Detroit is having a small business renaissance as local entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market and help to revitalize the city’s economy. Thousands of current and soon-to-be business owners attended Startup Week Detroit this summer, and small business investment and grants are flowing into the area. Even in such a supportive environment, starting a successful business takes a lot of work, careful planning, and good advice from experienced small-business owners. We asked two experienced Detroit solopreneurs, DeAndre Glover of Jireh Photography and Tracey Patterson of Tranndee Tech, to share their website tips for new business owners.
1. Show your work
Wedding photographer DeAndre Glover understands that the images he captures are “not just snapshots but actual art” featuring his clients on their special day. To make the point clearly and show prospective clients what he can do for them, his company’s website (jirehphotography.com) has a huge image gallery filled with shots ranging from bridesmaids posing with attitude to sweeping chapel images and romantic first-dance photos.
Glover said he set up his site within six months of starting his business to generate leads. “My website has definitely been my calling card. The majority of the time clients tell me, ‘I’ve been on your website and love your work. I want to hire you.’” He recommends that all photographers have a website that features “a strong portfolio, straight-to-the-point information about your services, and a few ways to contact you.”
2. Build your brand
Tracey Patterson’s background includes teaching and writing about computer technology, marketing, and web site design. She specializes in site design and one-on-one technology tutoring. Her website (www.tranndee.com) has a deliberately clean and simple design to appeal to customers who want help but may find computers and flashy websites intimidating.
The site’s streamlined appearance is an important branding element, because it helps her business stand out in a field with “lot and lots of competition for web design and web marketing.” She recommends that other new businesses include a strong homepage, opt-in tools (such as a contact form) for customers to reach you, and ongoing search engine optimization for better visibility in search results.
3. Choose reliable service partners
Both Glover and Patterson use HostGator to host their business websites. Each said they initially chose HostGator because we offered the best prices, but they stayed with us for other reasons. “You can always reach customer service and the control panel is easy to work with,” Patterson said. “They provide stellar service and support,” Glover said. Because their sites are such important elements of their marketing programs, reliable service and usability are crucial.
4. Know where your leads are coming from
Like many small businesses, Jireh Photography and Tranndee Tech get most of their leads from word of mouth. Glover’s wedding photography business also gets lots of referrals from social media to his site. Jireh’s Facebook page features samples of Glover’s work, wedding-planning tips, and special events like bridal expos where engaged couples can meet Glover in person. Patterson says she gets a large number of leads from keyword searches, and she also links her Tranndee Tech site to her LinkedIn professional profile to show her extensive IT and training background.
5. Keep learning and keep improving
Patterson and Glover both say that the key to success is continual growth and improvement. The best thing new professional photographers and other creative business owners can do, Glover says, is to “study your craft endlessly and let your work speak for itself. Love what you do and the money will come.” A steady pace is important, too. “Don’t doubt yourself, and do a little bit every day,” Patterson said. That’s a formula for individual small-business success and perhaps also for Detroit’s rebirth as a hub of creative new businesses.