I recently returned from Paris. I was there partly for work and partly for fun. WordCamp Europe (WCEU), the largest international WordCamp, was held there; and I was determined to attend. Going to the event not only offered me the opportunity to scratch an item off my bucket list, but it also gave me the chance to gain a different perspective on the benefits of agency work.
Ever since reading “The Sun Also Rises,” I admittedly have had an obsession with Paris. Not that this is any different from many people I know. The city becomes a goal to attain to anyone who has watched a movie, read a book, or simply enjoys quality food. It is a vista to experience and a culture to be savored.
Boarding the plane in Philadelphia, I had some grand plans. I mapped out itineraries and made lists of things to see and do. I was ready for the city, but I soon learned that Paris was not ready for me.
Before I go any further, I want to say that I loved Paris. It was in so many ways familiar and yet in so many ways unknown. It was a true adventure. WCEU was amazing. The team in Europe surely put together an event for the ages, but that’s not what this story is about. Here’s the tale I want to tell.
As I was following my very-well-executed Google maps and trotting through the Parisian streets, it seemed as though my exploration was completely obtainable. My Google map said it was about three hours of walking overall. I figured by allotting enough time at each stop that I would be putting in a full day. I was fine with walking, because I had new sneakers that were ready for the cobblestone. However, it didn’t take me long to learn otherwise. Forty thousand steps later, I was sunburned, tired, sore, and only halfway through what I wanted to see.
After a few days of encountering obstacles and fatigue, I finally realized the best thing I could do for myself was book a tour. Let me tell you, getting on that air conditioned tour bus was glorious. The guide told stories, and I learned so much about the history of Paris. I didn’t have to work at vacationing or make decisions. I was carried through the day. It was worth every Euro.
The experience of taking on Paris alone and then transitioning to booking a tour parallels what a client experiences when hiring a design and development agency like WebDevStudios. See, people often ask me why they should go with an agency as opposed to developing or redesigning a website themselves. It is WordPress after all, an easy content management system (CMS) with a famous five-minute install. But, this is what I learned in Paris and what you should consider before taking on a website development project alone:
I knew enough French to get by in Paris. The usual “Bonjour. Ça va?” etc. When I started to put it into practice, however, it was so hard. I had to strain to listen to conversations and was only catching every couple of words. My sentences ended up coming out like a muddled mess. I was able to communicate the best I could, but I certainly realized that knowing the language would have made it so much more enjoyable. It’s not enough to just know things, you also have to understand them. The same is true for WordPress. If you can know the basics, you can muddle through. You can create some pretty amazing things. But when you truly understand this CMS with all its intricacies and possibilities, that is when the magic happens.
What I didn’t know from my Google maps were the length of Parisian city blocks, the hills and construction I would encounter, and the condition of the roads. Also, even though I knew it was going to be three hours of walking, it really equated to much more than I had anticipated. The map wasn’t enough and neither was the planning.
If I would have taken the time to talk to someone and have them show me how to maneuver, it may have been more realistic. My expectations were very high for myself and when I didn’t meet them, I was left feeling frustrated. Think about wanting to build your own website. You research, you plan, you prepare. The one thing lacking is experience. Having that extra element of knowledge is the difference between ending the day with a croissant and cafe or ending the day with blisters.
Turns out while I was in Paris, they had a heat wave, which was not expected. You know what else they don’t usually have in Paris? Air conditioning!
While staying in my Airbnb, it occurred to me that I never thought about asking about central air. It was 99 degrees just about the whole time I was there. I didn’t pack correctly for this weather. No matter how much research I did, I could not have been prepared for this unexpected occurrence. I am from North East USA and my body does not do well with high temperatures.
If you take on a website development project on your own, expect the unexpected to derail your project, and you need to be prepared to handle it.
I was only in Pairs for seven days. I had a very sensitive timeline. I tried to cram everything in, no matter what the cost. The problem was that it was impossible. I had a very unrealistic timeline set for myself, and because of all the factors mentioned above, I kept going off schedule.
When you are traveling, you can’t phone a teammate to take over some of the work. No one can walk or sight-see for you. You have it do it solo. You can maybe get an Uber to help with transportation or have food delivered to you, but these are just things to help make the work of vacationing easier. They aren’t going to accomplish the actual vacation for you. There is beauty in having a team to depend upon, and it certainly helps to keep you on schedule.
After all the planning, research, and work, I just felt tired at the end of the day. I wanted to enjoy Paris more, but I didn’t take enough time to savor the moment. I felt like I failed slightly and did not feel that sense of true satisfaction at the end of the day.
I realized quickly the value of what an agency does. The years of experience, the knowledge, the mistakes they have made, the successes they have had; all of that results in more comprehensive and fulfilling website development experience.
Paris was amazing and an adventure that I would not trade for the world. I’m glad I did what I did, but I also didn’t have anyone to answer to. This was all about me. And in the end, I’m the only person who suffered for some of the decisions I made and the challenges I encountered.
In the real world, and in relation to websites, we often have to hold ourselves accountable to others. It always seems like a good idea to do something ourselves, and sometimes it is! But sometimes it’s okay to allow yourself to call the tour agency and get on the air conditioned bus.