When I first started doing web full time, people often told me I needed to “network.” At the time, I believed that meant: “go to networking events.”
I spent a lot of time attending happy hour schmoozers filled with real estate agents, financial planners, and the unemployed. Surprisingly, all of those people were highly interested in my profession. When I would run into a non-sales-person business owner, they were greatly interested in what I did.
The conversation went something like this:
“Hi, I’m Brent, what do you do?”
“Hi Brent, I’m Samantha, I own a jewelry store.”
“Nice, what kind of jewelry?”
“A lot of timeless pieces—things that get passed from generation to generation. We buy and sell and repair. We’re located in Larimer Square. What do you do?”
“I build websites.”
“Ohhh, so glad I met you! I need one of those! I haven’t been able to get ahold of this guy that built my site three years ago. It’s like, I call, I call, I email, and email, and he just ignores me. I’m not sure if he’s gone on a bender, or not interested in my money, or what. We have this new line coming out in a month and I NEED to get my site updated for a show that we have this summer…do you have a card? Can we meet for coffee, or perhaps you should just come into the store?”
“Sure, how about tomorrow morning?”
This routine happened hundreds of times. It wouldn’t always lead to business, but the amount of people around me that needed the skills I could provide was energizing. People were always happy to give me their cards and say things like, “here’s my card, it has my website on it, don’t look at it—it’s terrible, but it has my contact info where you can reach me.”
There are better ways to network than attending these happy hour “young professionals” or whatever events, but the point is: the demand is huge.
Web design and the many interlinked services (like SEO, social media, etc.) seem saturated with providers. In practice I have found that it is far from it.
There are a lot of big companies promoting CMS solutions, DIY options, SEO tools, and many widgets we as builders use. But to the small business owner it is too much. There are too many options online and not enough options in their neighborhood.
I never needed to look further than my own backyard for people that were in dire need of my services. We did a lot of national and international work, but that is because we either were in demand as an agency, or we enjoyed the variety of work and the challenge of working with people abroad.
But the more I learned about the business, the more I started seeing a deeper demand than clients just needing a website. If you have ever pitched a website project, you have undoubtedly experienced many questions around such topics as:
- “Can you get me on the first page of Google?”
- “How do I setup Facebook for my business?”
- “Can you help me send emails to my list of customers?”
These questions helped me pinpoint what all of these small businesses were truly demanding. And it wasn’t simply “websites” or “SEO.” It was something much deeper and more important to them.