Last week I wrote an article on real estate investing website marketing that talked about how important a website is to not only your ongoing market efforts (remember, a website markets for you even when you are sleeping or out on vacation), but also the first impression you make on potential customers/clients.
I’ll admit, that article was pretty theoretical in regards to application. Sure, you know what bullet points to consider and watch for, but what about stepping out into the real world and actually “doing it?” My hopes are this article will assist you in that quest.
Let’s first consider this question though…
Do You Want to Be a Real Estate Mogul, or a Website Guru?
This question is important due to the fact that the premise of this article is going to be about finding a 3rd party to build your website and web presence. I already know what you’re thinking, “Yikes! Third parties cost money, and my marketing budget is very limited! I’ll be better off doing it myself.” While that is completely understandable, remember the question above. Along with the question above, refer back to the article I did last week.
Some problems with “I’ll do it myself” mentality when it comes to websites…
- Time – what sounds more productive, working on building your business infrastructure and bringing in leads or reading through “How to Build a Website” books from eBay?
- Education – this is repetitive, but I’m trying to make a point. You will need to learn how to build a website.
- Risk vs Reward – I personally think this is the strongest reason. The reward of doing it yourself is you save a few bucks. This risk is you create a very unprofessional looking website, but worst yet, in doing so you’ve wasted your time. While there may be templates available for you to “fill in the blanks”, using these highly increases your odds of your end product being CHEESY. Point being, taking on this sort of Risk in order to save a few bucks (Reward) just doesn’t add up in my mind.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that a website developer is the best way to go, even if it does cost a few bucks out of your pocket. Let’s now take a look at three attributes that you should use when looking for and hiring a developer.
Ask About The Web Developer’s Information Policy
I don’t care how good/cheap/friendly/professional a web developer seems, you need to ask about how they deal with information. What do I mean by “information”? Are you given access to everything? Are you given the passwords and login information to access your sites/hosting? If they tell you “they will take care of it” or “we can’t give you information since there are other sites on the server”, then find someone else.
The last thing you want is to try and change your website to a new server, or host, or developer, and then have your current developer hold you hostage in a sense because they have all the information.
A quality web developer should have zero issues with giving you all the appropriate information so that you can make ANY KIND OF CHANGE you want in the future.
“There”, “Their”, & “They’re”
Do they know the difference in these? If so, English is more than likely their #1 language. I know it can be tempting to go overseas and find someone cheap, but at the end of the day, the communication barrier is a time/life sucker. Ask me how I know. I tried it once, and that could probably be an entire article in and of itself. All I’ll say is that after the experience, I only want people that can speak and write in English.
The Developer’s Portfolio & Past Clients
Treat a web developer like you would a plumber, electrician, carpenter, etc. While they may not work with traditional tools, you need to view them as a contractor nonetheless. You should request to see some of their past work. If they have past work, there is nothing wrong with asking if you could have the contact information for the owners of the site for referral work.
If they are confident in their work and customer service, then neither of these requests should rub them the wrong way. In fact, they should be happy that you asked because now they get to “show-you-their-stuff!”.
Perhaps they are just getting started and don’t have a lot of clientele Nothing wrong with this; however, this needs to be factored into your pricing. If they are quoting you what an established performer is, then they are just way too high.
Three Strategies to Use When Choosing a Web Developer
I’m sure there could be more added to the list (so please feel free to do so in the comments section below), but these are three strategies I use when looking.
- Make it Black & White – don’t sit there and try to describe in words “what” you want. Go do some surfing of the web and find some sites that you like. Send them the link and tell them to refer to whatever aspects you like and ask the simple question, “Are you able to do that?”. There is no gray there. They either can mimic what you are showing them, or they don’t know how. Pretty cut-and-dry. (not to mention, a major time saver)
- Incremental Payments – again, treat your web developer like a contractor. Would you ever pay 100% upfront before any work is done to your carpenter? I hope not! The same should be the case here.
- Customer Service – how are they during the contact/bidding phase? This is when someone should be at peak performance (assuming they want the job). If things are rough during this phase, then don’t kid yourself thinking they will get better AFTER they have won the bid. These people work at a computer, so there are very few valid excuses for not responding in a timely manner. Heck, the web guy I use gave me his cell phone number and I can text him whenever I want. Now THAT is customer service.
Along with this, what type of post-service do they have? For example, I recently wanted some traffic code inserted into one of my sites. I shot my guy and email and it was done within the hour… with NO BILL. If someone’s policy is to nickel-and-dime you for ANY kind of work, no matter how small, then I’d advise looking elsewhere. There is definitely a line where it becomes justified for them to bill you, but if you are asking for something very basic/straight forward, the ones that just do it are the ones you want to work with.
Places to Look
- Your Social Circle - Do any of your friends, family, associates have a website? Who did they use? If you’d like, drop me a message and I’ll gladly give you the person I use on all my “techie” stuff. Speaks English. Great customer service (like I said, he gave me his cell phone to text him whenever). Does good work.
- Freelancer Websites - eLance.com is one I have an account with. I haven’t used them in a long time, but they have a nice system there set up. There are other sites out there along those same lings. On sites like this, previous customer feedback is key!
- “Google It” - you can go the old fashioned route and just use Google.
- Local vs. National vs. International - I would first say, stay National (USA) for the whole language thing. To me, it’s worth paying more. Then it depends. If you work in California where the cost of living is much higher than, Grand Rapids, MI (where I am), then I’d go with my guy for example. If you live in Fargo, North Dakota, then I’d look for someone local. There is no right or wrong answer to this, but it’s basic economics. Someone living in a higher cost of living area will need to charge more than someone living in a cheaper part of the USA.
How about you? What tips and tricks do you have for both finding web developers and screening them? If you’ve already been through this process let’s hear about any recommendations you have. Just leave a comment below.