If you’ve ever been curious about what goes into 15k, 25k, 35k+ web design projects, you’re in for a treat with this podcast episode with John Saunders, the agency owner of 5fourdigital.com and fellow web design business educator.

John has built, grown and scaled his own design studio after coming from the corporate marketing world to a 7-figure web design shop with a small (½ dozen) size team.

In this conversation with him, we uncover:

  • How he moved from offering numerous digital marketing services to strictly branding and web design
  • How he partnered with other agencies to do the marketing side of things for his clients
  • How he built a referral network of other designers and agencies for client lead generation
  • What goes into his high-end web design projects with a starting point of 15k
  • What web designers can do nowadays to stand out from the competition
    And a whole lot more!

John has a very similar path and teaching career that I’ve taken though he’s gone further and bigger into scaling so it was great to get his insight on scaling at a higher level.

Interestingly, he also agrees that many clients are hesitant to work with typical “agencies” nowadays but are more apt to working with boutique design shops and studios. So there’s a lot of opportunity nowadays to frame your web design business as a “shop” or “studio.”

Anywho, I hope you enjoy this convo as much as I did!

Be sure to check John out at johndsaunders.co where he has an accelerator course, templates and a new book on scaling!

In this episode:

00:00 – Introduction
02:45 – Greeting to John
05:54 – Time to pivot
08:37 – Niche clarity
11:23 – Partnerships
14:30 – WebFlow hosting
16:38 – Benefit to being small
21:51 – “Where” doesn’t matter
24:24 – Building a network
25:53 – Using socials
28:07 – Scaling & living by SOP’s
36:04 – Know your strengths
41:03 – Touchpoint weed-out
45:23 – Premium deliverables
50:36 – Dealing with scope creep
55:30 – Course creator
1:00:24 – John’s new book
1:05:05 – Final thoughts

John’s Book | Borderless: How to Hire, Train and Grow a Design and Web Design Agency with Worldwide Talent

Connect with John:

Featured links mentioned:

Episode #266 Full Transcription

[00:00:00] John: Companies want a little bit more edge here, more personal brand and design elements than just kinda a big agency. Cause when you think agents, you just think cookie cutter, you just think traditional. I think a studio sounds a little bit more like, wow, this, we can come up with something really creative here.

[00:00:15] John: And I think that verbiage speaks volumes, especially for agency owners that are looking to do what I do. Cause for me, like I’m not looking to become a big studio. Like, as you can see, I’m in my home office. My, um, my kids are in the other room. I’m after this call, I’ll take a break, play with them, hang out, and then I have like a couple calls for the day and I’m done. You know what I mean? And my team is small. We’re, uh, we’re tight knit.

[00:00:37] Josh: Welcome in friends. Great to have you here for a whopper of a conversation that I’m about to let you in on, that I had with John Saunders, who, if you’ve been in web design for any amount of time, you’ve.

[00:00:49] Josh: Likely seen a Facebook ad or other social media platform ad from him. John is also a fellow web design business coach, an agency owner, and an all around awesome dude entrepreneur, and is somebody who has a lot of experience with building a multi six figure and actually seven figure design business. So needless to say, it was an honor to have him on.

[00:01:12] Josh: In this conversation, we dive into everything on how to build a web design business, how to focus in and prioritize the right services for you, how to not come across like a digital marketing agency and burn yourself out. And how to scale, how to build a team, and how to partner up with people who do ancillary services that you do.

[00:01:31] Josh: My gosh, this one was really knee deep and incredible stuff when it comes to building and scaling a thriving web design business today. So I’m gonna bring John up here next before we bring him on, you can check him out@johndsaunders.co, where he has a web design accelerator course, some awesome templates for Notion and a new book that I actually ordered live on the call with him.

[00:01:56] Josh: And then if you want to check out his agency, you can do so at the number five, the word four. F O u R digital.com. So five four digital.com. And of course, we’ll have all his links and resources and socials and everything that we mentioned here in the episode over at the show notes for this episode@joshhall.co slash 2 66.

[00:02:19] Josh: Without further ado, here is John Saunders. Let’s talk, building and scaling a thriving web design business in today’s landscape. Enjoy my friends.

[00:02:33] Josh: Well, John, welcome. Welcome officially to the podcast, man. What a pleasure. To finally

[00:02:38] John: connect. Likewise. Likewise, Josh. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while man, so I’m happy to chop it up with you.

[00:02:44] Josh: Yeah, and I was saying I’ve seen you on the socials for a while. You and I are I pretty similar in what we teach now as far as the business of web design and helping web designers.

[00:02:54] Josh: I’m kind of curious for myself, cause I don’t know too much of your backstory in those that don’t know you. What was your progression like into, to just being a web designer and then how did that translate to teaching it?

[00:03:06] John: Yeah. No, no doubt. No doubt. So I started in the industry. I was, I’m, I’m 37, I think.

[00:03:11] John: Yeah. Heck, I gotta, I gotta double check now I’m

[00:03:14] Josh: 30. It’s

[00:03:16] John: all after 30 minutes. It’s kinda like, eh, you know, it’s, it’s great because, Because you can see I’m a geek behind me, man. So now it’s great cause I’m an adult so I can actually afford the things that I wanted when I was a kid and it just works out well.

[00:03:28] John: But you can finally get all the

[00:03:30] Josh: toys, parents

[00:03:31] John: never. Exactly, man. Exactly. So I built my first website around 19/20, uh, for my mom. She was a, a teacher and a tutor and so she needed a website and I was like, all right, I think I could do this. I went on YouTube, found a tutorial on WordPress, and started to build out this website.

[00:03:47] John: And then she started to get leads to that website and I was like, wow, this thing really works. This could be something that’s tangible. I took an idea and I made it into something that’s a physical product that she can then go sell. And at that point I wanted to be a copywriter and I worked in banking.

[00:04:00] John: I worked at this bank called Bank Atlantic for like four years, kind of moved up the ranks there and became a personal banker. But I wanted to move into the marketing department and unfortunately they would not hire me. I even made like this really cool like spec book with like. Copywritings, I mean copy and really cool, like Gatorade ads that I had like finagle together and Photoshop, but they weren’t having it.

[00:04:18] John: And so I ended up doing a couple internships, stayed there for a while, and then an agency finally hired me as their social media manager and their web developer. So I did H T M L C S S and social media for that agency. Uh, and I stayed there for four years. They were an automotive agency, so they were primarily in that like $99, get your new lease on this Honda Civic.

[00:04:39] John: You know, those kind of ads. Right. Gotcha. And so I was there for four years, spent a good amount of time there, but learned a ton from the c e o on how to run an agency. The things I needed to do, and. I, I moved up the ranks to digital marketing director at that agency, and at that point we were doing a lot of automotive stuff.

[00:04:54] John: I wanted to branch out and work with different types of companies. And so I left and I actually got a job at Exotic Car Rental Company, uh, which was awesome. I was able to do their seo, their website, and I was working there probably like nine to two, Monday through Friday. And during that time, I got to drive like Lambos and Ferrari to test out the vehicles right, to be able to write ads and content.

[00:05:14] John: That was really great for it. And while I was there, I was building up my own business, doing social media, doing S E M S E O for like friends, entrepreneurs that I knew in the space. I’m trying to build up my personal brand. What happened ultimately was I left the exotic Cardinal company. They became a client, and then I opened my agency Five, four Digital about nine years ago.

[00:05:35] John: And when I opened the agency, we were doing everything, man. We were doing S e o s e M, ppp C uh, social media, uh, websites, branding, everything, right? And it was just me. And I had had like a developer on, um, on a project basis. And man, it was just so overwhelming. It was so much work. I was working 14, 16 hours a day.

[00:05:54] John: It was a ton of work, man. And um, it got to the point where I was just, I was unhappy and I wasn’t really enjoying the work anymore. And I looked at the entire business as a whole and I said, you know, I love branding. I love web design, I love the development. I love the creating part of this process. Why about we just get rid of all these other services and just focus on these.

[00:06:14] John: And that’s when there was a huge shift in the agency because we were focused on what we were really excelled at and what we did really well. And this was probably about six or seven years ago when we decided to move to that focal point. And that’s when the agency started to blow up. That’s when I started to create systems and operating procedures around just those three focus areas to build up the agency.

[00:06:36] Josh: Oh, that’s beautiful. And I wanna transition eventually here to the the teaching of what you do. But what you hit on right there, John, that is crucial. And so many of the students I teach who do have experience with social media or just like digital marketing, like full stack services, the. The, the, the pressure is to like do it all.

[00:06:57] Josh: But I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone just about do everything unless they have a big team, like a full agency behind them. I’ve never seen any of them. Number one, make it number two, not burn out or number three, enjoy it. You know what I mean? Like to your points like you do. It’s just so much. So I think it’s such a good lesson to refine what you do well, what you like to do, and I guess what’s most profitable.

[00:07:22] John: Absolutely. Absolutely. And since then, man, it’s been a huge shift in the agency because we’re able to focus on what we love. And I’ll say this point too. When you focus on a few services, it’s almost like you can predict the entire process of the project, right? Because you have these fundamental steps on how you complete a project.

[00:07:44] John: It’s not gonna change fundamentally from project to project, right? Of course, things will be edited and tweak, but overall, your process won’t change. And when you can start to develop a, I guess, a standard operating procedure around that, now it becomes a business that then you can g wrap and sell as another product to other agencies.

[00:08:02] John: You can also leverage that to get acquired, right? It all revolves around the systems in that

[00:08:07] Josh: process. Yeah. So when you were doing like every digital marketing service under the sun, what was the, what was the value of the websites back then? Like, did you, did you still feel like every, because my, my mindset is everything goes to the website.

[00:08:22] Josh: Like you can do as much SEO and much digital marketing and social media as you want. Exactly. But of your website sucks. That’s the hurdle, that’s the problem. So like when you were doing everything, um, yeah. What was like, I guess where was websites along with everything else? Yeah, when you were doing everything.

[00:08:37] Josh: I mean, it

[00:08:37] John: was, it was probably the biggest piece, right? Because we were doing branding, we were doing the brand guidelines, we were doing logos, we were doing seo, S e m, but all that’s being driven to the website any anyway, so it was already a focal point. Now I will say it was great that we started as a full service agency because we’re able to kind of fold a lot of those services into what we do now.

[00:08:57] John: So we’ll do onsite seo, we’ll set up titles, meta descriptions, alt texts on websites. We’ll set up Google Analytics and Microsoft Clarity. So we still take kind of some of those pieces that differentiate us from other agencies in the marketplace. We can also be an add-on for other folks too, where maybe you have a differentiator that makes you.

[00:09:15] John: More competitive in the space. So maybe you’re a web designer, but you have a focus in, um, you know, programmatic seo or maybe you’re a web designer, but you have a focus in creating design systems for large teams. So you can use that add-on as almost a differentiator, a unique selling proposition as an agency owner. And that’s what helps us now in regards to how we deliver these products to clients.

[00:09:36] Josh: Ah, that’s so well said. You just really articulated the framework that I present in my business course and what I teach my students, which is essentially to have three different categories of web design services build, which is number one, like you’re building the websites or doing redesigns no matter what type of sites they are.

[00:09:52] Josh: Number two is having support and care for, well, I’m in the WordPress world. I know you’re a Webflow guy, which I don’t, I haven’t really met too many people from Webflow, so I wanna talk about that too, but, uh Oh, nice. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds good. Maintenance care optimization, you’re supporting the site you build.

[00:10:07] Josh: And then number three is a growth category, which you can do whatever you want. Like you can do any sort of digital marketing that you’re interested in, but you don’t have to do it all. Yes. So I, what you laid out there is kind of like the exact framework that, that I recommend as

[00:10:19] John: well. Great. Mines think alike, man. Great. Mines, think alike. Josh. So what,

[00:10:23] Josh: what are your, what are your big services again, John? You’re doing websites. Um, now are you doing hosting or any sort of support or maintenance plans or care with within

[00:10:32] John: Webflow? Yeah. Yeah, so we do, we do branding, which is all of your design assets, logo, social media assets, all that good stuff. And then we do development, which is primarily in Webflow and Shopify are the platforms that we use. And then we also offer maintenance and hosting plans for our clients as well. So those are the main services that we have.

[00:10:55] Josh: Gotcha. And then how far will you go when a client, because it’s so funny, you mentioned you were doing social media and then you were doing websites at the same time.

[00:11:03] Josh: I feel like in the corporate world, people view website designer and social media director or manager as the same person. They’re just like, well, you just, you do social media, so you do websites, but they’re so different. I’m sure you had backed so different, man. Insane. So different. So absolutely. Like how, how far will you go with marketing services now?

[00:11:23] John: Oh no, we don’t. We won’t do any like zero. Okay. Yeah. So what we’ll do is, right now we have, and I would suggest this for, for other agency owners too. If you’re nicheing down and providing a specific set of services, it’s to partner with other agencies that are, that Excel at different services that you don’t offer because it’s twofold.

[00:11:42] John: One, now you have a partner that you can push those clients to, and you can actually bring them into the fold early. So for example, if we know we’re going to work with an ads manager, we can bring them in into the design the development process and be like, Hey, you know, what do you think this landing page needs?

[00:11:56] John: What else do you think this would? Need in regards to deliverables. And so they can be part of that process. And then we can do the handoff to them once we’re done with our part of the project that keeps us solid. And then two is now you have another agency that doesn’t offer your services, right? So it’s almost twofold.

[00:12:14] John: Now they’re getting business from you. It’s reciprocal. And they can be like, Hey, I got this client, they need a website. We don’t do this, but you can benefit from this. And then what happens over time is it compounds, right? The more people you have and the more partners that do a great job that know you do the same thing.

[00:12:28] John: Now you have all these brand ambassadors out there selling your services without you having to even do any touchpoints. Ah,

[00:12:35] Josh: it’s so good. And I would imagine if you’re still doing hosting and maintenance, you could potentially have some recurring income with that client after you build their website.

[00:12:44] Josh: But then somebody else is handling the marketing and advanced s e o and social media and ads and all that, right?

[00:12:50] John: Exactly, and we’ll, we’ll set them up for success. So we’ll create like landing page templates. We’ll set up UI kits, so that’s easy for them to build moving forward. But yeah, we, we try to really stay in our lane and it’s worked, worked well for us.

[00:13:03] Josh: Man. John, I am so on point with you on this. Like, I think this is, I don’t know if this is the new way to go or if it’s, if it’s, if it’s di headed this way, but I do feel like the full service, like we do everything and anything as far as digital marketing, I just, I think it’s clearer now. Most everyone, unless you have an agency of a decent amount of people who can support that, it is just not sustainable.

[00:13:26] Josh: Like it’s just, and yeah, with technology changing so fast, I don’t know how anyone could keep up with, with offering every digital marketing service and do it well.

[00:13:36] John: Exactly. Exactly. And it’s, it’s just, it’s, it’s hard man. It’s, it’s hard to be an expert in all these different. Fields, unless you, like you said, you have a large team, maybe you have 20 people, 30, 50 people on your team.

[00:13:48] John: You have experts in each vertical that can offer these services. It’s just, it’s just a lot. Yeah. And a lot of times you don’t need to be in all those spaces. Right. You, you only need really a few specific marketing channels that can really propel your business.

[00:14:01] Josh: Yeah. Oh, exactly. Um, one thing you were talking about there was with hosting and maintenance and support. I’m curious what that looks like for Web Blow, because I’m a WordPress guy. Yeah. And I think it’s pretty known that with WordPress you have got to stay up on updates and maintenance, which for web designers is great for us because we can be the webmaster for, for our clients and keep everything up to date.

[00:14:22] Josh: With Webflow though, what is, what, how does that work for you? Like how do you create a hosting or maintenance plan for, for Webflow sites? Yeah. Cause it’s self hosted,

[00:14:31] John: right? Yeah, it’s self-hosted. Webflow doesn’t have plugins or anything that can cause like the site to break. So you can build a website, uh, on Webflow, leave it for three years and, you know, it’s fine.

[00:14:43] John: What we offer is updates, so we can add blogs or resource content. We also add, we can add templated pages. Um, we also offer four to five changes per month based on what the client needs. And those changes can be copy, updates, adding resources or blogs. And then it’s also the, the peace of mind for clients, knowing that we’re taking care of their website and making sure it’s up to date, sending them analytics reports, that type of thing.

[00:15:06] John: So really straightforward. Not a ton of heavy lifting. Probably a few hours a month on each one, but it, it’s, it’s really, uh, beneficial.

[00:15:13] Josh: That’s, ah, again, that’s exactly what I teach my students who don’t use WordPress, which is, yeah, you’re not doing updates like you would on WordPress, but there’s so many other things you can add in there in the way of updates and Exactly. Additional time support, content changes. Exactly. I would imagine. Exactly. Do you guys go in and tweak SEO and alt texts and work on speed and stuff like that along with that stuff?

[00:15:34] John: Exactly. Exactly. So, we’ll, we’ll, initially we’ll do all the onsite SEO for our site launch. So we’ll do all the titles, meta descriptions, all texts submitted to Google Search Console, like all that’s part of our like package.

[00:15:45] John: Um, and then each month we’re like monitor, like, Hey, this page is pushing a 4 0 4, let’s just get that fixed. So we just do like small kind of minor things because we don’t want to create like this entire service around it. We just wanna give the clients peace of mind that their site’s being indexed properly.

[00:16:00] Josh: Gotcha. Gotcha. So, yeah, that’s wonderful. I’m so glad to hear that you can still do a lot of recurring services like that with a platform that’s self-hosted. I, I think a lot of people who are on Square, like, I can’t tell you how many designers I’ve talked to are like, well, I can’t do a, a maintenance plan.

[00:16:14] Josh: I’m, I’m using Squarespace. I’m like, ah, but you can, it’s just, it’s not called a maintenance or like update type of plan. Exactly. It’s more of a care or support. Exactly. Do you, let me ask you this, John, I feel like there’s a resurgence in maybe not the term webmaster, but the idea of a trusted webmaster for companies. Do you feel like that as well?

[00:16:38] John: Yeah. You know, I think that a lot of, and we’ve seen this in our space, a lot of the. Like larger companies, they might have like a smaller group or smaller team. A lot of them are leaning on like boutique or smaller agencies because there’s so many issues with the big agencies, right?

[00:16:54] John: One of those being they’re expensive because they have a big team and they have a lot of. Jobs to fulfill. So they need to charge a premium price and they’re not that profitable, right? A large agency might be doing a hundred million, but they’re only making like eight to 9% on that, that right? So they have to charge a premium.

[00:17:10] John: Um, and then with boutique agencies or even freelancers, you can work with someone that’s extremely talented that probably started in FANG or or worked with some really great companies that can either pay an hourly rate or a value-based rate that can pay a set cost per month. And they get a set amount of deliverables and it’s just really a lot easier to deal with that person one-on-one.

[00:17:30] John: You might even have a Slack Connect channel where you can talk to them individually. You don’t have to go through five or six other people to contact that person. Us, you know, we’ve worked with clients like Amazon and and Napa Auto Parts, and these are big clients that are leaning on us to help because they feel like they can get more done with the boutique agency than they can with the large one. So, It’s, it’s just, it just works out really well for us.

[00:17:52] Josh: Yeah. One thing I know, we’ll, we’ll talk about your personal brand with your, with your courses and stuff. One, one thing I like about what you have there when you with your accelerator is you, I don’t know how intentional this was, but you used the term studio quite a bit, a design studio.

[00:18:07] Josh: I personally have found that clients, a lot of clients are very opposed to the term agency. Not all of them, but some of them have had the experiences with quote unquote digital agencies. Like you just mentioned, the overhead’s high. They have a huge team. One thing we haven’t touched on yet is the amount of turnover in turn that agencies have internally.

[00:18:27] Josh: Yeah. I mean, how common is it that a. Yeah, a business is gonna work with an agency and within a couple months of a project, they may go through like three different designers cuz they got people just coming in and out. Uh, I, I had some friends who have worked with agencies. I’ve white labeled for one, one time doing designs and yeah, it was crazy.

[00:18:44] Josh: In and out, in and out, in and out. So there’s so many reasons why the term agency, I think is, is viewed derogatory now where I, I like the term studio because it does kind of feel smaller, more tight-knit, a little more manageable, and a little more boutique like you said. So is that kind of the, I don’t know, do do, do you see that as well?

[00:19:03] Josh: Or is there maybe another term that we’re missing that could, you know, explain like a small swim team? No, I, I,

[00:19:08] John: I think, I think studio is the right term because I, I feel like. Companies want a little bit more edge here, more personal brand and design elements than just kind of a big agency. Cause when you think agents, you just think cookie cutter, you just think traditional.

[00:19:22] John: I think a studio sounds a little bit more like, wow, this, we can come up with something really creative here. And I think that verbiage speaks volumes, especially for agency owners that are looking to do what I do. Cause for me, like I’m not looking to become a big studio. Like, as you can see, I’m in my home office.

[00:19:37] John: My, um, my kids are in the other room. I’m after this call, I’ll take a break, play with them, hang out, and then I have like a couple calls for the day and I’m done. You know what I mean? And my team is small. We’re uh, we’re tight knit and uh, uh, it’s just, it’s a different, it’s a different world. You know what I mean?

[00:19:52] John: And I think a lot of this had to do with everyone working from home and remote and being able to use that opportunity to see like, wow, you know, I can work on my own terms, I can work on my own hours, I can work async and still do an amazing job for my clients. And I think that that whole issue of, you know, Because before, and I know I’m going off on a tangent before I’m working for my home office, folks might be like, oh, this guy’s probably not doing that well for himself.

[00:20:15] John: His agency, you know, he is working from home. They think you need to have this big sprawling office and all these people behind you like working. And it’s just not the case. Right. And I think that that whole break, that two year stint of everyone working from home really shifted that dynamic. I

[00:20:28] Josh: completely agree. That’s, it’s funny, I didn’t really thought about it like that, but I do feel like the, the view of that changed to where it was like, oh, you’re working from home. Yeah, it’s probably like a part-time thing. Or you’re eventually gonna get a real, you know, a big boy job and work for an agency, but then it’s insane.

[00:20:45] Josh: Then it was like, oh my gosh. I mean, some people hate working from home. I understand. I’m a, I’m a father, I’m a father printer too. Like I got three littles at home. There’s pros and cons to working from home, especially when the kids are of course little and wild and they know where you work. But of course, uh, it’s awesome.

[00:21:00] Josh: And some people I think, realize through the couple years of being at home mostly, it’s like, wow, I don’t need to commute 35 minutes, five days a week and waste an hour, hour and a half in traffic when I could do this at home and I have to work eight hours sitting in a chair, or at least just sit in my chair for eight hours when I could get stuff done for.

[00:21:18] Josh: Uh, so I do agree. I do think that the landscape has shifted dramatically, even from the client perspective. Have you, have you found that clients are maybe, maybe not that they expect work from Homers, but that it’s just a little more, um, yeah, it’s a little more like notable now. It’s like they don’t, I, I don’t know.

[00:21:36] Josh: I didn’t really have any clients that were weirded out that I was working from home, but I’m sure some wa you know, they want to be a, they wanna have a professional brand, so they might wanna have a professional studio or agency. But I do feel like that’s changed too.

[00:21:51] John: Absolutely. I think, you know, even with that, it’s, it’s one of those things where, I think a website’s gonna speak volumes and, and kind of push that over the edge.

[00:22:02] John: Especially if they visit your website. It’s on point. You’ve got really great case studies. It looks beautiful, it functions well. I think that would trump if they saw me and, you know, my background was the greatest. Right. I think that’s gonna help in regards to them making an informed decision on working with us.

[00:22:19] John: Um, but yeah, I, I, I definitely see that shift. Like, you know, there’s been a call where I kill my kids, like run in the room and people are there. And before I’d be like, oh my gosh, I’m gonna lose this business. But it, it, I think yeah, where more understanding of the human condition, you know what I mean? And we understand that, you know, life is just going to life and honestly like life, you know what I mean? So, yeah. It’s, it’s one of those things. Yeah.

[00:22:40] Josh: Like. When it comes to representing yourself on your website, whether you work in your mom’s basement or whether you are in an agency, you know, like cool workplace, that’s all trendy. It doesn’t matter. What matters is you do really good damn work and you get it done for your client.

[00:22:54] Josh: Exactly. And get results. So like, you don’t need to say like, and I wouldn’t advise saying I work at my mom’s basement. You don’t have to even say you work from home. It doesn’t matter. You could just get a picture of you and then use a background remover and that’s it. You know, you Exactly. They don’t, no one needs to know like, where you’re doing your work now, whether it’s in a coffee shop or a co-working place or a home.

[00:23:14] Josh: I love that, man. I, I, that’s one of the aspects I love about web design right now is it’s just so open to what you wanna do. And for those who do wanna get outta the house and work in a, in a office or a co-working space, that’s fine too. Like, there’s times where I’m like, sometimes I’d like to go in a couple days a week and just get outta the house a little bit.

[00:23:32] Josh: Uh, so you could do it all now? Yeah. Let’s, I think it’s

[00:23:34] John: amazing. Oh, it is, man. It is it. It’s just that the new wave is, is here. You know what I mean? I love it. I do. S

[00:23:43] Josh: uh, speaking of NuWave, I wanted to talk about maybe some new ways to make connections in this world where there’s not as many meetups as there probably was 2019 prior.

[00:23:55] Josh: Um, you had earlier you talked about making connections and partnering up with other agencies who do ads, ppc, the marketing, social media to help you focus on what you wanna do. But my question to you, John, would be like, nowadays, How do we make those connections for those who maybe don’t have a network like you did of of designers and you were in the agency world, like how do you build a network? I guess the short question of of partners referral partners,

[00:24:20] John: yeah. I, I really like, and I just got on it maybe a year and a half ago, is Twitter, like design. Twitter is a really great tight-knit community of people that are passionate about what they do, and it’s a really great mechanism for connecting with people in this space.

[00:24:36] John: So the best way to connect is really just to follow some of the folks that are. Doing great things in design and development, and then just share your work, show what you’re working on, be transparent, ask questions, and just get involved in the communication and, and conversation. On Twitter, it’s just, man, it’s, it’s a goal.

[00:24:53] John: Mine, I’ve found so many different partners. Uh, we’ve booked business from Twitter. It’s just really helpful and the design community is, it’s not as big as you would think, right? Once you can kind of make a name for yourself, provide some really great work, you can kind of get into the space and be able to provide value.

[00:25:10] Josh: And what about other social media platforms? I’m actually not active on Twitter, but it’s funny you mentioned that cuz I’ve been just starting to, I pulled a rookie move and I didn’t grab my handle. I didn’t grab Josh Halco. Gotcha. And somebody, some idiot took it and I had to get a, uh, yeah, I started like took, oh my gosh.

[00:25:27] Josh: You know, he, he, he like, yeah, ripped my profile off and started posting stuff and copied my comment over. I was like, oh, I should have grabbed it. Cause I, I always told myself, I’m not gonna ever get on Twitter, but here I am really considering it just because more and more people have talked about this end of it.

[00:25:41] Josh: Um, But what about other socials? What about, uh, I mean, I guess you could do the same similarly for Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn, depending on the niche. I don’t, have you explored any other ones or, or is Twitter still Yeah.

[00:25:53] John: The ones you Yeah, I like, I mean, I like Instagram more so for just kind of showing. What I’ll do with reels is I’ll just do like a show, my work segment where I’ll just kind of show what I’m working on. So, hey, we got this wire frame up, or hey, we’re on this stage with the client. People love it and it keeps you top of mind, especially for potential clients. So if I’m posting content in January and I’m doing this consistently, a client might not book then, but maybe August, when they’re ready for a website design, who they’re gonna think of.

[00:26:18] John: You know, since I’ve been posting my work consistently, it, it helps keep top of mind. So I like Instagram for that in regards to the reels. Um, and then I share my content on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is great. Um, any value-based content, any projects that’re working on case studies, I’ll post there. We’ve actually booked quite a, a few projects from LinkedIn just by posting like what we’re working on.

[00:26:37] John: So those are my, like three top. And then lastly, I, I like YouTube. I haven’t been as consistent lately. But I like YouTube videos just because it’s, you know, it’s an infinite repository of, of your content. Yes. Right. It’s never gonna go away. We have videos that people have been looking at for five, six years that still drives traffic to the website.

[00:26:55] John: So, um, I suggest, you know, if you’re kind of thinking of like your marketing mix, maybe one YouTube video a week, if you can a couple reels a week on Instagram and then any, like, push any of that content to, to LinkedIn and

[00:27:07] Josh: Twitter as well. Oh, it’s a beautiful setup and wonderful way to, to go about managing all the different types, cuz yeah, you can repurpose a lot of content, but there is content that works better on other mediums than, than other ones.

[00:27:20] Josh: Um, yes. Yeah. I, I personally had the bandwidth for like a couple, but I’m starting to explore it more, especially now. I’ve got some, some help with the social media, media distribution’s a lot. Yeah. So what’s like, what’s your role? What, what is your role now with your agency? Are you still doing a lot of the hands-on work? Are you mostly working on the business and marketing or,

[00:27:38] John: yeah. No, I, I, my time is taken up by just being in the management role, so I make sure that the team has everything that they need. I’ll hire and put people in position to, to run the agency. But yeah, I’m not doing any of the day-to-day design development. Um, I’ll do the discovery with clients and then I’ll do like the launch call and that’s it. Um, so my team handles the rest of the, the fulfillment.

[00:28:04] Josh: And what’s your setup right now? How big’s your team?

[00:28:07] John: Yeah, so right now we have, we have an account manager. His name’s Alan. He manages all the projects that we have.

[00:28:13] John: Uh, I have a ops manager, her name is Jerry. She does the ops for my other business called black illustrations.com. So she runs that essentially. Um, she hires illustrators, she vets them. She gets the artwork and everything on the website. So that company’s pretty much handled a hundred percent by her. And then we have two designers, three developers on the team.

[00:28:32] John: And then we have, uh, a data manager who does like a lot of our, our copy and just c m s items and, and any like, Excel or, or I guess, automation stuff that we have. So right now it’s 1, 2, 3, like around six or seven. But the way we’re structured is a little bit different than traditional agencies. Um, Our, our account manager, our ops manager, they work about 25, 30 hours a week.

[00:28:56] John: Um, our designers and developers are all essentially like independent contractors that work on a project basis. So this allows us to re be really lean and we can fluctuate the agency based on the level of projects that we have. So if you have a lot of projects right now, we’ll assign those to specific team members.

[00:29:12] John: Um, and then, you know, if things slow down on the agency side, we can accommodate that as well. And this, this process works really well for us, um, because we’re able to navigate the ebbs and flows of agency work. Great thing is we get a lot of recurring because of our hosting clients. We host about 60 clients right now, so Nice.

[00:29:27] John: Um, we do really well in regards to, uh, I guess consistent like business in regards to our clientele, but this, this process allows us to do really well and it also allows our designers and developers who are really talented to be able to work on other projects as well that they’re passionate

[00:29:42] Josh: about. So if you were to start, if you were to advise somebody who’s like swamped, they’re doing everything themselves Okay.

[00:29:49] Josh: And they know they’re ready to scale, um, yeah. What would you say the first hire would be? Like? What, or what would be one of the most beneficial first

[00:29:57] John: hires? I’d say the first hire should be the person. That would help you alleviate the most stressful part of what you do on a day-to-day basis. So for me, running the agency by myself, it was development.

[00:30:08] John: I would spend three hours working on one, um, image header, right? Instead, I can allocate that time towards something else, towards creating content to bring in more clientele. So I needed to developer first. So I would think about the tasks that are taking you the longest. I would create a step-by-step kind of procedure on how to do that, and then I would delegate that first, um, to start fulfilling those tasks and getting that off your plate so you can work on something else.

[00:30:33] Josh: Oh, that’s beautiful. And what about, what about internal kind of stuff? How, how important do you think having like a VA type role is? Or, I mean, you, you had a couple positions there. What was a little bit different than what I typically see, cuz most everyone has, yeah. A designer or developer, a. Maybe a VA type of thing, but no one has ever, I’ve never talked to anyone as like a data manager or something like that.

[00:30:55] Josh: I mean, you got some roles in there that are, are, are pretty like systems based and project basis sounds like. Yeah. Unless maybe those are just different terms in project manager or No, no. Executive

[00:31:04] John: director. I’m a, I’m a hu Yeah. I’m a huge, huge, huge, like anytime you see me post on social media, I’m gonna talk about SOPs. I live my standard operating procedures. It’s helped me, um, sell a few of my businesses. Right. Because clients or or acquisition folks love systems, they love, oh, this is automated, this is all done. I don’t have to do anything with this. This is great. So, um, we have entire SOPs around everything that we do in the agency from onboarding a client to working with them, to providing them with any deliverables. All that has been standardized right. In our SOPs.

[00:31:39] Josh: Um, sounds like that would be good stuff for a web design accelerator course.

[00:31:44] John: Yeah. Yeah. It’s actually all in the course, man. All of the every single SOP that we’ve done is, is in the course also. And it’s just, man, the, the biggest thing for me is when you create a system and you delegate it to someone and it gets done and you’re seeing it get done without you having to necessarily be the one doing it, is there’s no feeling like it because you feel like, wow, you know, I have all this time to be able to do other things and work on other items.

[00:32:06] John: And again, SOPs are always changing. They’re always updating. Uh, the reason we have a data manager is actually because we’ve implemented AI into a lot of the things that we’re doing at the agency. So she’s able to leverage SOPs to, to create brand guidelines and create all these assets and things based on what we’ve been accommodating and creating regarding AI prompts as well, which has helped us expedite a lot of this process.

[00:32:27] John: So, and are you we’re able to get a lot done as a small team?

[00:32:30] Josh: Oh, I love it. Are you’re using Notion right.

[00:32:33] John: Yeah, we use Notion for our project management. Exactly.

[00:32:36] Josh: Awesome. And for, for your SOPs as

[00:32:38] John: well? Yes, yes. SOPs as well. I can even share, you know, I can, I can give you all a look and if you wanted to like a look at it, I can share my screen and show you that too, or send that to you in a separate so you can kind of get an idea of what that looks like.

[00:32:49] John: Oh

[00:32:49] Josh: yeah, I’d love to include that in the show notes. Yeah, that would be great. Just cuz I’m, my SOPs are a bit scattered right now all over Google Docs. Um, so I’m actually in the process of organizing them and I’ve just heard, I’ve heard, heard more, more, and more and more about Notion. Uh, that’s great. So I’m really considering just yeah, kind of putting everything in.

[00:33:07] Josh: I, I’m, I’m a big fan of 17 Hats, which is the, the platform that I used for all my business stuff as far as workflows, invoicing, contract proposals. Yes. Um, I don’t, it doesn’t sound like No. Does Notion do. Contracts, e-signatures,

[00:33:23] John: invoicing or No, no, no. Yeah, it’s, it’s really, it’s really like, listen, think of notion as like Microsoft Word, Google Sheets, and Evernote like had a baby and it’s just, you can basically create pages how you like, but it doesn’t do like that, like invoicing and, yeah. Yeah. It’s not like a has all the different Exactly.

[00:33:44] Josh: I’ve all, I’m still on the hunt for the perfect, all-in-one solution for project management, SOPs and invoicing proposals, but I have just never seen one that does it. Absolute all. Or like in the case of 17 hats, they do have some things where you could create templates and SOPs, but it’s kind of janky.

[00:34:01] Josh: Um, got it. Whereas like notion, I know Notion is like one of the top in the biz right now for organizing thoughts, creating systems. Yes. Content creations, ai. I know the AI tool I’ve heard is amazing. So, um, yeah. Cool. But pretty cool. It kind brings me to an interesting point, which is, There is not a right or wrong way to have a process for your web design business.

[00:34:21] Josh: There’s so many ways to go about it. Like your accelerator course is probably very similar in a lot of ways to my web design business course, I did the same thing. I literally took everything in my business, all my SOPs, all my templates, processes and everything and just reformatted them into, into this course.

[00:34:39] Josh: And I’m sure we do things similar, but I bet we do a lot differently. And that’s the kind, the thing about this industry is it’s like. There is not a right and wrong way exactly. To do a web design experience. And you can pick

[00:34:49] John: and choose the things that work for your business. You know what I mean? Yeah, absolutely.

[00:34:53] Josh: Did you, did you come up with all of this on your own just by trial and error and hard lessons learned? Or did you go through any sort of training for, for your processes in your systems? Or, or did you take from what you learned in the agency world?

[00:35:06] John: Good question. It’s, it’s a little bit of all of that, right?

[00:35:09] John: A a lot, a lot of it is mistakes and issues that I’ve had that I’ve been able to rectify with some of these processes. It’s courses that I’ve taken, books that I’ve read, um, working with clients and seeing issues that they’ve had and just working each day to get better and better incrementally at being an agency owner.

[00:35:26] John: And so at this point, the course could be completely different. You know, three years from now, this is actually the third iteration. This is 3.0 in the last two years. So things change, things. Oh. Update and, and, and alter based on the industry. And so, yeah, it’s, it’s really just making sure that I’m keeping up with what’s going on in the industry and then anything that I’m learning and, and growing able to pass that on to other agency owners.

[00:35:50] Josh: What, uh, what’s something that you do, John, that you feel is different than most everybody else as a small web design studio? What’s something that separates you?

[00:36:02] John: Yeah. I, I think that we do a good job of marrying creative with function because there’s a lot of just web designers that are, they’re making great, beautiful websites that’ll be featured on Dribble, but they might not necessarily be functional.

[00:36:16] John: They might not necessarily convert for the client. Us, I like to think we marry both, right? We make beautiful websites, but they’re also functional. And for us, we don’t only do it for clients, but I’ve done it for myself. I’ve, um, launched a couple e-commerce businesses, work that were acquired. I’ve launched another business called Urban Wallet, which was acquired.

[00:36:33] John: I have another business right now called Black Illustrations that’s doing really well, so, Not only do we do it for clients in the starter space, but we’ve done it ourselves. And I think a lot of agency owners do this for clients, but they ne haven’t necessarily done it for themselves on that level. And so having agencies great because we’re able to do this for clients and then we’re able to use those same systems and processes to create our own products that we can then sell to the marketplace.

[00:36:57] Josh: Gotcha. Gotcha. Well, this is a perfect segue to something I knew we were gonna get into, which is for, for the, like you and I are, are so aligned in people focusing, particularly if they like web design and they’re good at it. Like, make that your main service, focus on that. But then a lot of people are wondering, well, if I just do web design, How can I have high-end premium project prices without doing digital marketing and without, without doing the sales.

[00:37:23] Josh: Like, so my, the shorthand question to that, John, would be like, how do you make web design a high value project without it being just a commodity? Because w there are websites now that can be done with AI or templates that are pretty nice looking. Yeah, man. But I, of course, I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but cuz I know the value of websites and the human touching them, but yeah. To, to somebody who asks you, John, like, how do I do high-end websites that aren’t just a $500 website? Like what goes into

[00:37:49] John: that? Yeah, yeah. It’s, it’s really gonna come down to the things that the client’s looking for. So it comes from a few things. One, being able to convey. What the client needs based on what they’re providing in regards to feedback.

[00:38:05] John: So if they’re like, Hey, we’re looking for this, this, and this, you need to make sure that you convey that in your proposal or what you’re looking to do in regards to working with that client. The next piece is the specific deliverables that you have in regards to web design. So you can say, Hey, we do web design we’ll, Design your website and we’ll send it to you instead.

[00:38:25] John: I think that you need to add on specific assets that are gonna be crucial to that client. So we’ll perform a competitive analysis, we’ll create a, um, inspiration board of other websites. We think that will work in the space. So it comes down to your process, um, and, and what that structure looks like in regards to what you’re going to li give to that client.

[00:38:44] John: And so I think that for us, we say, Hey, we do web design and development. What does that include? That includes doing a competitive analysis, having a brand discovery session, being able to provide you with inspiration and, and the storyboard of what we think would work well. Here are the concepts. Then we do a, a detailed site map of what the site will look like, keeping the client involved in that process.

[00:39:05] John: All of these things are gonna make what we do a premium product. And also you just honestly have to charge more. You know what I mean? If you can charge more. To the client. You can hire better designers, you can hire better developers, you can work at a, you, you can provide a better service and a better product to clients.

[00:39:23] John: So you’re not just charging more just the sake to charge more. You’re charging more to weed out the clients that aren’t necessarily gonna fit that criteria you’re looking for. Yeah. Where when you find a client that you are looking for that has the budget, you’ll be able to find and create the team that’s needed to create a high level and high quality

[00:39:39] Josh: product.

[00:39:40] Josh: I love that. The concept of the research analysis and or comp competition analysis and uh, a little more of the like looking into their business and the landscape of things. Similarly to what I teach is instead of just saying I build websites, it’s once you get past that door, cuz a lot of clients still understand like, well, I just need a website.

[00:40:00] Josh: That’s usually the start of the conversation. Yeah. But then when you get into it, I try to teach a lot of my students to frame it as. Like how can this website help your business? So very quickly, turn it over to their business. Talk about their customers. What’s their goal? Don’t just talk about the website, but what do you want the website to do?

[00:40:20] Josh: Those little shifts? Exactly. What I teach is essentially those little shifts make all the difference In a high value website Exactly. Might be 5, 10, 20 k versus a client like, Ooh, $1,500. I could go to Wix and buy, build my own for a dollar like, But there’s so much more if, if you really articulate the value and look at the results.

[00:40:39] Josh: So like how do you guys, uh, do you do something similar, John, in the way of like, do you, do you talk with your clients about their goals and, and, uh, business growth goals, their customers? Like, how far do you go? Because that can open up a can of worms too, though. I do feel like that needs to be constrained, otherwise you run the risk of being a business consultant for them.

[00:40:59] Josh: Um, so how far, you know what I mean? Like how far do you go? Yeah. With, with results and their goals, their

[00:41:03] John: business goals. Yeah. Yeah. So once we have a lead that comes in, we have a few, a few initial questions that we ask during that call to develop a proposal for them. So, in our initial touchpoint, we always ask the budget.

[00:41:15] John: That’s the first thing because we wanna make sure that we can align what they need with, if we can even facilitate it. And then we’ll ask questions like, well, what are your main services? What are the pain points of your website now? What issues are you currently having? Can we have access to analytics to see your top performing pages?

[00:41:30] John: What are your goals for this website in the next two to five years? What does your ideal like site map look like in your head? So just initial questions that we’ll ask, you know, what are some additional features that you need on the website, or what’s the functionality that you need? Are you integrating with a crm?

[00:41:45] John: So just a series of maybe 10 to 15 questions that give us a sense of what they’re looking to accomplish and do in regards to the to the project. And then we’ll use that and to go ahead and create the proposal and what’s needed. And so we do that. Mainly because they’re looking for, when they come to us, they’re most likely looking for design or development and not anything else.

[00:42:05] John: So they probably have a fractional cmo or they have a marketing department and they’re looking to branch out to get help on this specific product. And that’s why it’s so important to niche down, because once you become an expert and a specialist at one thing, you can charge a premium because that’s the focus of your services.

[00:42:22] John: That’s all you do day in, day out. Yeah. That’s why folks pay you a premium to do it. And

[00:42:27] Josh: especially if you’re getting those quality leads from referral partners and stuff, it’s like the sale really, it’s just a matter of just converting them, like getting them over the edge. You don’t have to build the, the trust factor as much as you would if they just saw an ad and they’re like, okay, this John Guy, you know, like, all right, now we gotta get to know each other.

[00:42:43] Josh: It’s exactly, you’re already, they’re already a hot lead. Basically. You go from a cold lead to a hot lead right away. How, um, With your, like with, with this, with this area of leads coming in, are you still getting a lot of cheap leads? Like do you have a weed out type of system in place? Or do do some of those questions just weed out the people who are in the market for a $300 website?

[00:43:05] John: Yeah, so we have, um, uh, we have a form on our website that’s about seven questions. One of those questions is budget, and then we have a note in that question that says, our initial project start at X for it web design and development. And then we have the breakdown so that weeds out all the tire kickers. We, since we started this process,

[00:43:27] Josh: like price range wise. Do you mind sharing, John? Just like, oh yeah, absolutely. Do you have Absolutely. I mean, I obviously, we know web design projects fluctuate drastically, but yeah, I’m just kinda curious, curious like what,

[00:43:37] John: yeah. Absolutely. So our engagement started around 15,000 and that’s okay. The initial touchpoint to be able to work on a project and collaborate with a client. So that gives us the opportunity to weed out folks that are, that aren’t in that threshold. Because what we used to do is we would get these leads in and then we would refer them out anyway, right? Because we were focused on a specific price point and client that we want to stay in, in regards to.

[00:44:02] John: And we work primarily with startups, usually series A or series B, or they’re looking to really change up their design and development and that price point is, is actually really affordable for them and something that they can see a lot of benefits in. So that question, man, it reads out so many, we actually have a video on it, on YouTube, so if you want, I can share that link with you too.

[00:44:22] John: Yeah, where I walk through the questions, I have the doc with all the questions that folks and other agency owners can use as well.

[00:44:28] Josh: Absolutely. Yeah, I was curious because I mean, pricing is just so all over depending on who your niche is, who your ideal clients are, all, all the usual questions, but Exactly.

[00:44:38] Josh: It is kinda interesting. Like I, I, my sweet spot was a little bit lower than that. Mine was between the five to $10,000 range with the majority of clients I was working with. Um, and that’s generally what I teach with a lot of my students. But in a lot of cases, that’s just the starting point, depending on the brand.

[00:44:52] Josh: And like you’re talking about, if it’s a startup who has funding, that’s a whole different ballgame than like a dry cleaner shop who is maybe doing six figures. Uh, a couple thousand. 3000 is probably gonna be a decent investment for them. So what, like, What are some of the deliverables for a project that’s 15 K, 20 K, 30 k that you’ve seen?

[00:45:14] Josh: Are they, is it, is it a matter of a lot of the same things that people are doing for maybe 5,000, just, just better, like higher end type services within the scope of

[00:45:22] John: details? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the scope of work doesn’t necessarily change a lot in reg. The deliverables or the amount of deliverables doesn’t really change a lot from five to 15 K.

[00:45:35] John: It’s more so being able to allocate the best talent toward projects to be able to, to make those. And so by developing systems, one, you’re making it so you’re mitigating any issues because you have a step-by-step breakdown of the steps included in your process. Then the other piece of that is the deliverables aren’t really changing a lot.

[00:46:03] John: It’s really the thought process and the value behind that, and I, I talked to, Agency owners, freelancers about this a lot because they always equate their skillset to an hourly rate. So for example, a brand designer, right? Oh, you want a logo, it’s three hours, it’s gonna cost, you know, a thousand bucks.

[00:46:20] John: However, they’re not taking into account the 10, 15, 20 years of experience. They have to be able to create a logo like that. Yeah. So for example, pentagram, when they created like a, what was it, the Citibank logo. It was created on a napkin in a restaurant and they charged a million dollars for it. Now you’re not taking into, now someone would coming in from the outside would say a million dollars for a logo.

[00:46:41] John: That’s ridiculous. But they’re not realizing that this person has created logos for Chase. This other company has worked with the best brand folks in the world, has a Rolodex of expertise that they’ve accumulated over 10, 15 years. Right? That’s what you’re paying for. You’re not paying for me to do this right now.

[00:46:58] John: You’re paying for my experience. And it’s almost like you said, like I know you’ve probably seen that image of the giraffe drawn, right? A giraffe or a lion, and it’s like, Five minute drawing is like beautiful. The intricate 62nd drawing is like a little kid drew it, right? So it’s really about the expertise and you need to be able to convey that.

[00:47:15] John: So with us, my first website at Ever Design was like 800 bucks. Now because of who we’ve worked with, because we’ve owned our process, because we’ve have a of track record and case studies to prove it, we can charge a premium cost that clients are happy to pay. Well, better than I did.

[00:47:31] Josh: My first one was 300. So you already were ahead of the game when I started. Hey, I had a very, if you can’t tell, I had a very, very hard time understanding time and value, uh, even in the early days. Thank that’s, oh man. It’s one of the lessons I,

[00:47:45] John: yeah, it’s one of those things, man, it’s really is a mindset. It’s hard to, cuz you know, you always have this imposter syndrome, like, damn, is my work good enough to be able to charge this price? Like, am I, I think it’s just getting through that threshold of. Not feeling like, you know, feeling like you’re not good enough and, and realizing like, damn, I kind of am really great at this.

[00:48:08] Josh: Well, and then what you just talked about too, charging for experience is a very big mind shift versus charging by time.

[00:48:15] Josh: And I, that is, I think, I think in the early days, like for folks who were just starting, I, I think it’s worthwhile getting a feel for, for, for your time as far as your hourly rate and stuff like that. But yeah, my recommendation is to very, very quickly move from the trading time for money mindset because you really, I mean, when you do that, the problem is the only way to grow is to work 90 hours a week or Exactly.

[00:48:39] Josh: Charge extremely high rates, which takes her to a very niche competitive market, which can be, can be pretty tricky. So the sweet spot with kinda where you guys are at with that, with that starting point range, makes a ton of sense. And for those who are like, wow, 15 K is starting point, it’s still a lot.

[00:48:54] Josh: Just remember like you have a half dozen. Team like that. So a $15,000 project split between quite a few people with your processes is, is different than maybe a solo printer who’s charging 5,000 and is maybe taking on less, but there’s just, yeah.

[00:49:09] John: Okay. But also to add on to that, re remember, most of our team is, is project-based. So yeah, technically we don’t only lead to loop in probably one designer and one developer into the project as opposed to the whole team kind of being looped into that. Oh, so that, yeah. Gotcha, gotcha. That helps with that piece as well because now we can bring in a really talented designer, really talented developer and still have at least 40 to 60% of profit margins to be able to leverage later on.

[00:49:35] John: So it’s it, yeah. Charging a premium, and I didn’t even say this, but adding, when you’re charging a premium, you’re also covering the cost of like any spillage, any type of like, oh, the project’s going a little bit longer than we expected. Still cream. We all know how that is. Exactly. It takes care of all of that and just helps you mitigate any issues you’ll have.

[00:49:56] John: Yeah, totally agree. Yeah. Getting the project to the finish

[00:49:59] Josh: line, I mean, scope creep is, is one of the killers in web design. I remember some projects I would do that went really well and I spent less time on them than I thought. I was like, yeah, what is, something’s wrong. This happened. What happened? They, they agreed too fast.

[00:50:13] Josh: They pay me way too quick. Something has to go wrong here. You know, it just didn’t, didn’t seem right. After all the scope creep, nightmares and horrors I

[00:50:21] John: used to have. Oh man. It’s crazy. Crazy.

[00:50:26] Josh: But that’s where constraints, limitations, system, processes and all those things come along. Exactly.

[00:50:31] John: Agreements.

[00:50:32] John: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

[00:50:34] Josh: So I love that you’re teaching this, oh, go ahead.

[00:50:36] John: Go ahead. Oh, no, no. I, I was just gonna say that, yeah, like making sure that it’s stipulated in your agreement and then having like a potential h hourly rate in case the project goes over. Because I’ll tell you right now, like clients, man, they, they do not like it.

[00:50:51] John: They’re like, okay, yep, we’ll get the approval in. It’s done looks good. Um, and then if they do have to pay extra, they’re fine with it. You know what I mean? Because they’ve, they know that’s in the agreement that you set up in the initial contract. So

[00:51:01] Josh: I’m so good. I almost forgot to ask you this, but would, would, some of these, I don’t know, I would probably wouldn’t consider those to be enterprise clients if they’re startups or, or that range. But are you working with like teams of people or, cuz because I remember some projects where I would get a larger premium type project or business.

[00:51:20] Josh: They would often have like two or three people to report to. And that, as you probably know, can be a nightmare as well. Like with some of these higher end projects, do you find yourself getting in with groups of people you need to, to work with? Because that’s a whole different ballgame than just a one person business at your A one person client.

[00:51:37] John: Yeah, we do, but we always recommend one main point of contact. So for example, if we do a Slack channel with a client and there’s five people in there, they can all provide feedback and details, but they go through that one liaison on their side of the team because that helps us be able to say, okay, y’all batch your comments, talk about what you need to, and then have this one person deliver us what we need. Because yeah, it can get, it can get hairy, man. It gets crazy.

[00:52:02] Josh: Yeah. I think, uh, one of the best things I ever added into my contract, which is in my business course, is the point of contract portion or SCU point of contact, which is, yes, I am not gonna go to a meeting with eight people in your business of, you know, the board and then hear eight different ideas for the website because nothing gets done.

[00:52:22] Josh: Yeah. It’s just, yeah. Everyone’s had those experiences. I think particularly with nonprofits, that’s often to where there’s like equal say, and then it’s like, oh, this is why nothing’s getting done. Yeah. Because no one, no one can agree and then you guys should have had this meeting without me.

[00:52:37] John: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

[00:52:40] John: Exactly.

[00:52:41] Josh: Exactly. Uh, yeah, I was just kinda, I was just kind of curious to get, to get your experience on that, cuz that is, that is the one thing that I think people need to be prepared for with some bigger companies or bigger agencies or even just more premium type projects, is if there is a board, if there’s funding and there’s more cooks in the kitchen Yes. Have some hierarchy on a point of contact and Yeah. It’s, it’s key. Got, otherwise those projects can never end.

[00:53:05] John: Exactly. And then you got seven different people needing this and it’s just, yeah, man, it becomes a, it becomes a nightmare, man.

[00:53:12] Josh: Well, John, I’m stoked that you’re teaching about this stuff now. Man, we, we are really so similar. It’s, I’ve actually really enjoyed getting to know other web design business. Creators, teachers, I don’t know what to call us. What, what do you call, do you just consider yourself a coach, a teacher? Like what do you call yourself in your, in your brand, in your world? I

[00:53:32] John: don’t know. I guess I never thought about it.

[00:53:34] John: I never thought about it really. Um, I don’t know. I. I don’t even call myself an entrepreneur. I don’t even know if I’m a, it’s, I don’t know. I just say I, you know, I, I run an accelerator. I help other agency owners, but I guess I’ve never thought of like a title to use.

[00:53:52] Josh: Well, I don’t know if it’s gonna help or make your life more complicated trying to figure this out. You’re probably wake up at like three in the morning and be like, what am I, what, who am I? Where’s my identity? Who am I? I’ve actually, I’m thinking about putting, I’m thinking about dropping coach from my title because I’m getting so many freaking coach ads. Uh, oh man. Yeah. And I’m like, I’m not a co, like, I’m not in the coaching world.

[00:54:15] Josh: Like I’m not gonna sign up for Tony Robbins coaching program. I, I love, yes, Tony Robbins are great, but I’m not like a coach like that. So I, yeah, I just, I asked you because we’re, it, it is kind of a mix of like, well, we’re, we’re, we’re teachers, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re creators, we’re thought leaders, I suppose.

[00:54:31] Josh: Uh, but yeah, like, I mean, I do coach a lot, but I’m not the coach. Yeah. It’s a tricky one.

[00:54:37] John: It is. It really is. It really is. I’ll tell you educator, maybe. I think that sounds good.

[00:54:41] Josh: Yeah. But then people are like, what school do you work at? I’m like, oh, I’m not actually, not like, so it’s like, oh yeah. Every one of those has something where like with, with neighbors and people outside of the industry, it is the hardest to, uh, explain.

[00:54:52] Josh: That’s so true. Explain what you do. Although that’s so true as a web designer, it’s great. Cause you can just say, I built websites. And then like, oh, okay. Oh yeah. It’s easy. Like, oh great. That’s easy. Yeah. But I’m an online entrepreneur. Gives you the cross-eyed look. So it’s like,

[00:55:04] John: yeah. Yes. And then, you know, with all the, the issues with course creators, you know, it’s, it’s a lot.

[00:55:12] Josh: So when you, when, when did your accelerator start? What was, what was V1 of your accelerator? I think it was

[00:55:20] John: two and a half years ago. Maybe. It was the first

[00:55:23] Josh: version 20. Was it 2020? Was it 2020?

[00:55:25] John: 2020 I think 20 20, 20 19. Around that time. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. That’s when I thought it was the first version. Um, we got like, Over time, probably 500 students in that course.

[00:55:37] John: And then version two, I just gave it to everybody for free that had the first version of the course. And now this third one, which is a complete rebuild, that’s the the newest one that we just released. And right now we have, I think like 110, 120 students in there right now. We just started to promote it like last week, so we should see some more folks jump in there.

[00:55:57] John: Oh,

[00:55:58] Josh: shoot. What a perfect time for this convo. I didn’t realize it was, it was that soon. Now is that, so is it way different than original accelerator or do like, do previous students get, uh, grandfathered in with a different rate kind of thing, or how

[00:56:10] John: does that work? They get, yeah, they get a discount exactly.

[00:56:11] John: They get a significant discount to jump into the course. And this course is really about the business of, of running a design and development agency. I mean, it has a ton of resources from. Sales on how to do sales and link using LinkedIn, using Twitter. It has over 20 plus Figma files, which include brand guidelines, social assets, things that you can use for your agency and clients templates for, for web development, uh, mobile, desktop, tablet.

[00:56:35] John: And then it has all of our SOPs and the step-by-step SOPs to run your agency too. So if you’re like, Hey, listen, I don’t really have time, you can literally just send it to your VA and they can start to implement these things tomorrow. So it’s really Oh, that’s cool. Really easy to pick up and go. Uh, and it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a good amount of content, but it’s very streamlined and easy to navigate.

[00:56:54] John: And then you also have access to our community. And then I do office hours every other week live. So you can ask questions, get your questions answered, and then there’s a ton of resources and communication, um, re uh, stuff in the actual course. It’s run through Mighty Network, so we have a whole, a full community in there that you can

[00:57:12] Josh: access.

[00:57:13] Josh: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, I’ve been using, uh, circle for my membership circle, a few, few circles, but yeah, I’m, yeah, WordPress, Dian Circle, those are still my go-tos for everything. I’m nice. I spend much more time in circle than I do in WordPress now, so, uh, now I’m like starting, that’s always good. Now I’m, now I’m gonna start doing content for, for Circle Yes.

[00:57:32] Josh: Along with WordPress stuff. So now I, now I’m really conflicted with where my identity is cuz I just, I I know man. Yeah. Such a word. Word, uh, WordPress guy, which by the way, does Webflow, do you guys have, like, what’s the community behind Webflow? Are there meetups and conferences

[00:57:50] John: and stuff? It’s pretty, yeah, it’s pretty, it’s pretty big. Well, I, you know, not, I don’t know if it’s big, but it’s very like, Tight-knit. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff all over. They call it like the no code movement. So there’s a lot of stuff in here in the west coast, um, up north in New York, so they always have like meetups and events and things like that.

[00:58:07] John: So yeah, it’s, it’s a really, it’s a really solid group.

[00:58:10] Josh: Yeah. I didn’t know how connected you were in the community itself. I mean, with WordPress it’s one of the big benefits is that’s like, you’re, it’s very, very community driven, so I wasn’t sure, like with Webflow, Squarespace and others,

[00:58:21] John: what, oh, dude, it’s been helpful.

[00:58:22] John: It’s been super helpful. Yeah. Yeah. We’ve been, we’ve talked on like three or four talks with Webflow. We actually got interviewed with them with one of our other businesses and then, uh, yeah. Cause you guys are an official partner, right? Webflow partner too. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So it’s been, it’s been, man, it’s been awesome.

[00:58:39] Josh: It’s been awesome. How do you like for, for some of your students in the accelerator, is that a, is it an agnostic platform or do you, like, do they have, do you have to use Webflow to join your accelerator?

[00:58:51] John: No, no. So you don’t have to use Webflow. It’s, it, it’s a recommendation on like the platform that we use, but it, the course is really about the business of web design and development.

[00:59:00] John: So it’s really about cultivating what we have and, and implementing it your way in your agency. So you can use WordPress, Webflow, Shopify, whichever platform you’re comfortable with. Um, the principles will correlate to all of those. Yeah, it’s just some of our SOPs and trainings revolve around webflow, especially in regards to like quality assurance and like the analytics and others’ implementations.

[00:59:22] Josh: Yeah, same here. It’s so, man, it’s so funny. I feel like I’m talking to a weird version of myself. Uh, it’s like, yeah, Zack, the same way, like I, I do, I have some divvy resources and courses that are specific, but my business course is 100%. You could use Squarespace or Webflow, whatever it is. Um, but it makes it tricky.

[00:59:40] Josh: Doesn’t, as a, as a creator, cuz it’s like, you know, the community, you know, your tools, you really have to separate, okay, what, what processes can be evergreen for like, any tool versus what’s pretty specific to this tool or this community. Especially when it comes to hiring. Because if you’re gonna hire a designer, they need to know your stuff.

[00:59:58] Josh: So like, absolutely, I, I have all the divvy resources in the world, but if somebody wants to hire web loads as designers, I’m like, well now, now I need to call John. I don’t know. Yes.

[01:00:09] John: Yeah, but definitely, man, definitely.

[01:00:10] Josh: Yeah. I, I love what you’re up to, man. The, uh, we’ll definitely link all this. So John saunders.co is where your accelerator course is. You got some awesome stuff there. Your notion’s in what’s, oh yeah. Tell me about your book. I didn’t even know you had a book.

[01:00:23] John: Oh yeah, yeah. So I wrote a book called Borderless, um, and essentially it’s about how to like build your team, build your remote team, use, uh, leveraging and collaborating with people from all over the world.

[01:00:35] John: So we have team members here in the us South America, we have team members in Africa, Europe. I mean, we have team members from all over the world. And it really is about creating and managing a worldwide distributed team and how beneficial it could be for your company culture, how you can work with really diverse, amazing folks, how you still pay the above rate for team members all over the world, but you’re able to leverage and learn from people from different walks of life.

[01:01:01] John: And it’s just a really quick, easy read. There’s a ton of resources in there. Um, and you can get it on Amazon. You can just go to my website and pick it up. It’s john d saunders.co. In the menu. You can see, uh, the book. It’s called Borderless. Borderless.

[01:01:15] Josh: Yeah, man, I, uh, trying to pull this up real quick. I don’t know if we’ll come through. Because I just purchased it. Oh, nice. Awesome. I just got it. I’m excited to read it. I literally, your, if I look distracted Oh, nice. Cause I was ordering your book. Hold on. Awesome. I’m gonna prove it to you. Here we go. There’s the Amazon order. It might be blurry. There it is though. Got it.

[01:01:40] John: Yeah, I see that yellow button.

[01:01:41] John: Oh, thanks man. Appreciate it. I hope you enjoy it. I’m excited. It’s, uh, yeah, I, I, it’s crazy. I, that’s, um, so that’s my, my second book. The first book I wrote was a Step-by-step guide to Building Wealth, um, from a Dollar, which was part of my financial literacy blog that I had that was acquired. Um, that book did really well.

[01:01:57] John: This one has been a little bit of a, a slow burn. I haven’t been promoting it like I should, but I’m gonna start, um, this upcoming week really pushing heavily. I’m

[01:02:05] Josh: really excited man. I’m, I’m excited to go through it just because I have my own, I I you have way more experience than I do with scaling and team building and stuff.

[01:02:14] Josh: I’ve got a, probably a micro version, uh, of, of what you’ve implemented, but I’ve, I’m teaching more and more of that now. So many of my students have are scaling, which is amazing. It’s like, okay, all my stuff definitely works cuz now people are slammed. But then you get into a whole other set of challenges because now you gotta replicate yourself and you gotta build.

[01:02:32] Josh: So the next course I’m working on is actually a scaling course and a mastery type business. Course. Smart. Um, so I’m totally gonna read this and probably pull some of those, uh, love it. Some of what you love it, what you have in your book and your resources for that. Nice.

[01:02:45] John: Yeah. Thank you. Enjoy, man. We’d love a review too.

[01:02:48] John: Oh,

[01:02:48] Josh: I’ll review that for sure. Yep. I’ll give you a thanks, a glowing review for sure. I’m excited. I’m excited to to check it out just cuz now this is kind of the next, for me personally, I mean this is something I figured we would probably chat about with. Once we’re done recording, but we’ll just keep rolling.

[01:03:01] Josh: Let’s do it. Um, that’s kinda the next thing for me is to really help people in the scaling end of things now that I’ve got students who are six figures and beyond, so it’s like, okay, yeah, we need to get into some team building now. So Yes,

[01:03:12] John: yes, definitely. Because yeah, man, I mean, once you do that and you pull yourself outta the day to day, there’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a crazy transition. It’s almost insane. Like, damn, what do I do now? Things are actually like running smooth for a little bit. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, um, it’s one of those things.

[01:03:29] Josh: John, you’re a great example to, to look up to and to follow man. Uh, we’ll have likewise, all of your, all of your stuff linked, your, your five four digital.com, your john saunders.co. I’m always a fan of everyone with a fellow.co website. Um,

[01:03:43] John: yeah, man. Couldn’t get the.com unfortunately.

[01:03:46] Josh: Same here. You know what? I actually think Doco, doco is cooler. I, it just looks cooler to me. Uh, same to me. Like josh hall.com, I think is a, actually josh hall.com is a lawyer in Columbus too. Cuz one time one of my old clients sent a check to him and he was like, uh, hey, I’m the other Josh Hall, I gotta check to a web designer.

[01:04:07] Josh: I think it’s you. And I was like, oh my gosh. Yep. They, they just google josh hall.com and send it there. So, um, but yeah. Yeah, yeah. Very, very parallel stuff. I love what you’re up to, man. It’s, uh, it’s been a pleasure connect. I think we’ll have to, we’ll to do a round two. Maybe we’ll talk scaling on round two, man.

[01:04:23] John: Yes, man. Let’s do it. Absolutely. I’m ready. Awesome. I’m ready, Josh.

[01:04:27] Josh: Awesome, John. Well, do you have any, do you have like a, maybe a, a closing thought for web designers based off of what we talked about who are, or you could take this however you want, but if you were to encourage maybe one of what, if you were to encourage, like your ideal web design student, what would you, what would you tell them?

[01:04:45] John: I would say, Hmm, good question.

[01:04:49] Josh: Kind of open-ended, but, you know, if they’re, like, if they’re, I guess maybe, maybe a more concise question. Be like, uh, what, what would you encourage them with? What’s working today to, to be a professional

[01:04:58] John: web designer? Yeah. Yeah. I would say there’s a lot of designers that are jumping in this space and, and want to be a part of this and just love design as a whole.

[01:05:05] John: I would say to learn as much as you can about the, the visual design elements, but then also anything that you can learn regarding UI and ux, because that’s gonna make you a, a, a differentiator in the space. Focus on getting projects, working with friends, family, entrepreneurs, maybe doing a few projects for free, just to get your foot in the door and create some social proof and ultimately start to share your work.

[01:05:30] John: That’s probably the biggest thing that’s helped me in regards to working with folks and collaborating with clients, is to show my work, show the process, show what you’re working on, show the ups and downs of running an agency, and I think that’s going to lead to a lot of partnerships and just questions and folks wanting to work with you in the long run.

[01:05:48] Josh: Ah, beautiful. Great sentiment to end off, man. John, thanks for coming on today. Thanks for being generous with your time. What a pleasure, man. Everyone appreciate it. Everyone go to josh hall.co. Check out this interview and they’ll go to john d saunders.co to connect with John. So until next time, man.

[01:06:05] John: There it is.

[01:06:06] John: All right, Josh. Thanks again, man.

[01:06:09] Josh: Woo. A masterclass that was in building and scaling a thriving design business in today’s landscape. I want to thank John again for coming on. Had an absolute blast chatting with him. I really feel like he’s just kind of a different version of myself. But the cool thing, like we talked about with with web design is there’s so many different ways you can do things catered to your goals, your lifestyle, your energy management.

[01:06:36] Josh: Like John is an entrepreneur through and through, has a lot of irons in the fire, but is also very adapt to scaling and building a team. Um, you can follow that route. You can follow the route that I took, which is a little less than where John is as far as the amount of scaling and team members he’s running.

[01:06:52] Josh: Um, or you can be a solo printer. Like the beauty about web design is you can do whatever you want to do. I hope that what John and I covered in this conversation helps shed some light on how to build and sustain and scale a web design business in today’s landscape by, uh, charging higher rates and what goes into those projects.

[01:07:09] Josh: So again, you can find out more about John at his personal website, John d saunders.co, which has his accelerator course, some awesome resources. Uh, and then he’s got a YouTube channel. You can definitely recommend that you connect with him on any social media that you’re active on. Uh, when you go there.

[01:07:25] Josh: And then his agency for reference is five four digital.com. That’s the number five, and the word for f o u r digital.com. Again, thanks to John for coming on. I’m sure this will not be round one. I have a, or the only round. I’m sure we’ll do a round two. I think it would be fun to talk about scaling on a higher level.

[01:07:43] Josh: So if you think that would be fun too, let me know by going to the show notes for this episode@joshhall.co slash 2 66. And until next time, friends, thanks for joining. I so appreciate you being a listener of the show. I know there’s a lot of options for podcasts out there, but to welcome me into your ears is, oh, now it’s getting weird.

[01:08:04] Josh: Oh, it was such a great outro. Now I made it weird. Thank you for listening. That’s what I meant to say. Without the risk of being sounding rapy and weird. All right, I’m gonna end it before it goes downhill from here. See you on the next episode. Friends.

Web Design Business

The Web Design Business Podcast is available anywhere you listen:

Enjoying the show? Leave a podcast review 🙏