Up with Maintenance! Down with… all that lame stuff…

So… look.

I am part of a wonky industry. And by wonky I mean hugely imbalanced, superficial, bubblicious, and lined with unkeepable promises.

I’m a web presence consultant, and I’m good at it. I build nice websites that people can update themselves, and I train people on how to use the Internet better so that they can survive and grow on their own. I’ve been building websites for 12 years, and I’ve been completely self-employed in the industry for five. Despite having just ended a large contract that was my primary (and often only) source of income for the last two years, I (magically) have no lack of clients right now.

But I also have an identity crisis. (You’d think I’d be good at those by now, but no, they still get me every time.)

I present to you Exhibit A, courtesy of the Laughing Squid blog:

It’s parody, but it’s not a joke. This is my industry. Or at least, it’s one of them — the “Social Media Douchebag*” industry.  The other professions I pledge allegiance to seem to include:

– Sleazy Marketers
– Naive Self-Helpey Life Coaches
– Overpriced Web Designers
– Out-of-Touch-with-Reality Engineers

Apologies to all the peers I just offended, but come on, you know what I’m talking about.

Normally I don’t let this reputation game get to me, but I’m going through one of those Repositioning phases where I have to start telling people what I do for a living again. Unfortunately, this is quickly turning into a game of, “No, I’m a good witch. You want to drop your house over there, on my sister, the green one.”

You ever try to define yourself by explaining what you’re not (like how I’m doing in this blog post)?  It puts the focus in the wrong place.  DON’T THINK ABOUT THE GROSS STUFF!  I SAID DON’T THINK ABOUT IT! EWWW!  (Bear with me — I’m getting this out of my system.)

Now couple this industry reputation crisis with the fact that clients’ needs, on the whole, are changing dramatically.  Tools have gotten easier to use, and the people who hire us are so much more capable and Internet savvy than they used to be. We no longer just build a website, optimize it for search engines, and walk away until something breaks. “Success” on the Internet now requires frequent content updates, and clients are willing to take that work on themselves. The ones who want help want long-term partnerships with consultants who can advise them on their processes and fix little techie things when they get stuck.

It used to be all about building the website, and everyone left the maintenance as an underfunded afterthought (meaning that’s when consultants moved on). Now it’s all about the maintenance… the kind that says, “You’re doing great work. What do you need?”

But tell me honestly: who here is setting up sustainable businesses that support the “I just need a few hours of help a month” clients?

My hunch is that we may need to drop our Web Development Consulting models and go learn from accountants, therapists, attorneys, doctors, and professors.

How do we build a business on maintenance?  How many clients can one consultant handle?  Can we teach our peers to do this, too?  And can we do it all without being Sleazy Naive Out-of-Touch-with-Reality Overpriced Douchebags?

If you’re already doing this work, please come find me.

And I’ll keep the rest of ya’lls posted on what we figure out.

* Yes, I do know the term douchebag is offensive and tasteless, and represents a form of social oppression, and refers to something completely useless and bad for people. That’s partly why I accept its usage in this context.

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3 Responses to “Up with Maintenance! Down with… all that lame stuff…”

  1. Melissa Gira Grant Says:

    By having enough of an opinion to lament the Loss of The Super Awesome Internet to These People, I wonder if I’m just demonstrating that I have enough insidery bitchiness to also be part of the problem?

    Whatever we call it, I still want to be what you do* when I grow up.

    * Poetry! Getting people together to do mad shit! With almost nothing! And it’s so good other people want in, too!

  2. Avery Says:

    I know exactly what you mean! It’s a different context but trying to convince people that “No really. I’m queer AND a Seminarian AND I don’t hate myself or you AND I don’t think God hates either of us.” is quite a trick to pull off on a regular basis. Similar, though different is the song and dance that goes “No, I don’t believe X, Y, Z, F, or Q. But I am still Christian! Really!…(p.s. for serious, God doesn’t hate us. promise.)”
    I guess this is the job we got for being “different” and “special.”

  3. Dopp Juice » Blog Archive » “AWAKE!” Says:

    […] have a new baby to feed, and it still has a long way to grow, but it already embodies everything I spent the last year trying to articulate.  I have a path now, and it’s not based on what people […]