Helping clients as a web generalist
Posted on January 8, 2014 in Web Design and Development
First, I like the old school nature of this exchange happening on blogs as opposed to just being a Twitter back and forth. Second, it’s really more a conversation than a debate anyway, which is cool.
I’m not here to argue with anybody either but I wanted to throw out a quick thought or two on being a web generalist. I’m not sure what I have to say is right or relevant, but it’s what comes to mind for me anyway.
I agree with what I think Zeldman and Croft agreed on, which is that there is plenty of work out there for the web generalist with a diverse skill set. What I want to mention is that if you’re going down that path, there’s a certain mindset that might be helpful to keep you both sane and employed.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed in that way, which I have to figure must be pretty common, it could be because you’re looking at things from your own perspective. That’s natural right? After all, you are you.
But what might be more helpful is to think about things from the perspective of a person trying to start a business or build a web presence for an existing business. The client.
For a non geek, or even a somewhat web savvy business owner, it’s impossible to focus on running a business and at the same time have command of all the technical skills needed to build and run a web presence.
The business owner needs help from all kinds of people with all kinds of expertise.
But most business owners can’t go out and hire a team of specialists, much less have any chance of coordinating all those experts in a way that will result in everything working together in a coherent and strategic way.
Somebody has to understand the big picture well enough to figure out what’s needed, not just what it possible. And what’s practical, not just what’s perfect.
For some clients, that means hiring an agency, where a director of some sort will lead a team of specialists. For other clients, that means finding a go-to person to build something that might involve a bit of WordPress knowledge, some writing ability, enough Photoshop skills to make some images look decent and the CSS chops to make it all responsive.
(Usually the former means larger budget and the latter means smaller budget but that’s not always the case.)
What I described above for the one-person generalist operation might start to sound like too much stuff to know, but here’s the thing: If you can do enough different things well enough to build what one client truly needs, that’s marketable. It’s not about being the best in the world at some particular aspect of things. It’s about helping that one client get the best website for his/her particular business.
Don’t worry about solving all the problems. Go solve one person’s problem in the best possible way it can be solved today, with the resources the client actually has, not in some “everything has to be perfect” world that doesn’t exist.
When you do that, you’ll be doing something that has value. You will have helped someone build/grow/sustain a business. And when you do that for a real person, he/she will almost always feel quite comfortable paying you with real money. In my opinion, this is a good thing as it allows us to buy shoes and food and Neil Young albums.
I’m convinced that there are tons of people out there who need tons of web work done. Whether you’re a solo generalist or part of a full-service team of specialists, web design is about helping people figure out what they need, and then building that thing in a way that fits the resources and constraints of the situation. I don’t see that kind of work drying up anytime soon.