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Not really. Wix and GoDaddy clobbered it, and now there are others. At one point I had over 30 sites requiring regular maintenance, and upgrades. Plus a few I developed, installed on other servers, and did not maintain. Now I’m down to about four. These days there’s almost always someone in a small business’ office with the requisite skills to do basic upgrades, and small changes. I get called when things go wrong, or there’s a major overhaul in the offing. Many small businesses do quite well with a Facebook page, or some other self development tool. The sites look amateurish, and derivative, but they get the job done. All you want is the ‘Who, what, where, when, and why’, and standards are so low there’s no functional penalty for having a lame Web presence. I find more clients hiring full time ‘social media’ specialists rather than me. I have pondered becoming a ‘social media expert’, but the fact that I have worked building some of the early experiments taints me against the concept.

Almost all Web sites are similar these days, and there’s a value to designing the UI/UX in a way users expect. I suggest that, for startups, and small businesses, there’s virtually no need for anything other than a basic Web presence. With the rise of social media, the appropriate account(s) will solve that problem for most.

I worked through the wild west of this industry, and it was semi-fun, but I think we’ve moved on, things have settled down, or are settling down, and there’s a minimum sufficient requirement for a Web presence that’s pretty freakin’ minimal.




100% THIS!

To your point about "becoming a social media expert", I actually began lightly dabbling in this, and felt nauseous after some time...Allow me to describe:

You begin admirably trying to help a business (or individual) to gain legitimate views and insights from their audience...but hoping to grow to full, positive engagements, and so forth - not for merely having a social media presence, but rather, with the overarching goal of growing their business, or meeting some other business goal of theirs...and eventually, they begin to get addicted, and whether its a true value to their business goals or not, they begin chasing the dragon of growth. And, much like i can only imagine like drugs - they get hooked. Whatever ethical advice i would provide is ignored, and they only want advice on how to grow their audience like crazy (think: hockey stick growth numbers, etc.) including employing fake follow bot accounts, etc. Their "chase" for ever more audience continues on a darker route...wanting ever more clicks/likes/views/attention - even at the risk of their business' main value proposition. They begin outright ignoring your continuous protests. You begin to feel sick - as if somehow you are the gun salesperson selling a gun to a person you are only now discovering is dangerous. Your client keeps pushing you for more and more dark patterns to employ, and you continue to refuse...ultimately ending the business relationship.

Now...are all clients like what i noted above? No, i'm sure there are good clients out there that don't go dark...But for me, I kept encountering the dark ones. So, for what its worth, I would not go down the route of being a social media expert. Good luck, and cheers!


Is not just social media. This is a problem in all aspects of human life. The drive for more more more! Nothing is ever enough.


Indeed. Lucky for us flint hand-axes weren't enough for our ancestors.


Really? First of all you don't miss what you don't know or are you miserable now because you are missing out all those fantastic "things" which are going to be there in a thousand years? Also those inventions are what brought us to the brink of climate disaster - okay, maybe your children will be the lucky 1% having a good time on the moon but talking on a broader scale the rest will suffer or simply not get that old - just like back in the hand-ax days.


Once upon a time progress was based on survival. How does a phone that unlocks with your face aid the survival of you or the human race, whichever one you like the most? Don't mistake movement for progress.


> Lucky for us

Are you sure?


I’ll be sure when humans sustainability live off Earth.


I’d contend this. Just spoke to a mate last week turning £250k at a 50% margin doing nothing but websites and SEO for B2B clients.

Websites need design, visual assets, integrations, customised features, etc. It’s definitely a volume trade: you need to primarily be concerned with new biz, but it’ll be viable for a long time to come if you know what you’re doing .


Agreed. "Basic web presence" is important, but there are a ton of businesses that could benefit from and desire small, custom, web-features. I spent some freelance time in this space, making about $75-100 per hour of pure profit, purely developing against existing web infrastructure to add small, but meaningful, features for various business sites (often hosted on GoDaddy or similar). These varied from custom client communication forms, payment integration, simple admin tools, etc. Ultimately I stopped because I didn't care about the extra cash more than my free time (competing with grad school), but could have easily filled 40 hours per week with the requests I got.

I think it heavily depends on your network and the market in your location. Sure, if you're in the Bay Area, freelance might not make sense; but find a city with 100-200k population and start building a network among small-business owners/operators and you can do just fine.


Do you have any strategies for building a network with small businesses like you describe? I have 2 or 3 clients right now, not enough work to keep me busy full-time, but I keep them happy and they love my work. I need more clients in order to reach critical mass but I have no idea how to pull it off.


Your best clients are you past and present employers/clients.

If 2-3 represents all of them then I would just put in conversation with them that you'd appreciate any referrals they can make and if you think it would help offer them some financial benefit for it (the amount is culture dependent, I find).

If you exhaust them and the rest of your professional network, try local industry meetups (especially industries that you have made sites for before).

If all else fails then try your luck in the forums and job boards. I suggest taking on small stuff to get your foot in the door and aggressively vetting the personal and business characteristics of new clients for this way.

I'm back to full time employment though so make of that what you will!


Thanks. I'm basically at the point where I've exhausted my network and some of the work has just dried up. I guess this is good, because I've been really efficient and actually gotten some of my clients to a place where they don't need much anymore.

I'm also at full time employment but I miss the autonomy and working from home.


Join a freelance network, like toptal.


The sibling to this by jrumbut has great suggestions! Personally, I made some good client connections through other freelancers in different markets, like video FX and graphic design. They often have clients that also need dev work. Or, sometimes you can find people who want it but don't know it yet; you can start a good conversation like, "you know, there's some good tech out there to add X to your site, so you or your customers could do Y much more easily." Sometimes business owners don't even consider some of the options available to them through commissioning custom software!


Agreed. I’ve no idea which businesses OP is talking about. Even if he’s referring to small mom and pop shops or local bakeries I’d argue that design, content and SEO matter.

For startups it’s even more important.


Going down the social media expert path with a web development background can be very lucrative. 95% of the work done can be automated and the competition is primarily marketing guys who can't code shit. I've been literally shocked when I realized what most shops charge to handle social media accounts for their clients considering the amount of work done, which basically is a few minutes per day.


> 95% of the work done can be automated and the competition is primarily marketing guys who can't code shit.

What exactly would you try to automate? (Having done some coding) I see very little room for automation. Social media marketing is all about strategy and content. Or is it not?


Social media management isn't only about posting content. It's also about analyzing competition. You can build tools that process posts from competitive pages and start making correlations to draw conclusions. A lot of social media analytics shops do that.


Content generation can be automated if you know what you are doing.

Also, it’s not only about content but about proper timing and strategy in your communications.


I don't understand how good content can be automated either.

Recycling content, finding out optimal posting times, posting content ... sure, these can all be automated.

But how do you automate generating content, especially good content and not article spinners or whatever? Can you explain?


Some things you can do in bulk (economies of scale), outsource, schedule, or otherwise automate.

You can create pipelines that save labor - like clients for platforms that make answering common questions / interacting with users way more comfortable and suited to your targeted workflow than the default clients.

On the creativity front, you can also generate random, semi-plausible stuff to inspire you when you're in a rut.

It's not quite about making everything automated, but about leveraging code, systems thinking, and collaborators in such a way that your performance is incredible. It's really feasible.


You can automate:

1) Curating third-party content to post.

2) Scheduling owned content to post.

3) Sending DMs to new followers.


Do you mind sharing what will you do next then?


It's amazing that its taken over 20 years for other players to actually take this space over. Given how fast we move in tech it's surprising that it's taken so long and there's so much room for so many players (wix, squarespace, godaddy, etc etc)


I wonder to what degree helping to setup an email newsletter and maintaining it would go hand in hand with the social media side?


I agree, What are you working on now?




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