Sublime Creations officially opened for business on July 4th, 2013 and it’s been an amazing two years! I’ve learned a ton and made my share of mistakes being a new small business owner. I was naive and trusting when I started my business and it’s been hard to move away from this because I want to help people.
I love helping people with their websites. My business model is built around enabling my clients to enable themselves online. I try to de-mystify the Internet and make managing and updating content or images as easy as possible for my clients. I believe your small business should have a great website and I believe that you shouldn’t have to pay a “web expert” to manage your content when WordPress is available.
I take pride is developing WordPress websites my clients are able to manage. It’s a great feeling to develop a site I can hand over to a small business owner knowing they are capable of learning how to post their own content.
Most of my clients love this model. They appreciate the time and effort needed to create a WordPress website and many go out of their way to thank me or to make their appreciation known. People love to feel empowered.
Building a business
My first two years in business were spent bending to others expectations and selling a lot of $500 websites. This was a reasonable expectation when I was first starting and it seemed to be working well for the first year. It helped get my name out there and I was able to build a nice portfolio fast!
However, it became apparent that the hours involved in setting up a WordPress website was not worth the minimal cost I was charging. Each WordPress site I set up has a specific set of tasks that must be completed prior to installing WordPress. If the site is using a custom design theme then the number of tasks increases substantially.
There are no economies of scale when working with hosted WordPress websites. I have over 40 clients, all with different needs. While most are using WordPress and the basic setup is the same, it still takes several hours per site to install and configure WordPress and the theme customizations. The more $500 websites I bring on, the less time I have to devote to truly creating a compelling website for my clients.
A hard lesson to learn: setting and managing expectations
I am always eager to help a client when they are in need but I do have my limitations.
While the Internet does not have business hours, I do! Sublime Creations is open Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 3:30pm and I try my best to answer calls and reply to emails during this time. If you call during business hours and I don’t answer, please leave a voicemail and I’ll return your call within 24 business hours. It’s just me running this ship so please be patient!
I rarely work weekends. As a small business owner, sometimes feel I should be “on” 24/7, but this is not sustainable and burnout happens fast when I work through weekends. Everyone needs time off and small business owners are no exception. I take pride in my work and in supporting my clients but I also take pride in my personal self-care. I do have boundaries in place and not working weekends is one of them.
Websites and email goes down, and sometimes WordPress websites are hacked and malicious files are uploaded to your directories. It can feel like an emergency when your website goes down! I become anxious and slightly panicked if my website goes down, so I understand the feeling it causes my clients. I would encourage you to take a deep breath and relax! If your website goes down please call or contact me and I will look into the issue as soon as possible. If your site is hacked please expect that it’s going to take 24 hours to sort it out and bring the site back up. If your site has malicious files uploaded then it can take days to remove the files and restore your website.
When a client crosses a line
I have the best clients in the world! Yes, that’s you! You support my business, respect my time and boundaries and consider Sublime Creations your partner and not just a vendor. I take pride in meeting deadlines, actively listening to clients needs and crafting a website to support those business needs. If I am unable to meet those needs then I will provide recommendations for other business partners who are better equipped to solve your business needs.
This doesn’t mean I haven’t ever had problems with clients because I have. I’ve been yelled at, contradicted and told I should “just do what I’m asking”, even when it goes against common web conventions or could potentially convolute the user experience. It’s hard not to take this personally when the other person is throwing vitriol or rhetoric in my face. My business is extremely personal to me. Ergo, your business is extremely personal to me. I want you to succeed and if you won’t listen to my advice then your chances of success (online) drops substantially.
We’re all good at what we do
I do consider myself a subject matter expert as I have been in this industry for over 20 years. I’ve worked at a design agency, in creative services, marketing, marketing communications, and engineering firms. I’ve spoken to hundreds of people about what works on the web, what compels people to click (or even stay on your website), and observed and studied human computer interactions enough to know these basic rules:
- Your website is not about you. Or your business. It’s about your user. You need to let the visitor know that you will make their life easier, better, happier, etc.
- You have approximately 2 seconds to make an impression on your visitor. The engineers at Google say you have even less time than that: about 400 milliseconds – or the blink of an eye. Again, better make sure your visitor knows what’s in it for them!
- Standard web conventions work for a reason: they follow patterns that users are comfortable with, and if users are comfortable with your website they are more likely to stay on your website. Keep the logo in the upper left corner, ensure the navigation is consistent throughout the site, and craft a single call-to-action using a button that looks clickable and responds when you hover and click on it.
Yep, that’s it. Let me do what I’m good at so you can go out and do what you’re good at.
A few final thoughts on the next two years
I started my own business to help other small business owners create websites that are on par with the bug guns. I believe every small business should have a stellar website that works for their business. I plan to support your business’ online growth through 1:1 training classes, online video tutorials, and helpful tips and tricks for WordPress. In addition to providing website design and development, I also provide search engine optimization and local listings services, website hosting, and domain name registration.
Here’s to the next two years of business! Go out and get ‘em.
Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo.