I love hearing stories and lessons learned from web designers who have been in the game for a while. Sustainability is grossly undervalued but, in my mind, is THE most important thing to focus on if you’re going to be in web design for years, enjoy it and not burn out.

That’s why I’m so excited to welcome my colleague Sarah Oates of Endure Web Studios onto the podcast to share the most important lessons she’s learned in a 10 year journey of web design!

From building websites on the side, to quitting a full time job, to getting client referrals, offering hosting and maintenance and even starting to scale at a small level, Sarah opens up about what she’s learned in building her business to such a sustainable level.

Congrats to Sarah for hitting the 10 year mark and for building her business her way, around her life and around what lights her up. She’s truly a great example to follow if you want to do this long term!

In this episode:

00:00 – Introduction
02:04 – Greeting to Sarah
04:10 – In the beginning
10:04 – Choosing a name
15:06 – Intentional web designing
20:12 – Starting a business
22:13 – First services
24:21 – Building confidence
26:41 – Staggered annual hosting
31:54 – Increasing prices
32:50 – Best marketing plan
37:18 – Growth process
43:09 – Worth of a good portfolio
48:52 – Second level network
52:50 – Scaling a designer
54:28 – Competing a new market
1:00:26 – How it’s lasted 10 years
1:05:46 – Community
1:10:47 – Final thoughts

Sarah’s Website – Endure Web

Connect with Sarah:

Featured links mentioned:

Episode #246 Full Transcription

[00:00:00] Josh: Hey, friend, welcome in to episode 246. I’m so excited in this episode to bring to you one of my good friends in the web design world and more specifically the divvy world.

[00:00:11] Josh: Sarah Oats is on the podcast today to share what she’s learned in recently celebrating a 10 year journey of web design. And if you’re curious about what it takes to be in this for the long haul, uh, Sarah has some really good lessons that she’s learned both, uh, the good way and the hard way in some cases that she’s gonna share with you.

[00:00:33] Josh: In this interview, it was a really, really fun chat. It was great to catch up with Sarah. I can’t believe I haven’t had her on the podcast at this point. That’s on me. That is my bad. But I saw that she recently posted, uh, on her socials that she hit 10 years, and I was like, we gotta dive into that. So I’m so glad she came on here, and we’re gonna bring her on shortly to share some lessons learned with you to make sure you build your business your way so that it’s sustainable, that it gives you energy, and that you enjoy it.

[00:01:00] Josh: Because as you’ll hear in this interview, Sarah’s had a few different iterations of her business, and she’s added and taken services away, which is really common. I also, just, before we dive in, I want to tell you personally, it is okay to pivot and make iterations in your business just like Sarah has done, because there’s gonna be seasons in your life where you need a service and you wanna do a service, and then sometimes you gotta take it away.

[00:01:21] Josh: I think Sarah’s a really good example of that. You can check her out at. indoor.com.au and really, really great designer, really great mind for supporting clients. And as you’ll hear, uh, Sarah isn’t one to want to grow a big agency and hustle and scale. She’s a work from home mom. She is somebody who is a, I would consider a life balance type of entrepreneur.

[00:01:46] Josh: And she’s a very, really great example of how to do this and keep your sanity for over 10 years plus in web design. So I’m gonna stoping and bring Sarah on to hear about what she’s learned in her 10 year journey as a web designer. Here we go.

[00:02:03] Josh: Sarah, I cannot believe we haven’t talked. It’s been too long. How the heck are you?

[00:02:09] Sarah: Yeah, I’m going. Well, it’s been such a long time. We used to chat all the time on Divvy Chat and then the Times just kind of got themselves mixed up, but it’s Yeah, been a good time.

[00:02:19] Josh: I know, right? Like yeah, we were regulars on Divvy Chat together, and I think Divvy Chat is often like right during our dinner hour for me and my family, and I just have not been able to swing that.

[00:02:28] Josh: So, um, yeah, I just, I can’t believe, honestly, I haven’t had you on the podcast to this point for many reasons, but I saw that recently you hit 10 years, a decade in your business. So first off, congrats. That’s amazing. Thank you. Uh, I

[00:02:42] Sarah: down, I haven’t actually quite reached it, but I’m hitting it this year. So it was a, this year.

[00:02:47] Sarah: Yeah.

[00:02:48] Josh: Close enough. When is the official decade? In

[00:02:51] Sarah: September this year will be the official mark, so a little bit further into the year, but as I was kind of wrapping up last year, I just decided to, we’d been really slack on promoting our work, and I thought, I’m just gonna do one post for Facebook that just has a bunch of our work from the last year.

[00:03:06] Sarah: And as I went to write it, I realized, oh, this year is gonna be 10 years. Like that’s crazy. I, I hadn’t even realized that we were, we had come that.

[00:03:16] Josh: That’s awesome. That’s how it happens. Usually I feel like the moment you just do some reflection on your business, it’s like, oh shoot. Like last year I was at five years for the spray and I was like, oh wow.

[00:03:26] Josh: Hell the heck. So yeah, 10 years comes, comes quick as well. Well that’s close enough. Did you, did you like start doing projects before the fall of, what was that, 2013 or was that just when you officially started

[00:03:39] Sarah: your business name? That was my first website for launch. And so like I’d done training before it and then I’d obviously been working on building it and then we launched it in the September, and so I count that as the start of my business.

[00:03:51] Sarah: The first website that

[00:03:52] Josh: I launched. So I have, gosh, I have so many questions, Sarah, just about your journey and the highs Yeah. And lows and everything you’ve learned at the start though. Did you, was your brand name indoor web studios back then, or were you doing freelance on the side? Like what did the beginning look like for you?

[00:04:10] Sarah: Uh, so the beginning for me looked like I had my second son. And so I know that sounds like a random place to start, but that’s where it started. Um, I had my second son and I had a year off work and my son was a very good sleeper, which I understand is not always the way, but I had, you know, sometimes six hours a day.

[00:04:31] Sarah: Like he would just do these chunk sleeps during the day, which was amazing. And the first time I had had a child, I really felt like I needed. to be me, and I felt like I lost me the first time around. So the second time around I felt really intentional. I wanna do something with this time. And so I thought I’d do some training and so I spent that year, um, while my son was sleeping, obviously not in the first little bit, but like, you know, a few months in I started to look at some training and I went on to linda.com and I had been really interested in learning how to, um, build websites.

[00:05:07] Sarah: So my past is in graphic design. I’ve, I haven’t had formal training in graphic design, but um, in a previous job that was my entire job was graphic design. And so I was kind of self-trained and then, um, I just felt like I wanted to. Websites. So I did the H T M L course, I did the CSS course, um, and I did a bootstrap course.

[00:05:31] Sarah: And so the very first website that I was gonna build, I was gonna do it all with Bootstrap and CSS and H T M L. And I was just playing around and I just, I think I loved the idea of bringing design into like a techy kind of geeky thing. Um, and so, yeah, I was gonna do that. And then when I was talking to my friend who I had said, Hey, would you let me build a website for you,

[00:05:54] Sarah: Um, I realized everybody needs to be able to edit their own content and all they want is a website where they can edit their own content. And so I had to go back and do some more courses in WordPress. And so that was where I initially started. Um, and I did, I started as Endure web studios. The reason that I started as that, uh, I didn’t have a name.

[00:06:17] Sarah: I really wasn’t sure what to call it. I was trying around with all these like, kind of cutesy names and like, thinking about it, and I just couldn’t come up with a name. But years and years before, my husband had purchased endure.com au You know when domain names first came out? Like, I don’t even know when it was.

[00:06:36] Sarah: It must have been like the nineties

[00:06:38] Josh: boom or

[00:06:38] Sarah: something. Yeah, I can’t remember. We were married and we got married in 2005. So it was after, then, it might have been around 2009, something like that. Um, he had bought endure.com au because he wanted to start an ethical clothing brand. And so he thought about doing Endure as this idea of like this kind of skate brand that was ethical.

[00:06:59] Sarah: And I think as he looked into it, he realized just how hard it was to do, uh, fair trade clothing and that it just, it wa it was gonna be harder than it was worth. And so he didn’t go down the track, but he just kept renewing this domain name. And then I think after seeing me like, look at all these names for ages, he ended up saying to me, would you like my domain name?

[00:07:19] Sarah: How about

[00:07:20] Josh: that? I had no idea the origin story. I did not know anything about the origin story of that. Yeah. I thought it was something about, you know, you’re enduring a past or creativity and getting into that, but no, it’s just. A domain name that was there.

[00:07:33] Sarah: It was, it was the domain name that was there.

[00:07:36] Sarah: And I think the more I thought about the name Endure, I was thinking about, well you wanna create something for a client where they can endure. Like you are not wanting to just create, um, something for a business for now or something like that doesn’t last. Yes, websites don’t last forever, but you are supporting a business to endure their journey.

[00:07:59] Sarah: Um, and so the more I thought about it, I thought, I think it fits. And then I was trying to work out what to stick at the end and I was thinking, well, I don’t really know. And so I put web studios cuz I saw someone had a studio and it sounded like really kind of, I don’t know, a little niche. Um, Wyatt’s got an S at the end.

[00:08:17] Sarah: I don’t know, it sounded better. There’s only one. Ask me . So maybe one day there’ll be multiple, who knows? But I have thought about changing that at some point. And these Oh, like web studios? Yeah, like, because we’re doing a lot more graphic design now. Um, I guess we’ll get to it later, but I’ve got a graphic designer with me and so she, like, I wanna be able to promote us as not just web, that we’re graphics and web.

[00:08:44] Sarah: And so I guess at the moment we are just thinking, well, we’ll just drop the rest formally endure web studios, but just endure. Is fine. Maybe at some point we would consider changing to like endure a creative or endure. I don’t want marketing design

[00:09:00] Josh: studios or something. I was just thinking, yeah, you could really put anything in there that would probably work to make it more, oh, we just

[00:09:04] Sarah: mostly drop it down to endure and that’s fine.

[00:09:07] Josh: Yeah. That’s so funny, isn’t it? Isn’t it great too when you find a name that you can add meaning onto later? Yeah. Like I found that with my business in Transit studios. A lot of clients were like, how did you come up with that name? I’m like, same thing with you. I had so many notebooks of names. They were either all taken or the domain names were registered, and I was like, my band’s third album was called In Transit.

[00:09:28] Josh: That’s kind of cool. Yeah. And transit wasn’t taken in, transit studios wasn’t taken similarly. I was like, there it is. We’re rolling with that. Yeah. And then it was like, yeah, I then I was like telling clients, cuz your business is in transition between crappy online presence to great online presence.

[00:09:42] Josh: They’re like, wow, that’s genius. I’m like, I know. No, it was just totally just made up after the fact. But in all honesty, if you were, if you did not have that option, Sarah, and you went back. Cause I know there’s a lot of people starting and they’re like, I cannot freaking decide on a name. Yeah. Would you just go with like Sarah Oats design just to start, would you go with personal brand to start on change or do you recommend getting an entity?

[00:10:04] Sarah: Think starting with a name, I think because by naming yourself. By naming it as yourself, you are the brand. Um, I think there’s some benefits with that, like, um, but I think if you’re starting a web design type thing, I think having a bigger name makes you sound bigger. And so I guess one of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way is faking it to you make it is a really important part of running a business.

[00:10:31] Sarah: Like having the confidence and giving confidence to your client or your potential client is one of the best things that you can do for them. And by giving them a name that is beyond just you, I think it takes you from being a freelancer to being a business. And they don’t necessarily know there’s not more than just you unless you tell.

[00:10:51] Sarah: It’s only you. Um, so I would, I would still pick a name. Um, I guess it also opens the door later, further down the track that if you wanted to sell the business at some point you could. Whereas you can’t sell a business that is named after you. So I guess it’s about your bigger goals. But I like the idea of opening the possibility to anything.

[00:11:11] Sarah: Whether the possibility is one day selling it, whether the possibility is one day hiring extra people. If you name it after yourself and you then you get a freelancer to help you build websites. Well, are you being honest about what’s happening? Because they hide you with your name and I think they’re expecting you.

[00:11:29] Sarah: So if you have a bigger name than yourself, you open that possibility of being able to outsource bits of work and not be. Lying about your business. Yeah.

[00:11:39] Josh: And there is like, the good news is it can work either way and you can always Yeah, for sure. Add a business name to your personal brand or whatever.

[00:11:46] Josh: Absolutely. And the couple things I do 100% agree with there is that yes, when you have a business name, even if you’re, it’s the first week in business, it automatically takes you out of the freelancer. Yep. Uh, role, like yes, you can be a freelancer, but it just makes you look like a business. Yeah. It is easier to scale.

[00:12:04] Josh: You can potentially sell things under a personal brand if it’s like a signature package or product. But Yeah. Right. You’re right. Like as a whole it, it definitely personal brand is more limiting. Uh, it’s, it’s a fascinating conversation cuz there, there are pros and cons to both,

[00:12:19] Sarah: but Yeah. Um, and it depends what you’re doing, right?

[00:12:21] Sarah: Like, so what you are now doing with your business. Um, I think it works really well to be you. And like another example is Kate Tune, for example. Like she’s had lots of kind of brands under her, but as she’s going further along and as she’s becoming more well known, it’s more beneficial to be about her because she’s the brand that she’s putting forward.

[00:12:39] Sarah: And the same with you as you’ve gone further forward. It’s about you being upfront. That makes the most sense at that point. And then so sometimes businesses will start as a bigger brand and then they’ll realize, no, actually where I wanna go is I want to be the brand. I do want it to be about me. Maybe I’m giving my knowledge to you.

[00:12:58] Sarah: Or, um, and then you transition into it being about you and that’s okay too. Um, so I think it’s okay to transition. I just think if I was starting out, I would probably start out with a name. That’s

[00:13:10] Josh: what advice. And, and I, and I think honestly the big thing is cuz you don’t quite know where it’s gonna go.

[00:13:15] Josh: Like you don’t, like even when, so when I started in Transit Studios, I don’t know if you know this era. I originally had thought about doing like commercials, thought, oh, really? Out? Yeah. I thought about having like crap. Cause do you remember my first business card? Did I ever show you that? That had like drum lessons and MySpace pages?

[00:13:32] Josh: Cause this was back in like, so my thought was in Transit studios might be. MySpace pages. Graphic design, website design. Yeah. Nice. Music for commercials. Like I really thought it was gonna be this entire creative thing. And then eventually, yeah, it was just web design. So, good lesson right upfront that having a name that’s a little more generalized can open the doors.

[00:13:51] Josh: Yes. Although it’s never too late now I,

[00:13:53] Sarah: yeah. Like honestly, going back, maybe I would’ve dropped the web right from the beginning. Yeah. Like if I could go back again, maybe I would still take the endure, but go that route of like endure creative or endure whatever, with that open mind of, yes, I’m gonna start with web, but let’s not limit it to that let’s you know, let’s open the possibility.

[00:14:14] Josh: You know what’s cool too about that, Sarah? If you, if you guys do rebrand, I feel like if you re, if you take web out and make it creative or something like that. Yeah, it’s, it’s, I was gonna say it’s not that big of a deal because you still have endure. I mean, that’s what I know you at a lot of people forget the second parts of like Yeah, yeah.

[00:14:30] Josh: Most of my clients are in transit, something Josh’s company. Um, so for you though, like, what a great chance to do a new marketing push. Yeah. If you do rebrand, you can let all your clients and all the socials and everyone know it’s now indoor creative because you’re focusing on this and this and this and this.

[00:14:46] Josh: Yeah. So that’s kinda where we’re at now, a decade later. But in the beginning. Mm. You mentioned you were doing graphic design. I, yes. One thing I meant to mention too, I don’t know too many people who intentionally went into web design. It was usually a case. You being asked to like, do a website design?

[00:15:02] Josh: Yeah. Now were you getting requests for web design before that

[00:15:05] Sarah: or did you just straight off? No, I fully just chose it. It was something I was really interested in, I think way back in the day. So I used to work for a nonprofit. I worked for a nonprofit for 10 years where, um, and I did a lot of graphic design for them, but then they needed a website at one point, and so I, I made it on Adobe.

[00:15:25] Sarah: They had some real old, like some, I can’t even remember what it was called, but some ancient, and it was the most terrible website, like the buttons. Instead of using C Ss, I made images and then told the images to like how

[00:15:39] Josh: did that do what? Was it Dream Weaver or was it like

[00:15:42] Sarah: Yeah, yeah. Dream Weaver. That’s what I said with you.

[00:15:44] Sarah: I’d like, we had no resources, so I just kind of looked online and just figured out my way how to like do it. So right back in the day, I’d, I’d just been interested. I’ve always been a little bit techy, like a little bit geeky. I kind of like technical things. I like working out how things work and I love the visual side of it, but I think I just was interested in websites and so then when I had this time, I knew I already had the design skill, not necessarily in websites, but like I.

[00:16:12] Sarah: Designability. Um, but I was really interested in the languages. Like I was really interested to learn H T M L and c s s and um, all the way along loving learning c s s, because I just think that idea that I can decide I want this to look a particular way, and then I can type in some code and it’ll look the way I want it to look like.

[00:16:32] Sarah: That for me is fun and interesting. Yeah. And I enjoy that. That side of being able to kind of manipulate things. So yeah, I chose websites because it was interesting.

[00:16:45] Josh: I think the thing about coding too, in particular, as much as I am not a code guy, I do love css. Yeah. It’s the quick wins that you get. Yeah.

[00:16:53] Josh: Yeah. Like I remember learning Dream Weaver, and then I figured out what Hover over states were the same thing. I literally made a button that was like an image, and then I made a set of images. This was back in 2010 of course, so I had like a grungy splatter on the second hover over image. And when I put that in Dream Weaver and put it online and saw the hover over, I was like, oh, that is, Awesome.

[00:17:16] Josh: Like the, so the quick wins I think in web design and any creative field are the thing that get you in. Yeah. Whereas like business growth, it’s like that those generally take a little while unless you get your first paying

[00:17:26] Sarah: client. So, and I don’t know if many people who are starting out a business are starting a business cuz they wanna start a business.

[00:17:32] Sarah: Like, so for me, I didn’t start a business cause I wanted to start a business. I started a business because I wanted to build websites and I had no formal training and I didn’t think anyone would hire me. And so I started a business because I could build websites at nighttime while I went in the day, went back to my job.

[00:17:49] Sarah: So that first year I spent learning. So while John and I was asleep, I spent learning. And then towards the end of that year, I built my first website and then I went back to work. And so when I went back to work at nighttime, I went back three days a week and at nighttime, or on those other two days, I spent time building websites and I just built them for free for people.

[00:18:11] Sarah: And I spent a whole year just building websites for free. I think I only did like three, something like ridiculously small, right? Where you, you are not really doing very much, but I was building my portfolio while I’m working. And so I started a business because I wanted to keep doing that. And I guess I didn’t have the confidence to even attempt.

[00:18:35] Sarah: Contacting a, an agency to say, will you hire me? Because I feel like, of course they’re not gonna hire me. I have no formal training other than linda.com. Like they’re not gonna hire someone with linda.com like training. Um, and so I think a lot of people don’t start a business to start a business. They start it cuz they wanna be a freelancer.

[00:18:55] Sarah: They wanna make some money from this ability. And that’s what you have to do to make some money from that ability unless you’re gonna go and get someone else to hire you. Um, and I don’t think many of us realize what it takes to run a business. Um, and I think that’s the big learning curve.

[00:19:11] Josh: Yeah, there that I’m gr I love that we’re hitting on this because I think most everyone that I know and, and oversee now as a coach are juggling the line between being a freelancer and working for other people and just taking jobs occasionally versus being a business owner.

[00:19:27] Josh: And yeah, being a business owner sounds scary, but you could do it on a very small scale. Basically the, the equivalent to a freelancer business owner is a solo printer. Yeah. Um, very timely. I literally just today was thinking about these different quadrants that web designers typically go through, and I’m working on how to like flush this out to help people identify like where you want to go.

[00:19:46] Josh: So for you, when did you want to like become a business owner and make indoor studio, I’ll just call it indoor studios. Great. For now. Like

[00:19:54] Sarah: when, it’s a tricky question, right? Yeah. When did I wanna start a business? I don’t know if I, I dunno if I ever wanted to start a bus. Like, I don’t know if I wanted to run a business, to be

[00:20:05] Josh: honest.

[00:20:05] Josh: Yeah, I guess the question would be like, when did it, when did I become,

[00:20:08] Sarah: yeah, when did it become a business? So I spent that year building a portfolio and that was an intentional step with the idea that I would one day. Quit my job. And so I guess it started right from the beginning. The idea that I knew that in order to be able to, um, give people the, the confidence in me, I needed a portfolio.

[00:20:33] Sarah: And so the way that I did that was I asked friends, Hey, do you need a website? I can do it for you. Would you let me build a website for you? And then I think actually during that year, maybe I only built a couple for free, and then I built some massively discounted. So I think my initial price for a website was $1,600.

[00:20:51] Sarah: And then I had friends and they’re like, I just can’t afford 1600. And I was like, all right, I’ll do it for 800 . And so like, I built these websites for like 800 bucks and, but I was still learning and they were willing for me to learn. And you know, it was a win-win along the way. That was double

[00:21:07] Josh: when I started at, I started at 300.

[00:21:09] Josh: So did you ? Yeah, that was my first site I stole for 300. Yep.

[00:21:13] Sarah: Well, my first one was absolutely free, like no money. But, um, yeah, so I started as endure right from the beginning. So I had the name before I built my first website. And I think I had the plan right from when I first started that I knew I needed to go back to work.

[00:21:29] Sarah: I knew I was gonna need to do it out of hours and kind of get that confidence up and get a few clients and feel like I was kind of getting the ball rolling. So all of that was done as in endure right from the beginning. Um, and it, but it was when I quit my job that I guess I felt like that’s when it became, For real.

[00:21:48] Sarah: Um, so even though all of it was as endure, that was the moment when it was then, well this is the only way I make money now and so it’s

[00:21:58] Josh: gotta work. So what, yeah, I went from side hustle fund extra money project to like, boom, this is the income. I wanna get to that. Sarah. Before that though, what did your services look like initially?

[00:22:08] Josh: Were you still doing graphic design and branding along with websites or were you just insights?

[00:22:13] Sarah: Just websites. Occasionally someone would ask me to do some branding and I was really upfront with them. Like, I am not a branding person. I’m not gonna guarantee you that you can trademark this. Like I was, I would go onto like, I don’t even know, like creative market or something and like buy a bunch of like logo options and then modify them a little bit.

[00:22:34] Sarah: Like I was really upfront like, this is not my expertise. I’ll do some real cheapest thing for you, but it’s not gonna be like a custom design logo. So really that was all I did. Um, if people really, really needed it, then I provided that. But it was all web. So my services were, I would build a website and I offered maintenance and what I did for clients initially as a way of, cuz I felt like a lot of my clients had no money, right?

[00:22:59] Sarah: And so I thought what I could do is suck them in by giving them a year free. Um, maintenance and so, and hosting. So, which maybe from a business perspective is not very smart, but what it did do was it got these people to a year and then after that point they were usually really happy with my service.

[00:23:19] Sarah: Cuz my theory was if I give them really good service and they feel like, you know what? I don’t even have to worry about my website. Sarah does everything and if I need something I can contact her. And so I gave them a year for free. After a few years, I realized that wasn’t very smart. I think I dropped it down to like three months or something like that.

[00:23:36] Sarah: Um, and then eventually I dropped that out of the scenario altogether. But initially I gave them a year and then maybe 50% or maybe even 80% then signed up to maintenance after.

[00:23:48] Josh: and I, I do think that type of, um, that type of offer can work if you’re doing a pretty good amount for a one-time project.

[00:23:57] Josh: Like if you’re building a site for $5,000 Yeah. Then you could totally offer hosting and maintenance for a year. And yeah, depending on the type of maintenance plans you do it, don’t always recommend that, but by guys, especially early on, if you can get a, a large pool of clients that like and trust you and, and then they’re set up a year later, then that, that is an option.

[00:24:16] Josh: I mean, it, it is one of those things that. Like, yeah, it may not be ideal, but it can work. There’s

[00:24:21] Sarah: so many, I’m not sure if it was the smartest option and maybe if I was, because I guess the thing is that I think the biggest thing is you have to have confidence and you have to be able to present, um, a, a very confident approach.

[00:24:33] Sarah: And one of the hardest things for people when they’re new is being able to say to them, And would you like hosting a maintenance with me, . And it’s really hard to be really confident in the beginning because you are asking them for ongoing money. And that is scary and hard. And I think when I was starting out, it felt too hard.

[00:24:51] Sarah: I didn’t wanna have the conversation. It felt like confrontation right from the beginning and I didn’t wanna do it. So that’s more about me, right? than it is about anything. And as I went, I got the confidence. I think if I was starting back again, maybe I would offer the three months. The advantage with the three months is you build it on your own host, you are then hosting it.

[00:25:11] Sarah: It’s all set up for them. I give my clients three months anyway to be able to come back to me and say, I don’t know how to do this thing. Or, oh, this thing’s like a little bit buggy. And so I already have this three month built in where we’re still in relationship, even though I’ve built the website. So if I then have it on my host, it’s easier for me.

[00:25:31] Sarah: So that’s just easier. And then you get to the three months. They probably can’t be bothered to move it. And so then at that point, maybe it’s a win. And so if I was going back again, I mean, I don’t offer three months now, but if I was going back again and I wasn’t confident enough to offer maintenance right up front, I think I’d go for the three month thing rather than the A year was a bit.

[00:25:53] Josh: I 100% agree with you. I think three months is perfect if you’re gonna offer free hosting and maintenance for a little bit because Yeah, year, a long time, but a month isn’t quite enough for them to utilize you a lot. I, no, I certainly, what I found is when you launch a website, the first three months are when you’re gonna have the most communication, cuz it’s new.

[00:26:10] Josh: They’re gonna be like, oh shoot, I forgot to add this. And yeah. And if they, if you’re, if they’re covered for a few months, you’re gonna build that trust. Yeah. Even more so within that window. And then boom, you got ’em. So, yeah. I love that idea. What, like, what for you led you to maintenance plans in recurring income?

[00:26:26] Josh: Because when I joined Divvy Chatt and discovered you and your brand, I feel like you were one of the first people I remember hearing about maintenance plans back when we met back in like, what, 2015 or something like that? So like, did, did you? Yeah. How did you I

[00:26:41] Sarah: was say right from the beginning, I don’t, I don’t know I think I just assumed. . Everybody needed like that. People were gonna need you to look after their website. I don’t know. I don’t even know where I heard about, like I just assumed that was part of the plan. And I have always charged my clients annually, so I’m slightly different to almost everybody. And maybe it would be smart to switch over to monthly, but now everybody’s used to annual and so I just haven’t ever bothered going to monthly.

[00:27:10] Sarah: Um, if I was going again, I’d probably go monthly if I was going right from the beginning, just because then you’re getting a little bit of money every month, which would be nice. But because of the way I build websites, it ends up that every month has a few. On renewal, like I’m up to something like 60 clients on maintenance now.

[00:27:29] Sarah: And so if you spread that across a year, like you end up launching a website staggered, because you can’t build all your websites in January. Right? And so they end up staggered throughout the year. And so then you end up with recurring revenue. So every month, some months have four, some month have one, some, you know, but there’s always money coming in every month.

[00:27:51] Sarah: And so, yeah, it doesn’t matter so much, but I think I would go monthly if I was starting again. Honestly, I, I don’t know where it came from. I just, I had heard that that’s what you did. And so that’s what I offered. I have always charged less than other people for maintenance. I. Um, I guess because I started with clients who didn’t have a lot of money and I knew they just weren’t gonna be able to afford these like a hundred dollars a month kind of maintenance plans.

[00:28:18] Sarah: And so right from the beginning, I think my first plans were like 40 bucks a month and I think I was on 40 bucks a month for years. Like years. And it’s, there’s still some clients who were there right from the beginning and I’ve slowly edged them up a little bit, but they’re still on a real cheap plan that takes time and that’s okay.

[00:28:35] Sarah: Like, you know, it doesn’t matter if you start low. That’s fine. .

[00:28:39] Josh: So you said right there, you said you had heard that people have maintenance plans. I know you couldn’t quite remember. When you say you heard, did you have friends, web designer friends? Were you in Queens at

[00:28:50] Sarah: that point? No, I didn’t have anybody to talk to. I didn’t have any, I didn’t have, I don’t, I don’t even know, honestly. I don’t even know like where any of it came from. I think I knew I wanted to build websites. I, I’m not sure

[00:29:05] Josh: where I heard it. It must been a divine, it must have been a divine dream. Maybe it was either

[00:29:08] Sarah: linda.com. I don’t know. , like, honestly, I have no idea where it came from and I didn’t have any networks. I didn’t have any, I didn’t know anybody already doing it. I just, I was making it up

[00:29:19] Josh: as I went. I feel like you’re so lucky, Sarah, to embrace that mind because I had multiple people telling me to do maintenance plans. Yeah. Right. And I was always like, ah, people aren’t gonna pay me every month. I don’t wanna be, yeah.

[00:29:30] Josh: You know, I don’t wanna have to manage it every month. And then wouldn’t you know it, I’m getting the calls anyway. And then as soon as I launched it I had like 20 plus people sign up overnight and I was like, damn it. Why didn’t I do this freaking five years ago? Yeah. So, No, I’m, I love that you came to that point.

[00:29:45] Josh: So recurring income and all that led you to eventually take it full-time. I’m kind of curious, like how long did you go between starting building websites to, it’s quitting time, you’re going full-time, what, like how long was that transition? Well,

[00:29:59] Sarah: it probably wasn’t long enough to be honest I, I got to a year of doing the two things at the same time and then my job, there was some stuff that I wasn’t enjoying about my job.

[00:30:12] Sarah: And I think at one point I just got fed up and I quit my job . So to be honest, I probably did it a bit early and it meant coming into it I didn’t have. Um, a lot of income and the pressure was high, like high for bringing money into my family. I, we definitely reduced the amount of money we were receiving for a few years for me to be able to do that.

[00:30:35] Sarah: But I guess as a family we saw that as well. I got to spend more time with the kids, and the kids were little, they didn’t necessarily have to go into childcare full-time, which, you know, was a benefit. Um, and then I could do school pickups and drop offs and so I guess we chose to see it that way. But financially it was like job money.

[00:30:58] Sarah: Start the business and then slowly trickling up to the point where now I’m at a business where I’m earning a really good full-time wage at part-time hours. Yeah. And but that takes years, right? Like that’s not something that happens overnight. And we were willing to take that plunge, but the stress was high in the first couple years, really high, um, to just and bring.

[00:31:21] Sarah: Every bit of money that I earned into our house. And that doesn’t really help a business grow when every bit of money you are sapping it, out.

[00:31:33] Josh: And what did, uh, what did the price points look like when you were going full-time? Like w was your average, like the 1500, $2,000 range, do

[00:31:41] Sarah: you remember? Yeah, I think 2000 was, I think 2000 was around about maybe 1500.

[00:31:46] Sarah: But. 1500. 2000 was where I started at. And then maybe after about a year I started to look at increasing it. And I did that process of, I think I’d heard someone say, just increase it by 10% and keep doing it until you start getting nos. And so I just kind of gave it a crack and because I was getting lots of work and honestly it all just came through referral.

[00:32:08] Sarah: My, my philosophy was, do really good work and people will refer you to other people. And that’s how it worked. And it probably took maybe two years to get beyond my circle of people. So initially it’s obviously people that you know, and then it’s people that they know and then all of a sudden you get people that you don’t know at all, but somehow either it’s calm, a couple of steps away or um, whatever.

[00:32:34] Sarah: But yeah, so. I don’t know what we were talking about

[00:32:37] Josh: now. I was, I was just gonna say, I didn’t even have to ask how you started getting clients. You just nailed it’s personal network referrals do a really good job and then it just starts to

[00:32:45] Sarah: expand them. Yes, and honestly I think that’s the best thing you can do is just do good quality work.

[00:32:50] Sarah: If you put your heart and soul into it and you don’t slack off, like you take the time to make sure it works really well on mobile, you take the time to make sure your clients are happy that you treat them well. If you treat them well, they will have a great experience. And if they have a great experience and they get a good product at the end of it, then they will talk well of you to other people.

[00:33:11] Sarah: And I think that’s the best marketing you can ever do. I’ve, I’ve only just done my. First payment on Facebook, and honestly, I don’t think it ever took money out, so I don’t know if I did it right, but I’ve never paid money for advertising. I have gone to a few networking things. I don’t think I’ve ever got work out of a networking thing, or maybe once I got work out of a networking thing, it’s not where I get work.

[00:33:32] Sarah: Like, and maybe I need to put more effort into it, but the way that I’ve always got work is. Doing good quality work and then people refer to other people, um, and that that’s how it’s worked all

[00:33:46] Josh: well I remember when I first met you on Divvy chatt, one of the things that caught my eye about your approach to web design was you were very client focused.

[00:33:55] Josh: Like you always talked about your clients. And you, I remember one time you said that unlike a lot of designers, you would be the one who showed up at their office if they’re local or took the time to meet them and went overboard with that. And yes, those things can be costly technically from a time standpoint on the books and everything, but if you are investing in a client relationship that’s gonna last years lifetime clients, by golly, it is worth it because you will make that trust that will not be broken.

[00:34:22] Josh: And you will be the webmaster, you’ll be that web guy that web gal that is in their corner month after month and year after year. So I think every,

[00:34:30] Sarah: you’re gonna get a higher, um, Conversion rate too like meeting in person and maybe it’s about the person, like if you’re feeling really nervous and you’re a bit hesitant, whether that’s on Zoom or in person, it’s gonna be harder to convert.

[00:34:44] Sarah: But if I meet with a person, in person, I would say 90% of them convert. Yeah. Because if you meet with a person and you hear them and you share your knowledge, like I love telling people stuff in meetings that usually people wanna keep private. I’m like, that’s fine. I’ll tell you whatever. That’s fine. If you can meet with them and actually get to know them, you are more likely to convert that website and when the price comes, they’re not gonna be as concerned.

[00:35:12] Sarah: About that. Yeah. But I also think if you spend time on making the experience good for them, whether that’s a good client relationship meeting in person or like along the way, just updating them, keeping them in touch with what’s happening, not ghosting them. Like the amount of clients that say my last one ghosted me.

[00:35:31] Sarah: Like don’t ghost them. Spend time with them, give them good quality training. Then they’re gonna go away and just feel like that was amazing. They’re happy to pay the price. Right? And so you can up your prices, not through the quality of your work, but through the experience that you gave that person. And so suddenly they have a premium experience.

[00:35:52] Sarah: They tell their friends, oh, I have this great web designer. She was so fabulous. Like she answers the phone like if I have any issues, she’s always there. That person. They’re not gonna care that you are offering a website for $3,000 more than the other person because their friend told them that they had this great time with this web designer. Um, and so I think it all, that’s what allowed me to increase my prices as well.

[00:36:19] Josh: What a great segment that was, Sarah. That is beautiful. You sell the experience. Yeah. You don’t sell necessarily better code or better design. Those things are important, but yeah, the experience is the most important because yeah, how many people do we know?

[00:36:33] Josh: We don’t have to say names, but how many people do we know who’ve coming in out of web design and they’ve been amazing coders, amazing pe like amazing craftsmen, but. They’re terrible at communication. Yeah. And they don’t provide a good experience and then they’re gone. They’re outta the industry. Yeah. So what a great sentiment, a quality experience all around that.

[00:36:52] Josh: That speaks volume. So it actually, it leads me to a question I was wondering about as we, a little bit ago, we were talking about price point. Yeah. Do you feel like you got better clients through your processes and experience kinda stuff? Yeah. Or like, do you think you got better clients that paid more, or do you feel like you just got better as a designer and a business owner and charged more and got your current clients to elevate, you know, What they’re willing to invest in.

[00:37:18] Sarah: I think I definitely got better clients. I think initially when you’re starting out, you have to work with new businesses. like, well, you don’t have to. I worked with new businesses and the reason for that is the new businesses don’t have money and they’re willing to take a gamble on someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

[00:37:35] Sarah: And so, yeah, they’ll, they’ll let you try and take three months to build a website and like they’re willing to pay not very much money for kind of a half-assed like quality product. And that’s the way it goes. But then when that renewal comes, they’re like, oh, I don’t wanna spend that money. Like it’s too expensive.

[00:37:58] Sarah: And so all of a sudden you’re fighting with them. And I think I only have one of those clients left and we’ve had our arguments along the way and you know, and at one point she was gonna leave and then she just never left. And I think it’s because she realized she had it quite good. But I think those clients, they feel like they don’t wanna pay much money and they want all of the service because they got all of the service from the beginning.

[00:38:24] Sarah: They got the good quality experience. For a really low price. And so over time, as you increase your rates, sure some people are gonna come and they’re gonna be like, that’s too expensive for me. And that’s okay. As you get more work, you’re able to start saying, sorry, like that’s it. Just our price.

[00:38:42] Sarah: Initially, you don’t feel like that you are negotiating. You are kind of lowering your prices to get the client, and those clients are not the clients you want. Long run. Over time, you get a bit more confident, you start raising your prices. People keep saying yes, you feel more confident, therefore you can pitch at more complex jobs.

[00:39:03] Sarah: You start doing better quality work, putting it on your portfolio, and people start seeing that and saying, well, that’s what I want. And so all of a sudden the people who are looking at your work, Are expecting a higher standard and they understand that it’s gonna cost a little bit more. You start getting the clients who are five years into their business, they’ve already had the cheap ass crappy website, they’re ready for the good website and they understand stuff costs money.

[00:39:27] Sarah: And so all of a sudden you can raise your prices really confidently and then you’re producing work for the five year in business. You promote that. Therefore, new businesses come who see that brand and go, oh, that’s an okay brand. Like if she did that website, I guess she’ll do an okay job. And so I think it’s one of those things.

[00:39:47] Sarah: It builds momentum and by sharing the work you naturally. Encourage different clients to come to you. And so it’s not that you go looking for the different clients, but by promoting your work, it slowly starts bumping up to a different level of client and then you’re busy and you can just say no to the people who clearly don’t wanna pay money for what you’re worth. And that’s okay. They can go work with someone

[00:40:13] Josh: else. Yeah. What I love chatting with you, Sarah, because I don’t even need to ask the question. I was gonna ask you about how you found your confidence, but you just nailed it. Like, yeah, that is such a beautiful, like you, you really shed light on that. Process of just doing good work and one step at a time, being more confident, raising your rates, refining your systems, and you’ll get a better client.

[00:40:34] Josh: They know better clients. And the next thing you know, you’re at a much more mature type of business now. Yeah. I am curious. Every business has highs and lows. Yeah. Right now you’re at a place where you got 60 plus clients on your maintenance. You’re at a more established place. Look at you like your setup, your camera, your lighting.

[00:40:52] Josh: Like if you looked at both of us five years ago on Divvy Chat. Yeah. Our environment on video. I was in my lounge room you’re in your lounge room, like we had crappy webcams, but like you are a, a professional place now. Yeah. What I’m curious about is if you’d be willing to share, like I, I’m sure you must have had some low points or some, some bad stretches of business.

[00:41:13] Josh: What was maybe like one really low point that you went through, and then more importantly, how did you like get past that? Ah,

[00:41:22] Sarah: I have been very fortunate along the way where I have never had no work. Um, I think, uh, in Australia, January, December, January, well mostly January, it is just shut down. Like people just don’t work in January and so if you don’t have work coming into January, you’re not gonna get new work in January because no one is working and so that can be a stressful time, I think. Um,

[00:41:50] Josh: but we should stay too in, down there in Aussie land. That’s not because it’s the new year, it’s because it’s summer there, like That’s right. Uh, we’re recording this in January. I’m watching the, the, uh, Australian Open occasionally. Yeah. Uh, so similarly, yeah, like July

[00:42:03] Sarah: for us, it’s still holidays and so almost everybody will take at least two weeks off, but anyone who has kids really kind of, you are juggling kids and it, it just, almost everybody shuts down.

[00:42:16] Sarah: So even if you’re in an office over January, you’re really not like doing productive work. It’s just kind of like, it’s this really slow period, which I guess is your June, July, something like that. Yeah. Um, so yeah, there’s been a couple of those that have been really quiet, but the main thing that I’ve noticed, I will consistently have inquiries come in, not tons.

[00:42:37] Sarah: I get good quality inquiries where they generally convert. I don’t get tons of them. I don’t have 30 inquiries every month. I get three inquiries a month, like not very many, which is a scary place to be, right? Because what if those three don’t come in? And so most of the time I’ll be booked up two months. And then just work kind of keeps coming in. It’s probably not the best way to run a business, but the, it’s the way that it’s always been and I’m fine with that,

[00:43:05] Josh: but yeah. At this point, a decade later, like, you know it’s gonna even

[00:43:08] Sarah: out. Yes. And I remember, it’s okay. Work always comes in, it’s gonna be okay. There have been a couple of occasions where those inquiries have just dropped off and suddenly I’ve gone, well, I’m okay cuz I’ve got work for the next two months. But I start to get a little bit like, oh crap, like now I’ve only got work for one month ahead. And then you come into that final month.

[00:43:28] Sarah: Oh no. Like I don’t have any inquiries. And generally it’s happened maybe three times in my business. Almost every time it’s because I stopped promoting my work. where I didn’t update my website. And so it, like, I’ve never been great at social media and you know, I would like to get better at it, you know, blah, blah, all those things.

[00:43:48] Sarah: But, If I stop updating, our portfolio inquiries seem to stop. And the reason I think for that is not because of Google, although I think Google likes it if you continue to update things. I think it’s because like this December, I suddenly realized we hadn’t promoted any of our work this year, and the inquiry stopped and it was one of the first times in a long time and I was thinking crap, like what am I gonna do?

[00:44:12] Sarah: Like I’ve got Sophie now, how am I gonna manage this? And I suddenly realized we hadn’t promoted any work all year. And then when I looked at our portfolio, It was all our old crap stuff. And I was thinking, if someone comes to my portfolio, they’re gonna see that. They don’t know that I’ve done all these amazing jobs this year.

[00:44:29] Sarah: And then when they look at it, they might think, I looked last year and this is exactly what was there last year. None of this is new. Like none of this is. Exciting. It all looks a little outdated. And so all of a sudden I thought, okay, it’s time. And I updated our portfolio and the next week I had two inquiries.

[00:44:48] Sarah: Wow. And it was that thing of, and it happens every time where I think, oh my gosh, like I’ve been so busy building websites, websites, I’m proud of websites I love, but I’m so busy. I finish one and I’m quickly onto the next one. Not only am I not celebrating that we just finished that website, but also I’m not telling anybody that we’ve done it.

[00:45:09] Sarah: And then when I did that Facebook post, I was thinking, it’s been years since I even talked about my business. Cause I don’t like bragging about my business on my personal Facebook, but I thought, you know what? Half these people. The last time they heard about my business was when I was doing some pretty crappy work.

[00:45:28] Sarah: Like five years ago was probably the last time I promoted my, my business on my personal Facebook where, so my networks don’t even know the quality of work I’m doing anymore. Where do you

[00:45:38] Josh: think that comes from, Sarah? Cuz I feel the same way too. I very rarely talk about what I do with Josh hall.co to my personal network. I think number one, because I think most people are like. What do you do? Exactly? Like, yeah, but there is a sense of like, I don’t want to seem boastful. Why do you think that is? I’m trying to pinpoint that because it’s

[00:45:56] Sarah: like, I thought it was slightly Australian, but obviously it’s not just an

[00:45:59] Josh: Australian thing.

[00:46:00] Josh: I, and I see this across a lot of friends who have businesses, they’re like, uh, I don’t mean to, you know, I don’t mean to seem pushy or braggy, but this is what I’m up to. Not everyone is like that, but a lot of people are. But I do think that’s a disservice because the impact we’re making for businesses is amazing.

[00:46:15] Josh: Yeah. And that should be something we like very shout it from the mountaintop. You know, like, I don’t know. I was curious if you had any insight as to why we feel weird about publishing our work and showing it off?

[00:46:26] Sarah: I think, um, I think we’ve all got those friends who push their businesses on their Facebook and I have opinions about them and they’re not nice opinions. You know, like you don’t, those are not the people. You kind of see their posts and you’re like, oh my God. Like, shut up about your business. And so I don’t wanna be that person. Um, and then I don’t wanna, I feel like personal Facebook is a place for connection between people, and I think there’s a place for sharing what you’re doing in your work.

[00:47:00] Sarah: Sometimes, but I do think it’s a good thing to hold back from sharing it all the time. And I certainly don’t plan moving forward to continue sharing every time we build a website, but maybe once a year I’ll reach. Yeah, but not like

[00:47:13] Josh: every five years, right? ?

[00:47:14] Sarah: No. Yeah, it’s definitely been too long. And I think what I had realized was I have friends and they have networks and all they know is, oh yeah, she has this small little web design business that just kind of, ah, they’re okay, but they’re a bit bit crap.

[00:47:30] Sarah: Like, you know, she, my f my network is seeing me five years ago in their minds. And so they’re not gonna recommend me to anybody they know. And so I do think it’s an important thing to take your friends on the journey, but also not put it in their face. Because if you are the one who’s always putting it in their face, That’s not the persona I wanna, that’s not my business.

[00:47:52] Sarah: Like my business is about being a good relationship where we have a really good experience. If I’m shoving my business in your face all the time, that’s not the experience I’m trying to share with them. And so I think that’s part

[00:48:07] Josh: of it. Yeah, this is a, that’s a great message because anyone who has the natural instinct to be like, oh, I don’t wanna like force this on people.

[00:48:15] Josh: I think if you put any effort into sharing your work and the results that you get, even just occasionally. Yeah. That is going to be fine, because if you feel like you don’t wanna overdo it for people, I guarantee half of them are not even gonna see it anyway. But those that do, even if they see it like once a year, it just reminds them like, oh yeah, Sarah has a business and they do websites.

[00:48:36] Josh: That is so beneficial. Yes. Doesn’t need to be every day, but a couple times a year. A few times a year. That from a personal standpoint, is awesome. Um, so I highly recommend that for anyone who feels like they shouldn’t be, you know, sharing what they do. Because again, and

[00:48:50] Sarah: you don’t, you don’t know who people know.

[00:48:52] Sarah: I think that’s the one thing that, like as I’ve gone along, you know when you get a phone call and you can tell this person, doesn’t they, they’re not, they’re not gonna pay you for your work. They’re just not like, they’re not gonna be a client. You could shut ’em down in that moment, or you could think, okay, they’re not gonna pay me for my work, but they have a whole network.

[00:49:11] Sarah: Yeah. So everybody that I interact with has their own network, and if I can. In part my knowledge to them. And even if all they do is get free knowledge out of me and then they get to go on their way and they’re never gonna be a client, okay, that’s fine. Like no problems. But they know a whole group of people and if that person that they know needs a website and they think, ah, she was really helpful and she knew what she was talking about, maybe you could try her.

[00:49:39] Sarah: And I think it’s the same for your own network as well, of realizing, okay, your network may not be interested in a website. They may have no interest in what you do, not even care. But if occasionally you are sharing, this is the quality of work that I’m doing, I’m really proud of it, I’m really excited.

[00:49:55] Sarah: Hey, yay. Kind of thing. If you do that occasionally. Yeah, sure. They may not want. But they have a network of people, whether that’s just someone they work with, like it’s not even a good friend, but they know someone. I think always thinking about the second level of network beyond everybody that you interact with,

[00:50:15] Josh: that is networking 1 0 1, whether it’s virtual or in person.

[00:50:18] Josh: Yes. It’s not the people right there, it’s the extended network who they know. You know, like you may have posted that. And then, you know, aunt Jesse had a cousin who has a business who has a terrible website, and they was like, don’t look at my website. And then suddenly they’re like, oh my gosh. Yeah, cousin Jesse, get ’em over here.

[00:50:33] Josh: So yeah. Great, great reminder. And I would say if anyone is in that low period, in that down period or that dry season, yeah. That is the time to say like, good. Put yourself out there and say, here’s some recent work we did. Yeah. Super proud of this project even if it wasn’t this month. Yeah. So great reminder.

[00:50:52] Josh: And I’m kind of curious Oh, oh by the way, I meant to say too, that’s why we’re talking right now. Yeah. Like you’re on the podcast because you posted on your personal and Facebook saying that you had, you’re almost a decade in business. I’m like, oh my gosh, I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you for a long time.

[00:51:06] Josh: But it is one of those things where outta sight outta mind. Yeah. Right. And it’s a great, you know, it’s like, oh, that’s sparked the, the interest to have this conversation. So that’s how it plays out with getting clients. Yeah. Don’t be outta sight, outta mind. Yes. You don’t wanna be knocking on people’s door constantly.

[00:51:21] Josh: I love that reminder. Now I am curious to transition to where you are now. You have a partner, Sophie, in your business, you’re doing more robust services, graphic design, branding, so opposites how you started. Now it’s a little more full fledged. It’s like you and I took an opposite approach. Yeah. I ended up refining all of my branding and graphic design into just web design.

[00:51:41] Josh: You did the opposite. The really cool thing is it works both ways. Yeah. But for you, Sarah, like what made you wanna expand it to these like, more robust design type services along with websites?

[00:51:52] Sarah: It’s really about Sophie. So Sophie’s not actually a business partner, but she is a freelancer. So I still am a freelancer.

[00:51:59] Sarah: Um, I think I’ll be converting to a company in the next couple of years in terms of the Australian financial system at some point, that’s where it’s gonna le lead to. Um, but I’m a freelancer still technically, or a solopreneur or whatever. And then she is a freelancer who freelancers for me. And so um, I think there was a time in my business, maybe four years in where I realized I was procrastinating the most on the design.

[00:52:28] Sarah: So I would get this website and then I would feel really inadequate and I would just procrastinate so much about doing the design. And then I realized if I had an actual designer do that, it would take all this pressure off me and I could do the bit I love, which is build the websites and they could design and they feel confident with that.

[00:52:45] Sarah: And so I had, I tried a couple people, but Sophie, um, started working with me. We just did one project at a time and it just continued to work really well. Um, and so then I increased my prices that year that I brought her on. The business made the same amount of money. So the business had been growing, growing, growing.

[00:53:04] Sarah: I brought Sophie on and it plateaued for that year because I increased my rates, but I had to pay her. And it took until the following year that then it dramatically went up. And so it was like holding on for that year of realizing, now I’ve realizing now money is going to somebody else. But then it was kind of, then our quality of work went up because her design quality was better than my design quality.

[00:53:28] Sarah: And so, um, the business could grow. But, so I brought her on and that was great. But she had kids at home. She was happy with just like a little bit of work, and then her kids went to school. And I knew she needs more work , because otherwise she’s gonna go get a job somewhere else and I’m gonna lose her, and then I have to go find another designer and I don’t wanna find another designer.

[00:53:49] Sarah: I wanna keep Sophie. And so that’s when I thought, well, she needs more work. We can start actually promoting this stuff. And people are okay. People have started asking us. So since she came on, we’ve done a number of brands for people like branding because her history is in that she’s really confident with it.

[00:54:06] Sarah: She knows how to work with it. So we’ve done branding projects and then we just decided, okay, let’s start promoting that stuff. Let, let’s hard go into that partly because what I realized, web designers are okay at seo. They work at SEO o. It’s hard to compete against web designers in seo. It is because we all know what we are doing.

[00:54:28] Sarah: But graphic designers don’t know seo. They have no idea how to do seo. So we can get in through SEO in graphic design, get them and then convert them into a web design client. And so I realize this is kind of a great way in. Instead

[00:54:45] Josh: the curtain is pulled back on this genius strategy. I never thought about it like that, that so that could work for any type of creative industry that leads to web design.

[00:54:54] Josh: Yeah, they’re absolutely, they’re not the

[00:54:56] Sarah: SEOs. Yeah, they’re not. And so like looking around, I had realized, cuz we’ve been trying to compete on web design for ages and it’s just a hard market. Like you are competing against people and some of the big guys that have money behind them. Whereas graphic designers are often freelancers, they often have a kind of, they’ve made their website themselves cause they don’t wanna spend the money on it and they don’t know seo. And so you just got this option. Where are

[00:55:21] Josh: you based out again, Sarah? Exactly.

[00:55:22] Sarah: I mean, Canberra. Which, so Canberra’s the capital of Australia, but we’re near Sydney, like three hours outside Sydney.

[00:55:28] Sarah: Ok.

[00:55:28] Josh: Was, I was wondering if you were closer to Sydney or Melbourne. Yeah. Okay. So yeah. So you’re still targeting in large area, like that’s competitive from

[00:55:36] Sarah: the web? Honestly, we’re targeting Canberra. Canberra is a big city, so it’s not, Sydney and Melbourne are like, you know, the big parts of Australia. We’re nowhere near as big as those, but it’s like a really big country town. It’s the kind of place where people like working with local people. And so in Canberra, I never intended my business to be Canberra focused, but it’s that thing of people refer people and people like working with people that they’ve heard are good.

[00:56:03] Sarah: And so all of a sudden you end up just working like within Canberra. Not intentionally. Sometimes we get other bits and pieces here and there, but mostly we get Canberra because people refer to each other, but Gotcha. We are competing in Canberra and there’s a number of agencies who charge astronomical amounts, um, and they have the money behind them to kick my butt in seo.

[00:56:25] Sarah: Like I’m just not gonna compete against them. Sometimes I’ll get work through seo, um, in my local area. So I’m in the south of Canberra, so often if I get a Google inquiry, they will be in the south of Canberra because I’m hitting them in the local pack rather than the Canberra pack. In the Canberra pack.

[00:56:45] Sarah: I’ve got no weight, like I’m never gonna have weight in the Canberra pack because those guys are just too big for.

[00:56:52] Josh: Well, what a genius strategy to go after the graphic design and branding and logo. I love that. I didn’t think about it like that, but you’re totally right and those services do often marry very well to web design services.

[00:57:04] Josh: And I, I actually, it’s interesting, as I’ve think as I’m looking at your. Business progression of where you’re at now versus what I did. I think the reason it works for you particularly is because you have Sophie. Yeah. You have somebody to do that. The reason I personally dropped my branding and graphic design is I could not handle doing both.

[00:57:21] Josh: Yeah. I just could not do branding, graphic design and web design and do it all well, but. I think those services together again, work really well together if you have the two people working together or somebody to, to help in that regard. So I, that makes a lot of sense to me why you’re able to, to do that and crush it.

[00:57:39] Josh: So yeah, thanks for sharing that strategy. That’s really, really cool. Yeah, no

[00:57:43] Sarah: worries. It relies on Sophie, so I know that she, like, we don’t have enough work for her to be doing it full-time and there may be a chance that she’s gonna need to get another job somewhere at some point. And at that point it’s gonna be big questions for me.

[00:57:56] Josh: Like, have you thought, is she open to doing web stuff or does she just like doing the branding and graphic

[00:58:02] Sarah: stuff? Uh, at the moment she just likes doing the branding and graphic type stuff. Yeah. And so it’s just whether or not we can get enough work for her to have consistent work doing all of that. Um, and we’ll see, we’ll see where we, where we go.

[00:58:16] Sarah: But if she doesn’t, then I may need at some point to consider at least supplementing her if she can only do bits and pieces cuz she’s doing another job. Good job. So

[00:58:25] Josh: we’ll see. Yeah, that’s cool. I’m kind of curious, well, as we’re wrapping this up, um, first of all, if you and I ever partner up with something, we have got to bring Ho Notes Studios to Life

[00:58:40] Josh: Are you familiar? You, we talk about this on Divvy Chat, you know, holo Notes, the band?

[00:58:43] Sarah: I, I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t heard

[00:58:47] Josh: them. I, I mean, they’re older. I think they’re like eighties or I, I’m sorry for anyone who is, if that’s not correct they’re an older band, but there’s hollow notes. I just feel it’s a disservice to the world to not have hollow Notes, creative, or studios together.

[00:59:00] Josh: So keep that in, in the back your mind. Uh, eventually I’ll just keep that in my pocket. Keep it in pocket in case Sophie doesn’t work out. Hollow Hos can come to life. . Um, but I’m kinda curious, I, I have a couple things I wanna ask to wrap this up. But what have you found to be like your superpower? And then maybe we’ll get to a final question I have for you, but what, what have you learned in your decade progression at this point has been like, like what energizes you?

[00:59:23] Josh: What do you love? What have you found out about yourself in this te 10 year journey of what you love to do in your work?

[00:59:30] Sarah: Oh, it’s a really tricky question. What do I love to do?

[00:59:37] Josh: Because I, I just think that’s so important for, and maybe this could be our final point, like, yep. Because I’m kind of curious when it comes to, I’m fascinated by sustainability because it’s different for everybody.

[00:59:47] Josh: I can’t always, when I’m coaching people, I can’t always say what worked for me will work for you, because I had to be conscious of what gives me energy, like what I do with this podcast. It doesn’t feel like work to me. Yeah. Some people, this would drain them. My wife tells me all the time, like, if I did what you did, I would be absolutely drained.

[01:00:05] Josh: It’s just not the thing that gives me energy. So, yeah. Like for you, I guess the question, maybe a more succinct question would be, what has helped you sustain. 10 years plus. Cuz most people after about seven years, yeah, there’s that seven year x itch thing in business where most people wanna Yeah. Get an antsy and wanna do something else.

[01:00:22] Josh: But that’s not the case for you. So what has kept you doing

[01:00:25] Sarah: this? I mean, the, there’s really boring answers to that question, which is, my business gives me flexibility with my kids. And so I can continue to pick them up after school, during school holidays. I can drop down to half hours, like half days. Um, so there is flexibility with my family that if I went to get a job, which let’s face it, I’ve thought about getting a job.

[01:00:47] Sarah: If I went to get a job, I’d be working full-time. I would have no flexibility with my kids and school holidays would be a nightmare. So the flexibility that my business gives me is incredible and I’ve worked really hard to get the business to a point where I’m earning full-time wage at part-time hours.

[01:01:04] Sarah: So the boring side of it is, It’s what’s required for our family at this point. That’s what pushes me forward. And I think what’s pushed me forward the whole time is the pressure that our family requires money to survive. And that requires me to do a good job and to keep on going. Now, that’s the boring part, right?

[01:01:25] Sarah: Like that’s, that’s the, that’s the motivation. That means I don’t get lazy and I don’t just fob clients and you know, not do my job when it’s hard. When it’s hard. I know I just have to do it anyway. And that’s what. Keep on going, but that’s the boring part of it. I think the part that makes me still want to do it, I like that we’re continually doing better work and continually producing new and interesting things.

[01:01:52] Sarah: I love having a graphic designer because she is not a web designer and web design is not her history. So she comes up with these designs that I have no idea how to create, and I love it because, and as much as I can, I will let her go for it. Occasionally I’ll say, look, that’s just not gonna work because it doesn’t function in the way that a website functions.

[01:02:14] Sarah: But I love that she pushes me and so then when I come to build a website, I don’t know how I’m gonna do it. Like I’m not really sure. And I enjoy that process of trying to come up with creative ways to achieve the design that she has created and then producing this work that we feel really proud of. I think continual growth is really important in any job.

[01:02:34] Sarah: So, uh, I used to have a job before this and when I was working there I was learning lots of things cuz it was a new job. I didn’t know how to do it. So I’m kind of learning. And then I got about two years in, I kind of know how to do everything gets a bit boring. And then they said, Hey, do you want to do a, um, diploma in business as a part of this job?

[01:02:53] Sarah: And I’m like, sure, that’d be great. So then I’m learning and I’m kind of going and then I finish the diploma and then I’m thinking, I’m gonna be bored now. Like once you stop growing, your job gets boring and you hate it. And so I think looking for the elements where there’s growth, whether that’s growth, because initially you’re not gonna have the skill to achieve what you have to achieve.

[01:03:16] Sarah: A client’s gonna come and say, can you do an events website? And you think, I don’t know how to do a webs an event website. And so you have to go learn how to do the event website and then you’ve done the event website and then a new client comes and says, can you do a real estate website? And you think, oh my God, like can I

[01:03:33] Sarah: Yeah. And so you have to learn. And I think once you get to the point where you are not growing, you have to find other ways to be growing. Whether that’s growing in, okay, well let’s, let’s look at a little bit more about UX and like maybe kind of understand psychology behind websites. Or as long as you are continually growing, then it’s gonna feel interesting and not boring.

[01:03:53] Sarah: And that’s gonna be the thing that can allow you to continue without feeling like I need to go do something else. Yeah. Once you stop whirling or once it stops being interesting. It’s not gonna work, but you can always be the one that’s in control of that because you can always go do a course or do an SEO thing or do a, like, whatever it is, something that pushes you to learn something new.

[01:04:15] Sarah: Or maybe go look for a client in a field of something you’re interested in. Because I love that. Have to learn it.

[01:04:22] Josh: Yeah. Like grow instead of getting bored with your web design business and shutting it down, doing something new, like grow within the business. Yeah, there’s, so that’s the beautiful thing about web design.

[01:04:31] Josh: It’s never gonna end, right? It’ll, it’ll never end and it will never get boring because there’s, there’s enough to keep up with that’s gonna make you grow whether you want, I

[01:04:38] Sarah: feel like web design is growing so fast and it’s moving at this rapid speed, and in some ways I feel like I’m not keeping up with the growth and that’s scary.

[01:04:47] Sarah: Like that’s really scary. But I feel like the Duke,

[01:04:51] Josh: yeah. Oh, sorry, I just cut out on me there for a sec. Sarah, I, what I think I just heard you say is that it’s kind of scary that things are moving so fast, but Yes. Sorry. Fast. It didn’t lead me to one. Okay. Final, final thing I did want to ask you about was community because you, you got into the Divvy community. You got on Divvy Chat. Yeah.

[01:05:08] Josh: I think you and I both learned the importance of being around like-minded web designers that will help build you up. Yeah. Can you like do that honestly helps me feel less daunted by how fast things move because yeah, in Facebook groups, in premium groups, I have a membership now there’s Divvy Chat, there’s all these resources.

[01:05:26] Josh: E, even if you’re not using Divvy, there’s so many other resources where they’re builders now too. Yeah. I found this so crucial to be in groups of web designers online that, so you’re not alone. Like that’s what helps me. If you found that as well, like how important was it for you to, to be in community with web design?

[01:05:43] Sarah: Yeah, a hundred percent. Um, so when I first started, like I said, I didn’t know anyone who was doing websites, like had no, no one around me. Um, and then I found elegant themes because a friend of mine needed a festival website. They had a theme. I was like, yeah, that’ll do. So I bought the subscription and so I built a couple websites with their themes.

[01:06:04] Sarah: And then I got on Divvy at Divi 2.0, and then at Divi 2.0, I, I guess I heard about the Facebook group in its really early phases. So the, at the time that I joined the Face, the initial Facebook group, there was maybe 30 people,

[01:06:20] Josh: something like that. This was like the official elegant Themes D group. It wasn’t official.

[01:06:24] Josh: No. Elegant marketplace,

[01:06:25] Sarah: wasn’t it? Yeah. No, but even before then it was just a group of people. Oh, okay. And I don’t even know how I joined it. Like I don’t know how I heard about it. I can’t even remember now. I guess it must have been promoted somewhere or so, or maybe I was looking for, I don’t even know.

[01:06:39] Sarah: But I found the group when it was super small, like 30 people and it was just this really small group of people. I think there was like Gino and there was SJ and like just a few of like the guys, the OG Divvy. Yeah, Adam Inlay I think was there like a few of us ride in the beginning and we would talk about things and we were able to like ask really stupid questions and be able to say like, how did I remember asking a question about like, um, IDs and classes and, and I was copying someone’s thing and I was like, I’m putting this thing in the id, but I don’t understand it’s not working.

[01:07:16] Sarah: And they were like, oh, you don’t put the hash in the Id like really stupid questions. And feeling like this was a community where it was safe to ask the stupid questions. And then as it grew a little bit, all of a sudden I knew a bit. Than some other people. And so I was getting help from other people and then I was helping other people.

[01:07:36] Sarah: And it felt like we were this little group where I felt like, okay, if I don’t know how to do it, there’ll be someone here who knows how to do it. And that group was the reason I was able to quit my job because I knew that even if I didn’t know how to achieve the thing, they could point me in the right direction.

[01:07:53] Sarah: And I had that support from that group. And so that connection was essential to my business surviving. If I didn’t have that group, then there’s no way I would’ve quit my job as early as I did because I wouldn’t, I would’ve felt really alone and I wouldn’t have felt like I had the support or the resource.

[01:08:09] Sarah: Like when you Google stuff, sometimes it’s really hard to find the right thing that you’re looking for, but being able to ask a person who is a little bit further in the journey than you makes all the difference. And that’s why I’m on Divvy Chatt. That is the reason that I’m there because I feel like I wish Divvy Chatt had been there when I started.

[01:08:27] Sarah: And for me, I know there’s people who are always, and I, I can’t spend my whole day in the Facebook groups anymore helping other people. I just don’t have time to do that. But I can spend an hour once a week sharing the stuff I’m learning and hopefully that is helpful for someone else as they’re starting their journey along the way.

[01:08:46] Sarah: Yeah. Um, and so that’s the reason that I joined Divvy Chat. That’s why I’ve stuck with it. Um, I’ve been there right from the beginning and honestly, sometimes I just wanna quit because it’s a lot of work and time and I could be doing something else, but I, I continually remember that I started out at some point and I’ve made so many mistakes along the way.

[01:09:07] Sarah: And if I can share some of those mistakes and other people can learn from those and not make those mistakes, well that’s a win for all of us. Right.

[01:09:13] Josh: Yeah. Well, gosh, that’s a great sentiment to the power of community and the importance, like there, there’s a reason, it’s funny, I, I was gonna take a picture of this here soon to put this on the socials for my stuff, and that is, I had a.

[01:09:25] Josh: Batch of bananas and one of ’em fell off and they were all sitting there and the lone banana died super fast and all the other ones stayed fine. And that was like the perfect analogy to the importance of community. Like if you go it alone, you will not last, or it’s very unlikely that you’re gonna last or you’re not gonna last long.

[01:09:44] Josh: So I love how, how the, the importance of the divvy community and, and both of our cases has helped us sustain. So, yeah. Yeah. What a great thought, Sarah. I promise I will dive back into divvy chat soon. Awesome. I will, I will plan. I’ll tell all my littles, hold your horses. I’m gonna do divvy chat during, during dinner hour.

[01:10:03] Josh: We’ll make it happen. So Sarah, this has been awesome. I, I, this has been a very, very fast hour plus I, uh nobody more questions. So we need to do a round two cuz I, I really, look, it’s awesome to see what you’ve done in your business, even in the time that I’ve known you. Yeah. Which is probably the five year range, six year range.

[01:10:20] Josh: I, I guess I probably came into your your sphere about like halfway through your business. Yeah. So I’ve seen it really mature and like I said, your, like your video setup is awesome. Now your, your real inspiration for, for doing things like your way in business. So, Uh, I think this chat is gonna help a lot of people, so thank you so much for your time.

[01:10:38] Josh: Uh, last last thing, do you want people, where should people go? Your website, any particular social media that you’d like to, to send people to if they wanna check out your site and your work?

[01:10:47] Sarah: Yeah, sure. Um, my website is endure.com au and so you can come and check out some of our recent work. We’ve actually got it on our portfolio.

[01:10:54] Sarah: We’ve just started writing a blog and so Sophie and I are gonna take it in turns once a month actually getting something out there. And so that’s, you know, that’s our goal for this year. Um, on social media, we are on Instagram and on Facebook. Not super active, but we’re gonna try and get a bit more active.

[01:11:10] Sarah: I’m gonna do a few how to videos on Instagram this year. So that’s in Endure web. Um, for the socials. Awesome.

[01:11:18] Josh: Well, we’ll have those linked in the show notes. Sarah, thank you so much for your time. It will definitely not be this long before you’re back on this

[01:11:24] Sarah: show. Thanks for having me on. It’s been lovely having a chat.

[01:11:28] Sarah: All right,

[01:11:29] Josh: Sarah. Thanks. Talk soon.

Web Design Business

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