A late night email arrived a couple of nights ago, nothing unusual in that, the universality of the internet makes the concept of “business hours” something of a joke and I get email and calls out of hours all the time. The client in this case was turning down my quote for their website, this happens all the time; so what I hear you say , is the problem?

I found myself reading the email several times, the client, a small non-profit,   made the point that my quote constituted a significant percentage of their available funds – my first inkling that their financial position was far worse than I had assumed. And, carried with it the implication, to my mind at least that I was charging them way too much. This started me thinking…

My quote had been based on some previous experience of the non-profit.  My last contract had been a below rock bottom price to help them out of a crisis when they suddenly realised they had a deadline approaching and no one in the team with IT skills. In a couple of days I moved them from a position of a five years out of date website written in HTML only  and no access to their email to a half-way decent web presence based around a WordPress site – with web mail access. My records show that came to around 110 hours of work, including some marathon stints as they approached one of their deadlines. Most of the email emanated from one source, one of the senior members of the company who had managed to place himself as key liaison between his group and me. Waking to numerous emails and images sent during the night was not unusual, much of the content would be URLs or random photos or even suggestions to read another non-profit’s site. A lot of time was wasted just ploughing through information which could have been sent as one email but came in a constant drip feed of information…

I’m probably being a little over sensitive, it’s not uncommon for organisations to have a list which includes the word website for no other reason than “other companies have one, we should too!” that kind of reasoning lumps a web presence in with the same functionality as a filing cabinet or desk – easy to acquire little or no thought needed. The problem is usually made worse if you ask what the company wants to do with their site and the answer distills down to put whatever we happen to think is interesting on there…The strategy such as it was was leave it to the one person in the hope that he and I would come up with something half-way decent.

In the case of this particular non profit a firmer grip on what they wanted on their site would equate to significant savings, but their current strategy demanded an almost 24/7 administrative function and that sort of commitment costs. What they should have done, in my opinion, was to have sat down right at the start of the project and asked some key questions.

  1. What do we want our site to achieve?
  2. What monetary worth do we put on that achievement?
  3. What is our capacity to organise some of the work ourselves?
  4. If the contract is for a limited time – what is our exit strategy (what happens when the PCBloke leaves?)

For the case of non-profits the answer  to 1 can often be as simple as a series of information pages and contact forms, since much of their other contact with their audience is better handled on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

A series of simple information pages on a website should not run to hundred of pounds, if that information is organised and passed to the web people it should be doable in a few hours meaning that 2 should be fairly palatable.

3 might be the work that goes into Facebook and Twitter and the chances are that someone on your team will have skills in their area. Rather than relying on the website to front your news stories you can use social media as your shop, remembering that news items will be pushed to your audience via their page rather than them needing to make the effort to find you.

And finally 4 – continue your good work on social media and get your information pages updated as and when you need them.

What would that have cost my late night emailing non-profit, a lot less than the original quote and possibly even a sum they could afford.