As a web designer, your goal should be to create websites and clients that last years. In fact, one of the best aspects of being a trusted web designer or agency is the ability to create clients for life.
To help empower us to do this both technically and practically, Anne Stefanyk, CEO of Kanopi.com, an established web agency with currently 45 remote full time staff, shares with us what she’s learned in building a legitimate agency with clients that have lasted years.
Additionally, you’ll hear about how to keep yourself going strong through the years and why it’s so important you as an entrepreneur make sure you’re setting yourself up for the long haul.
In this episode:
03:39 – Greeting Anne
05:27 – Focus on building relationships
07:24 – Maintenance is the beginning
11:38 – What matters most
14:10 – Not working with crusty stuff
15:08 – Tips for redesigning
19:00 – Initial benchmarks
22:07 – Full site lifecycle
23:21 – Customer decision journey
27:40 – Website more a flywheel
29:05 – Change the client mindset
32:19 – Tracking CRM tools
36:19 – Leading back to your site
34:22 – Minimize to maximize
46:52 – Building to sustain
53:08 – Hive network
56:58 – Rewards of hiring out
1:04:22 – The breaking point
1:17:09 – Failure is learning
You can also view the full transcription of this episode below.
Connect with Anne:
Featured links mentioned:
Full Episode Transcription #061
Hey, everybody, welcome into Episode 61. In this one, we’re going to be talking about how to create long lasting websites, as well as long lasting web design clients. This is a topic that I’ve been getting more and more into. And I’ve been sharing more and more about, particularly with the use of hosting and maintenance plans. But I really wanted to dig into this even deeper, because as you will find out as a web designer, it is not and should not be a quick one and done service. When you get a web design client, you should and the relationship should last years. And to take this topic to the next level. And to really talk about how you can make lasting websites and clients, I wanted to bring in somebody who is very, very knowledgeable in this arena. This is Anne Stefanyk and she is the co founder and CEO of a web agency out in San Francisco, California called Kanopi. And man, they are a legit agency. Right now there are 45 full timers strong. And she is really embracing the role of SEO and she’s learned subsequently a lot about how to create awesome websites that last a long time and build their client base to be able to support an agency of this size. And she’s also learned about how to retain the client relationship. So I found this talk fascinating. I just love talking with Anna about this. She just dishes out pure gold, I feel like she is like the quote, Queen seems like every time she had a sentence, she just had an amazing quote to go along with it. So you are gonna, you’re gonna love this talk. We talk about things from a technical perspective on how to actually make your websites last a long time. But we also really get into the weeds with planning and creating a strategy for your clients that will start the relationship for for years to come. And what’s really interesting, make sure you hang around till over halfway in the episode because then we talk about perhaps one of the most important aspects, and that’s how to make sure you and your agency has some longevity and can last and keep up with it. Because you can’t build relationships with clients and make sites that lasts a long time if you burn out and you can’t last a long time. So just get pumped, get inspired and get ready because this talk was awesome. Now, we do talk about this in the interview briefly. But one of the biggest components to creating websites that are going to last and for your business to last is that really strong processes. And I have a web design process course that is my five phase 50 step in depth process on how to build websites from planning them, building them and launching them. And if you need a process to follow, I would love to do that with you and to share my process with you. So I have my web design process course it’s available and open right now for you to join. And you’ll find once you go through the course and once you refine your process, it’s going to save you time, it’s going to make you more profitable, and it’s going to make you a much more confident web designer. So if that sounds interesting to you join the course today, the link will be in the show notes. And I would love to help you with your process and you can just take what’s worked for me and mine. Alright guys, well, without further ado, what is it? What does ado even mean? I always say further ado, I actually don’t even know what that means. Maybe I’ll switch this up instead of saying that. But in any case, enjoy my awesome in depth interview with Anne and man, she was just awesome. And without further ado, let’s get to it.
Anne welcome to the podcast. So great to have you on.
Thanks for having me, Josh.
So I’m looking forward to this chat with you because we’re going to talk about a number of different ways to create long lasting websites, which is crucial for us as web designers, but also for our clients because we don’t want to create something that’s going to need to be redesigned in a year. So I’m really excited to dive in this. This is actually a topic I’ve not really got into that much. So I’m really excited to pick your brain about this and hear about what you’ve learned and what you recommend as well. Before we dive into do you want to let my audience know where you are and what you do?
Sure. So my name is Anne Stefanyk. I’m founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, and we are 100% virtual web agency. We focus on designing, building and supporting websites for clients that want to make an impact. And I’m in San Francisco, California. I also split my time between Victoria, British Columbia, where I’m originally from. So my team is located all across North America. And we’re about a team of 45 full timers.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I looked at your website and most people, most of my colleagues and most people I talked to and work with have a couple subcontractors or maybe four or five team members and I looked at your site and I was like whoa, that’s that’s a whole nother level that’s legit. So I know you’re somebody who is you know, you’re in the weeds of it. And I’m sure you’ve learned a lot in your experience. I’m actually I think it’s a great place to start it out like, I’m sure most designers understand why it’s important to have a site that’s going to last a long time. But in your experience with building this agency up and overseeing a team and growing it, and probably having a lot on how many clients you’ve you’ve built up over the years. But what’s, I guess the first question, why is it important to have a site that’s going to last for the long haul?
Well, I think first off, that’s why we actually have so many employees is because we build sites that last and we focus on building good client relationships. But ultimately, with web technologies that are out there. As long as you’re nurturing and taking care of your website, it should last a long time, I think there’s this common perception that, Oh, I’m just going to build it, and I’m going to let it sit there. And then three to four years later, I have to do a tear down and rebuild. So just like if you bought a house, and you never did anything to your house, probably like 25, 30 years later, the roof is gone. You know, stuff is falling off, the gutters are broken, maybe the doors don’t work anymore. So just like a house, much like a website, we feel like it’s really important just to like nurture it and take care of it. Because if you have a website that lasts, that means that you’re really working to improve it to meet your clients needs.
Yeah, no, I totally agree. And I’m a big proponent of selling website hosting and maintenance plans. And it’s crucial to tell clients and to make clients understand that a website is not just a static graphic, or an image on a page, I’m sure you guys have seen that too. There is there’s quite a lot of work that really goes into changing the client’s perception of what a website is, which I understand before I got into web design, I had no concept of the many layers of a website, whether it’s WordPress, certain themes, the graphics, the, you know, the fact that if you’re using WordPress, it’s not just images and text, there’s the database behind it, there’s a lot of moving elements. So it is so key that it’s maintained. I love your analogy of the house, I often use that. And I know a lot of times I’ll use analogy of a car, like it is something that needs maintain needs, you know, oil and all these all these fixings over the years. Because if it just sits there, first of all, it’s gonna get stale. And eventually it’s more than likely gonna get hacked. So do you guys, do you, just as an aside question, do you guys do hosting and maintenance and do you really persuade your clients into that as well, with thinking about the long term of maintaining it?
For sure. So we believe like maintenance is just the beginning of taking care of your website. So 100%, we actually don’t provide hosting, we work with hosting partners that are specialized in those platforms, because I personally don’t want to wear a pager and answer calls in the middle of the night for hosting stuff. But we work with solid platforms that provide hosting services, specifically in the WordPress world, whether that’s WP Engine, or Pantheon or Platform. These ones have nice workflows, the dev test live workflows. And for developers, it’s really nice, because it provides some version controlling out of the box and some of those one click installs to be able to do your updates. But yeah, we 100% will build it. But we really believe that the day your website goes live is the first day of your project. All of that development work. All of that design work really is only planning because once you get out and you get live, that’s when the rubber hits the road. Like I actually started my agency thinking I was just going to do Drupal. I was like Drupal, Drupal, Drupal I know Drupal. So here I went. And I launched a website that said “We do Drupal”. And then the very first two clients came to me and said, Do you do WordPress as well? And my Shane, who was the contractor who were working with I turned him to change due to WordPress. He’s like, Oh, yeah, I love WordPress. I do it a lot. I love it. I went to the clients that Yep, we do WordPress. And I was into WordPress. And you know, that was about seven or eight years ago. And now half of our business is in WordPress. So we do a lot of it. We love it.
I was just gonna ask Yeah, cuz I looked like you guys were using several different platforms. But obviously WordPress is king in the web design space now. And I know when I got started, I started that with Dreamweaver custom coding sites, and then somebody in 2010 told me you should look into WordPress. And I just thought it sounded kind of weird. I was like, isn’t that just for blogs, and I thought it was gonna be overly complicated. But then in 2012, it was the same for me. Everybody started asking about WordPress. And that seemed to be the year like 2012 was when WordPress really just skyrocketed. And that’s when I got serious about it. So yeah, same for me, it was the same thing. It was like clients started asking about it, I started recognizing that things like Drupal Joomla, some of these other builders in Dreamweaver, they were just so hard. So a platform like that, which this kind of ties into the idea of having something long lasting, you want a platform that’s fairly easy to work with. And it’s customizable, right, like you want to have something that’s gonna gonna be, you know, easy to work with for both both the clients and the developers, but also that’s trusted and that’s one great thing about WordPress in particular, it’s been around for a long time, and it’s only getting better. I feel.
Yeah, and I find that Because it’s always been committed to backwards compatibility, which simply means that it’s easy to upgrade. So WordPress, three to four to five has been fairly easy on our clients, Drupal six to seven to eight has been painful for our clients and very expensive. So we find that if a client is built on WordPress, one of the biggest, like mind shattering concepts is we’ll have someone that comes and knocks on our door virtual door and says, Hi, we want you to rebuild our website. And I look at it, I said, Oh, your built in WordPress, I bet you we don’t actually need to rebuild, we just need to redesign and they go what said, yeah, we can actually save you time and money. Because at Kanopi, we’re really weren’t comfortable working on other people’s code. But we’ll take an inventory of it and say, oh, maybe it just looks like you have some old plugins that are causing some troubles. And there’s some more modern ways to do things. So if we update your WordPress version, and you know, make sure you have a proper theme installed, make sure things are configured properly, we don’t actually have to tear it right down. So it’s just like, you come and you say, oh, I’ve got this house, I want to you know, I want to reimagine my house. Often, we don’t have to take it right down to the studs, we can just like reimagine the kitchen, reimagine the front yard and do some landscaping. And that really allows the clients to get more bang for their buck. And focus on what matters most is usually the front end experience. Because your customers really don’t care if you’re in like WordPress, or three or four or five. But they do need a really good user experience. And your content editors need a really good user experience. So just upgrading WordPress core is often solving a huge chunk of the problems. And then we can focus on what matters most, which is the user experience and design.
Yeah, no, I totally agree. I personally love redesigns because there’s just so much less work when it comes to the planning. And yeah, it can be a pain sometimes to take an old site and revamp it. But if it’s you WordPress, even if it’s a different theme, you can often keep a lot of the components from the old site, particularly if it’s already doing well on Google. You can take a lot of that just transfer the entire entire site, change the theme and then go through you know, step by step. But this kind of leads me to the first question I have when it comes for, for you guys internally, when you think so we’re using WordPress primarily, do you limit the number of tools and themes that you use just internally when it comes to building sites for the long haul because I know for me, I use exclusively WordPress and the Divi Theme by Elegant Themes. My agency, we do not use any other theme. And personally it’s made it very easy to well as easy as possible to scale and to bring other people on because they don’t need to know Elementor or Beaver Builder or some of these other builders, we just have WordPress and Divi and that’s what we use, do you have a certain set of tools that you try to stick within your boundaries just with the idea of keeping sites, you know for longevity purposes.
So mostly we focus on coding standards and best practices. So sometimes when we because we have a bustling support department, we inherit certain themes. We’re definitely a little bit we don’t love working with Beaver Builder as much as we love working with Divi. So we have a standard set of tools that we prefer, but sometimes clients come in and it is what it is. So mostly what we do is we have really good documentation and processes around what what we should be can be using. But if we do get to start from something from scratch, we usually work at least lately, we’ve been working with Gutenberg and making sure that that’s really flexible, and working with pattern libraries, so that we can augment that. So we’ll build out a component library for our teams. And that way, the client can also use those components across different tools. So if they have an app, or if they have other design means they can leverage that component library and we kind of tie it together with Gutenberg. But on the general, we try to just keep it from a best practices. And usually that’s our first is like when we adopt a site and we’re going to work on it for the long haul. We do what we do, we call it a website review. And we go through and we inventory stuff. And sometimes it says you have a really crusty Beaver Builder theme, let’s pull that out and use Debian instead. And then focus on putting that back in in a skillful way versus trying to like, you know, work with real crusty stuff.
I like that I like the crusty term, because that’s a great way to visualize some, you know, crusty websites, there’s no better way to put it. Yeah, that’s great, because I was actually gonna ask you, how do you build a site for the long haul, if it’s a redesign if you’re taking somebody else’s code, so that makes total sense that you’re, you’re kind of instituting your best practices? You’re revamping it towards your standards? Is there anything I think it’s a great question like when it focusing on redesigns taking somebody else’s site or taking a site that’s already been there, what other things would you suggest for improving that for the long haul? I mean, like I said, some sites already have rankings on Google. So you obviously want to make sure not to blow those up. There’s the content side of things which can be edited and added onto we kind of talked about the theme and the design aspect, but are there anything, any other tips for redesigning sites and making them last that you would suggest?
For sure. First off is creating is looking from kind of the four pillars of lighthouse. Coding best practices, search engine optimization, excuse me, as well as accessibility, and performance and content. And content, not just in terms of, we also are starting to help our clients really look at the words they use to make sure their content is inclusive, as well as making sure that a lot of websites that get built when they first get built is a lot of Me, me, me, here’s my business, here’s my services. Here’s my portfolio. And what we’ve been working with clients in order to make it last for the long term and actually make your site really effective is to take a look at it from the lens of who do your client, what are your Who are your clients? What do they need to learn? And how do they need to how can they see themselves better in your website. So you know, accessibility can be both, you know, technical, from putting alt tags on your images to making sure you put your social share links in the right way to making sure that the color contrast is correct. But it also is about using inclusive language, and making sure that if you represent and you work with a certain group of people that they’re representative, the representative represented on your website, and they can kind of see themselves. So we find that like, when you’re really making a site work is means that you kind of take an opportunity, maybe once a quarter, once a month, once every six months, and sit down and look at these four pillars and look at it and say, okay, how’s my accessibility? How’s my content? How is it performing, because if your site is really not performant, you’re going to even if you had great search engine rankings, if it’s not loading as quickly as it needs to, or you don’t have a mobile optimized version, you’re gonna get knocked down on those search rankings very quickly.
Yeah and there’s there’s no point in having a site that’s getting a lot of traffic if it’s not converting. So like, I I just, I said a quote earlier on a video I put out, which is by far the most eloquent quote I’ve ever used, and that is traffic ain’t crap if it doesn’t convert. So it’s really true, like, there’s no sense in getting a bunch of traffic, if it’s not actually turning visitors into customers, for your clients. And I think this and is where web designers can really up their game from just the design the technical aspects to conversion based principles, because this is where like, clients want a nice website, but it’s not near as important as converting, like, as soon as you can start getting your clients traffic to convert with them, that’s when clients really like you. And that’s when you you get clients for life. And then you know, if you can create a site for longevity, then it’s just a win win all around. So yeah, I like those four pillars a lot. It makes a lot of sense, particularly because we’re talking about the technical stuff, which is really important. But equally, if not more important is the conversion base aspects. Are you a fan of a story brand? And the idea of conversion based kind of…
Yes, I’m a big fan of the story brand model actually. I found that when I, we kind of investigated that as a team to help our clients with more clarity in their messaging. Because it was really about, you know, how do you position your first tagline your first content right there that helps people understand. So our tagline is, “It’s time to get excited about your website, again”, because so many of our marketers are burned or jaded or overwhelmed. They feel like their websites a chore they feel like they’re chasing people. So you know, when our clients, our new clients, they open up our website, and they go, Oh, you’re good. Oh, we’re gonna get excited about our website again. Okay, let’s do it. Because like, right now, it’s a total pain in the butt. So you know, and it’s fun, because we also believe in really measuring what matters. So when we do that first intake with new clients, and whether they’re we’re rebuilding or restarting, is that we do some initial benchmarks like, Where are you on the search engine rankings? Where are you on your accessibility score? How are you doing from a performance standpoint, and then, you know, measuring that, and then when we launch or when we make changes, three months later, showing that progress. You know, if you’re converting, you know, if you have 100, people that fill out your contact form every every month, but only five of them are quality. What happens if we get 50 of them to fill them out, but maybe 10 or quality? So some people measure the number of contacts forms that are filled out, but if you know, 95% of them are spam, and only 5% of them are quality. Let’s put on better spam captures. Let’s put on better qualification questions. Let’s drive them through an actual content funnel to help them get warmed up so that they’re ready to buy by the time they fill out the form. And that way we can show that Well, yes, you’ve had less contacts coming through. They’re actually way more qualified. So we’ve doubled the number of qualified conversions that you’ve had, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter how many contacts you get if they’re not qualified. So again, it’s again, yeah, convertings important, but it’s actually converting users that are qualified.
Great point always qual, I’m big on quality over quantity in every area of life because yeah, 100 hundred contact form submissions might look cool. But to your point if two of them convert, and that’s not that cool, but if you know, 20 convert, and you only got 30 contact forms, and that’s a much higher conversion rate and quality people and quality clients for sure. Yeah, I really liked that idea. And something you said there, I thought was interesting was, with the idea of backing up a little bit, you talked about your clients, always talking about me, me, me my services. And that’s the case with most every client we’re going to take on. And I don’t fault them for that, because they’re not marketers. They’re busy doing their own stuff working in their business. So of course, their head is around me, me, me. And let’s be honest, most every designer professional starts off that way. And then once you start realizing, I actually need to be the guide. And I need my customers to be the hero. And this doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, you need. And this is going back to the story brand framework, you need to be the guide your clients and your customers are the hero. So that’s a big aspect of longevity as well is positioning the content. And even just this is something I tell my students all the time is, you don’t necessarily need to be a copywriter per se, but inevitably, you’re gonna tweak your customers websites, cut the content. So just learn more about story brand and learn more about, you know, tweaking the content to go into that, to that point, making sure your clients don’t sound like the hero, they’re the guide. And it just, it can’t be as simple like you said, and just swapping out a title or the subheading, or something like as easy as that it can really change a page and make it last a lot longer by just tweaking the content. And yeah, it makes it makes a lot of sense when it comes to redesigning sites. But then also, of course, if you’re, you know, doing the content and building stuff from the from the ground up, I’m curious, do you guys do both? Like will you assist with revamping and tweaking content and creating content from the ground up on sites that are brand new?
Yeah, no, when we started our agency, we just focused on development, we actually didn’t do design. And over the years, we’ve actually augmented and added services because of client needs. Now we are much more in terms of we do the full end to end lifecycle of a website, from strategy, user experience, design content, content strategy, content writing, content editing, SEO services. And what we found is that because of our client’s needs, we’ve been focusing them on really doing it on an on a quarterly basis. So we really have this mantra of small bites for big wins. And let’s solve one problem at a time. So depending on where the client need is, after we’ve been working with them for a year or two, that’s when we usually get our hands really deep into content, because at first is like, Oh, I need a new website, I need a new design, I need need to get all these things organized. But eventually it all comes back to content. And sometimes our clients just need the framework. But sometimes they need our straight up help copywriting. And we found that often when it comes to doing thinking about content, we map out what we call as a customer decision journey, where we’re looking at the user and all the different things they need to think about or touch within your organization, the website being one tool, but for example, when we worked with the San Francisco Public Library and mapping out their user journey, there’s going to be touch points, when they come into the library, there’s going to be touch points, when they see a flyer, there’s going to be other touch points. So mapping out that full kind of user journey, and then figuring out what content needs to live where and how the website plays a role in that. Because ultimately, most of these things, whether they’re posting on social, if there’s an announcement in a in a school room, or whatever, they’re ultimately driving traffic back to the website. So whether even as an email newsletter blast, we want to make sure that that content then drives to the right place on the website. And it’s in the right area, you know, there’s kind of those kind of three areas, when you’re thinking about when a user comes to your website, they usually need to see your content about seven times before they take action, that’s kind of a marketing known. So there’s this phase of awareness, where you’re just trying to like, you know, tap into their brain and make them aware that they either have the problem or that you’re the solution to the problem. Then there’s the consideration stage content, which is like, Oh, now I understand I have a problem. And you know, Kanopi looks like maybe a good web agency to choose from, but there’s all these different agencies, what makes them different, and, you know, how does that work and then there’s that decision stage content when they’re starting to consider actually working with you. And then there’s a whole new set of content that’s needed. So we find when it comes to like building a website, that Last, most clients that we work with that are just have that decision stage content, right? They have case studies only, they only have content that’s focused on, you know, how they’ve engaged, they haven’t really necessarily created a blog about, you know, something that explains the core issue of like, why atomic design is important for your brand, why you want to think on a modular level with this, and kind of that, you know, awareness and consideration content is usually what’s missing when we look at that customer decision journey. So mapping that out and then working with our clients for a content calendar over the next like, six 912 months, because it’s overwhelming when you see like, oh, my goodness, we’re missing a lot of stuff. So we just say, Okay, let’s just focus on this persona, this phase of content for the next three months, one block a month, let’s not overdo it, let’s get it done, and then move forward strategically.
That’s the key, you just set it right there doing stuff in phases, particularly for a client that has a lot of work to do. It’s just it’s overwhelming, it’s often very overwhelming, whether it’s redesigning a site, or particularly planning a site from the ground up. There’s a lot that needs to be done for the long haul, talking about longevity for a site, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once. And phase one, you can absolutely start the site off with a nice foundational design all the principles, we talked about good converting content, it could be as simple as a homepage, the main services. And you could save the blog for phase two, I tell that to clients all the time, like the best, the best SEO organic rankings you’re going to get are going to come from your blog, but we don’t need to do that right away. And it’s not going to happen overnight, so we can build on to it. And I know clients don’t always love here and the fact that it’s not instant results, but the fact is good content, organic SEO does take time. So it kind of needs to be done in phases, do you out of just pure curiosity? Do you prepare your clients for the mindset of a long relationship, because web design is not a quick one and done type of service? What I tell this to web designers all the time, because particularly if they come from different industries, where it’s just a one and done transactional service, I tell everybody, with web design, you are setting yourself up for a relationship that’s going to last a long time with your clients, even if they’re not on your maintenance plan or hosting, eventually, you’re going to get the call. And they’re going to wonder like what I forget where my websites hosted, or I want to change something, you’re setting yourself up for a long relationship, do you prepare your clients for that?
100% We always say, like I say the same thing. I’m like, the day your website goes live is the first day of your project. So we believe in continuous website improvement. And that’s our philosophy, we believe website is not as much more of like a flywheel than it is a funnel. So we want to do some strategy up first, we want to implement and then we want to learn and iterate. And I usually say like, you know, the strategy and the Learn the implement is, you know, three to six months for a project. And then you have nine and a half years to build and learn and grow. So let’s think about this for the long term. Which also means that what we really believe in is that in order to build a website that lasts, let’s not over engineer the project and try to do too much up front, because again, as soon as you hit the market, and you actually hear from real users, you get a ton of good feedback. And in order to really leverage building a website that lasts, it means you actually have to listen a lot to your market, it means you have to connect with them. And so if you over engineer it and spend tons and gobs of money out of the gate, then you don’t have as much left once you actually get out to the market. And a bunch of users are asking for different features or different content, and you have no money left, because you you’ve spent it all up front. So we’re a big fan of saying, Okay, if this is your budget, let’s plan for at least the first two years of your website. And then over those two years, we’re going to measure the impact. And then all of a sudden, when you go back to, you know, whatever it is, if it’s a higher education, you know, higher ed company, or nonprofit, when they show results, all of a sudden they get the website no longer becomes a cost, it becomes an investment. And that’s really the switch and the mindsets between your customers. Because when they’re coming to spend their hard earned dollars, it’s very much a cost at first in their mind. So if you can show over the course of a year, two years, the amount of impact that you’ve made on their business, you know, it’s just simply like we have a client who wanted to launch commerce. Working with them, they launched commerce and what’s happened is, is that they’ve seen the power of doing online sales. And through that process, we’ve been able to strategically measure how much more business that’s brought in for them. And next thing you know, they’re coming back to us saying like, wow, we need to we need to actually double down our investment next year because it was so impactful this year, we want to double or we want to triple or quadruple our sales next year. So but without measuring that you can’t really fight that fight in the boardroom or with a C-level executive so you know in building a website that last we find it making sure that when you first start off, you have some of those base levels. And then you’re figuring out what really makes them tick and then moving those things forward to move that initiative forward.
So I want to ask you about some different measuring techniques, because I think that’s so valuable with this idea of making sure it lasts a long time and you’re communicating with your clients. I just want to say that I’m so glad you reiterated that quote, because it’s so true. When a website goes live, the project is not done. That’s the start. That’s like, the baby’s on the internet. Here it goes, let’s make sure it starts crawling, and it starts walking. And I love that because I think for far too many years, myself included, I just always viewed it as a kind of a one time project and then it was done. And then once I got the final payment, before I started that maintenance plan, I was like alright, client, see you later, a great project had fun, and then I just would let it go. And then I learned several years into it like that, just to that point, the website is not a one and done project, it is still out there. And it needs to be maintained, it needs to be updated, and needs to be working for clients, which is where everything you said right there and is crucial. And one of the best keys to make sure it is working is measuring. So we talked about just simply being able to look at the contact forms and then weeding out you know, the amount of contacts you’re getting with actual qualified leads. Obviously, e commerce is one of the easiest things to measure because there’s literally a amount of dollars coming in if it’s if the site is working, hopefully sales are going up every month, or at least trending in the right direction. If the sales are not going good, that’s when the conversation needs to be had with different conversion techniques or site redesigns with the products. But are there any other measuring techniques for particularly just like your standard blog style sites, because one thing that I have found tricky with web design, particularly like over the past handful of years, I’ve worked with a lot of home inspectors. And inevitably, when somebody goes to these websites, most of their leads are going to call, a lot of them don’t even fill out the form, they just end up calling and then it’s kind of hard for the home inspector to know. Okay, well, did this lead Find me on Google? Or did they hear of me for a referral? Or did they see the website and get converted? There’s really no way to measure that unless they ask, unless maybe you have some tips on measuring that kind of stuff, like how do you measure between calls, emails, you know, stuff like that?
For sure. Well, first off, everybody should be building their database, because if they call and for whatever reason, you probably need to call them back. So I’d recommend if there’s someone that’s answering your phones, you use a CRM or customer relationship management tool, HubSpot has one for free, for example, that you can leverage. But essentially all you do is when you call that person calls, get their number and their email right away and ask the question, I’m curious, where did you hear about us from, it takes two seconds, even if you jot it down on a piece of paper, then enter it into your CRM later. So you can actually collect data, because you actually want to measure that even though it sounds like Oh, it’s so busy, I don’t have time for that. But it’s really important. So we also get phone calls. And then we just log them in our CRM, we actually go to our contact form and put it in there. And then their mailing list. Because again, remember that you need to talk to someone seven times before they’re ready to actually get going. So putting them on your mailing list is a great way to keep them warm. But other ways that you can measure so you might have phone calls, you might want to log those. But you can also measure things like performance, right, you can go to Google Page Speed Test, and you can put in your site and you’re saying, ooh, I’m scoring, you know, four out of 100. on mobile, I might be scoring 99 out of 100 on desktop, but my mobile experience is really poor. And then you can do a bunch of changes, you know, optimizing images, optimizing layouts, cleaning up some code, and that will help measure so you can show that as you have better performance. You can also measure search engine rankings, right, you can say this is where I am on the page. This is where I want to measure, this is where I want to go, you want to pick off key key terms. You also maybe want to measure things like Google reviews. If you have a location based service, it’s really important that you claim your location page on Google and that you start getting Reviews on Google. So it’s going to be important as that as you have those happy clients, you ask them to then go to your Google page and leave a review. Because having a positive Google index, because what Google does is Google doesn’t want you to leave Google. So if you are searching for home inspector San Francisco, you want to be that your site is well formatted. So it actually comes up not only in the rankings, but also those location pages that show up in the map. You want to make sure that you’re there. And the best way to get to the top is through rankings. Ultimately, they’re going to get driven back to your website. But if you’re not paying attention to all those other things like Yelp reviews, as a web developer, we use Clutch Clutch is like Yelp for web developers. So you want to have your clients going and leaving Clutch reviews. Because then you get onto the first page like we’re on the first page of, you know, web developers San Francisco for WordPress on Clutch. That drives a ton of new business to our site.
Yeah, I haven’t heard of Clutch before. That’s great.
Check that out.
Because I know there’s so many review tools out there. I’m always I am a, I’d always just done the basic and I have a tutorial on this about just how to create a Google review link that just go right into your, your Google review account. But yeah, there’s something that manages some other spots as well, that can be super beneficial. So I made a note that I’ll make sure I put that in the show notes. And is that one of those where it integrates, you said, with multiple review programs? Is that right?
No Clutch, what they do is, depending on the cost of your project, Clutch will actually personally interview your clients.
So it’s a personal touch, where Clutch will reach out and do a 15 minute interview with your client. And your client then is, you know, free from any you know, they it’s an independent review. And what that does is it also allows you to manage a bit of quality. So if somebody does give you a four star, then you can reach out to them and be like, Oh, my goodness, you really always want to ask clients that are going to give you great reviews, of course. But it’s also good from a quality assurance standpoint, that if someone feels like oh, we give them a four on on scheduling, because they’re always a bit behind, then that’s something you can proactively reach out to that client and touch base with them and make sure that they’re okay. But I find like that perforation, it’s like everything on the internet is eventually going to lead back to your website. So you want to have a good Google page, you want to have good Google reviews. And if you’re like a site that does recipes, for example, you know, and you you’re a blogger that has all these amazing vegan recipes that are gluten free, and all these things. You want to be search engine optimized, probably for, you know, allergy recipes, celiac recipes, you know, lactose intolerant recipes. And when you go ahead, and you also want to be in have your recipes well formatted, because as you know, on Google, if you search for like, vegan chocolate chip cookies, you know, gluten free, vegan chocolate chip cookies, all those pictures come up. Yeah, right that you don’t even get to the website first.
So I love snippets, yeah.
If your not optimizing your content for snippets you’re losing at the game. And that’s the kind of stuff that rolls out kind of organically, like Google changes so much, that if you just set it and forget it, and if you didn’t know these things, or didn’t pay attention to these things, all of a sudden, if you were on the first page of Google, if you didn’t get your location page, if you didn’t do your snippets, all of a sudden, you’re just dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping, you know. So again, it’s that like how to take care of your website over the long term means nurturing the details.
It’s a great point. And I have a feeling I probably already know the answer this question because I have a feeling based off of our conversation so far, that when a lead comes in a qualified lead for you guys, I’m assuming you’re probably thinking what, like a decade, at least working them with them. Ideally, like it’s obviously not a one and done service. It’s not even a you know, maybe we’ll have them for a couple years. And they’ll move on, which is very common for website and marketing agencies to have turnover, but between a year or two, I have a feeling you guys are really setting that up for the long haul. Do you view the website design aspect as kind of just a small percentage of the project over the long haul? Like, are you much more focused on what comes after it the ongoing content in the plans? Or what does that look like? Because I’ve always, in my experience, I always put so much emphasis on the design. And more and more I learned about this industry, it was that that’s really just a small percentage of the the success of a website, the real meat comes in the ongoing content. Yeah, that’s the question like, how much value do you put on the you know, the nine years after the project gets going kind of thing?
Yeah, I think one of the paradigms that kind of gets shifted around support at Kanopi is that we do design in support world. So what will happen is, is that, yes, a website, if you just leave it and never design it and never touch the design for three or four years, it’s going to start to look crusty. So what we like to do is sit down with our clients every quarter and set goals, usually for the first year or two years right after they’ve gone live or working more on content, on optimizations, on layout tweaks, but about two years, they’re ready for a homepage refresh. They’re ready for some key landing page refreshes. And what we like to do is leverage user data. So we then use tools like Hot Jar, user interviews, and kind of dig deep into some of them like I want to talk to your sales people and find out what their real needs are. I want to talk to marketing to figure out how is marketing actually working with sales to do sales enablement work, and then how can we kind of reposition some of the content on the homepage and reimagine the the homepage like some back in the day carousels were all the rage, and…
Sliders, and carousels…
and carousels, and now we’ve learned that they’re actually not very accessible. Right. So from an accessibility standpoint, also what happens is, is clients tend to put a bunch of stuff in that homepage carousel that don’t necessarily make sense to new users. So if they’re promoting an event and you go to their website, they think that your whole company is just an events company. So it’s really important to use that key homepage content to again, very clearly articulate what you’ve said what you do. And then from there, you can use carousels and other places. But we find that often what happens is, is that if we’ve had a site that’s been, you know, around for two or three years, we look and say, Oh, we have a, we have one of those sliders, we have to reimagine this homepage. And now you’re actually doing all these new things, we don’t have space for those on your homepage. So we find that we do design as a service. So probably every couple of years, we are reimagining the homepage, and maybe some key landing pages. So design actually becomes one of those thoughtful services that we provide over the lifecycle of a website.
I love that. Yeah. And that the beauty about what you said there is it wasn’t a complete redesign or revamp, it was just a refresh. And that’s key. But that the idea of longevity does not mean that you’re building a site one time and it’s just gonna last the way it is for 8, 9, 10 years, it’s just that the foundation is set. And you can add on to it right? I imagine it’s, it’s not that, you know, you’re not going to change or anything, you’re just it’s it is an ongoing, ever evolving, ever changing thing. I personally think that a website is never done, it’s always in the works. That’s why when a lot of designers get hung up on making something, quote, unquote, perfect, it never gets done, it’s better to have a site that’s out there and is 95%, you know, good and done as as much as excellent as you can get it. But it’s never going to be perfect, you’re always going to add on to it. And I’ll give a quick little measuring tip here as well. Look at your bounce rate in Google Analytics, if you have something, you can have a website up for three months, and if your bounce rate is like 60%, meaning that people are going on the site and in there, you’re good, they’re not they’re exiting without any engagement, then maybe taking that slider off and having a very clear call to action or a funnel that sends people to this area of the site or that area of the site, then you can look at that bounce rate. And that’s something you can show your client because a couple months later on, if you make those changes, you can say, Well listen, you know, 60% of the people were just getting off the site completely. But now this funnel we put in place, look at this, now only 30% are leaving the site, you know. So it’s, it’s it’s a great little free measuring tip that is super valuable. And it’s just that idea of reef I love that term of refreshing, because it’s just taking what you have and just working with your client to adjust that I did, I did want to ask you about the and you don’t have to talk exact numbers, but are your guy’s initial builds less, because you have the idea of more ongoing support and maintenance and you know, future investments in mind. Because I know a lot of designers will really try to get as much as far as a quote into that first design. And then typically redesigns are going to be much less. However, I think there’s a lot of value in almost having a lower starting cost with designing the site with the idea that they’re going to last 10 years, and you’re going to end up making a lot more in the long run, do you kind of have that mentality.
You know, in the software term is called minimum viable product, where we actually decided that viable was too icky of a word. So we decided to call it minimum lovable product, which is what is the least we can get away with what we love the most. So really focusing on that minimize to maximize. So what we’ll do is when we do that initial phase of strategize, we want to blue sky, we want to think about all the features, we want to think about all the ideas, and then we want to roadmap it over those two years. And what we’ll do is we’ll say, Okay, the first three to six months, we’re going to develop this much. And we’ll put a little x in the schedule. And then we say that’s launch day. And then all of these ideas we want to, you know, go live with, we’re actually going to leave them for post launch. Because once we get live, a the user might not care, or it might not be relevant anymore, or is going to be super relevant. We know which features to pull forward first. So we really believe in launching less than out the gate and then doing that learn and improve. And that’s where we think of a project a client comes to us. And sometimes my first one of my first questions is, you know, how are you going to handle, you know, the next two years of your site going live? And they’re like, Oh, well, we’ll just do security updates. And I’m like, well, let’s stop and think about reality here and kind of coaching them and they go, Oh, gosh, I did not budget for that. It’s like okay, well then let’s not spend your full build budget, let’s actually stretch that over the first year at least. And especially if I’m with nonprofits, they go, Oh, my goodness, I don’t have that money, I need to get another grant. Okay, well, then let’s help you write that grant. Let’s figure out what you need to do from a feature development. And often that is just kind of like helping them get to the mindset that nobody buys their dream house out of the gates, you have to start with something you know, initially more conservative, and then you move towards your kind of your dream state, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And if you can carve out something that’s a little bit more manageable. It’s a lot easier for the clients to digest and Also as a as a developer, then you set yourself up for a long term engagement.
Right? Yeah, I think what you’re talking about, and it looks like what your agency has done well, is really what the rest of the web design world is catching up to, which is that the best part about web design is not in that first initial build that one time type of project it is in the recurring revenue. And honestly, just having good relationships with your clients and helping them grow their business through their website and nurturing it over the long haul, that really, I’ve seen a big shift with mindset. My mindset with that, but then with a lot of my colleagues and my students are doing is just that mindset to where you’re going to have a long lasting relationship. And frankly, your clients should be ecstatic to work with you and be willing to invest more, because they’ll get to know you, they’ll get to like you and they’ll get to trust you. And as long as there’s some sort of measurements, or even just small wins and results, it will go a long way. And I think there is a lot of value in kind of a lesser, big upfront cost, and or, you know, a lesser initial build or redesign, but then nurturing that, and then growing it into more over the next three, four or five years. I know a close colleague of mine, we had an episode not too far back on selling, hosting and maintenance plans. And he told me he’s like, their goal is to eventually just basically focus focus on hosting and maintenance and have the website designed almost just be a part of that. Like, they’re much more interested in getting people on the long haul. And not just that, you know, first one time type of project. So, yeah, it’s a great thought.
Yeah, it’s interesting, because a lot of agencies if you’re just starting off, and you’re just as your student, and you’re thinking, Okay, 10 years from now, I want to be an agency of 100 people or something like that. And those are your big goals, then one of the things to make your agency really valuable, is monthly recurring revenue, personally at Kanopi we’re building to sustain, so we’re not building to sell, but some agencies want to build sell. And the best way to create value is creating a monthly recurring revenue program. Because clients that are one and done, they actually don’t increase the value of your agency, in order to increase the value for you to get the most money when you sell, you want to be able to have clients on the books and just show that you can build the average lifetime value of a client. And you know, what a lot of agencies metrics is like, if you can keep a client happy for three years, four years, you’ve done an amazing job, right? So know that, you know, we do aim to keep our clients as long as possible, some of them stay for three to five years, we have clients that have been with us for seven or eight years, that’s not uncommon, but reality is that some agencies having a client for three to four years. Now, if you’re starting up, and you’re just one person, it’s really hard to do both the development design projects and the support projects. So at first, it might be figuring out what’s most realistic for your bandwidth. But often it is then you know, either, you know, partnering with somebody or making sure that you have set realistic expectations, and you only you leave space in your schedule for those support relationships. But I know at Kanopi, we have to design departments, two thirds of our business is support. And I do say support with air quotes, because it’s literally micro development, you know, doing small projects, launching micro sites, building out new blog features, and then the development team is is building new sites that then those feed into our support program. But we can’t have the same person working in development as support, because it’s two different beasts. And it’s sometimes tricky for when you’re in heads down on a development project to then pop up and manage a bunch of support tickets. Switching costs are very expensive and the brain doesn’t really work like that. You need to have dedicated time. So it’s interesting that if you’re building an agency, and you’re thinking about how do I scale my business, you really have to do this mindfully. Otherwise, you’ll sign up all these support and maintenance clients are going to be too busy building stuff, those people are going to be mad the build people are getting off their timeline. So it’s very, you have to kind of be mindful of around this and saying, okay, I want to really focus on recurring revenue as a part of my program. I’m going to hire someone who’s dedicated just to answering support tickets.
Yeah. And it’s a great point, because it does get you know, we’ve talked about a lot of different concepts between just the building and the technical aspect, but then also the ongoing the support, and we’re also branching into copywriting and marketing. And somebody new to web design is probably like, How the heck am I gonna do all this. And the cool thing is, is what I learned because I did do all of it myself for a while without getting burnt out. I did scale my agency and bring on a lead designer, which helped free me up to do more of the marketing and stuff like that, although I also started this personal brand and I started doing courses, which is where I really gravitated towards, but what I tell a lot of my students is you can do a lot yourself, but you’re going to get to a point where you have you have to decide Are you going to you can either start hiring it out or you could just have referral partners who like if you don’t want to do copywriting and SEO, there’s a plethora of referral partners who can who can do that. And you can form a really good relationship with them. And the cool thing about that is you’ll send them leads, and they’ll send you clients. And it’s like, it’s a dream type of setup. The other thing is, though, the reason I love the idea of maintenance plans, and this ongoing support, is it takes the feast and famine out of the web design world. And the cool thing about this is, for those of you who do want to stay a solopreneur, as long as you can, I I did, as long as I could, I was a solopreneur, I did it all myself for seven years without getting burnt out. The trick was, is once I launched my maintenance plan, I realized, you know, what I can focus on like these, I one point I had almost 70 clients on my maintenance plan, just as a solopreneur. Although a lot of those were the same client with multiple sites. So what I learned to do was to really focus on my A plus clients, and I just have my build costs. So I wasn’t worried about getting as many new projects or new leads, because I was focused on the ongoing relationships with my good clients. And that should take all the pressure and weight off of people starting out is, if you have that mindset, I like what you said have built for sustainability built to sustain over sell, which you can do that too, you could you know, you could build your agency to sell it one day or to grow it. But if you want to keep it more common, because I’m really big on casual pace, work life balance, as we talked about before went live, and I have a wife and a couple little ones at home. So I’m not going to be in my office here 90 hours a week. That’s not the way I the way I do it. And it looks like you’re really big on work life balance as well. But that’s crucial. What a freeing thought, isn’t it just to know that you don’t have to sell like crazy and worry about getting new leads every day or every week when you can really focus on your good clients. And then once you do that one at a time, your monthly recurring revenue just starts to tick up and tick up and tick up. And it just takes the stress and pressure out of it.
Yeah, yeah. I always believe like, a good entrepreneur knows how to surround themselves with brilliant people. So that way, it’s it’s very much like when we started, I was the project manager, I was the user experience designer, and I’m not a graphics designer. So I had to contract out design work. And I’m not a developer, so I had to contract that out. But when I found Shane, which was the mind, I trusted, it was like I could I would come with the vision I’d come with the wireframes that come with this. And then I was able to work with key people and make sure I had really solid partnerships, even to this day, like Kanopi is a web design development agency. We are not marketers, we never say that we’re going to be marketing your stuff and but we have marketing agencies Pay Per Click folks that do Google ads and Facebook ads and their specialties are those things. We have wonderful partnerships with them. So we essentially, you know, pull them into the relationship we have you know, our clients work with them directly. They’re grateful they didn’t have to source somebody on the internet. You know, we have other partners like I said, we don’t do hosting in house we have lovely hosting partners that we work with. And through that we have this really kind of like hive network of folks that we work with, you know, and I’ve only added services on because it was time right it was time it was like I now have five six copywriters out there. They’re always busy. Technically, I probably legally should start hiring them because they’re working for me 40 hours a week with no other contracts. So okay, now we’re going to move to copywriters full time in house because a we have the pipeline that supports it, and B we have that. But I know a lot of people that if you can manage a solopreneur thing, it also means like not overselling not overextending, you know, looking at data on your personal spreadsheets of tracking your time to make sure that you’re not under selling projects, and then working for $6 an hour. You know, it’s important as you know, a budding a budding, you know, web developer, that you’re organizing yourself so that you can provide high value for your clients. Because if you have happy clients, then it’s easy. If you have unhappy clients, life becomes very, very uncomfortable. And then you don’t have those projects. So if you can really work with your clients early on, and make sure that you focus on those A level clients and they’re getting the best value from from your services. And you’re making sure that you’re proactive with security updates, you’re proactive with recommendations, they’re going to be super grateful for the partnership and lean in.
Well, and I learned early on once I really developed this mindset was that some of my best clients are gonna be willing to pay me a lot more year after year after year, it doesn’t just have to be a one and done I don’t have to focus on the tire kickers just to try to squeeze the $2,000 website out of them one time and then they’re gone. I can focus on my really good clients that are willing to invest over and over and we’re hitting on a really important topic that I didn’t really plan on going into or thinking about, but if we are going to build websites that last a long time for our clients, we also have to last We burn ourselves out, it’s not going to do good to anybody. And then you’re gonna this is why so many web designers disappear, or just hang it up, or call it quits or burn their clients. This is why we I’ve actually got a lot of clients over the years, who got burned by other web designers because they either disappeared, or they just randomly said, Hey, I’m out. See you later, you know, good luck. And it’s all because of burnout and a lack of balance. And I think what we’ve what we’ve touched on here is key because you don’t have to do all these aspects you can. And we just talked about the ways to do it with partnering with people or just taking things on when you want or when you when you have time. But it’s also something where you can focus on what you want to do. Like if you want to do design, and then maintenance and that’s all you want to focus on, then you can either branch into other areas when you have the bandwidth, or you can hire it out. Or if you want to just do design. And then if you don’t want to worry about hosting or maintenance, there’s, we have a referral partner for that. There’s all kinds of partners for that. And then vice versa. Sometimes it’s just in your journey. Like, if like for me, I really enjoyed doing the design for a long time. And then once I started scaling, my mindset move to now I want to focus on SEO, content, and maintenance and the ongoing stuff. And I still love design. But that’s stuff that I can hire out. So that’s what I hired out, I hired out the design to let me focus on the other stuff I wanted to do. And that’s another beauty about web design too, is you can literally just focus on what you want to do hire out what you are not good at or you don’t want. And it’s amazing. That’s a big mindset shift with that, too. I think it sounds like you probably had it right from the get go. Because you surrounded yourself, like you said, with good people. Whereas a lot of solopreneurs who do everything, it takes a lot to start getting stuff off your chest and giving up some control to to let somebody else do it. But the rewards are they can’t be understated. Because when you free up time, and you can focus on what you want to do. That’s when life just that’s what that’s when you wake up and you’re like I’m excited to take on today and not want to stay in bed because you got to worry about a domain migration or something like that, you know, there’s a lot of areas that you can just do what you want to do, which is really freeing, and it just goes back to, if you’re going to have longevity with your clients and with their websites, you have to have longevity, do you have any other ideas on protecting the longevity of yourself as a web designer or as an agency owner?
Yeah, I think that, you know, sometimes it’s exciting to think, Oh, I’m gonna hire someone to do design, or I’m going to hire someone to do maintenance. The very first hire I usually recommend for all budding entrepreneurs is an executive assistant, whether it’s virtual or someone, but just someone who can schedule your appointments, who can do your billing, who can even QA things on your website, because it’s tedious to go and check on all the devices and make sure it’s okay. But the very first hire or like person to I recommend is usually someone to like help with the details that really get bogged down. Because sometimes it’s like someone and entrepreneur is so busy that they haven’t done billing. And then all of a sudden, they’re like, Oh my goodness, I have to sit down and do billing. I don’t like accounting, they do billing. And the client is like what you haven’t sent me an invoice in three months, I’m super not expecting this. And then all of a sudden the clients on fire versus if you can have an administrative assistant who can come in and you know, do your billing on it, you know, to every two weeks and that cadence of cash is coming in just knowing that you have someone like managing the money behind the scenes for like the invoicing. And that stuff is a huge weight off of an entrepreneur shoulders,
Especially creatives, because let’s be honest, anyone who is design oriented and creative, the last thing that they want to do is worry about the invoicing and I was laughing because I just had a flashback of like, my early years of designing sites and and being like, Oh shit, I completely forgot to invoice my, my client from like two months ago, I just I forgot about it. Or maybe I’d invoiced it I didn’t hear back and I didn’t set a reminder, I I didn’t have a system in place. I use 17 hats for that. But there’s a ton of options out there. I didn’t have something that had that built in. So I was like all in my head. And yeah, it’s just it just I’m amazed that I went as long as I did as a solopreneur with just trial and error, you know, one step at a time. But man once I got those systems in place, and then to your point, I know, it’s interesting that you say that because now as an entrepreneur, my mindset is completely different. And I’m very quick to hire out what maybe it’s not even something I not don’t not want to do. It’s just that my time is much more worth focusing on the high level stuff. And it’s not that I’m above those tasks, but I need to focus on what only I can do. And this is a big business principle in general, no matter what business you’re in anything that you can hire out or that is repeated. Get it off your plate as soon as you can. And for me with this what I’m doing with with my with my site at JoshHall.co my podcast is I really enjoyed the post production and I’ve enjoyed putting all the Episode Notes and stuff together. However, I knew I wanted to do it better and I didn’t want to sit and do transcriptions and stuff. So I just recently hired a VA to do my outlines and my transcriptions and to help out with district distributing the podcast. So even though it’s stuff I can do, and I, you know, I still like to oversee it, I can’t spend the hours every week to do that. So I knew very quickly like, okay, now’s the time, I need to hire that out. And then now I’m even working on the next step of hiring out the the post production for the video and the graphics and stuff, which is big for me, too. It’s giving up that control. But so I can focus on the higher level stuff. And that that idea is, I think, crucial for longevity, for your business, if you’re going to produce long lasting sites for clients.
For sure. And I mean, going back to you, when the website, your clients are hiring you, because it’s not the best use of their time to be, you know, farting around on their website, they need a specialist to come in, and make sure that it’s done correctly and organized. And if you know, in scaling some of these things, it’s about creating processes. It’s about creating checklists. So we know that every time we bring on a new client, they’ve got to go through a certain steps to be successful. So instead of each time trying to figure those out, we have checklists, we have Google templates. I mean, Google Drive allows you to create templates for almost everything, and create a template for an onboarding checklist that you then clone and send to the client, you have the ability with different you know, we use teamwork as our project management software, they have teamwork task templates. So we have a task template for our pre launch checklist for our post launch checklist for our accessibility checklist. And what happens is, is as we use those, we can then add to them, edit them, but they’re templatized. So that means if you do need to bring in more help, as a solo entrepreneur, you can create a lot of these processes and build them out the way you want. And then when you bring someone in to support you, whether it’s a contractor, whether it’s a VA, whether it’s even, you know, sometimes when we don’t do something for a couple months, we don’t even remember what we did with the stuff. So having our own documentation in order. So we you know, me, myself, and I, as the solopreneur can say, Oh, yeah, last time, when we did the launch, we this went bad that went bad, this went bad, we’re going to add those three things to our checklist to make sure we have the favicon to make sure we have the Google sitemap to make sure we have these things. So that when we go to the next relationship, we can make sure we deliver those high quality and that we’re always learning and improving.
Yeah, it’s so key to have some sort of, well, first of all, just to get it out of your head, and on file or on paper, it’s so crucial to have some sort of SOP standard operating procedure. Even folks like myself who don’t like following a checklist, I’m really good at creating checklists and creating processes. But my personality is I never want to have to follow it again, I want to have somebody else do it. Because a lot of my all my courses have all my processes and checklists. And luckily, it’s sped up this experience for my students, because they don’t have to figure it out themselves. They just here’s the process. Here’s the checklist, but then to your point, they can add on to it or make it their own if they want. But what what a key, what a key thought for just saving your sanity, because you’ll get it out of your head. You don’t need to go through project after project thinking, crap, what did I do last time or effort I knew I forgot, I forgot something. It wasn’t until I mapped out my web design process that I really felt comfortable realizing I could go back through and just I didn’t even I wasn’t wanting to just check off each piece, I just went back through it after every launch, and was like, Oh, I forgot to add some alt tags, or I forgot to submit the sitemap on this project, stuff like that. So that is key. And especially for people who are hiring or getting subcontractors involved, you’ve got to have some of that in place. Because if you don’t, you’re going to spend so much time talking about your then you’re going to almost be in like a free mentor role. And you’re not going to be able to focus on your business, because you’re just going to be training someone over and over. So yeah, that’s key. That’s absolutely what a great thought to have. As far as longevity. Hey, and I have a question for you. That’s kind of just with the idea of balance and setting yourself up for the long haul. Seems like you’re very balanced. Seems like you’ve been very organized. Have you always been like that? Or did you ever have like a breaking point where you’re like, Okay, I have to figure something out. Like What Did that I’m just out of pure curiosity, just as someone who is managing a big team, and I’m sure have a lot on your plate, I don’t get the feeling like you’re stressed out or over, over extended? What does that look like? Do you have any sort of breaking point?
Yeah, I think you know, all businesses get to that point, when you recognize you need more systems. And it was about year three, when I was managing clients managing projects managing project, but it was just too much. And then I broke my ankle. And when I broke my ankle and was on some pretty heavy pain meds, I couldn’t work. And I had to take a couple weeks off. And in those couple of weeks, I saw it was like things went because I wasn’t there and I thought oh my goodness, I need better processes, I need better reinforcements. And at that time, that’s when I kind of doubled down on making sure that the health of the business was okay. What I didn’t do very well was take care of myself. It took a really long time for my ankle to heal like a really long time. So right around the Time, I found a tool for my business called the entrepreneurial operating system, or EOS, which is a lovely framework that’s built for, essentially companies of two to 250 people. And the EOS model freed me up from focusing on everything to focusing on six key components, people processes, data, traction, I’m not going to remember them all right now. But the point is, is it gave a framework to which I could run the business. And what I did is I started at the bottom and just made sure that on like, I started organizing things. One of the biggest things that I give advice to all starting entrepreneurs is that most often entrepreneurs don’t pay themselves enough. They don’t take care of themselves enough. And it’s because they’re always making sure that the things are happening. I read a book called Profit First.
Profit First. Yay, yeah. I knew I knew where it was going, I was pumped to, to hear where you’re…
Love that guy. Love that concept. Because it was exactly what I was doing. I was bringing in multiple millions of dollars into my business, and I was left with pennies. At the end of the year on my balance sheet. I’m like, What am I doing wrong? Like, it’s crazy.
Yeah, it’s funny, I have a, I have a business course. And it’s I list out like some of the key books that I read. And that made the biggest impact on me. And Profit First was crucial. Because the idea of paying yourself as an entrepreneur, like most people on the outside, like, Oh, you own your own business, you’re charging three grand for a website, you must be banking it? Well, they have no idea. You know, if your business isn’t set up, like we’re talking about, you don’t have the systems and processes in place, and you’re spending way too much time in the website world, designing the sites and working with the clients and managing everything else, it’s very likely that you’re going to make less than you would work in McDonald’s. So you have to have this in place. And a lot of that does come into paying yourself first. And that is, I know, it’s easier said than done. But at the end of the day, if you are not, if you’re not stable financially, and you’re not actually because that will force you to cut down on expenses. Or if you don’t have if you don’t have as much money to do certain things. And it’s amazing how much money you can waste in that. With that, and I’m sure you know, most of my students are just getting to the point where they’re getting the six figures, you know, 200 to 200,000 or so or a quarter million. You know, you’re talking seven figures, that’s when I’m sure it’s really interesting with how you manage budgets and imagine, yo, well, do you ever watch Shark Tank?
Yeah. So I catch it every once in a while. I think most I think a lot of people watch it. But for anyone who doesn’t, it’s basically the investors show where somebody will come with an idea. And then they try to get investment and a percentage of the business to help take it to the next level. What I’m fascinated with, though, and the reason I bring that up is a lot of people that have a product or something that they want to get investments on will say like I made, you know, $2 million dollars, or we did 2 million last year. And I’m like, Whoa, 2 million. But then they say well, what’s your profit margin? And how much did you take home? And they’re like, why I took home like $15,000? I’m like, what, how like, with somebody who built $2 million business? How the heck are they only taking home $15,000. Whereas I like I built just over a six figure business and I was taking home six figures like that is what’s crazy to me with some of these other industries. And that’s one reason I love web design it’s a it’s a it’s a unique industry to where you can actually be very profitable if done right. And you don’t have to have that many expenses. But I didn’t mean to cut you off there. And but yeah, Profit First.
Well, it’s something that was like a game changer because it allowed us to make more data driven decisions. And we’re making data driven decisions for our clients. So when we had to kind of turn inwards and really figure out the data that really transformed our business. And I find like when I’m like working with clients, and you know, building websites that last it is making sure that they have the right thing. So we’re really solving business problems. And we’re coming up with like, Okay, what is your core challenge you’re having right now, you have leads that are coming to the website, but you need to make sure that they’re more qualified, let’s focus on that as solving the problem. Or maybe they’re like, we’re not having any leads come to our website. Okay, let’s focus on what we can do for that awareness content from search engine, optimizing that content from doing better funnels from doing better content positioning, and then once then we can go to the next phase. So it’s like, literally, if you’re not solving your client’s business problems, and you’re just building websites, you won’t have a website that lasts you won’t have a client that lasts because they’re just going to be treated like a commodity, like an expense. Yeah, if you get into solving your client’s business problems, and when you ask one of their questions I asked every single client we talked to is what keeps you up at night about your website. And they go, Oh, well, you know, and then they’ll tell you, right, and then like, what, what are you scared about around this project? Well, I’m I’m scared of this, you know, and you can kind of dig into some of those fears and some of those business pain points. And then if you can just solve one of those, then the rest becomes like, okay, now we want to do more accessibility work. Now we want to do a fancier landing page. But some of our clients was, you know, they come to us and they’re like, well, I don’t want to get fired, because I’m afraid I’m gonna get fired if we don’t. Okay, well, let’s make sure you look good. All right, that’s one of our core goal is making you look good. They’re like, Yeah, okay.
I’ve met a lot of clients in the day, just be like, I actually want a website that I want to promote, or the same people do because a lot of people are like, Oh, my website’s terrible. Don’t go there. Just call the shop.
Yeah, no, that’s interesting. We have one of our clients that came to us and had a very crusty codebase. And there’s probably about 2% of clients when they join our team. And we just say, we have to do a rebuild, like this is too bad. Somebody hacked core. They built the menus out in PHP, it’s a disaster, we have to rebuild. And it was a pretty large site, it was a six figure rebuild. And they were like, Oh, it’s such an expense. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t want to do it. And like, well, you got to like this is this is the hot mess. We’re spending 40 or 50 hours a month, just keeping the doors on and keeping it up. Let’s go ahead. And so we did bite by bite. So we did strategy first. And then we came up with all our user research, then we did some wireframes. And we, you know, we did a little bit each quarter. Okay, it took us about a year and a half. Usually projects take three to six months Academy took a year and a half to get this project live. Okay, the whole time. We had set them on a payment plan. We were like, We got your back. Okay, I’m sitting, we do a three month post launch. Like, how did it go? And Sarah, our client is sitting there. And I was like, So Sarah, tell me about your website? Like, how has it been? She’s like, Oh, you know, that like $150,000 we spent? Yeah, we made it back in three months.
And I was like, Are you kidding me? She’s like, yes, we’ve had more and they do carpet cleaning and blinds and restoration. She’s like, we’ve literally sold $150,000, more on top of our average sales since our new website’s been launched. And I was like,
That’s awesome. But that’s a case study testimonial you got there.
She’s just jazzed. And now her whole team that was so stressed about that. We built that. Now she’s like, Okay, I got double the money that I invested in the rebuild for next year. And we’re going to do it all in six months. And we’re going to do location based landing pages. And we’re going to do this and we’re gonna do that I want to hear your ideas. And she’s been a greatest client ever since not only from like helping clients, you know, if they’re worried and stressed about the cost to show that the return on investment is actually possible. But also showing that like, when you have a website that works, it really works. Yeah, she didn’t even know her website was so poor performing. It was still bringing in leads, it was still making money. It was still converting people. But once she saw the power of a properly built website, with proper funnels with proper content was, you know, really had been listening to the user and getting into their clients, you know, shoes and writing content that was more relevant to them being like, we’re the number one cleaning service versus, you know, like, you know, do you know how to get cat pee out of the rug. And we started helping with content that was like what people are searching for cat pee and rug, bloodstains on carpet, red wine here, and then their articles would come up first, they’d be positioned as a thought leader, and then they would call them to come in and do their cleaning services. So it was amazing the transformation for their business. And she’s a one person show that runs all of these franchisees across North America. They’re like, wow, and now it’s just like, she’s like tripling down on stuff. She has a website that works, she wants it to last for the long term. And so if you can build like, get some initial wins and focus on the business problems, and then focus on iterative development with your with your clients, like it becomes like a gravy train, both from your work as well as your clients, businesses, and then the referrals go on and your staff are excited because they’re building new things. So…
well, I love that you just use that practical example, too. That was a great little free SEO tip for people to think about instead of saying like, our company’s been around since 1979. It’s how to solve this problem. Because people search how to solve problems and how to get answers to questions. They don’t search I want a company that’s been around for 30 years that nobody cares about that. So that’s great. But I love her I wanted to touch on real quick just just remembering that thought of you going through your broken ankle and coming to that crossroads because I think most everybody has an experience like that. I know for me, it was going through I mentioned before we went live my daughter was in the niccu for two months. And that was a big eye opener for me because thank God I had my maintenance plan and my hosting in place. I’m really thankful that I just started scaling my business too. Because my designer I was like, dude, I’m not gonna be able to work that much. I we did have a coffee shop across the street that I was at, you know, frequently throughout the week during the hospital stay but I was like you just You know, just go with it, I was able to kind of branch out. So that was the key to it was like, I had to look at my processes and realize the same thing happen anytime I would take a vacation up to before scaling my business, the whole, like prove that visually you put out there is exactly what happened. If I take a week off, my email was stacked and I realized, okay, I’ve got a, I got to figure something out. And honestly, that’s just a vulnerable position to be in. If you can’t take a week off, and you just, you know, it takes a month to get caught up something, something’s got to change. So and I want to make sure everyone knows too, it’s okay, like, you’re gonna inevitably you’re gonna, you’re gonna have to do stuff step one step at a time, that’s going to happen in the early days. But luckily, hopefully, after this conversation, everyone gets an idea that, okay, I’ve got to put some of these processes in place and make sure I can last for the long haul, in order for my clients to.
For sure, I now take a week, every quarter, and I go completely dark, every quarter, I take a week off. I couldn’t do that before. It took me breaking physically to see what was broken in my business. And then what I did is I took one thing, and I fixed it. And it took another thing and I fixed it. Mike Michalowicz also wrote a recent book called Fix This Next, which I’m a big fan of him. He’s hilarious. But he talks about this business hierarchy of needs. And you have to start with fixing one thing at a time. So it has that same vibe of continuous website improvement. But it’s about first starting with sales and making sure that you have a sales process, make sure that you have a pipeline making sure you have that, then you have to make sure you have solid profit, then you go on to order then you can go to legacy and impact. But that really helped me you know, back in 2016, when things kind of blew up on me, I didn’t know this book, it wasn’t even out back then. But it did mean, okay, I really have to just focus on making sure we have a really solid pipeline. What does that look like? Right? And then it was like, Okay, now I need a really solid management team so I can get out of the way. So it was about taking one thing at a time. And just like I tell my staff and I would say every entrepreneur, you are going to fail and you’re going to fail a lot. But if you don’t fail, you’ll never learn. So I always say screw up screw up a lot. Just don’t screw up at the same thing twice.
Oh, that’s a great quote. Yeah, that’s a great thought. Absolutely.
Screw up, learn, document, and then you know that okay, I’m never gonna do that again.
You’ll never do it again. Yeah, that’s the problem, isn’t it? When somebody makes the same mistake over and over? That’s okay. That’s awful. Got, you’ve got to learn from this. Yeah, actually, I hadn’t. I hadn’t heard of this book that just came out spring 2020. So I just added it to my reading list, I’m definitely gonna check that out. Because that’s kind of the position I’m in curiously enough is since transitioning to do in this full time, I have no client deadlines whatsoever. So I have to give myself deadlines, and I have a ton of work to do. But I’m in the same boat, where I’m kinda like planning it out. Similar to what you do for web design projects, you plan it out, you got to have some sort of deadline, because it’s it’s crucial to have some good deadlines. But But yeah, that’s key man. And some seriously great quotes, I feel like every every segment you’ve talked in, has had some sort of like gold quote. So this has been some really great stuff, man, we’ve really covered a fairly wide range of, of ideas for longevity, practically both technically with like the tools and, but then also also with the idea of really mentally preparing your clients for the long haul. And I think that’s you too, and preparing ourselves for the long haul with, you know, having that first initial website design only being a fraction of the relationship over the coming years, really focusing on content, SEO, the things that are really going to help, you know, conversion based design, the stuff that’s going to help clients and their sites actually convert and make money, which is going to help you keep a client for a lot longer. But we’ve also talked about keeping ourselves in a place where we can set ourselves up for the long haul. So man, this has been great, we’re gonna have this transcribed and have the outline all set up for the show notes for this page. I’m already excited to kind of go back through this and really pick out some some of the big points because this has been super beneficial for me. And it’s kind of reaffirmed what I’ve told a lot of my students in the past year or so, which is think long term, get rid of the feast and famine, really, really think about your clients and the beauty. Again, I just want to reiterate one final point on my end, is that it takes so much stress and pressure off, when you don’t need to worry about getting a client every week. All you have to do you can you could get 20 clients in nurture those clients and be set up with a six figure income for a lot of years just nurturing 20 to 30 clients. So hopefully that makes people pumped up and get some, you know, excited for the future. Do you have any sort of like final thought with all this, whether it’s internal or external for your sites you have anything you’d like to leave the audience with?
Well, I know one of the things that with this whole entrepreneurial operating system model was we measured things that mattered. And one of those was that we want 70% of our income to come from existing clients. So 70% of our revenue on a monthly yearly, you know, basis comes from our existing client base, which means working with them to ultimately improve the life cycle of their website, because it’s way easier and way more affordable to keep a client happy than go and get a new one. So that’s where if you are a solopreneur, and you have two or three clients, just focus on, you know, maybe getting one more new client at a time versus five or six, and making sure that you provide that high quality service, because they will essentially continue to work with you and feed your funnel. And, you know, I think that it’s just so important to remember that, you know, when we’re working with people, it’s very much a human experience. So it’s about really like listening to them and supporting them and figuring out what they need. And then, you know, translating that on their website, because it’s easy to code. And it’s easy design and a lot of ways. It’s the humans that make it hard. So you can really like listen to the humans and like work with them. I always say it’s not b2b, it’s not b2c, it’s H to H, human to human. It’s time to you know?
You’re like the you are like the quote machine in this interview, I can’t Yeah, that’s so awesome. Yeah, it’s, it’s so true. I’ve never heard that. But I’m gonna steal that from you, whoever you stole that from, h2h, because it is it is human to human. And the fact is, you when I see a lot of designers, because I have a Facebook group and a free web design Facebook group, and I see so many people like the same people, like basically asking for jobs over and over, or if somebody puts a request out, it’s the same person, like, Hey, I’m available, I can do this. I’m like, if you’ve been doing this for a year or two, you really shouldn’t be in that position. Where are the previous clients? Like? Did you not do a good job? Are they are you churning and burning them? Are they turning, you know, did they not enjoy working with you like where you really shouldn’t have to be in quote, unquote, sales mode for too long? You really only need a few clients before the referral train starts if you do a good job, and that, again, should relieve the pressure. That’s one reason I’m not a lot of the most common question I see is how do I get clients? But I’m much more focused on how do you convert? First of all on how do you do really good for one client do that first, and then you move on, it takes the pressure off. So yeah, that’s a great thought to end off with, and it’s true 10% of it, or what do they say that, you know, it’s 10 times less expensive, on average, to get work from existing clients, as opposed to selling a new one, because you’ve got to sell, they gotta get to know you, and, and all that. So
Yeah, and I mean, if your client is like only a one and done, like, they have a bakery, they have that they don’t have a ton of money to spend on an ongoing basis, that’s okay. They also have a whole network, there’s a great book called Unstoppable Referrals, which essentially being allowing you to feel more comfortable to ask your clients for referrals, which is a really cool place to kind of get to where you’re, you can just say, you know, reaching out and saying, hey, if you know anybody else in your network, that you think that could be a benefit from our service. You know, we’d love to, we’d love to be able to work with them and provide that. So it’s like, giving you the confidence to be able to reach out because sometimes think, oh, I don’t want to ask, and oh, I don’t want to do that. But the reality is, is that if you’ve done good work, it will attract other good work, you just sometimes need to ask for it. And that absolutely something as a solopreneur that, you know, most people says, I don’t like sales, I don’t want to do sales. Well, if you’re doing good work, it’ll sell on its own, all you need to do is have a little bit of a voice, have a script, have something you can send your clients that they can forward on or post on their LinkedIn or post on their social networks. And it’s amazing. I mean, if you work with an association, for example, they’re usually part of another association with a bunch of associations, right?
That’s such a great point too, because it really doesn’t take too much to make your clients a salesforce for you. And it really is as simple as that. Just ask them. It does it don’t be afraid to do that. Don’t be shy or nervous about that clients are going to receive that very well, especially if they just had a good experience with you. For example, as a quick practical example, wrap this up. If a client has a new website, they’ll likely share it on their newsletter or Facebook, and they’ll say, hey, check out our new website. Well, if you had asked them, Hey, would you mind mentioning our name and just say you had a great experience working with us and just put our link in that post? Well, there’s maybe 10, 20 new leads that you wouldn’t have had if you just didn’t reach out. So man, awesome stuff. And well, hey, I think we could chat about 10 hours on this, but I want to be respectful, very respectful of your time. So thanks so much for your time. This was some gold stuff. I can’t wait to get this out to everyone to check it out. And I have a feeling we’ll have you on again at some point because I’m sure we could talk about a variety of different stuff in the web design entrepreneurial world.
Fantastic. Well, thanks for having me. Josh was an absolute pleasure and we look forward to seeing you all soon.
Awesome talk soon.
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