How to ask a small business to improve their website.
Sorry if this is dumb question, but I couldn't find any articles on this subject in other forums. Anyway, I'm wondering how I should ask or present myself to a small business so that I can improve their website, and I can gain more experience in web development.(btw... I will be offering to improve the website for free.)
Firstly, make darn sure you actually can improve their site. I can't tell you how many "web development companies" have contacted me suggesting they can improve my business web site. I ask them "what specifically do you think needs improvement, and what would you do?", and they instantly shut down. They haven't even looked at my site, it turns out, they have just found m somehow as a local business.
Once you've got a plan, then I see nothing wrong with contacting them, showing them your portfolio, and making the offer. Keep in mind "free" is not going to be free for them; they have to spend time with you, deal with testing/debugging your implementation, etc. So even though you may be thinking "how could they refunse?" don't be too put off if they don't accept the offer.
I'd add to tracknut's suggestion: Do it! I.e. Produce an off-line demo version of their site as you would design it, and take it with you on a laptop. Also, I'd exclude eCommmerce sites, because the owners are unlikely to move an eCommerce site unless they are already p****d off with their existing developers. Even then, they would be mad to risk their business on a "free trial" site. Instead I'd focus particularly on those that look like a self-build. That is, if you are just looking for experience and something to put in your portfolio.
P.s. Also, you may think that your version of the site is better, but I'd also get third-party confirmation of the suitability of the look-and-feel and useability of your opus first!
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