Well…I can’t think of a better way to kick off the New Year than diving into a super-hot topic and bringing in a legend in the WordPress realm to discuss it and that’s exactly what I have for you in this podcast episode.
We’re going to talk about scaling your web design agency with WordPress legend, Troy Dean!
If you don’t know Troy, you may have heard of his brand WP Elevation which was recently rebranded to Agency Mavericks where he helps business owners take their agencies to 6 and 7 figures.
While I thought this conversation was going to be all about that, scaling and hustling, it was actually super refreshing to hear him ENCOURAGE pausing and asking yourself if scaling is right for you and if so, how to go about it to suit your lifestyle and goals.
If you’re at a point in your business where you’re either swamped with work as a solopreneur and are ready to hire OR if you have dreams of creating and building a legit web agency, this is an episode you won’t want to miss.
Troy lays out a proven path for scaling having worked with scaling entrepreneurs for years and along with that, we talk value-based pricing, how to raise your rates to the value you offer, how to feel confident when selling, client relationships, team communication and so much more.
I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed having the convo!
In this episode:
00:00 – Introduction
03:15 – Greeting to Troy
04:40 – Why a rebrand
08:45 – When do you scale
12:52 – Preferring gratitude
16:23 – Decision to stay small
18:11 – Quantifiable case studies
20:28 – 99.9% of your success
29:22 – Sharing with community
30:58 – Value or mindset
34:05 – Client priorities
36:18 – Sites as commodities
42:48 – Get to the heart
45:49 – Learn and master value
48:44 – Scale around you
52:09 – The landscape
56:56 – Hire before you need them
Connect with Troy:
Featured links mentioned:
Episode #159 Full Transcription
Hello, friends, and welcome into the podcast. This is Episode 159, the first episode of 2022. I’m super excited about kicking the year off with an awesome topic to dive into something that a lot of my students are going through right now. And that is scaling and how to do this if you want to scale a legit agency or if you just want to scale as a solopreneur. Or if you’re like me, and you wanted to have a bit of an in between, you want to know how to scale and hire and delegate, but you don’t necessarily want to have a huge agency, you just want to maybe have a few contractors. We’re going to talk all about that. I think this is a great topic to kick the year off with and I’m super excited to bring in a very special guest to kick off 2022. This is an absolute legend in the WordPress realm.
My guest in this episode is none other than Troy Dean, you might recognize his name from his brand, which was previously WP Elevation. Now, it’s called Agency Mavericks. It’s a fairly new rebrand, you’ll actually hear early on why they rebranded but if you’re familiar with that, that name that brand name of WP Elevation. The dude behind that was Troy dean. And he is here today to talk about scaling again, whether you’re interested in taking it to a you know, agency status. Or if you just want to start to hire out a little bit you want to dip your toe into scaling. The question is very worthwhile asking, should you scale and we actually address that in this this interview. And I’m so glad that Troy was really open about whether you should or shouldn’t scale.
I’ll be honest, I kind of thought he was really going to push for everybody to scale and become an agency Maverick like he coaches come to find out. He’s actually very transparent and real about whether you should scale and whether you’re ready, I found this conversation fascinating. It was such a pleasure to have Troy on I’ve actually been trying to get Charlie on the show for months. Finally, we had a mutual friend who he commented on one of his Facebook posts. This mutual friend was James rose with content snare. And I said James, will you please get me in touch with Troy, I’d love to have him on the podcast. And James is awesome. So he did that. And here’s Troy to talk about scaling.
Now, If you are interested in scaling after this conversation, if you’re like, yes, I would love to scale but I still don’t know quite where to start, or what steps to take initially. I would love to help you out with that I have a free 10 Step action plan for scaling your web design agency, you can pick that up for free right now at Josh Hall co slash scale. So just head there, let me know where to send that free 10 Step action plan. You can go again to just Josh Hall co slash scale. I’ll send you that and I’d love to help you scale your business again, at an agency level or just a little bit if you want to dip your toe into it. So without further ado, further ado, not further ado, we’re as a new made-up word for the year. Hey, we’re going to kick the year off with a made up word that should be no surprise when you listen to this podcast. Anywho here’s my man Troy Dean, we’re going to talk about scaling.
Troy, welcome on to the podcast. Dude. Pleasure to have you on man.
Thanks for having me, Josh. It’s it’s good to be here.
I was about to say, mate, because I know you’re down under, maybe that’d be a great place to start where you’re based out of and then I’m curious, when somebody asks you, what do you do? What do you tell them?
I usually say acid, and that kind of freaks them out a bit. And they kind of look at me like I don’t know whether I’m joking or not. So I’m based out of Melbourne, Australia. And we’re, we look like an agency coaching business. But we’re really an agency advisory. So we we advise agencies through gross. We’ve got some coaching and some done for you services. We don’t do. We don’t do web design or digital marketing services. We’re not an outsourcing agency. But we do some recruitment, we do some documentation writing some SOP building, sales consulting and, and leadership coaching for agency owners.
Gotcha. Gotcha. And I know you guys recently had a bit of a rebrand from what I was most familiar with. And a lot of my students who have who have been through some of your programs I mentioned before we got connected we actually have a lot of similar and familiar students. It was WP Elevation and is now Agency Mavericks. I think that’s a great place to start. I’m curious what was the impetus for that change? Why go from WP Elevation to a little more of a broad term like Agency Mavericks?
Yeah, it was the main reason was because a lot of people thought that we taught people how to build WordPress websites that are gonna suffer. I want to be a web design agency. I come to you guys and you guys teach me how to use WordPress and that was just a constant conversation we were having. I’m like, we’re just gonna rip this WP badge off at some point and, and rebrand and so We had and we’ve always had his aviation theme to long story but I grew up opposite a very small suburban airport, I sit on the roof of my house and watch the air show. And I’ve always been fascinated with with flight and, and travel and, and so we’ve always had this kind of aviation theme and we started our mastermind back in 2018 Mavericks club. And so when we were looking at rebranding, we had the digital Maverick Facebook group and, and Maverick is kind of this term that in Australia, we would call we would we would refer to you as a larrikin. If you like, you know, if you if you’re, if you’re a bit cheeky, you’d like confident, but a little bit cheeky and a little bit of a you get up to a little bit of mischief. But nothing too serious. You know, we were
I’m just imagining I’m imagining Top Gun, as you’re talking. Exactly.
That’s right. That’s Tom Cruise’s character he is. He’s the ultimate Maverick because he’s super confident. Some people think he’s arrogant, but he’s not. I don’t think he’s I think he knows how far he can push it because he’s super confident in his own abilities. And he has that youthful kind of rebellious streak. So when we say Mavericks are rebellious, but not reckless. And so when we’re thinking about the rebrand, we definitely want to use the word Maverick. And we want to move away from WP because we didn’t want people to think that we’re a WordPress tutorial company, which is actually how we started out we did start out as a WordPress tutorial company back in 2008, when we called Video user manuals, and so agency Mavericks was just this name that kept coming up. And we just we explored a whole bunch of different alternatives. But we just kept coming back to agency Mavericks, and it seemed like the most obvious choice for us.
Gotcha. And I’m curious how many of your clients or your customers in that are web designers or web design agencies specifically? Because I imagine you’re getting a variety of digital marketing and all sorts of agencies, how many on web design?
Yeah, the majority of web design, we have, we have some SEO, just some straight up SEO ad agencies. I think maybe we’ve got a handful of like, just straight up Facebook ad agencies. The majority of our clients are, you know, web design, branding, web development agencies, and E commerce agencies. And they might end up doing SEO as a value add, or they might end we’ve got an email marketing, email marketing agencies. But they most of them start out building websites for clients, because that’s typically the easiest way to start an agency is to build websites, and then you add services later on.
Gotcha, gotcha. Well, I’m really excited to pick your brain about this topic of scaling. It’s something that is more and more in the conversation with a lot of my students. And just to kind of fill you in Troy, I’m not sure how much you know, me or my journey. But I was a web design freelancer and solopreneur for about seven years before I started scaling. And I scaled at a very small level, as in just a full time subcontractor, basically, and a few other subcontractors until eventually teaching became such a big part of my life, I went full time doing courses and teaching web design.
So I know quite a bit about scaling from from a limited perspective of it, I guess I’m that’s why I’m really excited to have you on as somebody who has scaled yourself and you deal with a lot of people who scale. I know a lot of my students are at this place. And the kind of the first question I have for you is, when do you know it’s time to scale, because I have a lot of my students who are at this place where they are just swamped as a solopreneur. And I got to that point, I had 23 projects on my plate, just me and I was like, I literally can’t even do all this even. And I was already approaching the work life balance kind of thing where I was not going to work more than about 50 hours a week. And even that was way too much for what I wanted. So I think it’s a great question that kicks off. How do you know when it’s time to scale?
Well, you know, I think the I think, first of all, you need to decide whether or not you want to scale. Because you don’t have to scale. There’s nothing wrong with just staying small and profitable. As long as you really enjoy what you do. And you have some work life balance. And as long as you’re doing something with the profit in the agency to build your long term wealth, which a lot of people listening to this might not care about, because they might they might be like, wow, you know, dude, I’m like, on the right side of 30. And I’m invincible, I’m never gonna die. When you get to my age. I’m 48. Now you start thinking about, I don’t want to sit in front of the internet for the rest of my life, you know. And so I’ve, I’m deliberately building a business that can generate profit without me looking at the Internet,
I would have pegged you for 39 By the way,
Thanks. I’ve spent a long time looking at the Internet and I’m kind of, you know, like, I need a break. So, however, if you you don’t have to scale I just want to I just want to give people permission. You don’t have to scale if you don’t want to, but you should be doing something With the profit you’re pulling out of the agency out of your freelance business, right, you should be buying property or shares or getting some advice and building your long term wealth in some way. So that if in, you know, 5, 10 15 20 years time, you’re like, Well, I’m done looking at the Internet, I don’t want to build websites anymore, I’m just gonna shut this thing down. There’s, you’ve still got a wealth nest, nest egg somewhere else.
However, if you do want to scale, the the advantage of scale, I think is that you can have the ultimate, the end game is that you can become a shareholder in your business, and you can have the business generate profit without you, you know, working 50 hours a week. So you might want to scale back to just like working a couple of days a week, or you might just want to, you might want to work four days a week, but you might want to be the CEO, you might want to get off the tools, you might not want to talk to clients anymore.
So I think the I think the question is like, when do you scale is when you’ve decided that your business is going to be the vehicle through which you build your wealth, which is a decision I’ve made, like I’ve decided, I’m not going to try and build wealth through crypto, or, you know, property or shares at this stage of my life, I’m using my business to, to maximize my profit and my wealth, right? So so once you’ve decided that the business is going, or once you’ve decided that your passion and your love for web is going to be the vehicle you use to build your wealth, then you then you should scale like the moment you make that decision. Whether you’ve got 23 projects on the books or one you should start the process of scaling. That’s my humble opinion.
That’s well said, I definitely share that humble opinion. I’m definitely at the same mindset. I have always told my students there’s no pressure or rush to scale if you’re not ready for it, or especially if you’re at a place where you do have the balance and you do enjoy your day to day work. Like that was me for a long time. The reason I didn’t even start scaling on a small level until seven, eight years in is because I quite enjoyed being the guy for all of my clients. I enjoyed being that solopreneur webmaster for everybody.
It really was interesting for me, and I don’t know if I don’t know too much about your experience going from, you know, like getting into teaching and, and more authority Authority building. But I have found that when I started teaching, I had a knack for it. I loved it. It didn’t feel like work. And suddenly the passion I had for designing websites and working with clients started to diminish. And it wasn’t because I was burnt out from working with them. It was because I just loved what I’m doing now so much more. That was the impetus for me to scale. Did you I’m actually curious strokes. I don’t know too much about your background in regards to this. But was it a similar situation to you or what? What helped you become the teacher you are and and you know, becoming that type of authority figure?
Yeah, so I we had a plug in called Video user manuals back into the we started back in 2007. I think it went to market in 2008. And we started collecting we put we put up an e book called a better WordPress for clients. And it was basically how to back in 2007. WordPress was really clunky, right? I mean, it’s still clunky. But so we bought, we basically built this plugin called white labeled CMS, which was a free plugin. And we we kind of, we kind of showed you how easy it was to reskin WordPress and make it really user friendly from a client’s point of view so that when you handed it over to the clients, they didn’t ask you a bunch of stupid questions like, What is this, like from the WordPress development blog widget in my dashboard mean? And why are all these WordPress meetups being advertised to me.
And so we published an ebook, which showed you how to do that without using our plugin. And then of course, that was a great lead in to our free plugin, which was a great lead into a paid plugin. Anyway, we built this email list of about eight and a half 1000 People over a period of I don’t know, a couple of years. And I would never emailed them. Like they signed up for our free ebook, we gave them the free book, and that was it. And then if they didn’t buy the plugin was like whatever, we didn’t care because we were still doing consulting work. And eventually, one day I just emailed them, and I said, Hey, you like what I saw? And I’m not gonna flip out. But why did you go sign up for the ebook? And then not buy the plugin? Like, what are you looking for? How can we help.
And so I emailed our list of about eight and a half 1000 people I had 451 responses into my inbox because I stupidly just left my own email addresses the reply to email address, which kind of worked out well because like over a period of a couple of days, I was like, Holy shit, this audience is really engaged and they need help and they need help getting clients and writing proposals and like hiring a developer and you know, building care plans and their processes and they need all this help that like we’ve got this stuff in our in our freelance business and at that point, I had an agency so I just started coaching and even though it was coaching back then I just started helping people over email until I got to a point where I thought I’m answering the same questions over and over over and over again he maybe I should just put all these areas together in like video tutorials and stick it up in a Optimized Press members website and and charge 100 bucks a month for it and see if that works.
And and then So we launched over a weekend, we had 55 People join our membership, which meant we were we just added five and a half grand in recurring to our bottom line, like overnight. And I was like, okay, and then the gratitude started coming from these members who were, like, so appreciative of what we were sharing with them was like, huh, that, like, let’s just look at the economies of scale here, I can serve 1000s of these people and get this gratitude every day. Or I can serve dozens of my clients who, frankly, are a pain in the ass and have unrealistic expectations. So I gradually made the switch and went after the gratitude. And that’s, that’s how I became, you know, a teacher or an educator or a coach. Really?
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Wow, what a what a parallel set of feelings that I shared as well, once I got started, I am curious, I want to dive into the folks who are ready to scale and who have for whatever reason, whether they had planned it, or whether it wasn’t intentional, or they’re just swamped, and they know they need to. But I am curious, if you had to give one nugget of advice for somebody who wants to stay small, or at least wants to like I did be a solopreneur. And do as much as I can myself for as long as I could but not work 80 hours a week, is there like maybe a most impactful nugget of advice that you would give them if they just want to hang on to being a solopreneur?
Sure, yeah, double your prices and work less hours. Which is kind of useless without some context, right? So it’s easier, it’s way easier to put your prices up than you think. Right your your your first of all, don’t charge by the hour, because you get penalized for being really good. So always Project, Project basing or value based pricing, Project pricing or value based pricing. And there’s a couple of things about putting a product one is it’s just a, it’s just a decision, you get to decide how much you’re worth. So if you say that, if you’re listening to this, and you’re like, well, that’s fine, but no one would pay me any more than $5,000 for a website, then you are right. If that’s what you believe, then you are right.
So you know, work on your belief system, work on your sense of worth, and put your prices up. And be prepared to say no to some clients who are not a good fit. Right?
That’s a great point.
This the second piece of this, which is like think of this as like a little bit of like if this is like a harness, right, so when you put your prices up, it can be scary because you some clients will just you know, they’ll push back. Get really good social proof testimonials, case studies from people that you’ve helped in the past like video really authentic and quantifiable. Don’t get people to say, well, you know, Josh, build us a website. And he was really nice. And he spoke to us really well and communicate everything on time. And we really liked having Josh in our life, that’s a useless testimonial, you want to get testimonials and case studies that go we went from this horrible situation to, you know, the island of paradise. And it was because Josh put us through this amazing process that he’s got that got us there.
So get really specific quantifiable case studies, as many as you possibly can and use them to figure out what it is you do better than anyone else in your world, it doesn’t mean you don’t have to be the best web designer in the world, you just have to be the best web designer in your clients sphere. Yeah. And then put your prices up and charge what you charge what you need to get paid to be profitable, so that you can work 30 hours a week and be profitable, and take the profit out of the business and invest a profit elsewhere. And when I say profit, I don’t mean just pay yourself a salary. I mean, pay yourself a fair market wage for the work that you’re doing and have profit on top of that. Right. And then you can stay small.
Guy said so well said what a great little snippet of advice there. And that applies to scaling as well. Whether it’s just you and a person or a team, like all those those principles and methods you just laid out are amazing Troy that is that is really, gosh, I just completely echo all of that as far as being able to stay small, raise your rates. As funny. I had, I have a lot of students who it was interesting you framing it as a belief system. I haven’t quite heard it like that. But you’re totally right. It is 100% of mindset. In a belief system.
I experienced that myself. I did whatever WordPress web designer did for you know, early on, which was just keeping my prices way too low at 500 bucks or 1000 bucks and 1500. And once I started charging 3000 4000 for those same type of builds, suddenly I realized people were still buying those at almost the same rate. One of my students recently said, I just can’t imagine somebody is going to pay 3500 for this and I said, Well, have you put out a quote at that amount? And they said, Well, no, but I was like, listen, people are paying this. Just do it even if you don’t have it. pricing on your website, just do it for this project, if it’s a good client with a healthy budget and a legit agent or legit company, go for it. And guess what happened? They went for it. And there was this, like paradigm shift that I’m sure you had early on. I had it early on everybody has when it’s like, oh my gosh, there was something so powerful, sobering and so freakin awesome. When you actually get paid for your worth. And you realize people actually do pay these rates for our services. So gosh, well said, Man, I love it.
Let me let me let me pause here for a second, right, because this is really important as you scale as well, this mindset is like the most input is like 99.9% of your success is going to be determined by the thoughts that you pay attention to, you can’t control your thoughts is like about 70,000 thoughts a day that we have that just flashed into our head, and most of them are useless, and most of them are put there by other people, and most of them are designed to distract us and, and sabotage us and keep us safe, right. And most of those thoughts are just there to try and keep us in a safe little box. So when I get hurt.
It’s the thoughts that you pay attention to that are going to determine whether or not you succeed at whatever you do. So let me just bust this myth for a second, anyone listening that says, No one’s gonna pay me $3,500 For this, or no one’s gonna pay me seven and a half $1,000 for this or whatever the number is right? I can tell you from experience, my own personal experience, and witnessing this 1000s of times over the last 10 years with freelancers and agencies that you will work, it’s the same amount of work to build a website for two and a half $1,000 as it is for 22 and a half $1,000. It’s just the client and their business model that changes, you can’t sell a 22 and a half $1,000 website to a client, who is a mom and pop shop whose business model only makes three and a half $1,000 a week in revenue, because they just don’t have the capacity to get a return on the 22 and a half $1,000 investment.
So the moment you sell the moment, I can show you a website that you might think was three and a half $1,000 That was 22 and a half $1,000 The moment you realize that someone will pay 22 and a half $1,000 For what you might call a basic brochure website, right? The moment you see that invoice and you see the proposal and you see the signature and you see the bank deposit, the moment you see that it’s like the myth that is keeping you thinking small, has now been busted. Right? So that myth can no longer keep you thinking small because it’s no longer a truth. It’s just a myth. No one will pay me $5,000 For this website, and the moment they do. So we’re now operating under a new truth. Right?
I would just encourage anyone listening to this, if, if you’ve got thoughts in your head, like no one will pay more than this or that they won’t take me seriously. Or I have to add this functionality to charge this or I have to run ads for clients to be truly valuable. Any of those thoughts that you think are like holding you back? Just pay attention to where the thought came from? Like, what is the genesis of that thought? Why is it in your head? And is it actually serving you right now? Because if it’s not, then just let it go. And what I’m a big fan of is actually pro pre programming my head with so many of my own thoughts that actually serve me that I don’t leave any room for other people’s BS to get in there and sabotage me.
Gotcha. That’s great. And I think and I experienced this early on one issue that comes into pricing, and this will work as a solopreneur. Or if you’re scaling is if you think something sounds expensive to you. Sometimes you feel weird about charging that like, early on when I was making like 30k at the thought of charging $5,000 for a website seemed really wild. Like for me, that was a lot of money. Yeah. Have you seen that as well? Like, how do we maybe if somebody is on the lower level? Is it Do you almost have to trick your mind to understand the value and thinking bigger isn’t as simple as that?
You have to realize that not everyone is operating from the same the same worldview, right? The same frame of reference. So I remember talking to a buddy of mine who had a basically a banner ad production company so they would just produced banner ads, right? You would just place an order there or produce banner ads. And I remember hanging out with him at a friend box. Not was actually his brother’s one of my best mates was his bucks night. I ran into Kyle and I’m like, Hey, dude, has business I ever said tell me do you guys build websites, videos? i Yeah, but like nothing under 50k. And he just kind of threw that comment away. And I was like,
Hang on a second. And he didn’t do anything under 50k. And for him, it was like, why would you bother? Like he had a team. He had a whole bunch of graphic designers. They’re basically a banner ad production company, you know, doing really well. Like why would I build a website for less than 50k it’s just going to distract my team and be a pain in the ass. But if you come in with a budget over 50k Then we’ll look at it we’ll consult with you and we’ll design a strategy we’ll help you out. And, and I remember coming away From that not going, I can’t even like that is just not like that is not my worldview, you know what I mean? It’s like, it’s like I’m watching Sesame Street and he’s watching Tarantino films. Yeah, there is no big bird inherently no films, or if there is, it’s very strange.
It’s getting blown out for something, right?
Correct. You know what I mean? It’s like, so I just got to stop watching the same movie that I’ve been watching in my head my whole life, which is this small frame of reference, and it’s not my fault. It’s like, it’s no one’s fault that you’re thinking small. It’s just, you gotta remember, we are born with scarcity in our DNA. We are born with a scarcity mindset. It’s how we survive. But at some point, if you don’t undo that thinking, and reprogram your brain with more constructive messages, then then all of those stories are just going to keep you thinking small, particularly if you’re working on your own. From home or in a small office environment on the internet, and you are in a silo, and you don’t hear messages all day that builds you up.
All you hear all day, if you’re on social media is the highlight reel of everyone else’s fantastic life, where it’s all rainbows and unicorns, and success and crypto billionaires, right? And that makes you feel insignificant and insecure, and not as worthy. And you hear complaints from clients, right. And so if if you have to be really careful, if you spent a lot of time on your own, not taught not being your biggest cheerleader, right, that you can very easily get into a dark place and offend them and a mindset full of doubt. So here’s a crazy thing, what I do a lot. And there have been a lot of studies that prove that this works. And my wife is a psychologist, and I spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff. And I’ve had a lot of therapy in my life. And so I’ve got myself into a place now where I can do this without feeling weird.
I talk out loud, about myself in the third person in the present tense. Right. So what that actually looks like is, I will, you know, come into the office, and I will say, Troy is motivating his team today to do XYZ or Troy’s getting his team focus today to blah, blah, blah, right? Or I said, Come on, Troy, you got this, right. And there have been, there was a great study done with the elite basketball players. And what they did is they split them into two groups, and they had them shoot hoops. And one group, they said, when you’re shooting a hoop, I want you to talk to yourself in the third person in the present tense, like, come on, Josh, you got this, you got this shot, Josh, come on Josh, but coach yourself through it, but use your own name in the third person.
And the other group, though, like you guys just do what you normally do. Well, the guys that were talking to themselves out loud, like they killed them. I absolutely killed them. And so I do that a lot. Because if I sit here in silence all day, I’m just prone, I just leave myself wide open to other people’s messages getting into my head, and, you know, keeping me small and keeping me down and keep me in a nice little box, because that’s where everyone wants me. Because their agenda, and their plan is all about them. Right? So if you don’t have if you don’t set the intention of like what you want to achieve and coach yourself, so wouldn’t be your own biggest cheerleader, you don’t have a clear plan to get there. You just leave yourself wide open it becomes part of someone else’s plan. And you know,
Yeah, or the worst version of your plan or we’re often our own worst enemies, right? Like we you know, it’s very easy, especially in the freelance entrepreneur world where it’s a lot of time at your desk alone for quite frankly, like I think a lot of people might see you or other people in the WordPress agency realm or even see me at a lower level as an authority. And in some Divi or WordPress markets like Divi and, and what I’m doing and think might be a glamorous life, the reality is, it’s me and my office alone a lot. That’s, that’s basically what it is. And I think you’re hitting on a really important thing that I talked about on the podcast all the time, which is community, and really good community, people that are going to support you and uplift you whether that’s a premium group on it.
I mean, that’s, you know, that’s probably the impetus behind agency Mavericks, and I have a web design club where we have, you know, amazing people to build each other up. So I think that is huge. Particularly when it comes to scaling, I would say, in order to scale, you have to be in some sort, whether it’s a mastermind group or something, you have to have a set of people around you that you can look to, but not look at from any sort of comparison game, would you say that’s true? Like, have you seen the most successful people scale? who do have some sort of mastermind or group around them?
Totally, I mean, you can do it on your own, it just takes longer and it’s more painful, right? So like, like anything like, like, surround yourself with people who are going to be your champion, but also show you you know, like we’ve got an amazing internal culture, you know, we have a we’re very abundant thinking community, right? So anyone that comes into our world, we kind of indoctrinate them into that abundant way of thinking. So we share everything with our community. And you know why try and figure something out yourself when you can just have no community who someone’s already figured it out and they can share it with you and it might not be perfect for you, but they may have already done 70% of the heavy lifting. And so you can just take what they have done and tweak it and season it to taste and then you know, adapted for yourself.
And there’s a big difference between a cheerleader and a coach or even a teammate, somebody who’s around the same level as you. I think all those things that we can throw a sports analogy on it is really, really key to have somebody who’s going to teach you that is going to kind of show you the way like you just said, but have somebody cheer for you and somebody who’s alongside you that you can see progress with them. I I definitely think that’s key from scaling, because the people who I knew and know currently who have scaled any sort of agency have had just that. They’ve been in some sort of mastermind, or some sort of supportive community that is more than just a free Facebook group with 1000s of people or something. Yeah. So yeah, I think it’s important. And I don’t want to derail us too far on that, because we do talk about a lot about that. I am curious. So you mentioned the dude you talk to was like, I’ll do anything for 50k and just blew by it? I would imagine there is some more value in that than just websites. Is that correct?
Well, you know, so Flight Center spent $3 million on a website, and then canned it to Flight Center as a travel agent here in Australia, it’s been $3 million on a website that never saw the light of day. Right. So, you know, this is a really interesting question is the question I hear a lot like 450 K would have to be more than just a website? What? Why, like, what what why would it why would it need to be more than a website? 50k?
Well, I guess it would depend on what you’re talking about earlier, which is your customer, your target market. And I actually, I had one project, I totally would have bid out for 5k. I did 15, just because I knew they had a healthy budget, and they actually went for it. So I guess that’s it. That’s a, you know, a practical example. Yeah, I would say would have to be the customer or the mindset or how it’s framed as,
Right. So so you know, if you think about the customer, and what their objectives are, and what their priorities are, and their potential return on investment. So for example, if you’re a lead gen company, like a high pages, or whatever you guys call it in the states where you just generate leads, and then you sell those leads to removal companies or home contractors, right. And so all you’re doing is like running ads, generating leads, and then selling those leads off to the highest bidder, if that’s your business model, and you don’t have a web dev team, or a web design team or a strategy team in house. And you know, that if you can, you know, you know that your website’s a bit archaic, and you know that you know, you can do you could generate more leads, and you know that a lead is worth, you know, $17 profit to you. And that if you upgraded your website and did some conversion rate optimization, and did say and it was faster, and all that kind of stuff, that your potential upside could be an extra $30,000 a month in profit, right?
If that was the potential upside, but for you to manage this yourself and to go find the freelancers and the contractors to do it, right is going to take you six months, and potentially the cost of trying to do it yourself or manage this yourself could be the cost of failing. So not only the potential loss of the additional 30,000 A month profit, but you could also go backwards, it could be damaging to the business, then, wouldn’t it be it doesn’t stand to reason that hiring an agency to do this for you, and they charge you 50k And they get it done within two months and two months from now you’re generating that extra $30,000 a month in profit, it’s going to take two months, right to get a return on that investment in the additional profit. Now, let’s say you missed the mark, and your profits only an extra $10,000 A month or five months, you’ve got a return on investment.
So it’s it’s it depends on the client, it depends on their go to market strategy. It depends on I’ve seen agencies get bought by other agencies just for the care plan revenue. Right. I’ve seen agencies get bought by other agencies just because they had two kill a staff members that the agency wanted. And those two staff members were worth buying the entire agency, because it was just easier and quicker to consume the the whole agency basically shut down the agency and just absorbed those two team members and gradually performance managed the rest of them out the door.
So it depends on the client, what their objectives are, what their priorities are, how fast they want to move. And larger companies tend to move pretty slow. Right? So I remember talking to Shane Pillman, from modern tribe about this years ago, when they were basically a collective of freelancers back then. And they had some amazing clients like Warner Brothers, I think and I don’t know Skype and Microsoft, I’m like, Dude, how do you get these clients? He said, Well, what you got to remember is that, like we Microsoft don’t hire us. Jenny from Microsoft hires us because she’s running a marketing experiment in one of their departments, and she needs something done and for them to do it internally is gonna take 12 months worth of meetings just to get an approval, whereas she can just give it to us and we can get it done in 90 days, right? So large companies move slow. So they, you know, smaller agencies are a bit more agile. So it all depends on the client, their priorities, their objectives, where they’re stuck, what their roadblocks are, and how you can help them get from A to B,
Great encapsulation of value based pricing, results oriented services and deliverables rather than just a five page website. That is something that I’ve really been trying to teach a lot of my students and we’ve talked a lot about recently on the podcast is the different approach to sales. And this is key for scaling. Because I feel like if you’re going to scale effectively, you have to move from a commodity style, service or product like a just website. That looks nice. That’s five pages. But what just like you said, Troy, what is it going to do for the business? What is the result they’re going to get? And I think that’s the power.
And that’s honestly, quite frankly, why I was able to triple what I had normally would have charged on that one project is because, yeah, I probably would have done it for 5k. But I knew this company was a legit company. And I just I threw it out there. I just my mindset was already changing. At that point, I just threw it out there. I figured I had nothing to lose. I was at the point where I didn’t need the project. And it works. It was awesome. So it definitely works. I guess that’s another maybe a little more of a tactile question, particularly when it comes to scaling is how do we avoid websites becoming a commodity? Is it adding more of the value like conversion, SEO optimization, those things? What what in your mind helps websites move from a commodity?
This is one of my favorite topics?
So here’s the thing, right? First of all, first of all, this just want to be a profit per second, you owe it to your self, your staff, your family, who have supported you in this journey, and your clients to make profit. Okay, if you don’t make profit on every project, you are letting your clients down you, everyone who supported you on this journey, your team, you’re letting all of those people down if you don’t make profit on every project, because profit allows you to reinvest back in the business and better serve your clients, right and stay in business.
So just get comfortable with making lots of profit. It’s a good thing. Profit is good, okay. Second of all, if you want to scale a really profitable business, building websites for clients, the first thing you have to do is stop selling websites. Now, I know you might think what the hell you’re talking about, you’re on a web design podcast, and we’re talking about scaling web design agency, and you want us to stop selling websites. So here’s the thing. Websites are a commodity. Unless you are dealing with enterprise level clients, I’m going to make an assumption that most people listening to this are dealing with small to medium business, right?
Webinars are a commodity, no small business owner woke up in the middle of the night and said, Darling, I, it’s occurred to me, I’ve had an epiphany, I’ve had a dream, the answer to all of our problems is that I’m going to go find someone tomorrow and spend $15,000 on our website. Right? That never happens. Websites are a commodity, and you just Google like vet websites or dental websites wherever you live, and you’ll find them for less than $1,000. Okay, they are a commodity. So what one of the fundamental things that we teach is to take what it is you do and turn it into what we call a signature system or a signature solution. And the only place you can get that is from Josh Hall web design. It’s the Josh hall way, it’s the way Josh does things.
The only place you can get it is is Joshua web design, because it’s wrapped up in Josh’s strategy and his experience and the way that he does things. And the way that we present this is that we present to a client based on what the client needs, what they’ve told us they need, where they’re currently stuck what their roadblocks are, we map out what I call a 12 month roadmap. So whenever I work with a client, I’m going to I’m going to make an assumption about working together for at least 12 months. And over the next 12 months, we’re going to do this, this, this, this and this. And part of that might be redesigning the website.
Now, here’s, here’s the catch. The part of that might be redesigning the website, which means instead of us charging you $6,000 for a website, and then putting you on a care plan for $150 a month and then maybe running some SEO for $500 a month, what we’re going to do is we’re going to charge you somewhere between 1500 $4,500 a month for our signature system for a 12 month commitment. We’re going to get you these results and these outcomes over the next 12 months. And part of that will be we need to do some work on the website. But then they don’t have to pay $6,000 for us to redo the website, we’re just going to do that. Right?
We can. And if you even if you’ve got a client on 1500 a month for 12 months, that’s an $18,000 engagement over 12 months, well, you can add more value to a client, if they spent $18,000 with you over a 12 month period than if they spent $6,000 with you and you try and get it done in three months. Which is that’s the usual agency model is hey, I’ve now got 23 projects in my Trello board and I’ve got to try and get them done in three months and they’re all paying me $5,000 Which is great again $100,000 worth of business here. And I want to throw yourself off the balcony because I just cannot get through all this work.
All right, so. So the signature system is a 12 month engagement, let’s just slow down, let’s do one thing at a time, let’s redesign the website, if we have to, right, that’s included. Because you’re a VIP growth plan client, or whatever we call it, we’re just going to fix that for you. So we’re actually not going to charge you to redesign the website, we’re just going to get that done as part of our solution. And the other thing I’ll just say is that this does not mean that you need to.
But this does not mean that you specifically need to add more services to your service offering to be valuable, you don’t need to run ads, if you don’t want to, you don’t need to do SEO, if you don’t want to, you don’t need to, you know, do copywriting if you don’t want to, you either build a team to do those things, or you partner with someone to do it, what people are paying you for, is to help them work out their goals to help them sort out a plan to get there. And then the strategy to execute their plan and help them achieve their goals. Because they don’t have a clue about any of that stuff. And that’s why they’re actually hiring you. The website is just part of the vehicle of execution, that is going to help them deliver that strategy and get the results they won’t.
That’s a great point, a really, really solid point there that I think we should not overlook. And that is the strategy aspect to this even just the strategy of like you said, organizing all these pieces and figuring out what to do to help them achieve their goals or whatever whatever challenge they have, or whatever it is. And I found myself doing essentially a lot of free strategy for years. And I didn’t it didn’t really dawn on me that I was the I was the strategist for their business, their entire online presence. And I think something else that is very overlooked, particularly in web design, is the power of connections and those type of partnerships we have, like you said, the client doesn’t know anything about SEO or copywriting or conversion based design or any, you know, likely it’s unlikely that they’re going to know anything about that. And even if you just know the basics of all that you likely know people who do that, or your friends and affiliates know people who do that.
So what a powerful position to be able to charge something like that. Now, I am curious, because a lot of people wonder, if I scale my agency, do I have to get these big, you know, agency type clients are these big businesses that I just don’t want to work with. Because I really enjoyed working with small businesses, I worked with a couple larger companies, and it wasn’t near as fun. There are way more hoops to jump through. There were way more of that. So I guess the question I have for you in this regard, joy would be to in order to scale to those type of projects that are 18k annually, or whatever it is. Do you have to get to the unemployed devil’s advocate here? Do you have to get those big clients? Or can we talk our small business clients into that type of business model or that yearly arrangement?
Yeah, so here’s the thing. So I hear what you’re saying. I wouldn’t say we talked him into it. I would say what we do is we we you don’t have to go after the the large enterprise clients. They’re a pain in the ass. I don’t deal with them. Because you’re right. There’s too many too many too many meetings, right? There’s too much bureaucracy. I like the small to medium business owner. And I like and so what I do is I ask lots of questions. When someone comes to me and says we need we need to redo our website. First question I ask is why? And I will keep asking why until I actually get to the truth of why they need to redo their website, which could take multiple meetings before we get to the truth, right.
So what I want to do is I want to work out because they never just need a new website, that’s just a small part of what they need. What they need is they need, you know, better recruits or more leads or better customers or whatever they need to take their online business, you know, that take their offline business online, because they’re shocked because the pandemic or whatever. So what is it they actually need. And once you figure out what they actually need, and you work out a plan to help them get there, you realize that the website is just a small part of it. I think the mistake that most of us make is that we let the client dictate what they need from us. And then we end up just being an order taker. And we kind of take their orders and we kind of do what they ask and then they micromanagers and then they wonder why we’re charging X amount and they can get it cheaper on up work and the whole relationship goes south pretty quickly.
That’s a great point. Yeah,
I think controlling the narrative and controlling the sales conversation and the sales pace and like, like, you might say that you need a website. But let me just tell you how we do things here. We do things our way because based on our experience, what we know is that you probably need more than a website, right? You probably need something before people get to the website. You might need some marketing you need something after people visit the website. If you’re doing e commerce, you need some cart abandon, you might need some email nurturing, you might need some optimization on the back end, you might need to integrate with some of your own internal systems for delivery. So what do you actually need? Let’s map that out. Work out a game plan and then go cool, we can help you with this, this, this and this. And we can connect you with someone to help you with this final piece here and we can manage the whole thing from start to finish.
Now this sounds Awesome. But this is intimidating for folks who are earlier in the journey. Or even maybe they’re really good at website design like I was, but I was late on the game with SEO, I was late into conversion based design, I just I could make a nice, pretty website that was functional and did convert on a, at least a good enough level for me to build a six figure web design business. The question I have for you that a lot of my students ask is, if it is about results, how do we, if we’re maybe not confident to get those results? How do we sell this type of program or this type of service? If we’re just you know, like, we’re hoping we can get the results they’re looking for. But I know it’s kind of a tough question maybe to answer, but what would you say to the people who are in this place where like, piano sounds awesome, Troy and Josh are pumping me up, I want to do this type of service, it’s more than just a website, but I don’t know if I can get the results they’re looking for.
So, you know, I’ll be I’ll be a little bit of a smartass here. But there’s this amazing website I discovered recently called Google that where you can go and like search for anything you need. And, you know, if you so for example, like if you needed to learn, like, you know, I mean, you there are courses on everything everywhere, right? So just go like, first of all, figure out, figure out what results are valuable to clients, right, and then valuable to your clients and figure out what you are passionate about, and figure out what you want to do, and how you can get your clients results, and then just double down become really good at that.
So learn, like Study, learn, that we usually when I launch, like a pilot program is something we’ve never done before. And I’m not sure if we’re gonna be able to get results, I’ll launch it, and I’ll do it at a like a, like a beta offer, where we’ll do it at a cheaper rate, before we go public. And the condition is, hey, we’re going to run a pilot program with you know, a handful of clients, we’re going to do X Y, Zed. And after 90 days, what we want to do is we want you to tell us how we can improve it. And we want you to give us a video testimonial once we get you some results. And then you get paid to figure out what results you need to get to keep the client happy. And I just do that at what I call at cost, which means everyone’s still getting paid. We’re just not making the usual profit margin on it. But everyone’s still getting paid to figure out how to get the results.
Gotcha. There it is. That’s the answer. I was looking for that that’s what I was hoping to glean from that. Because I think it’s very sound advice. Because as a web designer, you could do that with maybe a couple of your top clients, just let them know, like, I’ve got a new service, I’m gonna roll out. We’re still working through some stuff. But I think it would really benefit, I would say, would you advise like, what have we even tested this out for a 30 day period or a 60 day target and look at the results. And then there’s your proof. There’s your confidence, empowerment? I love that. I love that Troy.
Off the Wall question here. In regards to scaling. I have a colleague who specifically wanted me to ask you this. For people who have scaled, but it hasn’t gone terribly well exactly made for whatever reason, maybe they scaled too quick, or they didn’t solidify their services. And it’s just it’s scattered, chaotic Mac and Messenger. They’re trying to pivot, they don’t necessarily want to go back to being a solopreneur. But they almost want to like rescale or change up what they have. What some of your advice at that point, because I do think this is really common to to where somebody scales in a sounds awesome. And yeah, they may be making a lot of revenue, but like we’ve been talking about revenue and profit are very different. And I know, one reason I didn’t want to scale is because I saw so many agency owners just working 90 hours a week, and I was like, I just don’t want to live that life. I’d rather just work with like one plan at a time and work 35 hours a week at most. So yeah, if someone is in a place where they’re scaling, and it’s a little out of control, what are some of the ways to pivot from that? I’m sure this could go a variety different ways.
Yeah. So I think you know, Jim Collins said something really interesting in from good to great. I think that was the book he said this, he talks about this thing called the hedgehog effect. If you imagine a hedgehog, you know, kind of comes out of its burrow every day and what goes along and looks for food and water and the the wily fox is kind of hanging around ready to pounce. Or every time the fox gets near like the Hedgehog has just got one thing that it does really well. It just kills itself kills itself up into a ball, and it’s covered in spikes, so the fox can’t get nearer. And so the concept of the hedgehog effect is figure out what you can be the best in your world at right what can you be the best at?
Now in my world, it’s usually I love working with people in the education coaching and training space because I think it’s really important work. I love working. I also love working with nonprofits in that space. And I love working on things like conversion rate optimization, user experience, and hard work whole customer journey mapping right.
The next three podcasts I want to get you on by the way. There we go. We got the point.
So I don’t run ads. I don’t do SEO. I don’t design I’m unable to do anything these days. I just basically consult on strategy. So work out what you do really well and what you’re really passionate about and what adds value. So you need to understand like your skill is your passion and then the economic engine, like what is the what are the clients need, right? So there’s no good being really good at something and be really passionate about it if clients don’t need it, because there’s no value in there.
So what clients need that you’re really good at that you really passionate about that you can build a team around. And just double down on that. And the reason most agencies don’t do this is because they have FOMO, that all the work, they’re going to miss out on all their low profit, high stress that they hate right now, or they’re worried that they’re going to miss out on. So double down on the kind of clients that you want based on what you’re really good at what you’re really passionate about, and what those clients value and what they’ll pay for. And then productize, that offering into something that is driven by checklists, and systems and templates, and then build a team around that, to deliver that value.
And you get out of the way, as the agency owner, at some point, you need to get off the tools get out of the way, you probably end up the last role that you play in the business will be in sales in biz dev, and then eventually you hire someone to run biz dev for you, and you just become the CEO. That’s usually the path. And it can take anywhere from, you know, three to five years to make that pivot in the end and to carve that path. But I can tell you this, a client services business, a traditional agency, Client Services business model is really, really hard to scale really hard.
Yeah, especially if you have such a custom service that you can’t replicate yourself. Like if you are everything in your business, this is what I experienced when I realized that once I started scaling, everything was right here in my head, I suddenly realized I’ve got to create these little wonderful things called SOPs, standard operating procedures is to get something else that people can follow and hire out. So that’s key. That’s that’s wonderful, man. I’m just curious, how do you feel about the landscape of web design entrepreneurialship and freelancing now because personally, I’m stoked. I feel like we are in such a unique position economically. And I think a lot of small, medium sized businesses are much more open to subscription style services and these these pricing types, how do you feel about it? What’s from your perspective down under? Is it the same? Like, do you feel like we’re just in just about the most damn exciting time for web design?
I think it’s, I think it’s a there’s huge opportunity. I think the problem is that a lot of people are a lot of people get stuck in this, you know, the entrepreneur, like, I want to be an entrepreneur. And so I’m going to build websites for clients. And they get into a community about web design, which, you know, we have one of those communities as well. But the problem is that they end up just doing the same thing that everyone else is doing, right, and that building websites for clients, and you realize that it’s a race to the bottom, it’s really hard to scale and, and then what I’m seeing is a lot of burnout. And I’m seeing a lot of overwhelm and a lot of fatigue, because people are just not getting, they’re just not getting past a certain threshold. Right? And they’re burning out, they’ll be like you were when you had like 20 projects on the on the go, right.
And so I think there’s a huge opportunity. But I think web design freelancers in that traditional way that we understand them, I think they need to reinvent themselves and add way and communicate the value that they’re actually adding to the clients. Because building a website is like even more as AI and more technology comes online, like building a website is just pretty much going to be automated at some point. So you need to understand, you know, I had someone say to me recently, you know, if webs if you can just throw like a Photoshop file into the browser automatically turns into a website, then how are we going to be out of a job? And I’m like, Yeah, because the robots are also going to write the copy and design the strategy.
Of course, they’re not. robots can’t build relationships with people yet. If, if that happens, we’re all screwed. So
We’re gonna Wow, at least Yeah,
Yeah, exactly. So yeah, I think you know, we all need to get, we all need to just take a moment, stop trying to compete with what everyone else is doing, and get better at communicating the value that we actually add to our clients. And I think as much as Facebook groups are amazing, we’ve talked about this being a part of community is, is good, I think you also need to be careful that you don’t just get you don’t end up in an echo chamber. Right? And so you want to make sure that your community consists of people who are more successful than you that you can model their behavior and go, What have you done differently to everyone else that has allowed you to scale?
That’s great. I do. One reason my web design club is filled with people who are quite advanced and then also fairly new. So there seems to be a nice, give and take there for the people who are advanced and can help but you know, they’re getting coaching from me and people who are new who are getting coached. I love that. That’s Gosh, every segment you’ve talked about here Troy has been great advice. So this is a quick hour, man. We’re already almost up there. I want to be respectful of your time. I want to ask you a final question. Before we get to that though. Where would you like my audience to go to either find out more about you or do you have a special place you like them to check out?
Yeah, so one of the things that one of the things I know that you need as you scale is you need sales targets, right? You need a sales system in the business and you need sales targets, it’s really difficult to hire people if you don’t know what your revenues going to be, particularly your recurring revenue. And so we talk about sales process, sales performance and sales pipeline. And those three P’s form what we call a sale system. And we’ve been benchmarking our agency clients over the last couple of years as to how they’re performing from a sales point of view.
And so we put together a scorecard that allows you to answer a bunch of questions and just get like a kind of a high level overview of where you sit against other agencies. And then we actually give you some practical things. Once you go through the scorecard. We actually send you a PDF, a customer’s PDF, it’s really quite neat. And you we give you some tactical things that you can actually do start implementing in your agency to improve either your sales process your sales pipeline, or your sales performance. And so I think it’s a good place for people to to check out you know, where they sit and get some ideas on how they can improve.
Awesome, yeah, we’ll have that link. That’s a score dot agency. mavericks.com. Right.
Yeah, that’s the one. Yep.
Awesome. Yeah, we’ll have that link tool. Final question here for you, Troy. As we wrap up, man, woods, first of all, thank you for your time, I was really, really stoked to get you on to the podcast, a lot of my audience, again, have been big fans of yours and followed you. I definitely consider You’re a legend in the WordPress realm. So it was great to spend an hour with you. Hopefully, this won’t be the last time but uh, yeah, I’m curious from you. If you could like, maybe about four or five years ago, when Josh was getting ready to scale. I’m talking in a third person now. What would you advise him when he’s like, I’m hadn’t planned on this. But I feel like it’s the next step. I’m a nervous, there’s a lot of you know, different mindset shifts, what would be maybe one, I’m sure there’s not an exact perfect paths followed by what are maybe maybe the the most impactful or important step to start off with, when beginning to scale.
Hire people before you think you need them, hire people before you’re ready, right, and then get on the phone and talk to customers make sure you can pay for the team. Because they like fundamentally, the only way you can scale is to build a team to deliver value to your clients without you. But that is the definition of scale. Like if you can’t, if you are required to if you are required to deliver value to your clients, you’re not scaling. You’re a you’re a freelancer with some contractors. And I mean that respectfully, but that’s what it is, right? You want to scale an agency, you need to be able to deliver value to your clients without you being on the tools.
So hire someone now, even if it’s a developer, look, after your care plan, work, hire someone now, who doesn’t want to be a business owner who wants the security of some kind of employment, even if it’s a contractor somewhere else in the world, they want that regular income and they want that security, hire someone now and then get on the phone and talk to your clients and your prospects about how you can add more value to them to extract more revenue to pay for the team. And then eventually, and it’s the scariest shit. Like I admit, it really is. It’s terrifying. But eventually you look back in six months time and go, Wow, I should have hired that person. Or we should hire that person earlier. And the more people you hire, the more you realize the fastest way to grow is to hire really good people and let them do their thing and get out of their way and just be a business owner.
Yeah, yeah, no, I totally echo that. That’s awesome, man. Troy dude, what a great combo. This was a super fast hour for sure. Um, I know this is gonna impact 1000s of people listen to this. I do. Thank you so much for your time again. This isn’t the last time I really enjoyed chatting with you and man pumped to chat the next time.
I’d love to come back anytime and thanks for having me, Josh.
Awesome. Cheers, man.
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