Next up in the series of checking back with solopreneurs I interviewed in the past is Paul Pennel of Minnow Web Design. If you recall, Paul is a talented web designer focused on servicing you, the solopreneur. To check out his original interview, you can click here.
TSG: Happy New Year, Paul. Did the New Year bring any new revelations?
PP: Thanks, and Happy New Year to you too, Doug. I’m not sure about any revelations, but I did set a goal to produce 20 new websites this year. At the beginning of last year, I was hoping for 10 clients and I met my goal. I’m happy with that for my first year in business, but I need to set my sights higher. I think doubling my clients will do that.
I have a full time job in addition to my Minnow Web Design work and I plan on growing my business to the point where I can make that part time. Eventually, I want to get to the point where Minnow Web Design is my full time business and I’m able to support my family. With a full time job and Minnow Web Design, I don’t get a lot of sleep, but I’m finding that sleep is overrated.
TSG: Are you offering any new services this year or are you still focused on offering the same services to the same market?
PP: After one year in business I have decided to narrow my focus, not to the exclusion of all, but following the 80/20 rule. I would like about 80% of my business this year to be from small companies wanting a new or updated basic website that is EASY to update. I have a Minnow Web Design CMS (Content Management System) that makes editing existing pages easier than any other product I’ve seen out there.
To help drive 80% to my preferred service, I have changed my Pricing page. It had been a laundry list of all my services, which has now been simplified to a checklist of 3 different packages and what comes with each. The second option offers a new website, an easy to use CMS and 6 months of hosting free all for $649. This price is VERY competitive with any other company out there. I believe this will help me build my customer base, which I will need to make Minnow Web Design a full time job for me. I still am happy to do any of the services that I had previously listed, but I believe I provide the most benefit for the money in the second category.
TSG: I recently saw an announcement that you were running a promotion. Tell us about it, please.
PP: I have a group in Facebook for Minnow Web Design. In order to keep Minnow in the front of people’s minds, I asked everybody in the group to say what small business they would open if money was no option. Their responses went on the Minnow group wall, and the winner was drawn randomly from all of the entries. The winner got a $50 Amazon gift card. I plan on similar promotions throughout 2010.
TSG: How much does Facebook play a part in marketing your business?
PP: I think obviously face-to-face is the most important part of marketing my business. Facebook is an excellent supplement to that though. It allows me to keep others, especially those who don’t live nearby, abreast of Minnow Web Design’s progress.
TSG: Do you think enough companies are using Facebook appropriately to market their businesses?
PP: The great thing about Facebook is that people are only on Facebook when they have time to spend so they are more receptive to viewing your messages. I don’t think that enough companies are using Facebook to market their businesses. Not only does Facebook have a lot of users, but those users tend to spend a lot of time each day on Facebook. On a personal note, one client found me because she knew the brother of somebody who was a member of my Minnow Web Design Facebook group.
TSG: What other social networking sites do you use?
PP: I am also on Linked In. I use it to keep in touch, like on Facebook, but I keep it very professional since Linked In is mostly a professional rather than social / fun website. I have been too busy to spend much time on social networking sites, so I’ve concentrated on these two to make sure I’m doing it right.
TSG: What do you see as a hot trend in web site development and design?
TSG: What in your opinion is just hype?
PP: As print media continues to die off, many magazines are turning towards the web to display their content and advertisements. This has lead to what I think is a disturbing trend, websites that look like a magazine. The decision to go “magazine” layout is often made without any thought other than, “well we look like this on paper so we should look like this on the web”. I don’t see this trend going away soon, but the logic behind the design is misguided and will probably begin fading away. The web is a very different medium than paper / magazine and should be treated as the unique medium that it is.
TSG: Do these types of sites reduce a reader’s functionality? Do they affect the way web spiders find keywords, reducing a sites ranking? Are there other downsides separate from disliking the look and the layout?
PP: They often make the website harder to navigate. It also leads to a lot of extra clicking to read an entire story since the content is rarely all on the same page. The websites ranking would be affected. The main thing is that spiders put less ranking on a page the deeper it is in the website. So if you have to click on three links from the front page to get to a story, that spider will assume that story is not very important. I actually think the looks of the magazine sites are often very well done; it is the functionality that I have a problem with.
TSG: Let’s talk about some of the services you have listed under Additional Features. What’s a Wiki and who should add it to their site or blog?
PP: A Wiki allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor. Basically it is a place a small business can store internal information and documentation. This allows users to update and access information from any computer while keeping it secure. The Wiki’s I’ve created have all been password protected.
TSG: What about the 1-hour maintenance option, what sort of work do you do if a customer chooses this option?
PP: This is usually used for small changes to the website to keep it current or seasonal. It is also a great way for my clients to get their questions answered without getting nickeled and dimed to death. E-mails from clients that I can answer quickly and easily would not count towards the one hour.
I’d like to thank Doug once again for taking the time to interview me. Good luck this year to all of you solopreneurs out there, and remember to keep me in mind for your website development needs.
Thank you, Paul, for catching us up on Minnow Web Design. I agree with Paul’s comment about being cost effective. I’ve researched a number of web designers and believe Paul’s pricing is an excellent value for the quality of results you are investing in.
Here’s Paul’s contact info for further service inquires:
Minnow Web Design
Owner and Designer
P: (314) 249-4690
And remember, he specializes in helping you, the solopreneur.
All the Best,
The Solopreneur’s Guide