How (and Why) to be Your Own Client: Redesigning Your Own Website

October 16, 2006

Posted in Small Business and Web Industry.

You have bills to pay. You’re busy with projects. Your sales guy is already talking about the next lead and the proposal you need to write. Who has time for their own website?

We spend a lot of time convincing businesses to make their websites better, and yet many of us are unhappy with our own websites. And when you’re a web professional, your website is not just important – it’s the lifeblood of your business. You need to be your own client.

Why You Should Be Your Own Client

In most small businesses we wear many hats, but rarely do we wear the hat of client. From the vendor perspective, we are often blind to the flaws in our own process. We believe we know what is best and when things break down, it can be hard to point the finger at ourselves.

Being your own client means:

  • Holding yourself to the standards of your clients
  • Evaluating your process from both sides
  • Realizing just how hard it can be for clients to do what you ask of them
  • Improving your own business

What It Means to Be Your Own Client

First, start by asking yourself the questions you would ask any potential client. What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish with your website and how will you measure success? Take these questions, put on that client hat – and answer them.

Next, it’s discovery time. Do your research, brainstorm, and define the feature set. If you think your clients should do it, do it yourself. If you can’t meet the demands you place on clients, maybe you should reconsider that part of your process.

Write a proposal. This should include your usual details – timeline, any budget, and project management plan. Clients demand a proposal for good reason: they want a plan and accountability for that plan. Follow this plan.

Remember the value, not your costs. When the price is zero, it’s easy to think the value is zero. A major reason that donating your time can be dangerous. Just because you have the skills and you’re not charging yourself for this time doesn’t mean that feature changes, delays, and procrastination don’t have a cost. Every delay can hurt you in lost business, non-billable time, and stress.

Lessons Learned

When we rebuilt our Birch Lake Studios website, we spent a lot of time on our content. It’s one of the toughest stages of any project for us and the biggest source of delays. It’s the biggest reason we’ve started working with copywriters and stopped relying on client-written prose. It paid off – a few collaboration sessions produced most of our content and the rest was editing.

We struggled with the design phase. We had strong opinions (heck, it’s what we do) but failed to articulate all of them to our designer. As a result, we spent too much time rehashing the designs. Clients often expect us to read their minds; we fell into this trap ourselves. The solution? Prompt helpful answers by asking the right questions.

Being your own client lets you finally get around to your own project, sure, but it helps you with much more. It gives you a chance to see things from the other side of the contract and, perhaps most importantly, find ways to improve. And when you’ve been through all this, hopefully you’ve got a product you’re proud of – one that helps you bring in even more business.

1 Comment

  1. oak — October 16, 2006

    you clearly have an extraordinarily patient and tolerant designer.