A friend and I went to a local craft fair over the weekend. We have a lot of these where I live, with excellent potters, jewelers, quilters, soapmakers, and various other artisans displaying the things they’ve worked so hard to produce.
We bought a few small items, my friend and I, but we kept thinking that we’d want to buy these goods for the holidays, not right now when we were paying tuition and buying textbooks. One or two of the artists had websites so we could shop with them later, but most did not. Since only two of the vendors we saw had physical-world shops, I had to ask people why they had chosen not to have websites.
Choosing not to have a website is equivalent to choosing not to have a viable business, and I’ve written before on the planning to fail mentality, but “I’m not really in business” was rare among the answers I heard to the question, “Why haven’t you gotten yourself a website?”
Here were the most common answers:
- “What would it cost to get a website?” Some people asked that immediately, and others jumped right ahead to “I can’t afford it” without even asking. One of the artisans was selling gorgeous pottery sets, practical kitchenware with flowers and leaves and animals molded sinuously onto the edges. She sold her trays for $150, tea pots for $250, sugar bowls and cream pitchers for $55, and mugs for $25 — a few tea sets would pay for a simple website for her. “I can’t do anything that costs money,” she said. We asked how we could buy things from her in the future, and she assured us that she was at the fair every year. Clearly, this woman can’t afford to do without a website.
- “I don’t want this to become a real business.” Only one artist told us this. She makes lovely soap as a hobby in her kitchen, and she doesn’t want to become successful enough to have to expand. As we talked, she volunteered that she’d had gift shops approach her, and would like to be able to get repeat business from customers at the fair. I wasn’t trying to sell anything, so I didn’t try to tell her that you can really control your business much better with a website than by showing only at fairs, but I’ll share that important truth with you.
- “I don’t know anything about computers.” Some of the artists expressed concern. “They’d ask me how many gigabytes I wanted,” said one, “and I wouldn’t know what to say!” While web designers actually don’t ask clients how many gigabytes they want, I can understand that fear of not being able to communicate. Many businesspeople know they should have websites, but can’t think what to say when they call a web firm to arrange for one. My friend assured this artist that her uncertainty was the very reason she should call me if she ever decided she wanted a website, and that’s true, but fear of computer guys should never keep you from getting your business online. Shop around till you find someone you can communicate with.
- “There are other people with the same name as mine.” This one was a surprise to me, but I heard it several times. While I do occasionally feel fleeting exasperation with clients who choose a name for their business that someone else already has sewn up for search, merely sharing your given name with someone else doesn’t mean you can’t succeed online. There’s an actress who shares my name. She doesn’t share my space at Google, though.
It happened that I was talking to artists. If for some reason I’d been among chefs, service professionals, charter boat operators, personal trainers, or professional genealogists, I expect I would have heard much the same thing in the way of reasons for not having a web site.
Here it is: you can’t be in business, in the twenty-first century, without a web site. If you don’t have one, I’ll be happy to help you with that.