Business owners are being ripped off every day, and more often than not, they have no idea that they’re being ripped off at all. And it makes me soooooo mad! So today, in this first in a series I decided to pull the curtain back and show you at least some of the ways in which you, business owners, are being ripped off, so that you can start to protect yourselves from the scammers who are all too willing to take your hard-earned income without delivering much (if anything) in return.

how business owners are getting ripped off
Just say no to business owners being ripped off!


Rip-Off #1: The Web Site Scam

I’m going to start with one of the big ones: web sites. These days, every business should have a web site. Having a web site—a good, professionally-built web site—is critical these days. You absolutely must have a good quality web site to represent your business and build credibility. But there seems to be an awfully big amount of controversy with respect to just how much you should pay for a web site. Specifically, I’ve seen site quotes range from $200 to $20,000 for basic, simple web sites. So there’s not much question in my mind that business owners are being ripped off by web firms.

Why is this a scam?

The scam with web sites is the “customization” scam. Web firms will tell you that they write “custom code” and create everything from scratch, and that’s why they’re quoting you $20,000 for a basic, 10-page web site.

The problem is, most businesses don’t actually need a custom-coded, built-from-scratch web site. Look at my web site. This one right here that you’re reading right now. Looks pretty good, right? Professional, high quality? It’s built on a template. You don’t need custom coding. So for most businesses, paying for a custom-coded site is just plain dumb, but because most business owners are in the business of doing their business and you don’t know that you don’t need custom coding, you don’t know that the $20,000 quote is silly.

On the flip side, for $200, you’re likely to get a really stripped down, poorly-created site that won’t help you grow your business, because it’ll look like your 12 year-old designed it on his iMac in the basement, and frankly, that’s not what you’re after for a professional presence. Further, with a site that cheap, I can pretty much guarantee you that your site won’t be optimized for search engines, so please, don’t waste your time or resources with a site that cheap.

The second scam with web design firms is the “monthly expense” scam. Web design firms will bundle all kinds of things like hosting, domain registration, “maintenance,” and SEO services into a monthly fee that they’ll charge you on top of your regular design fee. Let’s get a few things straight:

  • Monthly hosting for your average web site costs like $5/month.
  • Domain registration for a .COM is like $8.50/year.
  • You should be able to handle your own maintenance, which includes things like changing verbiage on a page or adding a blog post. There really is no other web site maintenance.
  • SEO services should come from a search engine optimization specialist, and that is a scam in its own right, which we’ll be writing a blog post about in the near future, so stay tuned for that.

I recently had a client who had a web guy trying to charge her like $99 just to renew her domain name. People, it takes 5 minutes or less and eight and a half bucks to renew the domain name. Quite simply, the monthly expense scam is about creating easy monthly recurring revenue for web developers that doesn’t require them to do much, if any, work.

Think you can’t manage your own web site? Baloney. Whenever we create a web site for a client, we schedule a detailed training session so they learn how to manage their sites. That’s when our clients usually say, “I can’t believe it’s this easy!” You can manage your own web site.

When is it not a scam?

First, let’s talk about what a basic web site is. A basic web site for most businesses should have the following:

  • Around 10 pages, including, but not limited to:
    • the main page/home page
    • A page talking about you/the company (usually “About Us”)
    • At least one page talking about your products and services
    • A page with testimonials
    • A contact page (usually “Contact”)
  • A blog
  • A way for people to sign up for an email newsletter
  • A call to action – what do you want them to do? Call you? Put your phone number on every page and tell them to call you.
  • Connectivity to your social media pages (see up in the right hand corner where you can click to go to all of my social media profiles? Like that).

Generally speaking, most businesses should be able to manage their own sites, performing basic updates and adding blog posts, without help from a web developer. In most respects, WordPress is very easy to use and has navigation that’s similar to Microsoft Word (plus it has dynamite search engine optimization features, which means you’ll have less to worry about in terms of getting your web site found by search engines like Google). So you’ll be able to update your web site most of the time on your own, contacting your web developer for significant graphical changes, update, or redesigns.

Secondarily, a site can certainly look customized, even if it’s built on a template. Using a template simply means the designer is using code that has already been written, and frankly, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Most businesses can use a template-based WordPress site and their site can still look like it was custom written just for them. And it’s the difference between a web firm charging you $20,000 and a developer charging you $2,500-5,000. That’s a huge difference. Just imagine what you could do with that extra capital sitting around!

When might I need a customized web site?

If you have a business that offers a specific, web-based service…let’s say you’re an aWeber or a Hubspot…then yes, you need a customized web site and you should anticipate some hefty programming fees.

But if you’re a dental practice, a retail store, a spa, an accounting firm, even a product manufacturer that sells online, then You. Do. Not. Need. A. Custom-Coded. Web. Site.

How can I protect myself?

Education is usually your best defense against being scammed. You can certainly bookmark or print out this article and keep it for reference if you want.

Knowing the truth about how web firms “get you” by promising fancy custom coding and knowing that you most likely do not need it, and understanding that there’s no visual distinction between a site with custom coding and site that doesn’t have custom coding (and I’ve seen some custom sites that have abysmal search engine optimization, meaning these sites will never be found by a search engine, which certainly makes the $20K price tag seem even more ridiculous), all of this means that you’ll be less likely to be taken in by big talk about how custom your site will be.

But the best way to avoid being scammed is to work with the right team. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that some of the web firms that do custom coded web sites aren’t trustworthy. Let’s be clear: Many of them have big teams and nice offices, and that’s a lot of overhead. So understand that they’re business owners who understand that in order to pay the bills, they have to have big projects with big numbers.

As a small business owner, though, you do not have to be one of their clients and you can work with small firms instead. I work exclusively with web developers who are highly skilled, highly talented, who understand timelines and budgets and who do exceptional work. And every single one of them is a small business owner who works from home. That saves you a bundle on your web sites because these developers simply don’t have the overhead of a big firm.

Now, sometimes working with a small developer means your project can get derailed if your developer gets sick or goes on vacation. So my clients also find themselves protected by our in-house team, as every project has a dedicated Business in Blue Jeans project manager who handles the details and acts as an interface between client and web developer, so that the client never has to worry about problems on the project. For example, on one project, the developer got the flu while mid-project, so we simply swapped out the developer and the client experienced complete seamlessness in the project. Plus, our clients never need to understand techno-speak, since our project managers are fluent.

These days, business owners are being ripped off right and left, but you don’t have to be one of them! Stay tuned for more articles to come on all the ways in which business owners are being ripped off…and how you can protect yourself.