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The today webmaster business

The challenges of a perhaps dying business?

     
5:43 pm on Nov 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Hi webmasters. While the internet is still growing, websites are becoming so common (and "everybody can build one") that they seem more like business cards, less of than a business. Too many competing for the same thing usually means lower prices, so low, sometimes is more profitable to do something else.

In my region people need websites every day. Yet it is becoming a low profit business with a lot of headaches. It's like the .com bubble where many think a website will make them money, the problem is they are not willing to pay building it.So perhaps the first challenge is super ultra low cost cheap websites (usually free wordpress templates).

Another thing in my region is the big sellers. "Big" companies building websites for quite a lot of money, while still being free WP templates. The amount of kidnapped domain names and "I will not give you the password" cases is alarming. Not only they sell expensive garbage, they end up burning the clients who after that, suffer from what you could actually call a trauma, not willing to pay decent money and show fear during the whole process.

Another challenge around here is the "one dollar equals 100 dollars". Where the amount of people (clients) believing building a cheap website means they will be earning top dollars in one week, and their site will be on firs page Google, receiving 100s of emails daily. That kind of people who think SEO and link marketing takes one week.

Then, you face the huge competition challenge. So, you have your own website and you are struggling to dominate your niche, then comes a client with the same goal as you, it's not easy to deal with the fact that... sometimes, hard work won't get you to the first page selling stuff. It's like a good painter on a huge city competing with lots of painters. You can't actually sell a "we have to do this and then... PERHAPS..."

All businesses have their challenges, but combining all these, the internet business in my region is becoming more to serious webmasters a thing of a "hell now I'm doing something else from today". Many people lie, and steal money with their companies, but some people are serious and honest trying to make a decent living. Competing on international markets is war too, ebay like sites for online jobs usually mean 50 people from Asia or Middle East post quickly and work faster than you, how? who the hell knows! and even charge less, quite less, cents!

I built my reputation building websites, but several clients are having their businesses going down. The effort of working with new clients with absurd expectations is pushing me to other markets (away, waaaay away from web development).

How is the market doing on your region?
9:27 pm on Nov 25, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The business you knew is dying, but not the business of business. When any activity lowers the barrier of entry the "available space" will rapidly fill with less able/capable participants which, in turn, lowers everything. However, the top bunch, particularly when backed by "money", will remain at the top as tier after new tier is added below that benchmark.

Business is not dying, but it is becoming polluted with players without a clue operating under false expectations and then blaming the system for their failures. In all that noise the competent, and often long standing, players are choked or buried in the noise.

Diversification (ie. doing something else) can be a sign of growth and maturity of the "market". Building a better mousetrap, or taking the path less traveled can often pay off handsomely. Those willing to put in the effort, and sometimes the money, will continue to survive in a changing landscape.

The get rich quick websites take care of themselves by failing their goals. Our job is to survive that noise, deliver a useful and desired product, and operate in good faith with the user and the business community. Sure, this sounds like rah rah sis boom bah, and for some it could well be. Personally I'd rather be positive and do what's necessary to remain valid in a cluttered landscape. This influx of competition is not new to the net, happens every five years or so, but if can be endured during realignments and the sloughing of chaff as each bubble fails.

Where the webmaster can face real challenges is in shared market space selling the same products/services as others. Doing it better, more cost effective, and reliably is the method, that and a little luck of the draw on the serps.
7:05 am on Nov 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Choose a focus. Most of us have a strength as developers, or designers, or SEO or something. Sell that service.

It may open new horizons. I have started taking on a lot of work that is either not web related at all, or where the web bit is just a simple front end on a complex backend. Even the pure web work I do is mostly sites that require a lot of development.

If I was a designer I would probably focus on branding or UI design - depending on what my strengths were. There is also a lot of room for people with more up to date skills (e.g. a good understanding of semantic mark up).

In short, just stop competing with people who do cheap Wordpress sites and find other markets.
12:16 pm on Nov 26, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The root of the problem as I see it is a) people want to make a fast buck (store owner) and b) there are a lot of snake oil salesman out there. Unfortunately for, dare I say "professional" web designers such as myself, snake oil salesman leave a bad taste in peoples' mouths making any pitch I make that much more difficult. I found the best way to compete is to have good references. And it does not hurt that I have clients that go back 17 with me showing a good track record.
3:34 am on Nov 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I understand your anguish.
Unfortunately, the problems you describe are far from new, not even online. Back in the late 90s before the dotcom bubble burst and folks were paying zillions for not much the 'but my nephew can do it for less' was already a familiar refrain and the advent of blogs especially WordPress only heightened the complaints.

You are conflating two separate but often overarching points:
1. web development has (and is seen as having) been commoditized. Uniqueness and associated values have largely been lost in the minds of consumers; with commodities price is the main differential, cheaper being considered better.

2. small businesses have always frequently failed due to delusions and ineptness of their founders. Online startup costs are a fraction of B&M so the number is larger and more obvious.

Yes, a well made quality web site (define as you will) backed by a solid business model and a great deal of effort will probably still succeed. Unfortunately, the percentage of people willing to front the cost, time, and effort, is no more than it ever was and likely less as all the 'get rich quick' schemes that proliferate online have certainly not declined in number. Finding the few in the many and selling them on the value of you over your competitors has definitely become more difficult each and every year.

It is why I run my own sites and stopped building for others a decade ago. The hassle and stress and idiocy was bad enough back then. Today? I shudder.

Many of those that built/build for themselves took the shortcut routes and got hammered at some point (not all and many had already made enough not to care much); I've talked to many, and read some here that admit that and have been struggling to develop new business models with more, or less, success.

Others took aim at the high value 'cream' targets and eventually got elbowed out by enterprise competitors or SE answers; again many had already made enough not to care but many of those that got on the bandwagon later were hurt. Again some have developed new business models to more, or less, success.

And some of us that chose our niches with due care and an eye on the future, put in the necessary investment and diversified traffic and revenue sources, just keep bumbling along.

The web has been the most amazing gold rush analogy. Some early prospectors hit it big, some were off on the wrong creek and did not; some guys initially providing supplies and transportation became household names; the vast majority of gold seekers arrived to find everything staked and either went to work for wages, starved, or went back home.

In the B&M world half of small businesses fail within five years. The cycle is faster online. But the tool suppliers are still hawking their wares and the 'keys/map to the motherlode' to the wide eyed newcomers.
3:50 am on Dec 6, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@tangor: true, and yes the business is not dead (business of business)

@graeme: the UX market is growing, yet in my region is underestimated as something the wp ecosystem has and is cheap

@marshall: that's also what I see, the fast buck thing, clients thinking the web defies "the rules of reality"

@iamlost: that's a very, very detailed description of my case and what I see.

Recently had a meeting with a client and he was quite surprised on the other things I'm doing (non web related, and I didn't tell the whole story), but is simple as I told him: some clients/projects involve long hours, weeks and etc, and many times the work never ends (you carry it with you, and sometimes home where you might continue... sometimes) while other business just as making sandwiches, it ends at X hour and it begins the next day without that much hassle with clients, and allowing you to have a diff life, not caught up on long work hours.
 

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