Freelance Web: Try Something New

Once your web development business is thriving you are still going to have some down time. Sometimes I just take the day off, but often I’ll work on my website, my wife’s website or just try something new. By new I mean something I have not tried programming before or something new with regard to functionality on a website, something new for me. “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and in most cases that’s true for websites too, but it may be new for you.

When Albert Einstein was asked how he came up with original ideas he replied, “I don’t know. I’ve only ever had one.”

The great thing about building websites professionally is that very often you are asked to do something you’ve never done before and would have not even thought to do. So you’re always learning and being challenged and having fun if you love programming and building websites.

Recently, I was asked to build a directory website using WordPress. One of my client’s requests was to have a form that new organizations could use to sign up. Easy enough. Slap a form on the page and you’re ready to go. But the client did not want to have to enter that information again, so using a form plugin was not going to work.

With WordPress there are usually many ways to do the same thing. I was also using Advanced Custom Fields (ACF), opens new window to add many more fields to my custom post. Ideally, what I wanted was for the user to fill out a form that would automatically create the custom post I needed in draft form. Then the client could look over the submitted information and if it was good, publish the post. I could have taken the time to set up my own form for the user and then have it do all this. But after a little research I found out ACF has a handy little helper function for a form, opens new window. It was easy to add this to a page. Very cool.

But it got me thinking. It just seems like this is a very good functionality. How else could this be used? My wife sells books and I started thinking about her website, but nothing came to mind. Then I started thinking about my website (probably in the shower) and came up with an idea. Honestly, I’m not even sure if it’s a good idea, but I liked it.

What I decided to do was set up custom post for web evaluations and inquiries. On the front of the site I use ACF’s form function so that my potential customers can fill out the form. Once they do that, I added some of my own programming to alert me with an email. But here’s where the fun comes in. I also added a bunch of custom fields to this custom post that allow me to respond. If the potential client wants a web evaluation or has questions, I can respond with text and images. If they want estimates, I can respond with tasks, hours and cost.

So what I’m planning, and no one has filled out the form yet (it’s about 6 hours old), is to respond on the custom post, password protect it and then send the potential client a link with the password.

I’ve also set up the same page so I can use it to send potential customers information about a potential website even if they didn’t fill out the form. I can use this to “cold call” potential clients with something far more personal than a generic, spam email.

So all this was fun to do. It may not amount to anything on my website, but it has given me another potential solution for new and current clients who come to me with similar or unusual requests looking for a solution. Time well spent!

Check out the form and take a look at what my response to a potential client might look like (use password: test1234).

Cheers!

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