You Get What You Pay For


I learned an important lesson this week.

In my role as a professional web designer, I do my best to respect my clients’ budgets. I know that not everyone has $40,000 laying around for a website. Sometimes – especially when using an open-source system like WordPress – you’ll find there are multiple ways to get the job done. For example, if you want a plug-in that can modify your functions.php file, a quick search will turn up half a dozen viable options. And usually there’s at least one free option that will work out just fine. No need to pass along the cost of a premium plug-in to the customer. Everybody wins.

But on my latest project we ran into a problem. My client needs to offer financing options by means of a subscription system – the end user should be able to pick between 36, 60, and 120-month financing options. Each comes with a different monthly cost, of course. So, as I usually do, I browsed the plug-in marketplace and found that there were a number of options that promised to handle subscriptions. And since my client wanted to use Stripe as the payment processor, and Stripe also offers the ability to set up subscriptions, I wanted to use a plug-in that would allow my client to manage the subscriptions from Stripe’s back-end while offering his customers the ease-of-use that comes from a WooCommerce front-end.

I went through iteration after iteration, changed countless settings, chased that rabbit as far down the rabbit hole as I could go. Multiple plug-ins. Multiple configurations.

Nothing. Nada. Couldn’t get it to work.

I had to admit defeat.

And, in the end, my client had to shell out $199 for the “official” WooCommerce Subscriptions plug-in. And guess what? It works! Out of the box!

It was truly a case of “you get what you pay for”. I spent hours trying to get the free plug-ins to do something that they simply couldn’t do and honestly I’m going to take the hit for some of those hours – no sense in billing my client for the time it took to experiment with the free options. Chalk it up as a learning experience.

That’s not to say that all free WordPress plug-ins are bad, or that paid options are always better. But if you’re a WordPress designer/developer, don’t forget that sometimes it might cost you and your client more in the time and labor it takes to force workarounds for free plug-ins when you could just pay for the one that works right away.



False Averages and Consensus

Photo credit: Curtis Gregory Perry via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

I know, I know – if you wanted to read Seth Godin all the time, you’d just visit his blog.

I can’t think of many writers who I turn to every single day for inspiration, new perspectives, or to refresh my commitment than Seth.

His post today was on point, as always:

Yes, there are true averages (like how high to mount a doorknob). But more often than not, trying to please everyone a little is a great way to please most people not at all.

And it’s true! I worked with someone once who always talked about consensus within the organization. Like averages, a consensus isn’t always a bad thing. But a consensus can be downright fatal as well! In the same way that using a middle-ground product or service to please two groups of people with opposite preferences leaves none satisfied, forcing a consensus between two groups of people with opposing viewpoints can produce an action plan that nobody cares to undertake. You’ll leave the meeting feeling good because perhaps you avoided conflict or appeased the centrist minority, but guess what – your project is dead on arrival.

Sometimes you need to accept that your one group might need to pursue more than one course of action, or perhaps the group simply needs to split into two.

Trello for Desktop is here!


It was supposed to be available on 9/14.

I checked all day…refresh, refresh, refresh…and nothing.

Then, I thought maybe it would become available on my birthday.


So this morning I saw that Trello for Desktop (for Windows) was finally available!


I’ll spend some time playing around with it some more, but I really like the idea of having the application open and being able to work in my boards locally with changes being synced to the web.

I also like one of their newest features, which is embedding cards. I’m going to give it a test run right now.

Video production card template

Do you use Trello? What are your favorite features? What power-ups do you use on a daily basis?

100 Days


I’ve been running WaltersWorks in various forms since 2012, but I’ve only been full-time for the last 100 days.

What have I learned in that time?

A bunch, that’s what. I’ll try to break it down in this blog post.

Be patient.

When you’re working a 9-5 job and your business is just a side hustle, you’ve got plenty on your plate to keep you busy. But when you step out on your own…

…it’s often a waiting game.

I’m a pretty level-headed guy, but when your income is project-based and you’re waiting for feedback, approval, payment, etc. I do find myself starting to panic when things are moving slowly.

It’s the nature of the game, though. Several of my projects have pushed well past six months because I’m never going to tell my clients to hurry up. Even when I need that money to come in.

I never let projects fall off track, though. Even if it’s just a reminder email, a quick phone call, or a text to say “hi”, I make sure to give my clients subtle prods. And they seem to appreciate it!

Doug. Your constant reminders keep me on track.

That’s what I’m here for.

Be flexible…

I started out just designing web sites. But over time, I’ve generalized my services – a lot. Once I went full-time I found myself doing work that I never thought I would do. I was transcribing audio files, taking photographs and shooting video, narrating videos, managing social media accounts…even basic computer troubleshooting. I wasn’t going to turn down any work that landed in front of me.

Generalizing like that has helped me to extend my network. I’ve connected with individuals and business owners who have passed along my name to their friends and professional contacts. Doing good work – any kind of work – will get you further ahead than simply waiting for the kind of work you’d rather be doing to show up.

…but know when to specialize.

A month or two ago, I sat down with a mentor from SCORE. One of the things he told me that really stuck with me was not to diversify too much. And he’s right – eventually, every generalist has to specialize. All of the odd jobs I was doing came with a wide variety of hourly rates. I was making anywhere from $5 to $60 an hour depending on the source of the work. I reached a point where I had to cut something out…so I ditched the low-paying transcription work in favor of more specialized web projects.

I still think it was valuable for me to take a wide range of gigs at the onset. Bills to pay, you know? But you have to be ready to transition as opportunities to specialize become available. At some point, you’re going to have to say no to the gigs that aren’t getting you ahead.

Maximization vs. optimization

This idea came to me courtesy of Seth Godin’s blog.

Capitalism sometimes seeks competitive maximization instead. Who cares if you burn out, I’ll just replace the part…

That’s not a good way to treat people we care about, or systems that we rely on.

Reflecting on my various careers, it’s true that we often find ourselves pressured – internally and externally – to maximize. Put the pedal to the metal and churn out as much work as you can, work those nights, work those weekends, churn, churn, churn!

What I found is that burnout is real, and when you reach a point where you can optimize, do it.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Are you an early riser or a night owl? Figure it out, and then set up your schedule so that you’re working at the optimum time for you, not based on somebody else’s schedule. Find balance. Make time for you – time to prepare, time to relax, and time to reflect. They say when it comes to finances, you should always pay yourself first. The wise man budgets his time in the same way.

Keep learning.

You never know when the industry you work in will be disrupted. Working in a tech field, I’m sure that the work I do will be automated more and more to the point where web design is literally as easy as making toast. Younger generations are going to enter the working world and they won’t need me to publish across their social channels. Taking photos and videos won’t require a trained eye (heck – they already don’t).

During these first 100 days, I’ve made it a priority to keep learning. I’ve also made a point to keep teaching. Nothing ignites my passion more than learning something new and then sharing it with others. Who knows what the next 5, 10, or 50 years will look like – but as long as I have an open mind and my eyes fixed on the road ahead rather than the road behind, I’ll be okay.