When I went to college to study computer science, there was an unfortunate side effect. I became “The Computer Guy.” Whenever anyone had a problem with a computer they’d come to me. And I’d help them as I lack all ability to say no. Sometimes that leads to me not having enough time or energy to get my own work done as well as I would have liked.
I found that most people have unrealistic expectations of “Computer Guys.” I was expected to have a success rate of 100%. Maybe it’s because mechanics generally have 100% success rate. I tried to explain that computers are extremely complex systems. There is a lot of very complex software installed on them… many of which I’ve never heard of. It’s a little bit like being a doctor. You probably are very good at diagnosing and solving the most common stuff, but if someone comes with a Dr. House odd case, it’s baffling. And with millions of pieces of software written every day, there’s no possible way one person can stay on top it.
The most difficult part, was explaining that I write software, I don’t fix other people’s software or hardware. It’s like expecting a podiatrist to be a great dentist (I’m loving doctor analogies today). They are both in a broad medicine field, but they deal with very different things.
As my interests shifted to creating websites, I got more requests along that nature. You know, “Hey, I want to get my business online. Can you help me?” The good news is that I can get a website up and running in 30 minutes, maybe even faster, if you tempt me with a burrito.
As an optimist, I always think of this best case scenario. I also (wrongly) presume that people are as super-frugal like me. I’m not going to charge people for 30 minutes of my time. I’ve got plenty of spare hosting space on my server. So I can essentially get them up and running for free… or the price of them buying their domain name. I’d rather solidify our friendship. Maybe they can help me someday.
The bad news is that once I get the website up, there are endless typically requests about customizing it. Most of the time, they don’t know what they want. They sometimes see a few websites they like and want to piece together bits from all of them. Then they want to do very small changes, move this icon here… and that pixel there. It makes sense, this is their business and they put in a lot of hard work to make it successful.
The vast majority of these people, such as a local dentist, doesn’t need this much customization. In fact, trying to be perfect is the enemy of getting something very good up and running. Most business owners may think they need a lot of information on their website. However, their clients are typically going to Google, typing in the name of their business to get a phone number or driving directions. As long as a website serves their needs and looks professional, it’s a win.
Should I start directing people to hosting companies? Most of them, such as 1&1, have design tools that anyone can use to make a website look professional. It isn’t free, but it isn’t expensive. Also, it’s money customers had offered to pay me anyway. And if they get in trouble, the websites often have professional help who can even do it all for them.
I’m kind of stuck not knowing what to do. On one hand, I love helping people. On the other hand, I always seem to be juggling at least five projects without counting these one-off ones. I have one friend who haven’t been able to get to in awhile now and it almost seems like a lose-lose situation. Fortunately, she’s dragged her feet for years with the website when I was available to help, so she’s very understanding.
I think I’m going to try the hosting solution and see how it goes.