My web design business was almost derailed by the henna lady

I made myself cozy in the henna lady’s chair at the Portland Saturday Market. She went to work, creating a detailed lotus blossom design on my wrist using that sweet-smelling paste, and I told her that she must love her job. *I* would love her job, so I meant what I said. My web design business was young, and I was always dreaming about other creative outlets.

“It has its moments,” she sighed. “People don’t understand that they need to pay us what we are worth. If we go to a party to do face painting and henna, our costs, our materials, our experience all need to be reflected in the price. There’s always someone out there doing it much, much cheaper, and it’s tough.”

“I totally understand that,” I confided. “I’m a self-employed web designer, and I come up against the same thing all the time.”

“Oh! You make websites?”

I thought: Git it, girl! This is my target audience! An artist in need of my services, that I could could help stand out from her competition. Someone who needs excellent, local SEO and a website design that is totally unique to attract better-paying customers.

She continued: “So, how do you feel about all the website creators out there, that let people do-it-themselves?”

Without skipping a beat, I told the truth: “I’m not worried about them. Not only do they offer cookie-cutter, templated designs that don’t give customized solutions and services, but they are horrible for SEO — it’s tougher for local customers to find your site when doing searches online.” I thought I made a great case and may have won a new customer. Then she asked how much I would charge for web design and development.

“Oh my stars, I could never afford that,” and then she went into a lengthy description of why she could never afford that, and looked at me as if I was trying to rob her Amazon delivery right off of her porch.

The aftermath

For many reasons: I just didn’t have a solid comeback. I thought, “She’s right.” How can my web design business survive in this DIY world? If I can’t differentiate myself, how could I convince other small business owners that they need to stand out on the web?

I honestly thought about this the entire day, as my beautiful lotus blossom henna design dried to a crust and then peeled off, leaving a pretty orange stain. I thought myself into circles. “What if I fail?” “Should I just go work for another company?” “Maybe I should learn to build apps instead… those people are making serious money!”

As I was browsing the web, looking for App Building courses, I thought: This needs to stop. My web design business would not be derailed by one person’s opinion.

A new website is an investment and I am worth every penny. My personalized service, eye for design, pixel-perfect development, clean code, and SEO knowledge are all but nonexistent in those other DIY site creators. When you are talking about your business, that first impression that your website makes is incredibly important, and not to be left to just anyone to design and develop.

So, for the next 1–3 weeks, I’ll admire my henna wrist design, thankful for the momentary, panicked descent into self-doubt. I’m stronger than ever in my resolve to create beautiful websites for artists, makers, designers, and digital entrepreneurs,  and to never give up on my dreams.

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