We talked to Karr Fager of Digital Red Panther on how to get an attractive website that drives action and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Karr Fager: My family and I are doing great right now. Everyone is safe and healthy, and we are doing our best to make the most of the time.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Digital Red Panther.
Karr Fager: I started building websites when I was a young teenager. My brothers all had several side-project websites, and that was originally what had peaked my interest in the internet space. I started out with some small blogging websites built with basic WordPress themes. However, I did not really understand how search engines like Google worked until my early college years, which is when I started to have some success in attracting web traffic to my fitness affiliate website. After graduating from college, I went all in on digital marketing, and I applied to just about every SEO job in the area. Four months into the job search, I landed a job at a digital marketing agency in the legal space as an SEO Specialist. My job was to audit client websites, perform local search engine optimization, and an assortment of other SEO tasks. A year and a half later, I quit the agency job and started Digital Red Panther, a web design and SEO company that builds sleek websites that are designed to get results for businesses.
How does Digital Red Panther innovate?
Karr Fager: My company is on the front end of the no-code web development movement. I use a website platform called Webflow, which allows you to build fully customizable websites from the front end without actually writing the code. Webflow allows me to be able to create any design for any business while also optimizing the websites for search engines. Whenever there is a new development in the movement, I am usually aware of it.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Karr Fager: The business was still relatively young when the pandemic hit. My original target customer was the local professional service businesses. Unfortunately, businesses in the state I conduct business in were forced to close their storefront for several months as part of an effort to slow the spread of COVID. At that point, there was panic, and there was also an opportunity. A lot of businesses lost lots of revenue from having to shut down, and those businesses were in no shape to start a large website project. However, there were still lots of opportunities. I took my skills and the resources I had available and started approaching startup ventures. The thinking was that startups either had money saved up and didn’t need immediate revenue or that they were already fully funded. It turns out that this strategy worked as well as I could have imagined. I found a couple of startups that were in need of websites, as well as a few other businesses that were having success at this time.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Karr Fager: In the beginning stages, I did have to make some tough decisions about which projects to take on and which to walk away from. This is a tough decision because if you say no to a project, and then there are no new projects in the coming weeks, I am not profiting much during that time. The flip side of that is that I could say yes to a lower budget project, and I am missing out on possibly larger budget work.
From this, I have learned to be smarter when scheduling future work down the road. I now understand which projects I should say yes to and which to say no to. I also have a better grasp of when to notice red flags in potential customers.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?
Karr Fager: I have become a lot better project manager since the beginning of the year. Getting projects in and out quickly while still doing high-quality work that provides value has been very important. Tracking time in an Excel or Google Sheets document helps me stay on task and have a better understanding of where I should and shouldn’t prioritize time.
I have also used Zeplin on a couple of projects, which dramatically increases communication efficiency between clients and myself. The web design is clear for all to see, and we can both make clear and concise comments in the app, which means we don’t have to fumble through messy email chains and take screenshot after screenshot to communicate our ideas.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Karr Fager: When I originally started this business, I considered all web designers within a 15-mile radius, my competitor. In truth, nothing has changed except the way that I think about it. I honestly do not think of other web designers as competitors. If I am providing value to customers, I will be able to stay in the game for as long as I want. No matter what I do, I always consider whether or not it brings value to my clients. If it doesn’t, and it won’t in the long-term, then I don’t do that thing.
I would estimate that 9/10 of the resources that I produce, be it articles, videos, or social media content, is helpful for other web designers. And I believe if I continue to provide value not only for business owners but also web designers, opportunities will arise in the future that will allow me (and other web designers) to profit for a long time to come.
Your final thoughts?
Karr Fager: I am a big proponent of making the most of the circumstances we are dealt with. Complaining and making excuses is not going to help, no matter what the circumstances are. If you want your business to be successful in the long run, you have to be prepared for and be able to battle through the tough months, and if you can do that, you have a lot better shot of being in business for a long time to come.
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