Reasons To Become An Agile Web Designer. #4 Stable income
Agile focuses on continuous delivery where the traditional model works to deadlines.
The feast and famine problem known to most web designers is a product of the traditional approach. Two common tactics have emerged to overcome this problem.
- Value pricing – getting high ticket jobs to cover the designer for longer periods.
- Recurring incomes – typically offering maintenance plans.
Undoubtedly, these have worked for many, but I believe they are bolt-on solutions to an essentially flawed approach.
I should say I am purposely over generalising here to highlight a trend.
The origins of the traditional model
In the early 2000’s when the traditional web design process was being established it made sense to sell websites as commodities.
Most businesses only wanted to claim their place online and basic feedback tools like Google Analytics were not around.
Although sites were not entirely easy to build, they could be done by hand with relatively low level HTML and CSS skills.
The complete “product” could be handed over and would last indefinitely. Anyone with HTML skills could alter and update it.
The move to Agile CMSs
By the time platforms like WordPress had attracted the majority of small agencies, perspectives on the web had changed. Big tech companies became the new world leaders through recognizing early the true power of the web and digital.
This was a world where data on human behaviour could be gained and responded to faster and more cheaply than ever before.
Agile approaches were growing and the need to be able to change, evolve and publish faster was spurring on the growth of CMSs
You would have expected that when web designers lost direct control of their build technology, the industry would have moved to selling design as an agile service. It didn’t.
Traditional model 2.0
Small agencies who were still mostly serving clients static websites had a problem.
With these CMSs almost anyone could do their job including their clients. Selling websites as commodities was becoming a race to the bottom.
But, where there’s despair there’s always a social influencer selling hope. Erudite media-aware sales people reminded everyone that prices are made up.
You can flip it and sell websites as high value products. Just find businesses with deep pockets and promise your website will give them everything they want.
No need to be messing with all that evidence based “continuous delivery” nonsense like Amazon et al. Just be a better salesperson. Solved!
It gets even better. The problem of no longer controlling the technology can also be flipped.
Now that the client is paying more for their site, they will want to protect their “investment“. Give them a “maintenance” plan.
Okay, we know digital does not actually wear and tear, but clients are used to buying products that do, so we can use the analogy of buying a car.
Excellent, so now we are getting paid more and have a extra recurring income.
We can even boost up the plan with some other add-on products and our time. We don’t need to worry about them actually using our time. Remember, we sold them an end deliverable not a strategy.
The race to the top
Anyone can copy sales tactics, make promises and build websites.
Some insist a first time web designer has a moral duty to charge clients a minimum of $10,000 a site.
Once the key influencers in the WordPress community were the developers who were respected for the quality of their code.
Now, it’s the affiliate marketers who earn from convincing DIY users and web designers alike that the last thing they sold us is outdated and needs replacing with the new “game changing” product.
The product owners that want to keep the affiliate on side needs to keep adding more and hiring more.
That once indestructible client site not only needs maintenance, but breaks and gets bloated with backend updates.
How can a client tell the difference between a skilled designer and a chancer who believes sales tactics and software will earn them $$$$? I would struggle myself.
Designing for the changing web
When the most traditional of organisations like governments and banks make “agile” their policy for delivering digital services I think we know change is happening.
The “build it and they will come” approach has held up simply because businesses take decades to adjust their thinking.
I am sure for many more years potential clients will continue to ask “how much for a website” as if it is a commodity with no dependencies.
But, it’s easy to turn to a results focussed agile service simply because it:
- Offers the client lower risks and starting cost.
- Works to evidence rather than guesswork.
- Uses the CMS/page builder platforms to the client’s ongoing advantage.
- Avoids their main marketing tool getting stuck in maintenance mode (and them paying the price for their designer’s mistakes).
The advantage for web designer are:
- Their skills demonstrable which earns long term trust (distancing them from rogue designers).
- The focus is on the User Experience design that will outlive any technology (distancing them from rogue software sellers).
- Low budget jobs can become big earner over a lifetime (widening the available work and bringing more back to our industry).
- The work can flow better if you manage clients longer term strategies free of deadlines.
- The options to create recurring incomes as before still exist and it opens up other possibilities.