Updated: Sep 5, 2022
Former colleagues were surprised when I left academic librarianship to become a web designer. Its true: I’ve taken a non-traditional path to job web design and marketing. I wouldn’t recommend going into debt for a liberal arts degree, but in the early aughts you could still feasibly work your way through a four year degree without debt. My B.A. in history honed my ability to research, think creatively, and communicate clearly. My masters degree focused on emerging technology, human behavior, information theory, and non-profit management. I gained knowledge in copyright and market research through job training and professional development.
As a working class girl, I never considered business as a career. My dad dismissively called ties leashes. I had a negative stereotype, perpetuated by the media, of marketers and PR people as predators: status-driven, dishonest, manipulative.
My business partner, the founder of TAO Websites, had experience in academia, nonprofits, and the business world before launching her own web design and marketing company. She built up a client base because of her trustworthiness, creativity, and work ethic. Her ability to clearly communicate useful information helped her clients reach their
audience without breaking the bank. By helping her clients at a price they could afford, she was able to serve entire communities and advance some pretty cool projects. I was honored when she asked me to join her brand. While I had taken classes in design of complex websites in graduate school, it never occurred to me that the skills I developed in my career could be used in this way.
I began reading all I could to fill the gaps in my professional knowledge. One of the books I’m reading, recommended by a marketing professor, is The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott. It helped me understand why, as a society, we have such a negative stereotype of marketing, and how successful marketing doesn’t have to be flashy, annoying, or expensive: it just has to be useful content that a target audience can find! Meerman Scott says that in the old PR and marketing paradigm, “the skills that worked offline to help you buy or beg or bug your way into opportunity are the skills of interruption and coercion.” Ick! I don’t know about you, but I hate being interrupted or coerced. But, things have changed. Meerman Scott believes that “online success comes from thinking like a journalist and publishing amazing content that will brand you as an organization or person it would be a pleasure to do business with” (p. 3). Unlike the old paradigm, in the new paradigm, trustworthy businesses with useful products can succeed by presenting an authentic picture of themselves and talking about what they do. A lot can be accomplished with a mobile phone and some creativity. Meerman Scott goes into more details about the formats and techniques for digitally engaging audiences, and I highly recommend the book.
My business partner hasn’t read Meerman Scott’s book, but developed a similar philosophy from her own experience. A web designer since 2002, she got the idea to offer web design and marketing services full-time after working for many small businesses and nonprofits who needed these services but didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to invest in big budget super-sites. By leveraging current technologies and developing efficient systems, TAO Websites is able to keep our prices affordable while reaching clients’ target audiences with engaging content. We’re here to help our clients and their stories shine.