Last updated on May 27th, 2018. Posted in Web Design For Business.
A huge hurdle when learning how to build and run your business website yourself is that it can seem like a solitary endeavour. It might feel like you have no one to rely on and that you're in it alone. Truthfully, there are loads of resources available -- you just have to know where to look. In this post, I'll share my go-to websites and forums that I use whenever I get stuck. This is a juicy one, so let's dig in!
I gotta tell you, there have been many, many times over the years where I ran into a technical problem and I felt totally lost. And the longer it went on, the harder I'd slam head into my keyboard in sheer frustration. "Why won't this damn thing just work?!"
We've all been there. It's not fun.
It can be totally overwhelming. After all, if you're running your own business, then odds are you are your IT department! But, there's a flip-side to this, which I always remember as soon as I walk away from my tech challenges and clear my head: Every problem you solve, you add to your skills.
In the moment, it can be brutally frustrating. You can feel like you're wasting time on something that should be simple. And it likely is simple! That's why you don't need to feel isolated or alone. We've got this amazing thing called the internet which is filled with people just like you and I, who have faced and solved the same (or very similar) problems. So although it's tough in the moment, overall having control and autonomy over your business, and the skills you gain, are worth it.
So right away, we gotta get clear on something: You and I are not web geeks, nor do we want to be. What we want to do is leverage the tools of web design and the internet to build an online business. We don't want to be web designers, we want to be autonomous, skilled online business owners. This means (and this is very important) that we don't need to know everything. We just need to know the important stuff.
Let's use the analogy of owning a car. Do you own one? How much do you know about maintaining it? Do you know about gas and regular oil changes? Okay, that's a great start! What about how to check things like tire pressure or how to replace windshield wiper blades? That's easy stuff. What else...how about your major fluids, the battery, and belts? I mean, we can keep going here, getting more and more technical if you like...but at some point you're gonna say, "Okay, that's enough...that's my limit! I don't want to know any more than that." Great. You can decide where your limit is. Some people just want to worry about gas and oil changes. Other people love rebuilding cars from scratch -- they're geeks for this stuff, and more power to 'em.
Is this analogy making sense? So you don't need to know everything about cars in order to own one and run one. You just need to know some key basics. And if you like, you can go further. The more you know about cars, more skills you gain, and the more self-reliant you are.
It's the same with online business and web design. You may just want to stick with the basics, or you may want to dig deeper and deeper. The further you go, the more your skills increase, and the more self-reliant you are.
So, you don't have to be a web design expert. In fact, a big secret of "web design experts" and even IT departments and others in tech support roles boils down to two things: 1) Knowing where to go to get answers (including how to Google -- I'm serious!), and 2) Experience -- running across the same or similar problems that they've solved in the past. That's it.
Unfortunately, with the second one, ya just gotta put time in and get some experience under your belt. There's no way around it. This means going through some difficult, and even discouraging, experiences. I'll do my best to help you out here (which is one of the reasons I post so much free content), but ultimately you have to sit down and do it.
But on the first one -- knowing where to go to get answers -- I can help you out immediately with that. And that's what this post is really all about. So let's go take a look at some handy resources that I use all the time.
Alright, let's take a look at some specific resources that you can make use of. I'll try to break this down by the type of problem you might face.
To start, if you're completely stuck on a technical problem, and it's related to a service you pay for (like web hosting or software), then your first stop should be that product or service's vendor. So, whoever you registered your domain name with, your web hosting, your email, your merchant account, your software, and so on. If you have any issues related to these sorts of things, go to the vendor first. These companies have customer support staff for a reason, so use 'em! Odds are, what seems like a daunting, impossible problem for you is probably a very common, easily fixed issue that they handle several times a day.
And surprisingly, many free products and services (things like plug-ins, website add-ons, and so on) also offer support. Even if it's a lone developer, if you're having a problem, try reaching out. I've had very positive experiences when I've had to do so.
Next, quite often you might run into a problem or issue related to web design or something you’re trying to build. In these instances, you can't reach out to a vendor. So where do you go? You can try doing a search on Google or YouTube, but it can sometimes be hard to get a clear answer. So instead, these the go-to resources that I use when I'm in a jam: Stack Overflow, W3 Schools, CSS Tricks, and Quora. These collective resources are a godsend -- especially at 2am! These sites are packed with so much knowledge it's staggering. As I say, these sites are my go-to's.
Instead, if you're having a specific problem with Photoshop or Illustrator, you could try the above resources, or maybe YouTube again, but your best bet might be Adobe’s forums. Similarly, if you've run into a WordPress-related problem, again, try the above resources first, or you can try the WordPress forums, which are very good.
Now before we move on, I want to throw in one more set of resources for you. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you're following along with a video or an online course and you're not getting the same results as the person in the video? I've been there too, and it can be frustrating. So if you're following along with one of my tutorials or online courses (or someone else's) and you're running into trouble, here's what I always suggest:
First, try retracing your steps. Go back to where you began having trouble. Re-watch the video to ensure that you haven’t missed anything, and that everything functions correctly for you. If that doesn't work, try using an online document comparison tool like DiffNow or DiffChecker.
Sites like these to compare the original project files or code that came with your course against your work. Oftentimes, it’s just a simple matter of missing an angle bracket or forgetting a closing quote. Arrgghhh!
So there are the resources I use whenever I find myself in a jam. Be sure to use them next time you find yourself hitting a brick wall. And, you can learn a ton from them too, thus increasing your skills.
Now sometimes a problem or challenge is just too big for you to handle. Or, maybe you just don't have the time to tackle something that needs to be done. That's when you can make the call and bring in the big guns -- the heavy hitters -- an outside freelancer...
There will be times where you'll find yourself in over your head...where you think you should be able to solve your problem, but you simply can't. I recall a few years ago a problem I had with a leaky toilet. Being a handy guy I thought, "I can handle this," but try as I might, the hours started piling up and I only made the problem worse.
Two hours and $150 later, and the problem was solved.
But it can take a huge amount of self awareness to know when to stop the insanity and call in the hired guns. After all, they do this stuff all the time. But it can be hard to let go sometimes, which I fully admit to! But here's what I always try to keep in mind: Hiring someone to fix your problem is not admitting defeat. It's efficiency.
Could your time be better spent on another aspect of your business? Are there more important tasks you could be doing? It's tough to know where this line is sometimes, but often I simply try to follow my gut.
So, I've noticed a pattern when I hire freelancers or developers to handle technical stuff. I hire out when, 1) The problem is beyond my technical ability, 2) I'm capable of solving the problem, but don't have time to, 3) I'm capable of solving the problem, but I don't want to. Hiring someone to solve a specific problem is an option I turn to every once in a while, and I've had great results. Maybe you'll find a similar pattern for yourself, too.
Know too that there's literally an army of very skilled, cost-effective web developers and designers at your immediate disposal. There is no shortage of technically skilled workers who are ready and willing to help you. I've had tech problems that have plagued me for months solved in thirty minutes for $18 -- when that happened I was like, "Okay...lesson learned!"
There are people out there with such a high degree of technical skill, that your "huge problem" that's keeping you up at night is, for them, like making toast. Literally. So leverage them. They want to be hired by you. They want to help you.
So where do you find this skilled army of workers? Online, of course!
When hiring a freelancer, my go-to site is upwork.com. Whether it's technical, development-type work, or non-technical assistance I need (think proof-reader, editor, etc.), that's where I head. In fact, I have a select group of freelancers who I use over and over -- I'm familiar with them, and they're familiar with me, which is great.
There are, of course, many other sites you can use to find freelancers, developers, designers, and so on. I haven't used any of these other resources myself, but I know they're very good. Here's a list: Freelancer.com, Fiverr, Toptal, Guru.com, and 99Designs. Maybe you've heard of a few of these.
So the next time you're in a jam and feeling in over your head, give one of these sites a try. Hiring someone to come in and fix a problem can be very cost effective, and free you up to focus on other tasks in your business.
So there are a ton of resources for you to use whenever you feel stuck or anytime a problem crops up. I hope you find these resources as valuable and useful as I do.
And, I really (really) have to hammer home this point of us not wanting to be web designers, but rather online business owners. The distinction is huge. So again, you don't have to know it all. You don't want to know it all. What's more important is mastering things that you can't outsource, like developing products your audience wants, marketing, and building a business online. Web design and technical skills are an important part of all this, but you only really need to know some key components.
I hope that makes sense.
Are there other resources, websites, and forums that you use when you get stuck? Leave a link in the comments below and tell us a little bit about it.
See you soon!