Giving It Up to Get More Done

For the past month, I’ve felt like a doctor who has suddenly become the patient. In my case, however, it is a very good thing. What ails me, you ask? Nothing serious. I’ve just hired a Web designer for the first time ever to redesign my professional web site. And like the old adage that doctors make the worst patients, I’m sure there must be a new adage that old-school Web developers make terrible clients.

Every time I want to open my mouth and put in my $2.50, I bite my tongue. I know that my Web design skills are so…1996. That is the year I began hiring other designers to work for me at my Internet company, finally loosening the iron-fisted grip on the creative, so my HTML and design skills are frozen in time. Still, I’ve always redesigned my own web sites – not because I think I’m a good designer, but because I can.

Aliza's Old SiteAt this stage of my business, I can no longer afford not to outsource this work. Even though I do small design projects for some clients, most of my time is spent doing strategy, content development and e-marketing. Frankly, like so many marketers and developers, I don’t have time for my own site and without an overhaul, it is no longer working for me or communicating what I do.

The site redesign will be up in a few weeks, and I must admit the process has been easier than I thought it would be because I’ve been conscious of all the things that I could do to mess things up. Here’s how I’ve been getting through the last month with my new Web designer.

1. Shut Mouth. There is nothing worse than a client who thinks they know everything, right? I keep reminding myself that I am outsourcing this job for sound business reasons and that maybe, just maybe, I don’t know everything there is to know. I admit my possible ignorance, then shut my mouth and listen to my Web developer.

2. Open Mind. A closed mouth does no good without an open mind. I know I must be open to new ideas and perspectives. Even I admit there is no way one person can keep up on all the latest Web design and development techniques and tools. Maybe, just maybe, my Web developer has some great ideas, and I must be open-minded to accept them or at least consider them carefully.

3. Hire Wisely. I hired a young woman in town who I’ve worked with on smaller Web projects. During those times, I got to know how she thinks and works and felt she was not only talented and creative but smart. I appreciate intelligence. I hired her because I respected her and her work. Without that initial respect, I don’t think a positive working relationship could form.

4. Trust. I have had to let go and trust my Web developer to do a good job. I’ve been known to micro-manage in the past, and I paid close attention to this tendency. The idea that “nobody can do it as good as I can” doesn’t hold up. It takes trust not only in my Web developer but trust in myself that I made the right choice.

5. Respond. I really am trying to be the perfect client. I respond quickly to any request from my Web developer and try to be thoughtful and thorough. I want her to know how important this project is to me, and that her time is important, too.

6. Toss the Box. Most of us tell our clients they need to “think out of the box,” and we pride ourselves in doing just that. But truth be told, we are in a box of our own creation, our own comfort zone. I just had to admit that, step out of the safety of that box, and toss it aside. Once I did that, I felt all my knee-jerk reactions and irrational resistance to someone else’s ideas subside.

We’ve just passed the mock up stage, and she is now building the prototype. I’m absolutely thrilled. She has come up with solutions to all my design quandaries and has addressed all – and I mean all – of my business goals in the design. Her fresh perspective brought solutions that I didn’t even know were possible.

Any downsides, you ask? Other than the fact that I want it up right now (I’m not known for my patience), I can’t see any negatives. I think being aware of the potential pitfalls of a Web development relationship when you’ve been a Web developer is the first step to making things work.

And biting your tongue a lot helps, too.