Five years and what a ride! Fortunately, I’m still in my seat. I won’t say that Forward Multimedia has exceeded my expectations as that would mean I didn’t expect much; it would be a poor reflection on me to start a business that way, since I went to business school and all. What it did exceed was my single objective. My goal when I started out in 2011 was simply to provide a comfortable and steady income to take care of or ‘mind’ (read: ‘mine’) my family.
Anyway, my business evolved and grew, like they tend to do, forcing me to treat it like the bona fide business that it is. Here I am today, five years later, older, wiser (I think), more knowledgeable and experienced.
A special thanks to my readers
I’d like to thank you, my readers, and of course, the Academy. And to YOU, who are reading this right now, THANK YOU my friend. Though you are deign to comment or hit ‘like’ or share, a Trini thing I realize, I KNOW I have loyal readers. That my articles have been the secret to my success is an understatement. 99% of the phone calls or emails I get are prefaced with “I’ve been reading your articles…”
And because my articles have catapulted me to the top, it’s why I never stopped writing. I also never stopped because I love to write. Had followed my writing passion from my youth, no doubt I would have been a professional author or journalist today, but that’s another story.
WHAT I’VE LEARNT AFTER 5 YEARS
Man have I learnt a lot! One of the main things I’ve learnt, as you’ll see below, is that Trinis AIN’T EASY. I’ve met with a wide variety of Trini personalities from all over the country, North to deep South. I’ve also dealt with individuals at their company level, both at heads of the company or as employees with many a different corporate culture. Sometimes it’s been a good experience and sometimes I wanted to jump off the cliff at Maracas.
T&T Businesses have woken up to websites
Inquires were far apart in the early couple of years, with a shorter list of leads. The past 2 years 2014/2015 saw an exponential growth in clients and leads. Not only in terms of number of projects, but the projects also got bigger.
Now EVERY DAY I get calls and emails from locally and abroad. There are many Trinis overseas who prefer a Trinidad based web designer not because they can better relate, but because I’m on the pulse of the local marketplace.
Inquiries alone are not the only indicator. It is very evident in advertisements in all media and especially online.
Takeaway: You’re going to be competing with many more websites going forward as your competitors get on board.
T&T business owners yet to understand how websites work
I’m glad they’ve woken up, but very few understand and appreciate how websites work. And I don’t mean the technical aspect. It’s the creative aspect that gives them trouble. That lack of understanding is reflected in the way they go about getting their content. Many are still ‘old-school’ and not very online savvy, and so depend on their web designer to guide them.
However, I’ve observed that many DON’T LISTEN or fail to accept that a website isn’t a static thing but an inbound marketing tool, equivalent that can be actively selling your business 24/7/365.
Takeaway: Your websites sheer power to generate business cannot be taken lightly.
Clients start hot and heavy then boil dong like bhagie
“How long will it take to complete the site?”, “When would the site be ready?” clients eagerly want to know. I say “6 to 8 weeks based on my current workload”. Deep down I’m shaking my head. In 2015 I got 30 website projects and NOT A SINGLE ONE finished in eight weeks.
I wish there were two of me so I can give myself a good kick in the ass because I blame myself. I have no one but myself to blame because a small part of me did not take care of my business like a business. Remember, I work from home, have no fixed hours, so it’s easy to forget that I’m running a company.
Takeaway: 2016 will be a horse of a different color and I’m having absolutely none of it, as I have the remedy.
Some clients are crazy and difficult to work with
The longer I’m in this business the more I encounter some strange characters and the dreaded ‘client from hell’. This year (2015), I’ve had the unfortunate ‘honor’ to experience both and it wasn’t pleasant. I like to live life without drama and I can do without crazy people I just met causing me stress.
At my age, over 40, I’ve also developed a low tolerance for bullshit and have absolutely no problem and hesitation in telling anyone where to get off. However, I always go the ‘nice’ route first.
Suffice it to say, I’ve since parted ways with these two clients, and I’m not one to air my dirty laundry, so I’ll leave it like that for now. Maybe later on I’ll share some anecdotal snippets of the stories if I’m feeling nostalgic.
Takeaway: If you have a track record of being being difficult, save both of us the stress and headache and don’t hire me.
Website design world is extremely fluid
There is always something trending and in style. For example, gone are the days of boxed websites, now the standard is full width and responsive, layer sliders, animations using HTML5. Icons have changed; no more glossy, now it’s flat design and ‘long shadow’, and much more use of colors; more videos, infographics et al.
Takeaway: I always have to be on top of my game with the latest industry trends
Website design is easier now than five years ago
Heavy use of HTML and shortcodes (pseudo-code that’s easier to use than HTML), have been replaced by robust visual editors. Back in 2011/2012, many layout elements required a lot more use of code. Today laying out a page is totally visual and the layout can be changed in a few clicks. Elements can be copied and moved around at will, so an entire page can be changed on the fly just by dragging and dropping blocks.
Why this is easier? Because I can focus more on the content creatively without having to waste time on the technical elements that are only means to an end.
Takeaway: Clients win as the better part of my time is spent on what matters to them
I can no longer do it alone
I’ve resisted expansion for a long time because I don’t want to lose the essence of being small and ‘boutique’. I also know what it’s like to run a big business and that’s a headache I don’t want regardless of how much more money I can make.
I had no choice but to hire the assistance of a freelancer to take some load of my shoulders, plus I was able to officially open the ‘Forward Support’ support desk. I intend to keep it to one person.
Takeaway: Now I have an official support desk and paid maintenance plans.
E-Commerce is now on the frontburner
More than before, local companies are looking to set up online stores. They may not be prepared for the enormous cost but still are very interested. Confirming this fact is that ALL FOUR major banks in Trinidad & Tobago- Scotiabank, FCB, RBTT and Republic Bank- now offer the TT Dollar payment gateway e-commerce solution.
With another year passing by and local merchants complaining of low sales during the holiday season, a hefty blame is to be placed on the prevalence of online shopping at US sites, and not so much on the economy.
Takeaway: The local online marketplace is still absolutely ripe for the picking and no single player has emerged.
I'm now very efficient at WordPress
Back in the early days in 2011 I was still feeling my way around the WordPress content management system to build websites. Many a time things would go awry and I’d see error messages, warnings, database connection issues, templates won’t install and other things that caused my heart to skip a beat.
Gone are those days where now I don’t guess for anything. If I hit a bump I just look for a way to resolve it treating it as just a nuisance to interrupt my workflow as opposed to the sky is falling and ‘O Gawd, o Gawd ah go dead!’ Snort!
Takeaway: Efficiency at WordPress allows proper attention to building your site.
I'm better able to advise on website options
Experience is a great teacher and now I see the website world more vividly than 5 years ago. You tell me what you want to do and I’ll think about the best way to get it. For example, for the site you have in mind, a WordPress site may not be the optimal solution. Maybe there’s a specialized third party software with its own content management system that’s better suited. Or perhaps there is a clone of a popular site available with all the features. And even if you do your own research, you won’t be able to know which company to buy it from, how solid the company is, how solid the software is and all that. I know what to look for and how to evaluate, better now than ever.
Other web designers in Trinidad & Tobago will jump right in and give you what you ask for. I’ll give you what you need.
Takeaway: My experience and insights alone are worth their weight in gold.
Few good website designers in T&T
A simple Google of the premium keyword ‘website design trinidad’ would reveal the major players. Forward Multimedia has consistently remained in the top two search results and mostly at number one for at least the past two years. But in Trinidad & Tobago, Google search results rank according to the analogy of ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’.
Am I admitting that Forward Multimedia falls within that analogy? The answer is … only to an extent because I know that I haven’t done all I can with my site, hence the reason I fluctuate between positions one and two. The site I alternate with is in no way, shape or form, close to the quality of my site. If I make one more push, I would stay fixed at number one.
Also, when you look at the portfolios of the rest of web designers on the first page, you’ll see lesser portfolios in terms of quality of website built and number of sites.
Takeaway: Websites by Forward Multimedia will outperform those of my competitors for a while to come, but that’s no reason to be complacent.
I’M THE BEST DARN WEB DESIGNER IN TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
That’s no idle boast, nor ego. I know my abilities and I can back up what I say. However, it takes time and money to do it right. If you hire me and listen to what I say, there is absolutely no reason for your website not to work. With over 100 websites built, big and small, business and e-commerce, companies and individuals, prominent names and obscure, they’ve all chosen FORWARD MULTIMEDIA over the others. Shouldn’t you?