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Demystifying the Facebook algorithm so you can get real results

Demystifying the Facebook algorithm so you can get real results

guest-holly-worton
 

So many people are complaining about low Facebook reach these days, to the point that many are jumping ship and deleting their business pages entirely so they can focus their time on Twitter or Google+. The problem with that is that, for many businesses, Facebook is still one of the best social media sites to market your business and connect with your ideal clients.

Facebook marketing experts say that 6% reach is average, and 10% is excellent…meaning that if you have 500 likes on your business page, you can expect to reach 30-50 of those fans. Sound dismal?

It depends on how you look at it: you can reframe your perspective and realize that Facebook is helping you to get your posts in front of the 30-50 people who will be most likely to engage with it, in the form of liking, commenting or sharing. In other words, Facebook is helping you get your content in front of the right eyes, so you don’t have to worry about people who aren’t as interested.
 

The mysterious Facebook algorithm

The question most people have these days is: how does Facebook decide which posts to show someone? According to Facebook, there are over 100,000 factors taken into consideration for the news feed algorithm.

Facebook isn’t hiding your posts to be mean. And they’re not doing it because they want more money from you in the form of advertising dollars (well, not entirely). According to Facebook statistics, a typical user has about 1,500 stories/posts that could show up in their news feed on a daily basis.

That’s pretty overwhelming, don’t you agree? That means that Facebook had to create this algorithm to deliver the types of posts that you’re most likely to enjoy as a user.
 

What shows up in your news feed

Facebook takes into account the following elements (among many, many others):

  • Your previous interaction with the page owner
  • Your previous interaction with the type of post. If you like mostly photo posts, Facebook will deliver mostly photo posts. The same goes for links: if you tend to click on link posts, you will receive more link posts.
  • Reactions from others who saw the post. If lots of other people liked/shared/commented on a post, you’re more likely to see it in your news feed.
  • The amount of negative feedback. If lots of other users chose to hide the post from their newsfeed, odds are you won’t be seeing it at all.

Other factors

Facebook also takes into account a number of other factors, including but not limited to:

  • Stories shared automatically from third party apps. This means that if you automatically share songs from Spotify or ALL your photos from Instagram, they won’t get as much reach.
  • This does NOT affect scheduling and post management apps like HootSuite and Buffer, or individual photos shared from Instagram, for example.
  • People who watch lots of videos will see more videos in their news feed. Conversely, people who scroll past videos without viewing will see fewer videos in their feed.
  • The device being used. Posts that are difficult to view or engage with on a mobile device will not be shown to mobile users.
  • Whether or not someone has selected to get notifications or receive updates from your page is also taken into consideration.

How to beat the system?

In a nutshell…you can’t. But there is a lot you can do to improve Facebook reach. I know I said in the beginning that 6-10% reach is good (and that’s what I get on my own business page), but one page that I manage for a client regularly gets 50% reach…and often 75-90% reach, which is pretty crazy.

So I know it can be done…for free. This is all organic reach. We do it by sharing exactly the type of content that our fans love: quotes by the author, either in quote boxes or with photographs.

We get loads of shares, likes, and lots of discussion in the comment section of each post. It all comes down to sharing exactly the types of content that your fans will most find interesting, useful, and engaging.

If you want more engagement, share engaging content. That sounds silly, but it all comes down to that. More interaction equals more reach.
 

Other ways to increase reach

You can invest money in ads to increase views of specific posts. This is best for posts that are promoting something specific, like your mailing list opt-in gift, a webinar you’re hosting, or a product/service you’re offering.

Share different types of posts. Your fans will all like different things: some will prefer link posts, others will like photo posts. Remember that Facebook will serve each fan the type of content that they most enjoy engaging with.

Get better at “doing” Facebook. Don’t just blindly post stuff and hope it sticks. Go into your Insights and see which types of posts are getting more engagement…and do more of that. Get clear on which types of posts are getting less engagement, and plan to do less of that.
 

The bottom line

You shouldn’t really be worried about reach. As Facebook expert Mari Smith always says, “people talking about this” doesn’t pay the bills. You need to be focusing on solid business results, not on vanity metrics like likes and reach.

Solid business results include:

  • Traffic to your website
  • Signups to your mailing list
  • Signups to your webinar
  • Enrollment in your courses
  • Purchases on your website

High reach or lots of likes on your business page doesn’t guarantee any of these things. And your social media strategy should always be looking to track solid business results rather than vanity metrics like fans/likes/follows.

I hope this clarified things for you. Rather than being upset with Facebook for low reach, we can reframe our thinking, do a little research, and make sure we really optimize our time online. Good luck!
 

Holly Worton helps coaches and women in heart-centered businesses go from confusion to confidence with social media, so they can use it to build relationships online and get more clients. As a heart-centered business owner, you do amazing work, and Holly wants to help you help more people. The way to do that is through Connection, and social media is one of the best ways to connect with others and build your tribe. Sign up for her free 90-minute social media training at SociallyHolistic to start building connections online. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, or Instagram.

5 ways to share your coaching skills on Instagram

5 ways to share your coaching skills on Instagram

guest-sarah-morgan

 

While I know adding another social media channel to your marketing plan may be challenging, Instagram is a great way to inject a little more personality into your coaching biz and help draw in clients that will be a perfect match for you.

Since I write mostly about business and blogging on my website, I use Instagram to share photos from my day-to-day life as well as offer my followers blogging or business inspiration throughout the day.

When creating a Instagram strategy, consider your ideal client – what types of posts would appeal to them most? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do?

Just like Pinterest, Instagram is all about the visuals, so it’s important to be consistent in the style of your photos, stick with one or two filters, and shoot photos in similar lighting and backgrounds.

Here are a few ideas on how to promote your coaching skills on Instagram:

Conquer a challenge

What do your ideal clients struggle with on a daily basis? In any business you’ll receive the same questions and hear the same complaints repeatedly. If your clients are struggling to staying motivated, you could post a series of photos throughout the day to inspire them to keep working. Remind users via your blog or Twitter to check your Instagram for a spark of motivation and include a hashtag to encourage them to participate.
 

Share a story

Another way to take advantage hashtags is by posting a #tbt (throw back thursday). Share something personal that you’ve learned or an experience that potential clients might benefit from hearing. Instagram is a great way to offer more personal aspects of your life without having to write a whole blog post, and it’s a more intimate space to create a conversation.
 

A quick tip

What’s one thing you can share to keep your client working toward their goals? Something you’ve added to your life that would work for them too? A habit you’ve stopped that has helped de-stress your life or get more done?

It may seem overly simple, but for someone just getting started it could be extremely helpful. Example: I recently posted a photo showing it’s possible to use your headphone as an iPhone camera remote. (Bet some of you are thinking, “Mind. Blown.”) My readers who take lots of photos for their blogs found it helpful to cut down on blurry selfies. Simple, but effective!
 

Behind the scenes

Followers who admire you and your work or aspire to become a coach will love to see how you get things done. Show off your messy (clean??) desk, your mid-day break, your workout routine. Share what you’ve got coming up or a sneak peek at secret business plans. Letting followers see a little more of your world than what’s on your website will help build trust and connection.
 

Share success

Whether it’s your own or the success of your clients, remind your followers that what they want to do is possible by celebrating accomplishments. It will not only give current and potential clients a boost in confidence, but help create a community around your business by letting clients relish in each others’ wins.

Instagrammers for inspiration:
Rachel Magahy

Hey Sweet Pea

The Beauty Dept

Shop Bando

Esmewwang

 

Sarah Morgan is an award winning web designer, blog and business consultant, circus performer, and aerial instructor from just outside Detroit. She thrives on helping people grow their own websites, make the leap from unfulfilling jobs, and be brave in business and in life. In 2012 she quit her corporate design job to literally run away with the circus and get back to what she loves – working with bloggers and small businesses to create a killer online presence. Through her blog and ebooks, Sarah inspires readers to turn their passion into a job they love and build strong, successful online brands.

 


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5 quick steps to a business ready Facebook Page

guest-jackie-johnstone
The #1 driver of traffic to my website? Facebook. The biggest source of new subscribers? Facebook. (Over 50% according to my analytics!) The place the vast majority of my clients first find me? Facebook.

Facebook is the world’s biggest social network and it’s an excellent place to find, connect and serve your ideal clients. So let’s make sure your Facebook Page is in tip top shape, shall we?

Open up your Facebook Business Page and we’ll go through this five point checklist to make the most of your Facebook page. Make a note of anywhere you can take action to make your Page even better.

A visually appealing–and useful–cover photo

Your cover photo is super valuable real estate — it’s the first thing any visitor to your Page sees and it helps them determine whether they scroll down to see your content and maybe press ‘Like’ to join your Page, or navigate away.

Great cover photos are not only visually appealing but also convey something about who you are and what you do. This could mean including your tagline, highlighting a program or a free call or even spotlighting a client testimonial. (Bonus points if you include a call-to-action that encourages people to click on your cover photo!)

Here’s a great example:
fbcover_uncaged

 

You don’t need to have a graphic designer on staff to make a great cover photo, either. Both Canva and PicMonkey make it a snap to create your own.

Your URL in your cover photo description

Now that you have an enticing cover photo, people are going to click on it! When it pops up in the photo lightbox, don’t miss the opportunity to give them more information and link them to the relevant page on your website in the photo’s description field.

Take a look at what pops up when you click on the cover photo example I shared above:
fbcover_description_uncaged
(Click on the image to see it full size so you can read the description)

Your URL in your profile photo description

It probably won’t get as many clicks as your cover photo (since it doesn’t have a call-to-action) but you should still take full advantage of the description field on your profile picture. I like to put some more info about me specifically and link to my website’s About page.

And speaking of your profile picture, as much as possible, this should be an actual photo of you, not your logo. Social media is about being social and people like to engage with PEOPLE, not logos.

Your URL included predominantly in your About section

There are very few places on your Facebook Page where Facebook lets your audience click directly through to your website. Your Page’s ‘About’ box is the most prominent.

Where exactly this About box displays depends on whether your Page has the new layout (one-column timeline) or the old layout (two-column timeline):

In the old Page layout, the About box was right below your profile picture and included only the contents of your Page Info’s “Short Description” field so you had to include your URL in this description manually.

In the new Page layout, the About box has moved a bit farther down the left column and contains both your “Short Description” AND your website URL (so make sure you’ve filled in your Page Info’s website field). You can still include your URL in your “Short Description” as well.

Consistent sharing of high-quality content

Just like you can’t have a blog without blog posts, you don’t have a Facebook Page without Facebook posts. The content you post to your Page is at the heart of your Facebook presence and it needs to be strong, varied and strategic. But this doesn’t have to feel overwhelming!

The first key is batching most of your Facebook content: setting aside time once a month or once every 2 weeks to write and schedule the next chunk of posts. This will alleviate the daily what-the-heck-do-I-post?! pressure AND you’ll share higher-quality stuff because you are doing it in a purposeful, strategic way (rather than on the fly). Get a block of social media creation time on your schedule if it isn’t already!

The second key is a content framework to make writing those posts easier. There are 4 main pillars (or types) of content you should be sharing on Facebook:

    1) Attraction: The goal of this type of content is to attract new fans to your community.
    2) Education: The goal of this type of content is to establish yourself as an expert, the go-to person in your field.
    3) Engagement: The goal of the content in this pillar is to get your community involved and create conversation.
    4) Advertising: The goal here is conversion. Consider what the ‘next step’ you’d like your fans to take in your business. (Listen to your podcast, join your newsletter list, sign up for a webinar, etc.)

(To learn more specifics about the 4 Pillars, check out my bio below for access)

The combination of these two keys (batching & using the 4 Pillars) will give you a very solid foundation to grow–and really connect with–your audience on Facebook. (My own reach & engagement went up over 200% when I implemented this system.)

TAKE ACTION NOW

Make a note of any of the checklist items you need to take action on. If it’s an easy fix, do it now! (No time like the present, right?) If they are going to take a little time, get out to-do list and schedule some time to address them.

Come leave a comment with your Facebook Page URL over on the Coaching Blueprint Facebook Page in the next 2 weeks and I’d be happy to take a quick look-see for you and give you some feedback!
Jackie Johnstone is a social media consultant for passionate entrepreneurs with an important message to share. She’s on a mission to help you banish tech headaches, reach more people, make real connections and change more lives.

Get your social media brimming with brilliant posts your audience will love! Grab Jackie’s free training here and get everything you need to start using the 4 Pillars of Great Social Media Content in your business.

You can find Jackie all over the social web but she’d love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

 


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Demystifying the Facebook algorithm so you can get real results

How to turn down the noise on social media

guest-holly-worton
 

Many people become overwhelmed by the massive amount of information on social media: the number of connections, the frequent updates, and the ever increasing choice between social networks. Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by social media, or whether you’re finding it challenging to stand out in the crowd, it may be time to re-think your strategy and to re-organize things.
 

QUESTIONS TO ASK

    1. Are you following the right people? When using social media for business, you need to focus on connecting with two main groups of people: your ideal clients and your ideal joint venture partners. Be focused when connecting, and look to connect with these two groups of people.
    2. Are you following the wrong people? Sometimes we build up our online network with people who just aren’t right for us or for our business. Maybe we’ve connected with people who bring us down in some way, or who just don’t feel right anymore. That means it’s time to declutter and detox our networks and disconnect with anyone we no longer want to be following online.
    3. Are you on the right social networks? One thing I teach all of my clients is to NOT try to be on every single social networking site. Focus on the top 2-3 sites that you enjoy and where you know your ideal clients are already spending time…and forget all the rest. Yes, just let go of them.
    4. Are you separating personal use from business use? Get clear on how much time you can reasonably spend each month on social media for your business, and schedule that time in your calendar. When you’re focusing on social media for business, ignore all the personal stuff. Train your brain to really focus on the business part of social media, and optimize your time.

 

TOOLS & SOLUTIONS

  • Be choosy. From now on, connect only with your ideal clients and JV partners, and other people who you truly want to get to know better online. Let go of the idea that you have to follow everyone back, or like their page just because they asked you to.
  • Use keywords. When searching for new people to follow on social media, be sure to use the most relevant keywords to your business so you can connect with relevant people, rather than just every random person who asks to connect.
  • Create Twitter lists. Are you following thousands of people on Twitter, and are now overwhelmed by your Twitter feed? Select your top tweeps and add them to lists, which you can categorize around themes. You can create both public and private lists on Twitter.
  • Create Facebook lists. Have you liked so many Facebook pages that you can’t keep up with them all? Create a list of Facebook of your favorite pages, so you can be sure to stay on top of their activity. You can also create lists for groups of friends, so if you want to separate your business friends from personal friends, you can create separate lists for them.
  • Use RSS feeds. Do you struggle to stay on top of all the blogs you enjoy reading? Subscribe to them using RSS feeds, and then manage those feeds using an app like Feedly, which will organize them all in a magazine-type setting, so you can scroll through your favorite blogs and then share the links online if you find them interesting.
  • Do joint ventures. Build a partnership with other coaches who have a similar client base to yours, but who provide a different type of solution. They’ll help you not only build your network with relevant connections, but they will also help you to get more clients.
  •  

    TAKE ACTION TODAY

      1. Choose just three of these tips, and implement them this week. See how it affects your social networking experience, and adjust as needed.
      2. Schedule time in your calendar to implement more of these suggestions. It may be easiest to declutter and detox each individual social network at a time, rather than planning a big block of time to do it all at once.
      3. Re-evaluate your strategy on a regular basis, and adjust, declutter, and re-focus as needed. Plan to do this on a quarterly basis.

     

    I know that a lot of people struggle with the concept of not being on every single social network, but you may find that once you’ve scaled down your social media activity and re-focused your strategy, your FOMO (fear of missing out) turns to JOMO (joy of missing out). I’ve borrowed that phrase from Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith, who’s a big fan of taking regular time out from her offline activity. The point is that the more focused and organized you make your social media experience, the more effective it will be…and in the process, you’ll have managed to turn down the noise as well.
     

    Holly Worton helps coaches and women in heart-centered businesses go from confusion to confidence with social media, so they can use it to build relationships online and get more clients. As a heart-centered business owner, you do amazing work, and Holly wants to help you help more people. The way to do that is through Connection, and social media is one of the best ways to connect with others and build your tribe. Sign up for her free 90-minute social media training at SociallyHolistic to start building connections online. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, or Instagram.

    3 Ways to Align Your Web Copy with the Right Energy

    3 Ways to Align Your Web Copy with the Right Energy

    guest-abby-kerr
     

    Sitting down to write this article, the melody of John Mayer’s song, “Say What You Need To Say” floats through my head, and I catch myself singing aloud quietly. Except upon a quick Google of the lyrics, I realize that I’ve been replacing the word ‘need’ in the title lyric with the word ‘mean.’

    Say what you mean to say. And so it is.

    As a coach with an online presence, your voice is everywhere. And voice is energy. What kind of energy are you aligning yourself with? How is that energy affecting your relationship with your potential clients?
     

    On vocab and voice

    The language you use online tells your potential clients everything you believe about them and for them. Every word you commit to pixels carries a certain energy. It’s time to get clear on what energy you’re attaching yourself to, what energy you’re using to attract clients to you.

    Too many coaches write their web copy in unintentional (we hope) emulation mode. They don’t realize that by embodying the spirit, the personality, the gestalt of someone else’s way of expressing herself, they’re setting the wrong energy in motion for their business and their brand.

    Or they reach for overused metaphors or tired cliches. These habits, too, set the wrong energy in motion.

    What’s the ‘wrong energy’ for a brand conversation? It’s the type of energy that you’re not equipped — by nature or by choice — to deal with well. For me, that would be a balls-to-the-wall, highly audacious, fiercely-fixated-on-the-goal type of client. For you, that might be a soft, retiring type who has trouble expressing herself and isn’t clear on what she wants in life.

    Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
     

    What words are worth

    As a life coach, you have powerful questions that can help unlock your clients’ beliefs, fears, and desires. You’re trained to listen closely for the language your client uses, and you’re curious about the relationship between what she tells herself and what she does.

    When writing your own website, the language you use to describe your services, to characterize your ideal client, and even the words that make up your tagline tell your site visitors a LOT about what you believe and how you work.

    Let’s compare two different sentences to get a sense of this in action:

    Sentence 1
    I’ll be your cheerleader, your plugged-in accountability partner, your enthusiastic advocate along the road to wholeness.

    Sentence 2
    My role in our relationship? To notice what you’re not saying, to tend to what is faltering, and to befriend the highest part of you, the part you’ve kept locked away from moonlight and grace and birdsong.

    Notice the difference in the energy between these two sentences?

    Sentence 1 feels electric (“plugged-in”), activated (“cheerleader”), and full of forward momentum (“enthusiastic advocate”). If you didn’t know this coach personally, you’d read this line and expect her to be an extrovert with lots of pep. You might guess that working with her would be an invigorating, pump you up! experience.

    But if you’re actually a quieter, gentler sort of coach and you’ve got this line on your website, the clients you attract are going to be mighty surprised at the softness of your breathy whisper over Skype.

    Sentence 2, on the other hand, has a moody, restful, intuitive energy about it. Look at the verbs this writer has chosen: “notice,” “tend,” and “befriend.” There’s a caretaking, nurturing, careful quality to this language that would strongly appeal to a certain type of client, and just as strongly repel others. And the bit about moonlight, grace, and birdsong? Straight up poetry. Not for everybody, but just right for some Right People.
     

    Locate your energy on the spectrum

    Of course, “high octane” and “poetic nurturer” are two poles on the language energy spectrum, and there’s a huge range of possibilities in between. Your business brand deserves a voice unto itself, a voice that’s a natural extension of you as a coach and a person. That voice isn’t going to sound like anyone else’s — and that’s a good thing.

    How to make sure your web copy is aligned with the energy you want to feed — and hey, while you’re at it, your tweets, Facebook posts, and e-newsletters, too?

    Here are 3 simple steps:
     

    1) REVIEW YOUR VOCAB :: Review your main web pages, your last 3 blog posts, and your recent social media updates. Scan for language. Watch for verbs (action words, like ‘stoke,’ ‘marvel,’ and ‘wrangling’), adjectives (words that describe other words, like ‘gracious,’ ‘keen,’ and ‘wild’ ) and adverbs (words that describe action words and tend to end in -ly, like ‘lovingly,’ ‘sparingly,’ and ‘radically’). Make a list of words you’ve used that feel right on and words that feel ‘off.’ Bringing an editorial ear to your own writing is the first step to realigning its energy.
     

    2) REWRITE FOR ALIGNMENT :: If you find a troublesome word, line, or passage on your site or in your Twitter bio, experiment with rewriting it, swapping out ‘off’ words for ‘on’ words. For instance, if you’re a plainspoken, tell-it-like-it-is coach but your copy is wrapped in six layers of metaphor at every turn, something’s gotta give. Rewriting to capture the essence of what you really believe, using intentionally chosen verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, will make a world of difference.
     

    3) SCAN FOR LINGUISTIC SYMMETRY & ASYMMETRY :: Notice as you read other coach’s (and non-coaches’) websites and social media streams what language strikes you as like your own and unlike your own. Chances are, people using language that’s ‘on’ for your business may have a brand with similar energy to yours, thus attracting a similar type of Right Person. Do with that observation what you will. (And no, definitely don’t copy it!) Use it for comparative inspiration. Or commit to look away entirely, if comparison leads you to feeling stymied or self-conscious.

    Own your voice, own your energy, and own the pathway your Right People take to get to you. It’s all right there in your word choice.

     
    Abby Kerr is Creative Director of The Voice Bureau, a boutique brand voice development and copywriting agency serving solo-owned and small businesses. She is creator of The Voice Values paradigm for branding. Subscribe to her e-letter, Insider Stuff, for your complimentary brand voice self-assessment. Then tweet her to share your Top 3 Voice Values.

    Abby lives in the PNW and is a home cook, a dog mom, and a fiction writer.

    Why is design so expensive?

    Why is design so expensive?

    katecourageous
     

    Why is design so expensive?

    It’s a common dilemma: you want to go into business for yourself, and you need a website, but as you begin to price designers, you might easily get confused. Some designers or design-related websites quote rates that are ridiculously cheap. You’re not stupid; you’ve heard the adage, “You get what you pay for.”

    At the same time, other designers quote rates that seem…disproportionately high. Does it really need to cost thousands of dollars to design a website?

    Perhaps it might have also occurred to you that it doesn’t feel so very good when you, as a coach, are questioned about your own rates (and if that hasn’t occurred to you, now is a good time to think about it: designers like being asked to “keep the design simple” as a method of lowering their rates about as much as life coaches like being told that all they do is “give advice.”)

    The truth about design is this: in the same way that there’s a difference between a retail clerk who fetches you the size you need in the dressing room, and an actual stylist who takes time to understand you and the look-and-feel you want to project, there’s a wide range of services provided by graphic and web designers.

    We talked to three established graphic and web designers, Paul Jarvis, Sarah Morgan, and Andy Rado about what truly goes into the heart of good design, why it costs what it costs, where you can save (and where you really can’t).

     

    Most people who hire a designer just think it’s about “sitting down to create the design.” What are many of the “hidden costs” of doing business that clients might not always see?

    Sarah: Outside of coding I spend time: meeting with and emailing clients, responding to design inquiries and general coding questions, writing four posts/week on my blog plus a weekly email for my mailing list and keeping up social media accounts, learning the best ways to code design elements that clients request (recently spent time finding the best MLS plugin and learning how to use it for a real estate broker – I don’t just implement elements, I teach my clients how to use them), researching new design trends and stats because the internet is ever-evolving.

    Andy: Aside from networking and marketing myself there are many hidden costs or “non-billable” hours that I put in each week. Often before starting a project, there are numerous emails and meetings that take place in order to establish a relationship and figure out if it will be a match. Some of the most time goes into preparing a proposal, sometimes 10-20hrs depending on how involved the project and how large the organization. In my experience, I only land 40-50% of these jobs. There are times when I need to learn something new during a project as well, which I can’t charge my clients for—a new development tool or project management system, for instance.

    Paul: There are two kinds of web designers, generally speaking. The kind that just agree with everything a client wants and do that work and the kind that argue with clients. I’m the latter. And I argue because I want their project to succeed and sometimes know a little more about websites or design than the clients. I’ve spent a lot of time doing this, and have been involved in more web design jobs that every client. That doesn’t mean I know everything, but I definitely disagree when I am certain an idea won’t work.

     

    What goes into design, beyond the final product of a visual website that the customer and client see?

    Paul: Design works because it’s got reasons. Otherwise it’d be art. Nothing wrong with art for art’s sake, but adding a little reason and strategy to the mix is why people pay for the work I do. Every font, pixel, size, colour are all based on things like the golden ratio, grid systems, colour theory, layout principles, and even marketing strategies. Those don’t come in a single font or template you buy.

    The other thing that is a factor in why people pay me for to do something they could buy for 99% less money is customization. When I’m hired I do mockups first. The mockups are based entirely on the brand and story behind the brand. I also factor into each design how the web works and how a CMS like WordPress works because I also code. So when I do the theme for their website, it matches the design perfectly and works exactly the way it needs to.

    To code a single page well takes just as much time to test and debug, sometimes more, than it takes to program.

    Sarah: Websites generally start with a wire frame (a drawing of how the site will be laid out) and a inspiration board for colors/fonts/patterns/etc. The designer will create a mockup of the site (possibly more than one) which will go through a number of revisions before a final design is chosen and they begin to code. A high-quality website will adjust properly on tablets/mobile, be compatible with all browsers, will be easy for you to update yourself (I never leave anything on my client’s sites that will be difficult for them to change on their own), as well as integrating plug-ins and scripts.

    Andy: My experience and the variety of work I’ve developed over the years is vast. I can call out a font on a moving billboard and explain why they used it. I’ve spent countless hours observing other design and reading books and taking workshops on design. I sketch new ideas on a regular basis that are totally non-related to my current client work so that when I sit down to work, I can tap into that knowledge and come up with exciting and unique design solutions. I live design, it’s not just something I “do.” I have a huge passion for it.
     

    Sally Sue Coach has just started her coaching practice. She’s uncertain about a lot of things, such as her messaging or who she ultimately wants to serve. She puts up an inexpensive WordPress template to get her by until she is sure about what she wants to do.

    What are three questions, or three criteria, that she could use to gauge when she’s ready to actually invest in custom branding/website/visual identity?

    Andy:

      1: Figure out who you are and who you are serving and why.
      2: Have goals in mind: What do you want to accomplish with a rebrand/website redesign?
      3: Be ready to put your trust in the people/person you hire.

    Sarah: If your website traffic is steadily increasing or you’re getting linked or mentioned on larger sites, I would say it’s time. Your website is your receptionist, your store front, and your big marketing machine all in one, so as soon as you’re clear about what you do and who you do it for, it would be wise to invest in your web presence.

    I would recommend finding a designer you like both design and personality wise and request a price quote, so you can start saving money. Look for someone who explains their process up front, who has a contract (to protect you and them), asks for a deposit, and gives you and exact start date and timeline for the project. If any of those things are missing that would be a big red flag!

    Paul:

      1. What language does her intended audience use and understand and how can she use that same language to convey her message.
      2. What are her business goals? How do they relate to the way the website is presented? Looking at things like calls to action, where elements are placed on a page, etc.
      3. What’s her story/personality? How that can be properly conveyed through content, visuals and layout.

     

    Why should people avoid those “$5 logo” websites, or other “factory design” websites? (Or shouldn’t they?)

    Paul: They shouldn’t. If they feel logos are worth $5, then by all means, that’s their best bet. I get people that tell me $10,000 for a website is too much. I don’t argue because I agree, that for them, it’s true. If I convinced them otherwise, it’d be one shitty project to work on. I also think that people should spend what they can afford and be upfront with designers about what their budgets are. You can always upgrade your site once your business makes more money, but it’s a lot harder to get out from debt if you spent too much on your business before it’s made any money.

    Sarah: My advice is always – if you buy a $5 tattoo you’re going to get a $5 tattoo and nobody wants a $5 tattoo. (Or you’re going to get a $20 tattoo that 50 other people have as well.) Same goes for logos and website designs! If you invest a little money in custom work you’re going to end up with a website that is all your own and a designer that will walk you through the design process and be available for updates and tech support long after your site is finished.

    Andy: I’ve kinda given up on worrying about that aspect of my profession—it’s sad—but it’s reality. I believe it devalues what we do, but anyone who is buying a $5 logo generally won’t value what I bring to the table and I want to work with people who not only value what I do or another great designer does, but are excited about the possibilities of working together to reach their goals for their business.

    You can generally find anything in life for a cheaper price. With design in particular, you will get what you pay for. I’ve encountered countless clients who have the experience of having to redo work because they went with a designer they weren’t necessarily in love with but hit their budget. Think about what you value, where you want to go and find a designer that you feel excited about working with.

     

    Here’s the million-dollar question: Why is design so expensive?

    Andy: I think it looks expensive to non-designers, because good design is generally not hitting you over the head—it just works and you generally “like it” so it should be “easy” to do, right? Also, the proliferation of easy to use software allows people to tinker with fonts and images, so why pay someone else? It has a lot to do with experience. The longer I work, the more vast my knowledge of design, typography, color, culture and trends becomes—and I am a lot faster now than when I started. People want their design great, and fast and that doesn’t come cheap. Quite simply, good design is a lot more complicated than it looks.

    Paul: It’s expensive because you’re not only paying for the work, but the expertise that comes with the work. When I do a project for someone, it’s just just me making them a website, it’s me advising, planning, helping them on all aspects of their online business. That’s why I charge closer to 5 figures than a few hundred dollars. My decades of expertise are a factor in every project, so even if a client is paying for 50 hours, the hidden cost is the 20,000 hours I’ve spent working at my craft prior to the project.

    Sarah: Like most creative disciplines, you aren’t just paying for the final product; you’re paying for the hours someone put into learning their expertise and staying up-to-date (especially in web design, things change daily). And, you’re paying for a relationship, not just a folder of files.The number one complaint I get from people interested in hiring me is, “I need all of these things fixed, but my last designer disappeared.” If you find a designer on a site like elance who will build you a site for cheap, you may end up with a cool design, but you won’t end up with a relationship. And you definitely won’t end up with someone who will be there to help you out 6 months or even six weeks down the line.

     
    Sarah Morgan is a web designer, blog and business consultant, circus performer, and aerial instructor, who thrives on helping people grow their online presence, make the leap from unfulfilling jobs, and be brave in business and in life.

    Paul Jarvis is a web designer, best selling author & gentleman of adventure. His writing has appeared in Forbes, Fast Company, Huffington Post, The Muse, Smashing Magazine, Communication Arts, The Next Web, Adobe’s 99u, GOOD Magazine and many other publications.

    Andy Rado is a designer for humans–meaning, he wants design to do more than “look pretty.” He’s interested in the intersection of great design and the practical matters of how we actually use it in our businesses and daily lives.