When I started planning my first website, the first thing I did was call the smartest developer I knew and trusted. Unfortunately, that should have been the last step in the startup process, not the first step.
The truth is, I had no business going into an online business without doing my homework first.
Keep the control.
When you hire a developer without basic knowledge in place, you’ll soon realize that your hands are tied because you can’t make updates or even the most minor edits without engaging your developer. Don’t put yourself in this precarious position.
If you are going to have an online business, you have to learn, at a minimum, the basics of website development: Basic HTML, SEO, Use Cases, Wireframes, Membership Sites (we recommend Wishlist Member), Squeeze Pages, Email Marketing (I use MailChimp), Payment Processing, etc. Not to mention, you should learn the design basics (check out this exceptional article on visual design basics).
Don’t shortcut this step.
Before hiring a developer, please do yourself a favor and go to Lynda.com, pay the $25.00 monthly subscription fee (which you can cancel at any time), and access Lynda.com’s online training library. Then dig in and actually take the classes (you can even learn at your own pace, so no excuses).
One of the first classes I recommend is WordPress Essential Training. It takes 5.5 hours, and it can be a bit tedious for the novice. But endure it. It’s worth it if you’re launching an online business via a self-hosted wordpress site (which is recommended). Trust me, it will be time well spent. Go to Lynda.com for more information and to sign up.
Had I just taken the time to take some online courses in the beginning, I could have saved over $20,000 which was the development fees that I paid on the front-end of my startup and instead spent that money now that I know what I’m doing. Granted, my interactive website, HireMeAspen.com, had lots of customization and complicated functionality like posting profiles, connecting users and ratings / recommendations. It was also built to scale and will serve as a great foundation for profile sharing on the Resort Workers website.
My trustworthy developer did a fabulous job and delivered what I asked. However, I should have gained the necessary knowledge about which features are worth pursuing and which aren’t before blindly spending the money and forging full steam ahead.
Mostly, I would have known how to engage my developer in a more productive way vs. naively trusting his opinions. Knowing what I know now, I would have asked more questions, acted more deliberately and learned more about technology and market needs.
I wish I would have spent that money more wisely out of the starting gate.
Take Your Time
Had I just waited 9-12 months and started with the most basic product features, I would have known what’s really involved in launching a site. I would have known that no matter how gung-ho you are, there is a natural learning curve that is difficult, if not impossible, to bypass quickly. I would have known that it’s not necessary to have all those bells and whistles on your website that you think you need.
I would have been able to discern which features were nice-to-haves vs. ones that could really impact sales. For most (not all) online entrepreneurs, a do-it-yourself hosted WordPress site will more than suffice for the Round One learning curve.
Minimum Viable Product.
As Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur, will tell you: your goal in the beginning should be simple: to launch the most basic, minimum viable product you can get away with so you can test your idea in the marketplace as soon as possible, and then change course or pivot as needed.
Your vision will evolve based on what you learn during the first year of planning and launching your online business…guaranteed.
To be clear, I’m not saying spending money on a developer is wrong; it’s just the timing that matters most. In my case, it was premature when launching my first online business to hire a developer without knowing more about technology, fine-tuning my vision (including my target market) and testing the waters.
My developer did a fantastic job by delivering a custom site built from scratch that functions properly. He did what I asked. I just asked the wrong questions and wanted the wrong things. (And if you shirk this advice and hire a developer anyway, at least be sure to have measurable deliverables, firm deadlines and a no-frills, get ‘er done and roll ‘er out policy).
Bottom line? I wish I had hired my awesome developer during Phase Two vs. Phase One.
Live and Learn.
We’d love to hear your perspective!
Did you make a similar mistake when you started out? Or, are you glad you hired a developer right off the bat?
Please share your comments below.
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