hitting the two year mark, I would say "You're allowed your own opinion, you just have to own it."

I can remember people telling me how I should do things differently, change my business structure, charge more or even just get a proper job. Sometimes I would be my stubborn 30 year old self and pretend I know what was best, sometimes I felt like my 20 year old self, barely out of teenage years and just wanting to cry and get a cuddle from mum.

Here's the interesting thing though, I would also tell myself "Other people are allowed their own opinion too, but remember that they own it not you. Listen and learn as much as you can, but free yourself from other people's opinions, they are not wrong they are just not yours."

As for the picture, this is to remind me to hang on in there and appreciate the view from wherever I am right now.

Alison x

Keep going, keep doing your thing!

Keep going, keep doing your thing!

I have now been running my business for over ten years and I have over 200 clients that I work with regularly. This number fluctuates for various reasons, but as a sort of 'ball park figure' it's there or there about.

Over the years, the first time probably being about 6 months after I started up, I have been asked the question "Are you still doing your websites thing?" And over the years, although always polite in my response, I have felt different levels of irritation. The last time I was asked was only a few months ago, and since then I have pondered why this question drives me so crazy.

If I were to just stop doing my 'website thing' today, not only would there be some very unhappy customers, but some very unhappy suppliers too. It would be hugely irresponsible behavior on my part and quite frankly a very strange occurrence to have happened. Do people really just 'stop doing a thing' and vanish? Puff, gone! I wonder if Steve Jobs ever got asked "Are you still doing your computer thing?"

Running a business isn't just a hobby, it's a lifestyle, it's a privilege and more so, despite some people's perception, it really is a real job.

My message today to all of you out there working hard to create a successful business, well done!

Keep going and keep doing your thing!

Alison x

Time is money, save time & save money

Time is money, save time & save money

Now that I'm back at work, since the boy has got his place in Nursery, I have taken a shine to checking in with Linkedin for a quick gander every day.  I usually do this with my first cup of tea, somewhere between my Spider Solitaire puzzle and checking the latest from the BBC news app.

I was intrigued the other day by a quick post which suggested that when one purchases something, they must choose between two of the following attributes (as all three didn't exist); Good, Cheap and Fast.  I argue that although it might be rare, there are definitely places where you can find all three and not have to make that choice.

Since thinking about this, I have decided that I would share my own little secret of how I am able to provide all three to my clients.  As the title suggests, it's no real secret that if you can save time, you can save money.  But saving time doesn't necessarily mean 'cutting corners', it may just mean finding a more efficient way of doing something.  So with this in mind, being more efficient, can save time, which can save money but for the same value of product.

I make WordPress websites, these are basically pre-built using lots of files which are hosted on a giant computer in the sky.  You fill the database attached to the files with a bunch of content, and hey presto, there's your website which the world can see.  The prices of these website vary from something like 'free' to 'thousands', and quite rightly so too.  The free versions are not necessarily a 'bad' product, they just don't have all the functionality that a 'better' website might have.  But if 'free' is your budget, then why not start there?

The ones that I build are £500, and here is why.  From the 10 years working in corporate finance departments I got pretty good at making spreadsheets.  If there was one thing I learned from these days, apart from how to make a spreadsheet, it was that 'transferrable skills' are more valuable than you will ever really know.  My transferrable skill is to work out how to make something more efficient.  In the simplest terms possible, I copied and pasted the code from the wordpress files, popped them into a spreadsheet, and used the spreadsheet to build the websites.

What this means in reality, it takes me two days (16 hours) to build a fully functioning, populated and pretty wordpress website.  I could bore you with the details of how I came up with my hourly rate of £25 per hour, but assuming you have better things to read today I'll leave that for another post, so two days comes to £400.  The extra 4 hours is me allowing for client time, which could be general communications, guidance of content, training for 'diy' updates and sometimes a little general marketing advice.

If I were to build a wordpress website (or any website in fact) from scratch now, it would probably take me at least a week.  And before anyone gets upset, if you can build a website from scratch in this time that's probably just because you are better than me.  I don't have to be the best at what I do, I just have to be the best at being me.

So you see, I save my time, to save my clients money, to make sure their customers see something 'good'.

Be efficient, be cost effective, be great!

Drag, drop, copy, paste

Drag, drop, copy, paste

I have recently been questioned about my pricing structure, with a person (from my industry) criticising that I not only 'cheat' by using WordPress software to help me make websites for people, but that I shouldn't charge for something so simple as 'drag and drop'.  I quickly informed this person that not only do I charge people £25 per hour to 'drag and drop', I also charge to 'copy and paste' too.

Interestingly, I wasn't actually irritated nor offended that this person made the comments, in fact it has actually been rather helpful to be able to answer such a comment publically.  The fact that I can be so very honest about the simplicity of my skills that I offer my clients, allows my clients to see how transparent my business, my services and my charges are.

What I do for a living is not 'rocket science', but it does make a huge difference to so many people.  Let's not forget, there are people out there who are not skilled in the 'drag, drop, copy, paste' actions, but they are phenomenal at what they do.  Some of my clients cook, some fix machines in foreign countries, some advice politicians and others have more letters after their names than I have in my postal address.  All of these clients use my service, as simple as it may be, because it helps them.

I have integrity, passion and kindness, and that's why I have a successful business with over 300 clients and 10 years of business behind me.  Believe me, £25 per hour doesn't actually allow me to retire to the Maldives in 5 years, but it does allow me to buy clothes and toys for my son.

It's important to remember that when someone charges a hourly rate they have to!  This is because they don't get the opportunity to actually 'work' each hour of every working day, people like me have to spend other hours in the day doing marketing, accounting, researching and many other business tasks like making the tea.

This little piece is dedicated to all those people who are faced with other people trying to make them feel guilty for doing a good job, for making a living and for being good at what they do.  This is for people who are judged by others in their industry who have clearly not taken the time to learn before criticising, this is for the lovely people I work with and respect.

Finally, let me just say 'thank you'!  Thank you to those who support me, who are my clients, my friends and my family.  Thank you to those who remember that I am a person, who runs a business, who runs a home.  Thank you for letting me be me.

Be the best 'you' you can be, you are lovely, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

P.S It took me way longer than an hour to write this thing, let alone create an image to go with it.  😉

Websites should be furnished, not finished.

Is your website furnished?

One of the first things I am asked by new client's is "When will my website be finished?".  My answer usually consists of "Hopefully never!".  A website should be something that grows alongside your business, so with this in mind, do you wish for your business to be 'finished'?  I hope not.

Starting a business is a little bit like getting on the property ladder, so you can think of the websites I build like the first studio flat which was affordable and practical, but not necessarily what you hope to raise your family in 10 years later.  You should be proud of your first place, populate it with nice furnishings, pretty pictures and comfy places for your friends to sit.  But let's face it, it's not really the place for holding concerts with a grand piano and string quartet, nor will it be the place to buy a custom built kitchen with one of those fancy islands in the middle.  There's barely enough room for a microwave remember.

When you've purchased your first little website, it doesn't have to be all singing and all dancing, it just has to represent you and what you do, whilst having the ability to grow with you as you and your business grows.

I choose to make websites in WordPress, one of the reasons for this is that it can literally grow from your first little studio flat into that 14 bedroom, 6 bathroom, indoor swimming pool with an apple orchard… just because.  WordPress can be simple and small, which is where I like to begin, but with the use of additional technology and some very clever developers, WordPress websites can become something so much more.  A simple example of growth would be initially adding one testimonial in a pretty designed box on the homepage, to later adding a rotating self-populating banner with many testimonials.  Another example, listing a sample of your product or service prices on a page quite simply named 'Sample prices', then at a later date add an entire e-commerce package which links to your accounting and customer management software, populated by a stock list imported for convenience.

So as you can see, as long as you are proud of your WordPress (studio flat) Website, proud enough to show it off and invite people in, it will be perfect for you when it's furnished.  Call me (Alison) on 07766 720 830 if you need a helping hand 😉

A website is not an essential purchase!

A website is not an essential purchase!

I have made over three hundred websites in the last ten years, I have worked on many more and looked at thousands.  I suppose this makes me somewhat of an 'expert' in the field of websites.  With this in mind, I always find it fascinating how no one ever asks me the simplest of questions; Do I need a website?

The normal questions I am asked consist of "How many pages can my website have?", "Can you make my website look snazzy?" or "Will my website be found on Google?".  Well, these are all very valid questions if you have already answered the simple question above, first.  If the answer to "Do I need a website?" is yes, then of course you should ask these questions.  But what if the answer is NO?  Have you ever thought that perhaps you don't actually 'need' a website, have you pondered why you think you 'need' a website.

In my experience, people think they need a website because someone once told them they had to have one.  Well, I am here to tell you that you do not have to have one, you do not need a website, a website is most certainly not an essential purchase.

If the past two years has taught us anything in business it should be that we need to think hard about what an essential purchase is, what are we risking to get it and is it really worth it.

Here are some cold hard facts about websites:

  1. A website will only make you money if it actually gets looked at.
  2. Websites that are listed at the top of Google are there because someone paid lots of money to get it there.
  3. A contact page can never replace a friendly face to buy from.
  4. No-one ever waits for a rotating banner to change picture, apart from the person who made it of course.
  5. The only information people really want to read is who you are, what you do, why you do it and how to speak to you about it.  On occasion they might like to know how much too, but they are more likely to ask that question if they know you have what they want or need in the first place.

So let's address the situation further, if you are happy to pay for a marketing company to specialise in sending valuable traffic to your website, the kind of traffic that will actually then turn into sales, then sure, a website is definitely something you should buy.  If you are going to pay google to list you at the top, pay someone to manage that listing so that your money is well spent, not wasted on visitors who would never buy from you in a million years (for various reasons) then sure, get a website.

If you are confident that you will have a chat with people, they already know you can provide what they want or need, and you want them to take a look at your stuff in their own time, definitely purchase as website.  However, please make sure you love your own website and you are proud of your website, so you are proud to let your new friends look at it.

I can make similar arguments for social media too, but perhaps I should leave that to another rant another day.  For now, please stay safe and please use your hard earned cash for essential items only!


P.S I can help if you want a website you'll be proud of 😉