I see it everywhere online, products, services, businesses. Professional, built to a professional standard. I use it myself, which is the oddest part. The thing is, I absolutely hate the word. The reason being that when I think of professional, I see it as ‘top class’ and ‘high quality’. This is pretty much how everyone seems to look at it.
One of my main services that I offer is SEO, and almost every company I deal with needs this as a service. In fact, basic onsite SEO is what I see as a basic practice for any website I build. The reasoning is simple.
A website’s goal is not just so people can see your business online, but also so that your business can be found online by people searching for it. You don’t necessarily have to be number 1 in the game on the search engines, but basic SEO will allow people to find you when they look for your company directly.
So what’s the point?
People have professional websites made for them by professional web developers, which fit the developer’s personal standards for professionalism. This might sound crazy, but the more I see this kind of thing in action, the more ludicrous it seems.
I have seen professional adverts, by advertising specialists, on their preferred platform claiming that they can target an audience perfectly, with high engagement. These adverts go out to the wrong people, ie, other advertisers like myself, and are ignored, leading to a waste of thousands of pounds, and no engagement. But why is this? These adverts are professional! Surely they should be reaching their target audience! But the thing is, they don’t, because they aren’t being targeted well.
It’s not hard to be a professional. Anyone who’s ever made money in any line of work can call themselves that. I am a professional website designer, working for many different companies, a professional social media manager, and a professional advertiser. I am an amateur actor and musician in the independent film industry. The difference between an amateur and a professional is that the professional is getting paid. If you’ve ever worked with anyone else, you will know you work with some amazing awesome people, as I did working at Open Space Advertising in Wivenhoe, but then again you can meet some people who somehow manage to just about cling on to their jobs in other areas, people you wouldn’t trust to look after your worst enemy. These people, as much as you may detest them, are professionals if they are being paid to provide their services.
This means that professional is a flexible word, with flexible standards of application. In marketing terms, it’s a buzz word. It sounds good, proper and well, professional. I hate that it makes me cringe thinking about how much I use the word personally!
I use this word when I describe my services, but recently I have been thinking that maybe it’s not the best way… The way I want people to see the word when I write it is: I want people to see me as someone who can get the job done to a high standard. This is how people see it whenever they read it. This isn’t a problem for me, but this is slowly becoming a problem when selling one’s services using the word. The more the word is used, I feel the more people begin to associate it with the snake oil trap that is modern marketing.
When I have to fix ‘professionally made’ websites, it’s not because they’re good, it’s because they’re bad. When I have to add in SEO, connect to Google Search Console. When I have to fix issues where angry ex-admins are logging in and putting up disgraceful things and gambling links… These people are ‘professionals’ they get paid, and then they betray the very people who fed them. This behaviour, I see as unprofessional, however, these people are paid regularly, so it’s the behaviour of some professionals. Some, not all, which gives the word a bad name.
At the end of the day, I hate the fact that over half of the people I end up working for have been abused and used by people claiming to be professional. I take pride in the professionalism of my services, and the quality and time I put in. I use the word to describe myself, I am a professional. I produce what I see as professional results, and I always endeavour to give good value for money. I just wish other people had a high standard of professionalism, especially when it comes to what I see as the bare minimum – the bare bones basics a web designer should put in with their work.
I have seen websites people have paid staggering sums of money for with many internal broken links, no SEO, errors, missing images, massive spacing, slow loading speeds for multiple reasons, popups, showing who the web designer was and other glaring flaws. I build my websites in WordPress mainly for smaller companies, and I always make sure they have the basics, and a quality of service I can be proud of giving. I don’t want someone to have to come back and undo my work because it’s ugly or inefficient.
My clients even retain the rights to the website should they terminate dealing with me. I don’t claim to own the intellectual property, because I own the money that was paid to me for my services. I’m a mercenary people can hire if they want quality. Not a blackmailer hiding in shadows, looking to grasp every last penny, my dagger to the throats of the unwary. I save that sort of thing for the stage! The strange thing is that I see this behaviour all too often from people who describe themselves as professionals, usually with a large group of friends and family who swear blind these people are professional on their Google and Facebook Reviews.
Being a digital marketer, web designer and jack of all trades necessary to make me efficient enough to survive in the clown fiesta of my business, I know how hard it is out there. I work hard enough to get myself returning clients, word of mouth, and many other people coming on board. I don’t believe in screwing the customer over. If a person wants to leave me, that’s their decision and I respect that, I am happy to have worked for them, and that’s that. Others will do anything they need to get as much money as they can. I used to call this “Squeezing the Juice” because the phrase has always bothered me and the practice does for much the same reason. It’s like someone grabbing another person represented by an orange or kiwi, and squeezing the juice out of them. Taking everything from them. This is unnecessary and a rather sinister business practice, as it not only wounds them but it can make reviews look messy.
I will probably still refer to myself as professional, and my services as professional. My standards of professionalism are high enough for me to take pride in that. This is probably more a word of warning when it comes to professionalism across the internet. There are a million people who make money selling snake oil online. In the past, professionals have sold me snake oil in services, books, and software. Just be careful who you trust online, and always look up a company before trusting too much in them.
Have a lovely day, and stay safe!
I’m a social media marketing specialist based in Wivenhoe, the CEO of Fantasoft and wannabe space adventurer.