There are a few conversations I have so often with my coaching clients that they must become blog posts.
This is one of them.
Here’s the deal
When you first start out in business, experts from all over the planet tell you that you must have a targeted niche, a clear and compelling brand and a snappy unique selling proposition.
This is very wise advice to people who want to have thriving businesses, not expensive hobbies.
Here’s the problem
When you are first starting out, you may not KNOW exactly who your market is. You need to work with some people to see exactly whom you like working with, the kind of work you like doing, and the kind of people who will pay for what you have to offer.
But to get any clients at all, you need to have some kind of website. A place where you can have a simple “About” page, and a description of your services. And if you are looking to share content over the long-term, you need a blog.
Here’s the metaphor
Your first website can be like a bland, basic, boring house. It is functional. It meets your needs. It is agreeable to many, but exciting to few.
But as you grow and develop your business, and clarify your brand, you can add rooms to your house, and paint the walls, and plant beautiful flowers out front and fill it with music.
The foundation and basic structure will be the same. But it will look and feel quite different.
Here is the permission
It is OK to put up a website that is not perfect. You will not lose branding karma points or be laughed out of your web neighborhood.
Most importantly, you will stop obsessing about clarifying your perfect brand before you have had the experience necessary to define it properly.
The important thing is that you get a web presence established so that you can move on to more important things like getting clients.
Here is the caveat
Please create your first site on Wordpress. It can grow and flex with you, and there are thousands of talented designers who can help you with it.
Please do NOT create your first site on Godaddy or some other web host site. It looks clunky, and you are going to have to move it to a more elegant site later.
Please do not mistake my advice as saying that a clear, crisp brand and well-defined niche is not important in the long run — it is. It is just not important at the very beginning of your journey, when you are testing everything about your business, and building a relationship with your market.
Here is the opportunity for web designers
- Create a really simple, affordable ($500 or less) web package on Wordpress that will allow clients to get started without having a totally snappy brand name or tagline.
- Don’t freak them out with too many questions about branding — they don’t know the answers yet.
- Create a follow up plan with them so you can check in when they are ready to do a more extensive, full-on branded project with Twitter page, banners, color palates, business cards and other critical pieces for a well-established brand.
Here is my wish
Those of you who have been freaking out about your perfect brand can relax. Get your dang starter site done, and feel a flood of relief.
Take the time to discover your right market, and your brand will emerge.
My delightful buddy David Billings (aka SparkyFirePants) wrote a brilliant and related post on branding (the day before this one) that is like peanut butter to my jelly. You will get the analogy when you read his post Where’s the Hurry, Murray? What’s with the race to create your branded visuals?
Hello there, I do believe your blog could
possibly be having browser compatibility issues.
Whenever I take a look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in
Internet Explorer, it’s got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up!
Apart from that, wonderful website!
[…] excellent advice on her Escape From Cubicle Nation blog yesterday. It’s got a great title: You are officially granted permission to create a non-perfect first website. And she drives home a great point. It reminds me of the common advice about not waiting until all […]
Thank you love, I have a artblog now and whole time after thinking on sites before i started my blog, also after my first not so perfect website without much content. And now 30 blogs later with more then 1000 articles I have my little mixed media art blog. But I am still going with the escape from were, or where to go, but that is a different story but I love to blog. Thank you luv for your inspiration xxx from Pieter.
Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.
[…] and business coach, Pamela Slim notes: Your first website can be like a bland, basic, boring house. It is functional. It meets your […]
Thank goodness for a post like this! As a WordPress mentor and trainer who teaches people how to build their own WordPress websites, and web pros how to get better at offering WP services for their clients, this couldn’t come at a better time.
Something I tell my WP students during classtime is: COUNT on revising and tweaking the site forever. What is relevant today won’t be relevant six months from now. They have to wrap their heads around the concept of ‘not if, but when’ and they really do need that permission to move forward without trying to be perfect out of the gate. The first thing I have to teach in these classes is how to get comfortable with the thought of ‘just launching it.’ And of course, not using Website Tonight (ugh).
I mentor WP service providers and advise them just as you have: create a relationship-based service that doesn’t rely on finding the $10,000 site projects. Taking more of a team-member, assistant-approach can lead to long-term revenue with short-term fixes and upgrades; a great way to stay in business during a recession for both parties. So I will add that this type of business setup is not so much of a challenge, but a great way to create residual income for those of you who aren’t servicing large clients.
I will be sharing this post with my students and clients! Love the backup from an authority such as yourself.
One thing WordPress won’t do, that GoDaddy does is host my email (which now I just have autoforwarded). Who do you recommend to your students for an email provider?
Regarding the GoDaddy-type templates: as a technically unafraid non-technical person, I’ve found that most products that promise to do most of the work for you and let you “drag and drop” are so rigid that they are actually harder to use. You have to learn procedural steps of the program itself, and it’s very difficult to do anything that the application’s creators haven’t anticipated.
Learn just a little bit about basic tech fundamentals and you can use simpler, cheaper applications that are not marketed to your exact need but work well for your category of need.
I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone else experiencing issues with your website. It appears like some of the text on your posts are running off the screen. Can someone else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This may be a problem with my browser because I’ve had this happen before. Many thanks
Strangely I feel a great deal of relief just READING this post. I know you’ve told us this before; but this post, metaphor and photo finally got it through my head. I really do need to get the basics up! This week, not next. THANK you!
[…] A good friend sent me this article a few months ago: You are officially granted permission to create a non-perfect first website. […]
Here, here Pam! Although, I did exactly what you said NOT to do and took FOR-EVER (read: 7 years) to get my first website up.
As I now think about doing a major refresh of my website, it’s helpful for me to remember that my first website actually went through 3 iterations before it even went live! Just remembering that creating multiple iterations is sometimes how I work best, and that the process of making each version real helps me see what I need to keep and change (hence the next version), is helping me relax much more this 2nd time around. Also, I’m fine with this next website being a “transition” website. If it lasts for a year, while I’m growing into my new skin, and serves as a holding space for that growing process — well, that’s superb!
Pam – this article was just what I needed. I have a habit of getting all worked up trying to make things perfect. This helped me to just keep moving forward by announcing my new business to all my friends and family this weekend, even though the website is not exactly what I want it do be yet. I am learning to keep breaking things down to actionable, doable tasks each day to keep me motivated and moving forward. Also, thank you for pushing me towards WordPress. I was debating whether to make this switch and am really glad I did. It is much more flexible and customizable than the other blog platform I was using.
This is exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been slowly gathering items to put on my website, but I now realize I just need to start it.
[…] blog all it can be, by creating a strong personal brand with it. Don’t stress about being perfect though, Pamela says it’s okay to put your website up and tweak it […]
This is excellent advice, Pamela…especially about starting w/ WP. WordPress is a great platform w/ so many options and wonderful flexibility.
Most people that have successful businesses previously started other ones that failed. Likewise, many people that have successful websites/blogs previously started other ones and then switched gears after narrowing their focus. There’s no shame in that!