Ever gotten a “helpful” email from a so-called “expert” telling you that you need to change something on your site? Or maybe you hired someone you thought knew what they were doing…but instead they screwed everything up?
These “helpful folks” are more than happy to share their suggestions about your site. Most of the time, the advice is just plain wrong (and in some cases, could be damaging to your site and business!)
While usually well-intentioned, it can be confusing to hear conflicting advice from different advisors. Even worse, it can prevent you from taking decisive action because you’re afraid you might be doing the wrong thing.
Recently I got forwarded an email suggesting that one of my clients should change their newsletter provider since the unsubscribe didn’t work for this person (in reality it was a case of PEBCAK – problem exists between chair and keyboard). What was my first clue? The “expert” used a throwaway email address – and in this day and age, if you’re still using a hotmail account to conduct business, I’m not going to take you seriously as a digital consultant!
In another case, a former client hired a local SEO “expert.” The “expert” made the site so unwieldy with his content and navigation revisions that it became impossible to find any information. Then he created a mobile version of the site (this was back before we had responsive sites) that completely screwed up the most important part of their site – the schedule! In the end, I had to re-do the site to un-do the mistakes by this “expert.” The client ended up paying twice to get what they wanted in the first place.
So how do you find qualified consultants who won’t screw up your site and online business?
Here’s how to really find people that know what they’re doing.
Get referrals from people who run ACTUAL successful businesses.
Word-of-mouth is still the best way to find the best people. But don’t take advice from random people in a Facebook group. Talk to people who have built their own sustainable businesses – I’m talking they’ve been around longer than a year and this is their main gig that supports their family. It’s easy to be a “fly by night” success with a one-time launch. I’ve seen more than a few scam artists in FB groups who get a few “marks” to promote them to the group – that gives them the appearance of seeming legit. But they’re really there to prey on unsuspecting newbies. Talk to people who’ve been around a while.
It’s not about degrees. It’s about experience.
Some of the best consultants I know don’t have an “official” degree. And I know a lot of MBAs who know nothing about online business. Don’t get caught up in degrees or certifications (or lack thereof) – it’s about what that person can do for your business.
Ask your designer or team members
Already working with a designer?* Chances are if they’ve been around for a while, they’ve connected with other legit business owners who offer complementary services like copywriters, digital strategists, photographers and e-commerce experts.
*Special note for my designer readers: some of my best projects have come from relationships I built when working on larger teams. One connection alone sent $250k worth of work in my first few years of business. Nurture those relationships – you never know where they’re going to lead!
Be wary of generic testimonials.
We’ve all seen the long sales pages with glowing reviews. But are those testimonials for the actual services and products you’re interested in? You might be surprised! I know a few online business “experts” that use really old, unrelated testimonials to promote their new offerings. It’s simple bait and switch. Don’t be afraid to ask if they’re real testimonials related to the product.
Do your due diligence.
Find out EXACTLY what they’ve done for others. It’s all too easy to slap a logo on a site and say you’ve done work for “x” famous company or been featured by “y” famous publication. But for all you know, they could’ve brought the snack tray to an event. Ask the consultant what they’ve actually done – and if they can share real case studies and reviews.
Buy them for an hour.
I hire people all the time for hourly consults. It’s worth a few hundred dollars for me to see how they show up and what they can offer. I’d rather invest $350 than lose $3500 (or $35,000!)
Don’t be too quick to judge their appearance.
It’s odd coming from a designer – but some of the best consultants I know have the simplest (and sometimes ugly and outdated) websites. Usual case of cobbler’s children – they’re so busy they haven’t gotten around to redoing their own sites. That said – there should be some sense of pride in their work. If it feels slapped together and shoddy, be wary.
Social media numbers aren’t everything.
Some of my favorite go-to experts have less than 200 fans on instagram. That’s ok. I’m not going to them for Instagram advice. I know a lot of folks who work “behind-the-scenes” of big-name entrepreneurs. Many consultants don’t want to be in the “limelight”- but they know what they’re doing in their respective fields.
Be clear about your expectations – and your investment.
Years ago I got taken for $10k on a personal project. I thought I did everything right – I got a referral from a friend and I even met in person with the team. In my excitement to get the project started I didn’t really examine how they operated or their past work. When they presented me with their version of a simplified sprint “contract” (done in the Agile way…) I thought they were modern in their approach to business. Turns out they were scammers. 6 weeks later I was out 10k and my project never got off the ground. I later found out one of the team members absconded to another state with his partner’s money. In my haste to get started, I didn’t spend the time to make sure I had any recourse in the contract. Make sure it’s very clear what is expected of both sides – and what your return on investment will be.
Ever hired an “expert” and had it go awry? Feel free to vent in the comments below.
Looking for someone you can trust who will give it to you straight? I’ve got you covered with my one-on-one sessions..