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In the Name of Jerry Maguire…Please…Help Me Help You

40 Days of Blogging - Day 30

I hear it all the time:

😕 I don’t know what I want…I’ll know it when I see it.

😖 I don’t want to fill out your questionnaire – it’s too long…or I can’t fill it out because I don’t know what I want.

😧 Let’s just set up a time to meet to discuss it so we can figure it out. That’ll be much easier.

And the list goes on…and on…and on!

I’m talking about when you have a need, and you want (or need) someone to fulfill it, but you can’t – for the life of you – help them help you!

Allow me to give just a few analogies (I’m kinda addicted to analogies, so please indulge me):

House Scenario: You want to buy a new house, so you contact a realtor to help you…
You: I want to buy a house.
Realtor: Great! What area of town are you interested in?
You: I’m not sure just yet.
Realtor: Are you looking for a new house or one that’s been lived in? One story or two?
You: Hmmm, I’m not sure yet. Let’s just go look and see what’s out there.
Realtor: Well, we could look for years at an endless number of houses, so it will really help both of us if you could narrow it down a bit.
You: Yeah, I tried but didn’t really get anywhere. Let’s just go start driving.
Shall I continue?

Haircut Scenario: You’ve been wanting a new haircut for a while now, so you make an appointment for next Monday. When you arrive…
Stylist: Cool, let’s get started! What were you thinking?
You: Oh, I don’t know. I was hoping you’d just tell me what you were thinking.
Stylist: Well, I could…I guess…but could you at least tell me if you want it long or short, wavy or straight? Do you want to change the color?
You: Just surprise me!
Spinning salon chair comes to a screeching halt! What happens when you walk out of there with a purple mohawk? Well, that’s great if that’s actually what you wanted…but the chances are slim.

Ooooh, I want to give one more – I just can’t help myself…

Food Scenario: You’re headed to dinner with some friends at a new restaurant. When you sit down at your table…
Server: Have you had a chance to look at the menu?
You: Not yet, but gosh I’m starving!
{10 minutes go by}
Server: May I answer any questions about the menu?
You: I’m hungry! Just bring us some food.
Server: Hmmm, do you want appetizers, salads, soups, entrees? Are you sharing or are you each wanting your own dish?
You: I don’t know – surprise me/us.
Server: But do you have any…
You: Any what – just surprise us. We don’t feel like looking at the menu.
Server: Okayyyy…
The meal comes and it’s extra spicy (you can’t eat spicy foods) and covered in peanuts (can we say Anaphylactic shock!). Then the bill comes, and it’s $400 for 3 people.

Please tell me you know where this is going!

I don’t want to speak for other industries, but I will say that web design is one of those industries where people (clients) tend to think that we (web designers) are mind-readers. That we somehow know them better than they know themselves. That part of our services includes not just doing all the work that we are hired to do (plus usually even more) but also all of the behind the scenes homework that really should be done by the client (trust me – it’s for your benefit first and foremost).

I could think of a few industries where if you don’t do your part, the service provider definitely won’t (or can’t) do his/her part. For example, think about when you go to the doctor. Have you ever refused to sign the paperwork that merely tells the doctor your contact information and medical history? I highly doubt it. It’s just natural. You need their services, so you’re going to provide them with what they need. Then, they will provide their services and you will pay them accordingly. It’s a pretty standard process, wouldn’t you say?

What about when you actually go into the room for your appointment? What if you can’t articulate what’s wrong with you? How is the doctor supposed to help you? If you just keep saying that you don’t feel well but don’t specify what exactly hurts, it’s going to be very difficult for them to help you.

So, in order to get what you want, you have to help your service provider help you. That Jerry Maguire really WAS right!

Help Me Help YouHow can I help you if you won’t help you? And how can I help you if you won’t give me a little something to work off of?

Look, I get it. There’s a lot of eye candy out there when it comes to websites and logos and just about anything you might need for your business (or project or house or hair style). But at some point, you have to do the research, weed out some options, make a decision, stick to it, and move forward. And the good news – about pretty much anything in life (house, car, hair style, website, job, etc.) – is that you can always make a change later. You can upgrade, downgrade, enhance, expand…the sky’s the limit. But eventually, if you want to get anywhere in life – even if you’re hiring someone to do the bulk of the work for you – you have to put in some work and make some decisions in order to move forward.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret that may be a little scary if you are considering hiring me to design your website and/or logo in the future. My questionnaires are extensive – like 20 pages extensive! BUT, they look way more overwhelming than they are – I promise. They’re only that long because I give you plenty of space to fill in all of your answers.

You know what else I promise? That by filling it out, you’ll not only help me have a better understanding of what you want and how to accurately estimate how much your project will cost, but it will also help you gain even more clarity about your own business…or website or logo.

I’ve had a couple people come to me recently as potential clients who don’t have the time or desire to fill out my questionnaire(s). Well, while I always try to do my best to stick to my own best practices, I also know that I have to exercise a bit of flexibility if I want to succeed in this world. That doesn’t mean I’m going to send someone a contract so I can get started on their project if they haven’t told me one iota of information about what they want. It just means I may have to make a slight exception to the rule and get the information I need in some other way.

For example, if I have a situation where a potential client falls into that category of not wanting or being able to give me the information I need in the way I typically obtain it, I’ll just modify how I send it to them. In the end, I’ll still get the information – because I truly cannot proceed without knowing what you want. I WILL find a way to have you help me help you. It’s the only way WE are going to be successful.

For anyone out there thinking about getting a website designed or revamping your current one and then hiring someone for the job, please, at minimum, take the time to figure out the answers to these extremely important questions below. If you can nail down this information, you’re already ahead of the game…and the whole process will be so much easier and way more fun for both of you!

The Condensed Questionnaire:

  • What is the purpose of this logo or website?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What colors and fonts seem most appropriate for my purpose and audience (and of course, do they feel right for ME…because if you don’t like them and just pick what you think or hope others will like, you will likely find yourself back at the drawing board way too quickly)?
  • What specific types of functionality or features do I need on my site (i.e. a contact form, an email opt-in form, a blog, the ability to sell products, the ability to to have visitors sign up and pay for services/appointments/events, etc.)?
  • What are some features I’d like to have, if possible and if budget allows?
  • How many pages do I think I need and what are they?
  • What type of layout do I want on the home page and inside pages?
  • Will I want or need to put photos anywhere on my site? If so, do I already have them or do I need to hire a photographer and/or buy stock photos?
  • Is my content ready to go (written, edited, formatted so the designer/developer knows what goes where)?
  • If I have an email opt-in area (and you should, as I talked about in this post), do I want to offer my subscribers some type of freebie to entice them to sign up for my list (and of course to thank them)?
  • If I offer them a freebie, what is it or what ideas do I have (a video, an ebook, a checklist, etc.)?
  • Once I know what I want to offer, am I going to put it together myself or hire someone (a videographer, my web designer, etc.) to put it together?
  • What types of logos or websites (mostly in terms of layout) seem most appropriate for my audience (and just like I said above, make sure it appeals to you, too…and not JUST your audience)?

To summarize:

  • Be clear – with yourself and the person you are planning to work with.
  • Figure out what you want or be willing to do the homework in order to figure out what you want.
  • Ask questions and do research. The person you are hiring is your partner in all of this, and he/she is there to make this a smooth and enjoyable experience.
  • If the person you are hiring gives you information to read or review, please do it. He/she is not trying to waste your time…I promise!
  • Give clear feedback (and if you want some ideas of what UNCLEAR feedback looks like…and if you want some good laughs, click here and here).

As a client (or potential client), have you found yourself doing this? Maybe you aren’t truly ready to move forward and you’re hoping the person you hire will have all of your answers? Or maybe you’re just really indecisive? That’s understandable, but it will still make the process difficult if you aren’t able to eventually hone in on what you want.

As a service provider, have you experienced this – where clients expect you to have all their answers and make all their decisions? Have you stuck to your plan no matter what or exercised some flexibility?

Tell me about it in the comments below…

Until tomorrow,

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