How can I compete?

I am using Google maps to surf my area looking for businesses with no website or websites that suck.

Unfortunately, the only thing that seems to “suck” are my abilities. (Boy has the bar been raised over the last 15 years!!)

I think I have solid business, IT and development skills, and I have helped to make some very useful enterprise-level systems over my career.

But when it comes to building websites for small businesses, I feel like things are completely out of my league.

Most of you may laugh at me, but it is nearly impossible to compete against cookie-cutter WordPress templates or any kind of pre-made CRM/CMS/e-commerce packages. (They probably had an entire Indian or African village build those templates over several months or years and then probably paid them $1 per hour for their efforts!!)

I am at wits end on how to succeed being an independent consultant doing web development and design… :sob:

How can I compete with limited design skills?

How could I compete even if I was a world-class designer?

Personally I would rather have an average website that was custom-built to me and my business, and one that looks REAL versus some glam-looking website where you can instantly tell that everyone and everything on the website is FAKE!!

Sadly, I think your average consumer would rather have the latter versus the former.

I could really use some help/advice here!!

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IMHO your website is likely to be the number one selling point for new clients.

Why not post a link to it asking for a site review?

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I don’t have a site. Been too busy looking for odd jobs, and don’t have money for hosting.

Regardless, I am trying to get a general sense of whether I have to reduce myself to building sites that look like airbrushed WordPress sites.

I would rather visit a website that has the Name, Address, Store Hours, an Interactive Map, a Contact form, and other things that help me get the content that I need to make a decision versus so pixel-perfect design that doesn’t tell me anything about the owner and his/her products or services!!

Do we live in such a superficial world that nobody cares about Content and Functionality???

For goodness’ sake, build one!

How can you expect anyone to consider having you make their site if you don’t have one of your own?


^ What he said.

[quote=“mikey_w, post:3, topic:196589”]
Regardless, I am trying to get a general sense of whether I have to reduce myself to building sites that look like airbrushed WordPress sites.
[/quote]No, but you do need to have decent CSS skills, so I’d advise you to spend some time bringing yours up to date if you seriously intend to pursue this path.

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I think “bling” is the way of the world these days with everything.


Let’s be honest here. Brutally honest. You don’t have time to brush up your skills and get them to a decent level. Especially since everyone wants Javascript. You don’t even have a firm grasp on RWD - you’ve never done one.

You’re out of time, financially, from what I understand.

I sincerely believe you should focus your efforts on design, and getting good at photoshop. You KNOW what people want in designs (I think). You’ve seen what sells. You’ve done research on this. You know what clients expect / want.

Why not make those exact designs and perhaps find a coder who you can go into business with? All you’ll need to sell your clients on is a mockup / talking about the functionality. Subcontract the coding while you work on another design. That way you don’t get your hands dirty with the “fake” websites that you don’t like.

I’m going to be honest here; based on your improvement rate (yes, it is improving), you just aren’t improving fast enough to catch up in time to know everything you need to know.

Just food for thought.


I have one site I build for someone else and have been trying to use that to shop my skills. And to my OP, I feel like the site I am proud of can’t compete with air-brushed sites…

And I am trying to build my first responsive site, but even if it was done I have no way to host it.

Define “decent CSS skills”…

Well, sufficient skills to be able to come up with a design and be able to translate it into CSS without having to post here and ask for advice. I’m not saying you should never have to ask for help, but that it should be the exception, rather than the rule. At the moment, it seems to be the other way about.

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You can get decent hosting for £2-£3 a month. I have signed up for a plan where I can have 5 websites for £50/year.
There is only one cpanel for all the sites but that’s OK.

Do you have any contacts where you host on their package or VPS?

I mentioned a Free site that you could try. It took me ten minutes to register and FTP a site.

Did you try it?

Be prepared for the going being not easy, but it can be done.

eg. when I wanted to leave my “job” for a career, it meant that I needed to continue at my job to pay the bills, while going to college. It was “full time” and “part time” for several years of getting very little sleep and living on 2 - 3 pots of coffee a day.

But when done, I was able to work only full time in a career earning as much as working both a full time job and a part time job for the duration of my working life.

Sorry if I’m cold-hearted, but to me “lack of time” is no excuse.

Likewise, as mentioned, inexpensive hosting is plentiful, again, to me “can’t afford it” is no excuse.

If you want to “sell your skills” to clients I fear they’ll likely not be any more inclined to buy excuses any more than I and I’m not spending even a cent.

Have you ever pulled a punch before?

Well, that seems to be what the debate is about…

I thought I had a load of great skills. No, I DO have tons of great skills that a lot of people don’t. However what I am starting to see is that the skills I have gained over my career aren’t what sells.

Somebody running a Chinese take-out place wants “bling” versus a way for people to order from their smart-phones. And someone running a local vet clinic wants “bling” versus a way for people to book appointments online or get text messages when their pet is ready to come home.

Up until recently, I have made a pretty successful career working with large enterprises to build systems that do stuff!!! Flash and flair were an after-thought.

Well, it seems that every small retail place wants bling and not content and functionality.

Every site I have looked at this week wants Photoshop experts and nothing more. It’s not JavaScript I see - it is designs and photos that took ages to build and that are now sold for $50.

But just like my JavaScript thread last night, I am trying to learn…


I was hoping someone would be a voice of reason and say, “If you just did ____ and loked for clients in ____ area, you would see that there are still people out there who want modest websites with world-class content and with functionality that helps then do business. Yes, most of the world wants “bling”, but you have a lot of skills that are still marketable.”

Guess i won’t hold my breath to hear anything encouraging fron @RyanReese. :wink:

I am bookmarking every website I see that “I” would want. Maybe over time I can “reverse-engineer” them and that will help?

As far as partnering with a coder, I am a coder and that is the problem!! I can build websites that do stuff, but it appears that what I thought was aesthetically pleasing isn’t so hot…

I’m not sure people will buy functionality.

One of the whole reasons I was eager to start my own business helping small businesses was that in the past I see all of these websites that look pretty but don’t serve basic needs that potential customers likely want. I would rather have a website that does something to help me get information or to buy a product or service than look at a picture of an airbrushed bimbo that clearly doesn’t work at the company.

But apparently “substance” doesn’t sell… :smirk:

I would venture to say that if you had to create any of the sites I have looked at today, that you would easily spent 40-60 hours building them. So, if someone can get the WordPress template for free or for maybe $50, how could you survive?

In the last 2 months, I have met with 3 people who each wasted between 3 to 8 hours of my time telling me about their grand schemes and then when it came time to talk about $$$ and an actual project, then didn’t have anything for a budget.

It’s not that I can’t build any of these websites - I can learn anything in IT. But what I cannot do is build websites from scratch that would take weeks or months for a couple of hundred dollars.

Well it sure feels like I am climbing Mt Everest with one hand…

If you have a credit card with available credit, great.

Yes, I saw that earlier in the week, and I appreciate your suggestion.

The bigger issue is not that I went buts this week and can’t afford business cards or a way to host my website, it is the fact that even if I had those things, it seems to me that what people want is beyond what I can produce.

If anyone here can produce sites that look as “pretty” as WordPress sites for as cheap as they cost, then I’d be surprised.

I am assuming that even wizards like Paul O make his living off of customers who not only want original websites but are willing to pay for them.

I am hoping that if I change my approach, that I can find one of the following…

  • Someone with a website so bad that even I can design/code one better

  • Someone who does NOT want an airbrushed WordPress site

  • Someone who is more concerned with Content and Functionality (i.e. not a vanity site)

  • Someone who is willing to pay for the above

Do such small-to-medium businesses exist out there?

Being new to this, is there any way I can try and attract them?

Maybe this will help explain my predicament…

I lost my job and shortly after found a small business that paid me thousands to build a modest site. And while the pay paled in comparison to what I made in Corporate America, the pay was good enough to pay my bills and I loved the feeling of for once working for someone who respected what I thought and where I could provide end-to-end services. For me it is so rewarding to sit down with someone, listen to their business needs, and then work with them to design a website that delivers!

The problem is that I apparently got lucky with my first-ever client, because since then it has been lots of people who want $5,000 websites for $100-$500.

If every client could be like my first, i would never go back to a 9-to-5 job.

And I want to believe there are more clients like him out there, however based on my last several encounters - combined with looking at all of these pretty websites that would take ages to code from scratch - I am at wit’s end!!

There must be a common ground in all of this, but I’m not seeing it.

The phrase that’s going through my mind is “Show me the money!” People are all going to go for the glitz and glamour unless there is another perceivable benefit to them. So unless you can find a way to show them that a mobile approach and with enhanced content will bring in more sales and make them more money even after a higher cost, you’re fighting an up hill battle.

I’ve gotta ask, are you starting your own company because you’ve got a burning desire to do so, or is this a knee jerk reaction to another situation? Because it seems like you’re trying to start a business without the planning and preparation which is needed to survive. Most new small businesses take 12-18 months before they are even remotely financially viable - most “experts” suggest two full years of capital to get started. Seems like you’re starting from scratch, and the panic is starting to set in.

Seems to me that a better approach would be to go back and work for “the man” for the short term. Use the skills which you know are successful and marketable, and build those skills which an independent businessperson would need to break into the markets you’re interested in going after. Get your ducks in a row - build your business plan for your niche, build a brand (website, cards, flyers). Perhaps build a prototype so you have something to show to prospective clients. See if you can’t find others in your marketplace who are looking to make a fresh start. Then when you have all that in place, and have built a reserve to start with, you can look at branching out on your own again.

It just seems like starting out in desperation is not a good way to grow a business of your own. It’s not helping your attitude, and the despair will just cause you more problems in the long run, when a more patient approach may be the better road to travel.

I am working on a website and skills that could help me out whenever I am not loking for work or doing odd jobs. If you have a way to create more than 24 hours where you live then PM me!

Really? All of my credit cards maxed last week.

So you know hosts that take cash?

Better, if you had a couple hundred left to your name, would you spend it on business cards and web hosting or maybe save it for food and gas?

I think you missed the spirit of my OP…

I am not asking how to get out of my financial situation - that is another topic.

I am trying to figure out how to sell custom websites to small businesses that seem to be seduced by websites that look like 1,000 other businesses and that cost next to nothing. (I called GoDaddy last week to inquire what it would cost to have them build a website for me, and I don’t know how anyone can compete with GoDaddy’s prices…)

See above.

It’s becoming pretty difficult to take this seriously, because “I have no money” seems to be an argument you trot out as an excuse not to take the advice you’ve been offered. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue with some things:

But if you really want my opinion (and I somehow doubt that you do), I would say that you need to decide how best you’re going to eat after your “couple hundred” dollars runs out. If you think you can make it freelancing, then you should spend a few dollars on hosting and get a site up, because as I and others have said, you’ll stand very little chance of getting work without one. The sooner you get a site up, the sooner you stand a chance of starting to earn.

If you don’t think you can make it in freelancing just now, or don’t want to risk a few dollars investment, then I suggest you forget all about it for now, find a regular job of any kind which will pay your bills and once you’re financially stable again, you can look at learning the necessary skills to move into freelancing.

But there is really no point in repeatedly asking us much the same questions, in the hope that somehow we’ll suddenly come up with a magical easy answer. There isn’t one. There are some hard decisions you need to make, and only you can make them.



How about answer my original questions/concerns stop focusing on the money part?

Here’s a clue…

It is my perception that having $$$ or a website or knowing Javascript or RWD won’t do a damn thing if all people want is WordPress vanity websites or websites that would take months to build from scratch but at template rates.

Has the web design/development world been reduced to templates?

Anyone who is a successful freelancer, what do you encounter? Have you sold out to WordPress templates? Or have you found a way to sell original designs and still make a living?

It would seem like if a person could create their own templates and code modules and then re-use them, that would be a way to offer more services at a lower rate, but of course that would take time.

Some of the websites I see out there would take 2-3 weeks just to write the articles and take the pictures, let alone build a website. I’m not sure how people get these elaborate sites for so cheap?!

Notice we still are not fixating on how much $$$ I have or my JavaScript or RDW skills…

Yes, those will help me down the road, but the sites I am talking about are pretty much pure HTML and CSS.