Once upon a time, in a different life, I worked for a small web development company in Western Massachusetts. The company was blessed with an obscenely talented group of programming professionals and designers. But the most valuable lessons we learned cannot be learned from a book, a class or pouring over code.
The place where many web professionals fail is on the human side of the business. I don’t mean sales, although that’s part of it. I mean customer service and interaction. It’s not just about the code. If you can give your clients better service than your competitors, you’ll grow your business faster than you ever thought possible. And one of the best ways to do that is so simple, it’s amazing how frequently it doesn’t happen.
Listen to your clients. Really listen. They’ll tell you what they want and need. Unless what they are asking for is literally impossible or they cannot afford it, give them what they want. If you can’t do it, tell them why. If you think you can give them what they want, but more efficiently, or better, tell them that too. But if your client insists, do what they ask. They are the ones paying you.
Don’t assume you know everything about their business, or that you know it better than they do. Your business is web development and programming. There’s a lot of overlap in the business world, and frequently, solutions for one company will work just as well for a similarly sized company in a different industry. But chances are that if your customer tells you how their business works, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, they’re probably right.
The company I used to work for had a big problem with this. The powers that be often tried to shoehorn clients into solutions that we’d developed for others simply to save on development costs. Sometimes, it worked. But when it didn’t, it tended to blow up spectacularly, with bad feelings and threats of lawsuits. Nobody wants to deal with that, and if it happens too often, word gets around. And that’s much worse.
You can be just as obscenely talented us the programmers of that company I worked for. You might be able to make bits dance on the head of a pin at your command. But if you don’t have any customers, you’ll starve.