Put meaning in your web development

After 10 years of Web Development and hundreds of site builds, I woke up one day and hated my job. I had no problem saying it. I hated building websites. My wife was shocked. I spent years in college and when I finally found this career in “New Media,” which is what it was called back in the 90’s, I told everyone I found what I was going to do for the rest of my life. This was a complete 180 degree turn, because when I started college, I was a marine biology major. Yeah, I wanted to play with dolphins and get paid for it. Now all of the sudden, it’s done, over, kaput. I was reacting to a series of really tough website projects. They were over budget, out of scope and the client was upset. This wasn’t the only one. There were several. It seemed like the only trend we were creating was that we could assure every client would be upset at the end of the project. I was convinced that we only attracted crappy clients and I wanted out. I was tired of being yelled at and frankly, I didn’t know what sort of benefit I was getting from Web Development anymore. Maybe it was time to move on. The problem was that I had been building websites for 10 years. This was all I knew. What else was I going to do?

You have to love it

One of my professor’s in college told me, “If you want to make money, the most important thing you can do is love your job. If you love your career, the money will come.” I loved web development. What happened to me, was I hated where my career was and it felt like I couldn’t get out. I was stuck. The worst part about it was that I was so close to it, I couldn’t see where I was going wrong. At some point I realized that the common denominator with all of these projects was me and my team. We were the problem. That’s a hard pill to swallow. It came to a point where I had to decide if I was going to fix the problems or stop building websites altogether. I had read articles and watched videos of companies that were building websites the right way. They were having success, or at least, it appeared they were having success, so I knew it could be done. I then asked myself, “If our clients weren’t upset and yelling at us, would I still like Web Development?” The answer was yes.

In reality, the web was my life. It’s all I did and talked about every day. I loved web development, so I took a real hard look at past projects and tried to find out where we went wrong. As I researched the communication of a few of the projects, it was pretty embarrassing. We were dropping the ball all over the place. What was worse, it seemed like we didn’t have a plan. We had project managers doing website edits, web developers talking to clients and communication was inconsistent. We were doing print work, running marketing campaigns, creating our own web applications and building websites. We were the one stop disaster. No wonder we were dropping the ball, we had no focus, we had no plan and we had no mission. We looked like a bunch of rookies that weren’t good at anything.

Find the best part and do that

When you have your own business or are a small startup, you take any work that crosses your path. Your reasoning is logical, you have to pay the bills. You have to be careful doing this, because you can easily lose your way. If your business wasn’t clearly defined before, you may wake up one day and wonder what kind of business you actually have. That was our mistake. We didn’t know who we were, what we did or why we did it. We needed to take a step back and evaluate. After much thought we came to a series of conclusions. First and foremost, we were Web Developers. Second, we wanted to work on fun projects that interested us. Third, we wanted to stand for something. We needed to create a set of internal guidelines that we followed, pushed us to do better and kept us on track. By dropping all of the other services, except for Web Development, we went into hyper focus and did what we do best.

What came out of all of this was that we were actually happier. We started out being scared, thinking that we wouldn’t get any new clients, but we did indeed get more clients and we were doing better work. I realize now that understanding why you do something is an incredibly motivating factor. We were successful in putting meaning back in our work.

Tell everyone why

After we went through the journey of discovering why we were doing what we were doing, I wanted to tell the world. I wanted to let all of our clients know, this is why we are different. Here are the Six Basic Principles we followed every day.

  • Quality is number one
  • Always be learning
  • Simple solutions will win
  • Expand Naturally
  • Do Right
  • Give Back

I still follow these basic principles today. They worked for us, because they were easy to follow, specific and motivating. It humanized what we did and made us critically look at our business every day. When you put meaning in your business, you are not just building a website anymore, you are building a website built by you.

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