By Stephen Spry
Remember… It WAS 1996, and the Internet was new fangled technology!
Back then my first 14.4k modem cost $400… fax machines were the size of photocopiers… and mobile phones were as big as bricks and cost a fortune (well the good ones still do)!
At the time, I lived in the western suburbs of Sydney Australia, and with my first online venture not earning too much of anything… and after a fair bit of head scratching about how I can earn some money… I started “chatting” to local businesses about getting online.
And there were not too many web designers around at that time.
This whole Internet thing was so new that I spent an extraordinary amount of time simply “teaching” people about what the Internet was about, and how it could help them in business.
I made presentations to local chambers of Commerce, to trade Association conferences, to all sorts of people, telling them about this new fan-dangled technology known as the world wide web!
While people were fairly interested in it… they really did NOT want to part with any cash on something that wasn’t “proven”… You know… this Internet thing was probably only a fly-by-night fad anyway!
I also discovered very early on the pressures facing small businesses when deciding what to spend their advertising budget on… and a web site wasn’t anywhere on the list… and not even on the horizon at that time!
I needed to demonstrate how the Internet could be useful to LOCAL businesses… Let’s face it… what point was it to a local business getting enquiries from the other side of the world???
Say “Hi” To SydWest
So “SydWest” was born – and between June 1996 and 2001 provided local people with information about what was going on in their very own backyard!
SydWest was one of the very first local web sites on the ‘net – ever!
I even actually beat CitySearch to the Local Search Market!!!
And it gave me a great opportunity to cold call any local business, and speak to the owner very easily… I just asked
“I’m compiling a free directory of local businesses… so what’s your URL?”
Since most receptionists had absolutely NO idea what I was talking about, I often got through to the owner to talk to them about it… and explain what the net was… etc etc etc.
Thankfully, I got some good work out of it at the time.
Fast forward to now…
Even though the site is no more, I’m still in touch with, and doing work for, some of the clients I picked up from way back then.
SydWest actually got me “started” in the web-design business (which naturally I still do today, although I mainly work on my own projects these days).
It also provided enough income to get me through to when Google started giving money away in mid 2003 with their Adsense program…
And thank goodness for that too, because the web design market was becoming a bit of a wild, wild west minefield around the turn of the century (gosh now THAT makes me sound so-o-o old) at a time when the dot.com boom was in full swing!
It ALSO helped me develop and hone my Perl/cgi programming skills so I could do all sorts of fancy “back-end” things with all the data I was collecting. A skill I still use on many of my websites today!