Is a website necessarily "better" than a multitude of listings?
September 11, 2010 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Aww, man...do I really need a website?

I'm a professional dog walker. I'm all over the free listing sites on the web; Kudzu, Galaxy, Localeze, Manta, Dogster, ZoomInfo, and about twelve others, as well as LinkedIn, Angie's List and Craigslist.

I just finished tweaking my listing on Thumbtack, and it looks quite spiffy. What if I were to direct people to that link when asked for a website address? Would that be considered cheating, somehow?

The thing, is, I really don't have much more than a page-worth of things to say. Not that I'm not fabulous, I'm just terse.

I tried making a webpage via Google, but I couldn't get the hang of the templates, dragging in text, etc.

What do you think?
What would you do?
posted by BostonTerrier to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Having your own website is great for a few reasons:

1. Minimal cost
2. Your own e-mail system
3. No reliance on third-party services that could go out of business
4. Looks more professional

If you need any assistance feel free to ask more detailed questions.
posted by odinsdream at 3:06 PM on September 11, 2010


You can use Google Sites and make a simple website. Since you are a professional, it would probably be of benefit to have one.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 3:09 PM on September 11, 2010


Depends if you want to be viewed as a professional service or someone working out of their apartment.

Personally I'd go with the professional service, in which case you need a website.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:09 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's good to have a place where likely customers can go and get the information about you. Your rates, your FAQ, your general offerings, your contact information, that sort of thing. This can be helpful getting new business. If any of these sites have a simple URL that you could put on a business card or flyer that could have that information on them, that would be fine.

That said, there are a lot of people, depending where you are, who think having a website is a basic necessity of a small business. I live in Vermont, people do not think that here. There are other places where it would be necessary because the other dog walkers have them. Personally, I work online and spend a lot of time and if I were looking for a dog walker, I'd tend to preference people who had a personalized online presence. I am comforted by seing a site with offerings/rates, maybe a photo of you, a blurb about your experience, maybe some reviews from people I know in the area.

All of this is really only relevant if you are looking for more work. But a good website is a good way to make your offerings available to a wider variety of people and people who might want something a bit more personalized than Craiglist or Angie's List. A basic website is something that you could likely do for a work trade, if you don't want to do it yourself.
posted by jessamyn at 3:10 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, I have a weird opinion on this - not necessarily. Especially in this age of things like Facebook links, wordpress.com, twitter, etc.

I have my own domain for personal use and a sandbox, I do e-comm at work, couldn't rest until I'd reskinned the site of the company I went to work for, I *should* be working on my rotary club's website instead of screwing around on mefi right now, etc. It's what I like to do.

But - you walk dogs, ferchrisake. If I needed a dog walker, I'd want a cell phone number and an e-mail address. I don't know thumbtack, but sure, why not put that on your business card if it gives rates, etc. If coding web sites isn't your bag, no, you don't need a domain per se.

Okay, I will say this in case you're not aware of it. You can get a domain and have it point at some free or cheap hosting/content solution. I believe wordpress.com will let you do this, among many other solutions. If you get a client who likes to do web stuff, they'd probably do that for you in exchange for a few hours worth of services. So if it's the domain thing you're after, it can be done without getting into a lot of coding.

But again - nah. I wouldn't think less of you as a possible person to do business with because you don't have a domain.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:10 PM on September 11, 2010


I always get annoyed when I can't find information about a business online. I don't care if it's on your own website, or if it's elsewhere though. Here's what I'm looking for:
  • What are your services and how much do they cost?
  • Where are you located or what's your service area. A link to Google Maps is always nice. Please use Google, Yahoo or Bing maps. Under no circumstances should you use Mapquest or any other mapping service.
  • When are you available? (Doesn't have to be 100% accurate, but should be close)
  • Your email address and phone number. Pleeeaase don't make me call you as the only way to get a hold of you.
  • A little about you and your experience. This should reflect your personality, since in the case of a one man/woman/other show, that's a big part of what you're selling.
Again, I really don't care if this is on your own site or some other listing site. You should have a distinctive name so that I can Google for you ("[your name] [your city]" should yield you in the top 10 and ideally the top 3-5 results).

I am a person who really cares about these things, so if you do the above, you will make people like me happy. Of course, other people will care about different things.
posted by !Jim at 3:11 PM on September 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


You could buy a domain name and point it at a free Tumblr blog.

Their templates are relatively easy to tweak if you understand CSS at all, (I asked friends who knew how to code when I got stuck on a thing or two, and it took them 30 seconds to tell me what to cut an paste for the thing I wanted) and setting it up to have your URL is just reading a couple FAQs, jiggering a few lines of code in your Tumblr profile, them pointing your domain at their server. I did this with a blog and it took a couple of hours, and other than the $15.00 a year I pay to own the domain name, it's totally free.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:19 PM on September 11, 2010


Personally, I am much, much, much more likely to hire a petsitter who has a website than one who doesn't (I know you're a dogwalker; I have cats, but I think the process of picking someone to care for a pet is pretty similar.)

I agree that you don't have to do much with it--prices and service areas are most important. I much prefer email to phone communication, so if I have to call a prospective petsitter to find out rates and whether they serve my area, I'll generally just pass.

Do you have any testimonials from customers? Or photos of clients (the dogs, not the people)? Those kinds of things can make you seem more legitimate and approachable (in my opinion).

And nthing that Google Sites are pretty easy to set up. Personally, I think a very simple website would be fine.

Good luck!
posted by devotion+doubt at 3:19 PM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a customer, I would vastly prefer a dog walker who has his/her own webpage.

- Even if it's just one page, it signals that you're a person who can get stuff done and take care of things. A drugged-out dopehead would probably not bother with registering a domain and putting up a webpage, but rather put up a post on craigslist to make a buck on the side. I wouldn't want this person to walk my dog!

- You could put up a picture of yourself. Again, you don't have to look like a supermodel, it just shows people that you're clean, friendly, someone to be trusted. This is important for a dog walker, I think.

- If I forget your phone number or rates or whatever, I know where to go to look it up and can be sure that it's correct. Listings somewhere else are often outdated (i.e. person now out of business, moved, now charging higher rates, whatever). Very annoying for customers!

I work freelance myself and it took me one day to put up a really nice webpage to advertise my services. Customers have told me that it makes a good impression.

In conclusion: Yeah man, I think you really need a webpage.
posted by The Toad at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes, you need a website.

Whenever I search for a business on compilation websites.. i'm almost always looking for their own personal website. Not an advertisement among 10 others; but also something more personal then that.

Often times I'm looking for pictures of the person/building. I connect easier if I know who to look for, when I go looking for a service.. or who to expect to come to my house.

If you want some hand-holding or advice on how to get your own website up, feel free to mefimail me and we'll brainstorm.
posted by royalsong at 3:25 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just FYI, a company I worked for was hiring some freelancers. Not dog walkers. But they scratched off a few who didn't have their own website or clear reference info. It just looks way more professional when you have one central location for all this.

Microsoft will give you free website building tools and hosting over at http://officelive.com. You have to pay $15/year for the domain. $15 is more than other domains would cost you, but the hosting makes it worth it. That's where I originally set up my website.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:47 PM on September 11, 2010


Actually, it's completely free (no $15 domain) if you want to sign up on their domain. It would look omething like bostonterrier.web.officelive.com
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:48 PM on September 11, 2010


I'm the type of person who, if presented with two different dog walker recommendations from friends, would look them up on the internet. If you don't have your own website, I am much less likely to take you seriously. Wrongly so, perhaps, but jus'sayin'.

It doesn't have to be anything special, in fact the simpler the better. Just don't remind me of geocities and/or use comic sans.

Is it possible that you have a friend who would be willing to design a very simple website for you for a small fee? Maybe it's just the type of company I keep, but I would find it hard to believe if you don't know someone with html experience. Hell, one might even do it just because they like you.
posted by sunshinesky at 4:31 PM on September 11, 2010


Having your own website would help you centralize control over your image. For instance, when I went looking for roofers a few months ago, I eliminated a few contractors because the only thing I could dig up on them were bad reviews.

If they'd had their own website, they could've put up testimonials from happy customers, pictures of their work, and maybe a tips & advice section to draw in more potential customers.

Or even just a nameplate website with contact information would be nice.
posted by dragonplayer at 5:44 PM on September 11, 2010


Web sites are today's yellow pages and business cards. If you want to be found, if you want to be contacted, yes, you need a website.
posted by SPrintF at 6:07 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I'm looking for a business and the only thing I can find is the yellow-page-type listings, I wonder if they are up to date, since I've seen listings for businesses that I know have closed/moved. If I can find your own website, then I have a greater comfort level.
posted by CathyG at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2010


An option that might work well for you is a service put out by Flavors.me. It lets you setup a place for you to link to your LinkedIn/FB/Twatter/etc without having to build a site. Sort of an e-business card you can hand out. They have a free version but if you want to use your own domain name it's a paid feature.
posted by msbutah at 9:01 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


How long have you been in business without a web site? Is that working out for you -- do you have the number and quality of clients you want?

I keep wishing my cat sitter had a web site. FWIW, I think a list of quotes from actual customers/references, along with information about you that would let me know enough about your heart to trust 100% that you would take good care of my pet and always be gentle (but not a pushover) would be very helpful.
posted by amtho at 11:14 PM on September 11, 2010


I dig Weebly.com, use it myself, have turned lots of folks on to it. It's easy, and free. What more could you want? And yes, you need a website.
posted by dbiedny at 7:11 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another vote for yes. When I look for a service (e.g. housecleaning, guys to lift heavy objects) on Craigslist, I definitely prioritize the ones with the web pages. Those people look more serious. I.e. a webpage says that you have walked dogs before, and walk dogs regularly -- rather than, after a few beers on Friday, thinking, "hey, I know how I can make a few extra bucks!!"
posted by kestrel251 at 9:42 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


All right, a web site there shall be. I'm buying my domain name today.
Thanks, responders, for the gentle boot to the arse.
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:01 PM on September 12, 2010


My partner set up a dog walking business a couple of years ago & I helped her build the website. Now about 90% of her customers come via the website, and at least 50% mention it without even being asked. This is kind of a pet (ha!) topic of mine, but to put it in a nutshell: in business where, traditionally, you might not need a website, you can absolutely clean up by having a great website. Mefi-mail me if you want to chat about it.
posted by primer_dimer at 12:47 PM on September 12, 2010


Behold.

All hail Weebly!
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:50 PM on September 17, 2010


I think that looks really nice.
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 PM on September 17, 2010


Great! I would totally hire you. Um, if I had a dog. Or lived in Grand Rapids.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:03 AM on September 18, 2010


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