Five Critical Skills for Web Developers
Anyone can learn to click the buttons these days. Great CMSs like Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress have made it easy to throw up a great looking website in no time at all.
So how do you differentiate yourself from those button clickers and justify your higher price for your product?
- Understand your client. Take the time to listen to what the client has to say. Also note what the client does NOT say. Listen around their technical words. They might throw out words like blog, Twitter, photo gallery, and calendar without really understanding what those words mean, technically speaking. Listen for what they’re really trying to communicate less than the technology they think they need to communicate it.
- Understand the problem the client wants to solve. What are they really trying to do with their website? Understanding the problem can be difficult, but once you’ve clearly identified what outcome they want for the site, the technology will just fall into place.
- Understand your client’s clients. The visitors to this website will want to achieve certain goals while using this site, and they’ll want to achieve them under specific circumstances. What do visitors want to do on the site? Are they using a PC or a mobile phone when they want to do it? Are they new to technology or are they experts? Do they have broadband service or are they still in dialup land?
- Pay attention to customer service, please! I am embarrassed how many phone calls I get from clients who have lost their web developer. They’ve tried to get in touch for weeks by phone and/or email and the developer hasn’t gotten back to them. Look, we’re all busy people, and the job we do isn’t 100% of our life. We have families or hobbies or big looming deadlines, and it’s easy to get behind. But if someone calls you, call them back, within one business day preferably. Even if you call them back and tell them you’re busy and you’ll talk next week, your client will be grateful to hear from you and know that you didn’t get hit by a bus. Return those emails and phone calls. You’ll be surprised how much work you get as a result.
- And please, please PLEASE do not cut your price to compete with the button clickers. Your time is valuable. Price yourself accordingly. If your client wants someone to work for $10/hr, let them hire someone who will work for $10/hr. Don’t cut your price to get the job. It is completely possible to charge too little for your services, every bit as possible as charging too much! When you cut your rates, you lower the value of the industry as a whole. Look them in the eye, tell them your rate, and don’t apologize. You’re worth it… but if you don’t believe you’re worth it, neither will they.
Notice that none of those 5 points had anything to do with technology or code. They’re mostly people skills.
We all know you’re tremendously geeky and your coding skills are formidible. Good for you! Unfortunately, code skills don’t necessarily sell you to a client. You’ve got to have these soft, squishy skills as well to make the sale. You’ll also effectively differentiate yourself as a true web professional, and your business will become successful as clients recommend you to clients who recommend you to other clients.
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