This episode is a recent conversation between myself and the king of subscription web design, Steve Schramm pulled from his show The Subscription Web Design podcast.

We cover:

  • How to include marketing services along with web design
  • How to solely do web design if not doing any growth or marketing services
  • Why now is an amazing time to get into web design
  • How to warn clients of “digital marketing poachers”
  • How to stand out in a sea of web design competition today

And more!

In this episode:

00:50 – The Evolution of Web Design Careers
08:10 – Choosing the Right Web Design Tools
13:05 – Choose a Business Model for Freedom
26:18 – Niche Market for Web Design and Digital Marketing
34:37 – Web Design Services for Business Growth
47:30 – The Importance of Marketing Agency Communication
51:57 – Scaling Web Design Business Investment


Featured links mentioned:

Episode #299 Full Transcription

Steve: 

Welcome to the Web Design Business Podcast, with your host, josh Hall, helping you build a web design business that gives you freedom and a lifestyle you love. Well, welcome into another episode of the Subscription Web Design Podcast. I am here with my friend, my coach, my mentor, josh Hall. Josh, how you doing, my friend?

Josh: 

The Yoda to your Luke Skywalker. It is an honor man to be on your show, steve I just got to say up front man to see your journey progress and to see you grow as a web designer and now grow as the king of subscription web design and as a fellow web printer and a coach. It’s really cool man. So I’m super excited to talk shop with you here.

Steve: 

Awesome. Well, no, I appreciate that. I mean, this is about you, so we won’t be labored too much on me. But yeah, without your frankly coaxing and your just guidance and all of that, we wouldn’t be here right now. So this has been really, really a fun journey for me. You’ve officially dubbed my new middle name of subscription that is at the bottom of every one of my emails that I send Steve’s subscription, sram. So what can I say? You even gave me a new title and everything. It’s hard to argue with.

Josh: 

That’s awesome. I have found a sweet spot with coming up with names For other people at least. I can’t freaking name my stuff. I’m like I’m still trying to nail down the name of my newsletter and I just can’t. But any other people. It’s like every web designer we can design somebody else’s site and see what it needs, but our own sites we have trouble with that, right?

Steve: 

So yeah, absolutely. It’s real hard. So, yeah, I’ve had to hire other people just to work on mine because I’m not objective enough to do my own. So I know you’ve been there too. So, yeah, this one we’re going to talk about a really, really cool topic. We’re going to talk about why web design now, and I feel like there are so many different places that we could go and that we could start with. So I think what we should do is I would like for you to just tell a little bit of your backstory, a little bit about your journey of, like, how you got into web design when you did, and then maybe we tie that in to begin answering the question like why is web design such a great career path and accessible career path for other people who are maybe trying to make a pivot or thinking about another kind of profession to go into?

Josh: 

Yeah, it’s really interesting now because it’s very different getting into web design today than it was when I got into it, which was 2009, 2010. I used to be a cabinet maker for a tour bus customizing shop and a drummer for a rock band kind of a weekend warrior, for those who don’t know and then I got laid off from my cabinet making job and since I was in the band world, I had always had an interest in art and design. So I just took a deep dive into Photoshop and I started learning design, and just mainly graphic and print design. Then I started doing our t-shirts, our album artwork, and it was really in that world. And then the light bulb moment for me came when we were playing at a festival and somebody asked us who did our CD artwork and our merch artwork and I said, well, I did. And the inevitable light bulb moment was when they asked how much would you charge to do ours? And I was like, oh my gosh, I can make money at something I actually enjoy doing. That’s one reason it’s great to get into web design or any creative endeavor now. But when you mix creativity and passion with business and money, that’s also equally tricky, as I found out. But I started doing graphic design for bands and then eventually I was helping out with a church I was the drummer for a praise band at the time too, occasionally and they found out I was doing design and they say, hey, would you take over our website? No one’s doing it and I’m like sure, I’ve never done a website before, but I’ll give it a go. You’re willing to pay me a little bit, why not? And it was Dreamweaver days. It was end of 2009, 2010. And so they actually sent me. They paid for a community college class to learn Dreamweaver. And that’s when I was like, oh, this is really cool. And then I ended up signing up for a program at my community college which was for digital design and graphics, and so I was mainly learning print design and graphic design, taking night school classes and just worked my way into doing web design. And, as we all know, even back then, all roads led to websites because somebody would want to do a business card, then a brochure, and they’re like, oh, this is eventually, we want people on our website. And it’s 100 times that now. I mean, even back in 2010, people, a lot of people, understood the value of their website, but nowadays that’s the first focus. So that’s how I eventually just kind of got into web design and then it took over from there. I became a freelance web designer and then built a six figure agency doing web design.

Steve: 

Yeah, oh man, that’s so fun and we talk a lot about this that those of us who are in the creative fields, it’s like we naturally gravitate towards this. I don’t even even me like I have a lot fewer students at this point than you do and I know we’ve both in the past had the realization that many of those who’ve come to us come to us from sort of adjacent things. They were musicians in the past or they did, you know, maybe they were painters or physical artists or something, or they had a proficiency for tech and then, like you said, all roads lead to web design. It’s like. It’s like, for some reason, everybody finds this as like the almost like a beacon or a guiding light, as a place to go from those other paths.

Josh: 

I think that’s because a website is a home. It really is. It’s like your online home. You can’t put your home on Facebook or rented ground, or, if you do, you best hope they don’t shut your you know your water off or literally like take down your home. So and I know that’s, we know that, but a lot of clients are learning that still, a lot of people who aren’t in the web design world are understanding now that their website is the only place that you can truly own. And now, if you’re using Squarespace or Wix or something that is self-hosted, you still run into the same problem. Potentially that’s why you and I are WordPress users. It’s open source, meaning we own it, but I’m also a huge fan of Circle, which is a self-hosted platform, but I also trust them. But in any regard, no matter the platform you’re using, your website is where all of the roads lead to, because that’s where you control your sales funnels, it’s where you control the look and the style of things, it’s where you control the verbiage, the copy, everything. You can control it, and I think that’s why, in short, all roads have and continue and will continue leading to websites.

Steve: 

Yeah, now, that’s interesting, right, and that that can almost be a little bit of a controversial statement these days, right, when you’re talking about gosh, ai and you know, is AI going to take over, and boy, there’s just lots of roads that we could go into there, and I’m sure we’ll talk a little bit about that. But before we do that, you said that when you started out it was a lot different. You know of a time. What would you say are some of the things that make it a little bit different to get into today? So and let me just say this, we both would agree that it’s still worth it today. We might would both agree that it’s a little bit harder to get things going today. I don’t know what your thoughts are on that, but I would just love to know what you think might be a little bit different about it now, or how you could approach that.

Josh: 

I think it’s 100% even more worth it to get into it today. But because there are so many opportunities and so many things you can do, that also presents a whole slew of new challenges. I don’t want to call them problems, because it’s not necessarily a problem, but it is a challenge, meaning when I got into websites in 2010, there wasn’t I don’t even remember thinking about a phone like responsive design, and WordPress was in its infancy. The idea of themes and page builders and different tools to use were very, very there was very few to even think about it. Even though it was difficult to do custom coding, for me, it was relatively simple to get in in the way of like, well, you do HTML and CSS and there’s the site and that’s it. It’s up. Now, when people are getting into web design, they’re like, okay, where do I buy my domain name? There’s like three and a half thousand domain registers and there’s WordPress, there’s Wix, there’s Webflow, there’s Squarespace, there’s Duda, there’s all these different builders, and then oh, by the way, there’s also themes and page builders that are a level back from WordPress. So I think there’s just a lot more to decide on when it comes to building your business. The reality is there’s no right or wrong tool and it’s kind of interesting and I don’t know where you’re at with your tool stack. Steve, I know you’re a WordPress guy like myself, but again I kind of branched out of just WordPress by using Circle for my community because I just freaking love Circle. It’s so intuitive and so easy to run. I don’t customize it like I do WordPress, but that’s shown me that there’s just so many ways you can do something. It’s not a right or wrong way, but the challenge that presents is that you do have to decide, and it’s an important decision because when you build a web design business, your tool stack is a huge part of maintaining it and building it. So it’s not something to take lightly, but it’s also not something you can drag your feet on too long. So I think that’s why, more than ever it’s probably a shameless plug, but more than ever you need a coach. You need somebody to help guide you, even if it’s just a YouTube channel, and somebody you relate to, to have somebody kind of share what they’re using. And again, I’m a Divi guy, but not everyone loves Divi, and that’s fine. Some people love Elementor and the WordPress world. I know Bricks is the hot thing right now. I say, if you like that, awesome, Go with that. But the challenge really is deciding on who you’re going to like, what community you’re going to be in, what company you’re going to trust and what tools you like. I think that’s where the real challenge is.

Steve: 

Yeah, I agree and don’t worry, I was going to go there too, because a lot of people who find me we’re having a lot of the same conversations over and over again about well, what tools should I go with? I just heard of Duda the first time, like a couple of months ago. What is this thing? And it’s like almost every time I have an onboarding call, I hear about some new tool that’s out there that people are creating content around and finding, and there’s so much analysis, paralysis and so many things that you do have to piece together that I understand why people are looking for some of these all-in-one platforms like Squarespace and Wix and Duda and all of those. Let’s be honest, going the WordPress route is a little bit harder because there are things that you have to piece together, but of course, it’s an entirely separate conversation. That’s worth it as well, because of not wanting to build your house on rented land. So I actually do want to sort of echo that sentiment of find a coach, find like, find somebody who you know like or trust, spend some time with their content. Both me and Josh and others like us create tons of free content on the internet that you can get a really good sense of whether or not you think you would love to work with them. And yeah, find a buddy who prescribes a path, I would say, and start by sticking To that path, you know I mean. So maybe you find someone who I’ll go ahead.

Josh: 

I was just gonna say every Web design coach. It’s kind of interesting. I feel like we’re in a very niche end of the coaching spectrum. I don’t even identify myself as a coach. I’m an educator and creator, but coach is part of it. But what’s interesting is we all have our own backgrounds, which usually come from a very different background into web design, like we talked about. But we’ve also all run our businesses differently. So if somebody is really interested in just pure recurring income and not doing one-off big projects, then your subscription stuff is definitely the way to go. Now you and I also work very well together with our programs because I still teach a lot of things that you don’t get into and vice versa. But when it comes to somebody asking me about subscription web design, I’m like well, good thing is, steve did a training in my program, web designer pro and Now I send them to you because you did that business model. My business model is different from some of the coaches who have more of an Agency approach or more of a digital marketing. I never did digital marketing, I never did social media, I never did ads or anything like that, so I can’t teach on that. I don’t feel qualified to teach on that, which is why I try to surround myself with people who have done that and have them in my world. But that’s that’s where you have to almost decide, like as a web designer and you don’t have to decide this right away, you’ll kind of come to this but you do need to have a have a real, a deep, long think about what I want my day to day in week, week to week to week Look like and what do I want like. Do I want to be a work from home Like lifestyle freedom kind of person, or do I rather what I rather not work from home? I need to get out of the house and maybe a co-working spot, or do I want to have an agency? And that’s. I would never Disperage anyone from somebody who wants an agency, who wants to have Downtown building and and the SOB payroll and everything. But some people have that drive and I say, go for it. But I’m a. I think you and I are alike. We like working from home and being around our family and being able to balance that. So it’s you almost kind of have to Decide what kind of life do I want? And then when you find somebody who resonates with you, you know, their tool stack is probably gonna fit that, I guess. Basically.

Steve: 

Yeah, that’s true. I mean, you kind of hit the nail on the head there. Right, we are nobody got into business to to To work another job for a boss that they hate and is critical, which is themselves. Right, nobody’s like we’re all our biggest critic and we’ll all work ourselves as hard as possible, and so there are some steps that you can take to make sure that you don’t, you know, just give yourself another job. You’re actually starting a business, and I have to say, josh, and feel free to comment on this, this is one of the things that I think draws people to you. I know it drew me, and that is that.

Josh: 

Really, you talk about designing your business around the lifestyle that you want, not starting a business first and then the lifestyle being a consequence of the kind of business you chose is that right Exactly, and this really came to fruition for me when I changed my heading on my website to I Help web designers build a business that gives you freedom and a lifestyle you love. That’s the result, and there’s a little one-on-one with with copy and messaging that I learned, which is if you can articulate who you serve and the result that they should get with what you provide. So the who, what and how. That’s gold. It’s a goldmine, because I Originally came up with that for my podcast because I just, I, really, I really, as I looked through my journey, I was like the whole reason I went full-time in web designers because I just wanted complete freedom and I wanted to be able to build a life that was not capped financially and that I could really do whatever the heck I wanted. I could work when, where I wanted, and I was able to achieve that with web design. So, yeah, when it comes to that, for me personally, that’s the big goal. Now that may come as a sacrifice, in some ways, of revenue not all the times, but there and there’s times where I’ll hustle and Be in a push mode more than I am with my family, but it tends to balance out. But overall, my goal is freedom, lifestyle freedom. Yeah, now there are some people who chase revenue More than anything, and but that’s a different model, it’s a different mindset, it’s a different lifestyle. So, yeah, I think that that is the key and, yeah, you could use whatever web design business model you want to get there, but at the core for me personally, yeah, it’s freedom, lifestyle freedom.

Steve: 

Well, and even you, you know it’s not as though you said, okay, lifestyle freedom, so I’m never gonna like collaborate with anybody or anything like. You didn’t build a huge agency where people are, you know, just basically a number. You know where your clients are, a number. But you did outsource, right, you didn’t. You did have people who worked with you I think his name was Jonathan, right, for a while there you had somebody who worked with you and then you had other Collaborators who would come in to do specific pieces of things like SEO or graphic design or something like that. You know as as they were needed, and so there is a middle ground, right, it’s not like solo shop or huge agency. You know you can actually build a little bit of a niche agency. And I would still gives you that.

Josh: 

I would argue that if you want to stay completely a one-man shop or a one-woman shop, the lifestyle freedom is gonna be way harder to attain. Green you may, and I you’re a scaler, so I know you’re you’re with me on this, even if you don’t want an agency with payroll and stuff, there is a very wonderful hybrid approach to scaling nowadays, which is amazing because you can do. You can decide what you want to do day to day, week to week, in your business and Delegate and hire out the rest, and they don’t need to be on payroll. They can be 1099 subcontractors. Yeah, there’s plenty of things we get into with subcontractors because there are challenges there, but there’s also a lot of challenges with doing everything yourself and you’re probably not gonna have lifestyle freedom if everything is on you. I dare say the only way you could be a one-person shop and do everything in your business is if your business is productized Extremely high value and you’re dealing with just you know a handful of clients, a dozen clients at max. But you’re in your lifestyle too. If you’re supporting a family and you need to bring home six figures for your family, you’re gonna need to be a two $300,000 business and by yourself. That has its challenges, unless you’re pre super premium.

Steve: 

Yeah, 100%, and I feel like you can get there. But it takes a lot of time because really what you’re talking about is getting into almost that ultra high value Consultant role. Right, it’s almost like that it’s gonna be. It’s even gonna be hard, I think, to be a web designer unless, like you said, you’re highly productized and there’s a very specific result that you can reliably deliver for clients. And then you’ve got the fulfillment of that systematized into like you can spend three or four hours one morning and like and get that done Right and that’s it right. I think those that’s really the only way you know to be a successful solo shop in that way. On the other hand, you know there was an interview that I just did with my new friend, adam, and yeah, I mean they’ve got their web design process down in an extremely tight niche to four hours for the setup time and they just charge $200 a month and that can scale pretty quickly do if you don’t have to do a lot of maintenance. So In some way you’re gonna have to scale. You’re either gonna have to scale up your team, your pricing or the amount of clientele you have, or all three in order to make that work. So it’s kind of like Pick your poison if you will, yeah, yeah it’s very well said, yeah.

Josh: 

Yeah, it’s not that one model was better than the other. It really kind of just depends. And this scale game is interesting. I found this more so with what I do now because as a as an educator and online course creator, a coach, I really have a couple different routes. I could go, I could do things at scale and Personally be very removed, meaning I could do like courses for the masses and have a lot of marketing campaigns with like lower-end price courses, but I really don’t have any interaction with my students. But I’m such a people guy and I realized I just I love Community and and I always thought entrepreneurship was a little lonely. And then it was really lonely when I became a course creator because I wasn’t talking to clients and I hadn’t made as many connections yet. So I went from and I and I am a extrovert and a people person, so I would podcast all day and I would never probably log into a website in my ideal, I mean, that’s kind of what I’m working towards. But even though I love doing web design stuff, I if I never write CSS again, I’ll be good I much prefer, especially nowadays, the, the people, the relationship building, the, the marketing and the ways I like to market. But I say that to say it all can work. But you have to decide, like, do I want to do things at scale and have a lot of clients with a products ties, low-end service, which is a great model, or do you want to have, maybe, a more high-value service, less relationships, but very client focused? This is the case with a lot of local web designers that I coach, who we were just talking about, steve Brinkley, who’s in your neck of the woods, one of my web design students from way back. He likes local, he’s an old-school guy, he likes to actually meet with people in person. He has a nice notebook of all this stuff. He’s got, like printed brochures of his web design services. It’s cool, like, but his clients like that and appreciate that. So there’s, there’s a bunch of different ways you can do it and while that’s challenging, I think it’s also freaking awesome because, yeah, it really is just a matter of like yeah, what do you want to do day-to-day, week-to-week? And it may change, by the way, and you may decide. I want to go the scale route, I want to do less calls and I don’t want to coach as much, and maybe I’ll get to that point where I want to have more low-ticket options and and just do things more at mass and maybe we’ll do that. But right now, personally, I really like having a tighter knit community and still being able to serve my audience at large. But bring the folks in who want to go deeper and, by the way, web designers can do that too. You can have a productized subscription style service for everyone and then for hire and stuff you could bring them in to like web design and a coaching program and as, yeah, this, this may lead to this, but you mentioned it earlier you kind of step into like this business consultant type, yeah, roll. And I will say the most important thing for folks getting into web design now is to not be Just a web designer, because that is where it’s really hard to compete. If you just build a website, ai can do that. Now People will do that on fiverr for a hundred bucks, like it is. That is difficult to compete with. If you just build a pretty web Website I don’t want to devalue design because there’s a lot to it, but if you are a web design Strategist, a web design partner, a web design master, a webmaster, like they used to say in the 90s that’s where. That’s where things are heading from my perspective, because you’re so much more than just a web designer. You can help with copy, you can help with messaging, you help with SEO, you can help with the other parts. Even if you don’t want to touch digital marketing, it’s about Crafting and creating a digital presence for your clients. That’s where the true money is, in the ongoing money.

Steve: 

Right, right, well, it’s so you actually okay. So there’s a couple of different directions we could go. There’s one thing I want to say and then I want to. I want to kind of circle back around to this, because you said something interesting. So first of all, I will have to report back on this because so in my I don’t know if I’ve told you this my audience knows, at least regular listeners, but I’m not sure if I’ve told you In my agency we’re actually rebranding, so we are going-.

Josh: 

I didn’t see that. Yeah, getting away from Norfolk Bath.

Steve: 

Yeah, yeah. So we are going to be rebranding away from North Mac Services because that brand just does not work anymore, and so we are going to be switching to this one. Hang on a second. My daughter is like banging at the door. No problem, I’m going to put some of these in here.

Josh: 

Okay, go tell mommy.

Steve: 

Go tell mommy it’s okay. Okay, I got it All right. Sorry about that, I knew it.

Josh: 

I knew that.

Steve: 

That happens enough so I can start. I know exactly where to pick up that right. Yeah, so we are moving away from North Mac Services because the brand just doesn’t work anymore. It’s the brand that I started when I was literally working on computers on the side, and so we’ve got we’re splitting into two sort of entities. One is going to be called Skyview Marketing and that is going to be really heavily focused on my local area. You know it sounds really petty, but one of the things I’ve always wanted to do is just be able to hang up and add in at my kid’s gym, you know, in their school oh, I went for one. They’re playing basketball, I’m like or wear shirts around that make sense. And you know I’m big on descriptive branding, and so North Mac Services doesn’t tell you anything about what we do. So we’re moving into a more descriptive brand so that I can, you know, do some things locally here to build my name. That’s cool. But the other side of that is we’re going to be working on something called Pro Membership sites. We’re redesigning that site not redesigning, we’re designing that site right now and it’s getting there. So I’m really excited about it and this is going to be where we’re really going into our bread and butter niche of doing membership and learning management sites, which is something that our current in our current business, where we’re building a name for but again, our name doesn’t have anything to do with it and so we’re going to be doing an educational model on this. I’m still working on the details of how this is going to go, whether we’re going to focus primarily on SEO or YouTube or a combination of the two. It’s probably going to be a combination of the two, and one of the things that we’re going to do is explore this idea of offering coaching, courses, membership, community, something along those lines, as either a downsell from okay, hey, you’re not ready to afford the big bad, you know the actual done for you service yet. So here’s this other option or we might even kind of build that as the starting point right, so that way, when we’re doing the YouTube like just a great example of this. So we had a client. We have a new client. We just talked with her on Wednesday and she was one who found me on YouTube where I had the DIY here’s how you do it and she tried to start doing it and got frustrated with it and you know, now she’s a client and I know that’s happened to you before because you’ve told, you told the stories. And so she’s like if you had had a class on this, I would have bought it instantaneously.

Josh: 

Like.

Steve: 

I would have, like we would have talked, yes, but like I would have bought the class right. And so that tells me there’s, especially in the niche where I’m going to be, there’s a potentially a really interesting opportunity in actually combining the business, the actual dooming of the web design, with an information product. And so that’s, really an interesting place to be.

Josh: 

Is that just for the membership side, the membership pro side of things?

Steve: 

Yeah, I’m not planning to do anything like that with SkyView. Skyview is going to be traditional web design and marketing, local, local based. Yeah.

Josh: 

So a really cool case study and it goes to show that you do not need to solidify your whole business model straight up, like and I think it’s actually important not to, because you could lock yourself into something you don’t want to do, but I do think it’s. I personally think it’s good to. I might be biased because this is the approach that I took, but I kind of did everything in the beginning, including a lot of graphic design and print services, along with websites, and I was a generalist I work with everybody and I found out that I kind of had certain niches that I worked with, although I never actually niche down like like you’re doing with, with memberships necessarily. But there is this nice approach to when you build your business you really get a feel for, number one, what you enjoy doing. Number two, what you’re really good at doing and what you’re getting results for clients, like what you’re actually good at getting results for. And by golly, if you can niche that down and make it, if you can make your whole business awesome. But you could do what you’re doing, steve, and make it a different business or a wing, so you could have sky view, and then when somebody comes in wanting a membership site, you’re like oh, okay, perfect, we actually do this over here. We have a whole program for for membership sites, so we’ll do it. You know we’ll, unless you’re intentionally keeping them completely separate. But it’s a great way to like niche under a generalist type of agency.

Steve: 

Well, yeah, absolutely. And it’s like Adam who was just on. He is hardcore into niching him and he thinks you should do like a niche of a niche, like a segment of a segment is the way that he put it. But yet he still has his bespoke web design agency right where you can come and get a custom site. So niche is no longer all or nothing in the way that this is. And, look, I spent seven years as a generalist learning what it is, that we got good at seeing what people were asking for, and so we paid our dues, if you will, in finding out where we needed to be, what segment of the market was there, what people actually wanted versus just what we wanted to sell them. And that looks seven or eight years later. We now have that data and we’re moving forward on that. So Can I, can I?

Josh: 

say real quick, steve, on the niche within a niche thing. This is what’s really interesting. I might have to have Adam on as well, because I’d like to talk about this, but he’s great. Yeah, I will tell you this. I started this whole endeavor, as you know, just doing Divi stuff. It was Divi tutorials how to build websites and then I eventually got into the business side of things. What I found out was when I started doing tutorials back in like 2017, the people I was serving Divi web designers were primarily just using Divi. It was really common back then that you aren’t using any other themes or any other platforms. You were just WordPress and Divi. What I’ve found now and the pulse on the industry that I see and I am in a lot of different ends of the spectrum with web design, but still heavily involved in Divi is that people are using Divi along with other themes and along with other builders, and it’s a big shift. And I say that to say, if you decide to niche, I would not advise niching based off of a tool, because when they change the tool, you’re irrelevant or, in a way, like part of me is like should I have just stayed all in on Divi? But now I’m like thank goodness I didn’t, because I can serve people who don’t use Divi or they’re using Divi and Elementor and different platforms potentially so that’s the.

Steve: 

That’s something, something really important about that that I don’t want to miss, and I actually just wrote about this in an email recently. What you’ve hit on there, though, so see, some people would make would make the mistake of Looking back at that and saying, ah, I should have started and been more open and more general, and I think that is the wrong way to think about it.

Josh: 

And I’m not saying you think about it that way. I’m just pointing no, I agree, that’s not how this works, you know.

Steve: 

I think you can get further.

Josh: 

Yep, you can get further, faster and a detailed niche, as long as it is a good Niche and you know it well and you like the people in that realm, but you do I think there’s a growth cap with certain niches and Adams perspective. I haven’t listened that interview but I would imagine his niche is probably by maybe an industry or bait, by a customer type. That is not tool specific, because people do use different tools. So that’s just where I’ve learned, like you know, if you’re which for web designers, it’s rare that you’re gonna work Well. Well, I don’t know. I mean, we have, like I’ve got some students who do some email marketing services and some other things that are based off of certain tools. Yeah, like, like our friend April Ray, she has an incredible Service set of email marketing along a web design, but she just uses flow desk. I think maybe a couple others now. I’m glad that she is finding a nice little little niche in flow desk, but if somebody wants to use MailChimp or convert kit and they want to get on a flow desk, I don’t want her to be irrelevant to them. So I would have it as a part of me to pick on April here, but it’s just a good example of like that I do agree. I think it’s. I think it’s good to start targeted and in hyper niche, but then I would expand out or at least watch the trajectory for growth, because tools change.

Steve: 

And you know, I guess the big takeaway here is right, because, to your point, like it’s like the example that Adam used was we start with pizza shop owners in Ohio, but maybe your website like that’s for your real direct marketing, but then your website just talks about pizza shop owners. Because what if the guy in Ohio says, well, I’ve got pizza shops all through Texas and Arkansas to like, can we do those? And the answer is, of course, yes. But you know there’s plenty of people who did what I did. I started general and then laser focused niche. So I think if I had to do over again, I would laser focus niche and then move to general. And just for the record, probably over the next few years you will see that happening with subscription web design. This is going to tap out after a while, because that is the nature of things, but I will hopefully have built for myself a very, a good reputation as the subscription web design guy who can then very easily branch into other things, which is a good segue. Actually, there’s been a few good segues here into this, this, this one question that I know you’re passionate about and you have an opinion about. So I’m excited to hear your take on it. And it’s this idea of as a web designer there’s a lot of pressure now for, especially from lots of our types, the coaches and consultants there’s a lot of pressure now to get into digital marketing and to offer digital marketing services. And I know a moment ago you just said you don’t need to be just a web designer, but on the other side of that, I think you would agree that you don’t also have to be a marketing nerd like me or our mutual friend Eric. You’re like you don’t have to go into all these other services. And so there’s a real question of is it possible to make it in this tough economy with, you know, the gig economy, fiverr and Upwork and then AI looming over here? Is it possible to really just primarily do web design? And if you don’t want to get into marketing, what are the like you mentioned strategy, like what are some of those other little services that you can easily add into web design without overwhelming yourself or having to learn a bunch of new stuff?

Josh: 

Well, first off, I would start with web design for sure, because any marketing services you may or may not want to do are going to lead to the to the web design side of things. So I do see a lot of people take a head first, dive into, maybe like digital marketing, but if they suck at the website stuff, it’s gonna be really hard to offer that as well. Again, web sex of the home. So I don’t want to devalue web design itself. The reality is too, though. What’s cool about web design is that you can do a lot of things on Site and on the web design side of things that will remove you from just the commodity web designer, and those are things like messaging, copy, conversion based design, seo, even foundational SEO. We’re not talking ads, we’re not talking ongoing stuff, but things like that that are and even strategy, strat, and the cool thing is is everything I just mentioned. You are all doing it on every project. You’re probably just not packaging it up nicely and charging for like. I was doing SEO, I was doing strategy, I was doing messaging and copy, I was doing conversion based design. I was in all those things, but I just said I built websites. So Step one, the foundational piece is and when I say, don’t just be a web designer, it’s, it’s almost just framing it correctly, framing it as what is involved in a website. It’s not just we make pretty websites and that. That was fine for me for a while and and that was an entry point often for me, I I mean my tagline on my website was we build awesome websites. What’s awesome about them? Well, let me tell you, it doesn’t look just just look pretty, it’s conversion, it’s SEO, it’s designed for all these other things. So you can luckily build a nice six-figure income with just those things. But I Throw this in there because the reality is, if you are not helping your clients grow their business, somebody else is gonna fill that role, and I am not advocating for everyone to be a digital marketing agency. But one thing I would say in my framework, my model which you know well, steve, is is a three category suite of services, which is build, building websites with everything we just talked about Support in the form of maintenance plans and care and ongoing optimization and even strategy calls that are every quarter. And then growth something in a growth category, and you could do One thing if you just wanted to. We were mentioned in April. She doesn’t want to do social media, she doesn’t like Google my business profile set up. She doesn’t even love SEO, but she really likes email marketing, so her growth service is email marketing. That’s what she helps her clients with and it’s a great example of somebody who’s doing something that they like and that’s that’s the growth category. It just and that’s the kind of thing that separates her, because she is viewed as Almost a business partner, and I really believe, in the long run, if you want a lifetime client, you have to help them grow their business, and the mistake I made was I built really nice websites and even before I had my maintenance plan, it was like, okay, thanks, see you later, bye, bye, never see again. And, man, if I could go back and tell Josh back in like 2013, offer your maintenance and care and offer them something to continue to grow their business. That was the key for me. That’s what made lifetime clients. All I did, by the way, was SEO and I partnered with a guy to do ongoing SEO and then I would just do a Continual, like SEO updates, and then we would do some content stuff. I didn’t really have a great package for this because I wasn’t in a coaching program or anything, but I was doing messaging and copy and optimization. And then I was doing strategy. Whether I knew it or not I was doing. I was circling around with clients and we were looking at trends and looking at redesign For websites. I’ve done years ago and it was more strategy based. So Something in a growth category I think is really important. You can make it by just building websites, but I think the danger is you leaving the business growth aspect to somebody else, because I’m telling you right now, a lot of clients are gonna get somebody in to do the growth stuff and that person, that agency, is gonna be like well, we can take over your website too, and this happened to me many times, many times, pale is old as time.

Steve: 

My friend, that happens If big time happens. If you’re not supporting your client long term with that stuff, whomever they bring in because they eventually will if their business is growing, they will pour more fuel on that fire with somebody, whether it’s you or not. And this is where I think it’s important that, even if you’re not doing all of the stuff, I think you should be willing to think of yourself like a general contractor and quarterback things right. Our mutual friend Kevin is really good at Facebook ads and Google ads and all of that, and so you need to be in front of your clients, whether it’s through those strategy calls or whatever, to get a pulse for where they’re at. And I’ve failed on this at times. I have gotten emails from two different clients now it’s only happened twice, so that’s why I can remember it but I’ve gotten calls or emails from two different clients now who said, yeah, this random dude off the internet emailed me and said they could do an SEO report and they could get me to page one on Google. And I did it, and here’s what they said Can you do this for me? Otherwise I’ll just have them do it, and I’m like. First of all, there’s so many lessons there we don’t even have time to go down them all.

Josh: 

Like you, think you’re calling your email. The main lesson is back up your website and wait for them to come back if they leave.

Steve: 

Yes, yes, yes, I mean there’s a lesson. You know there’s a lesson, and guess what? Somebody is sliding into their inbox and you’re too afraid to do it. And so if you would not be afraid, to do it you’d be in front of them instead of this person. This person wasn’t afraid and they’re in like and no offense to anybody, but they’re in like Bangladesh or somewhere and barely even speak enough English when they’re right down the road from you and you don’t even have that relationship with them. So you have to do that relationship.

Josh: 

Can we not pass up that? What you just said, steve? This is so important, yeah, and that is, if you are not in front of your clients, even if they’ve already paid you, even if you’re doing maintenance plans and sitting in a report once a month, somebody else is gonna be, which is why I am the biggest advocate ever for web designers to have like a newsletter that you send monthly would be awesome, even if it’s just a simple, nothing fancy, just checking in. Here’s some recent projects, here’s some trends that we’ve seen. Can we do anything to help you? Or, at minimum, quarterly, email all of your current clients? You are not gonna bother them, you’re not gonna annoy them. You have got to be top of mind, front and center, as much as possible, because you’re right, if you’re not, somebody else is. And I can think of many situations where I built a website and I thought I got a client for life here. I can think of one. It was called ER AutoCare and I built their site. I worked my freaking butt off on that site. It was really cool and it wasn’t. Even three months into working with them and managed WP, their site was disconnected and I was like, oh, what’s going on? Is the site down? Oh, it’s a different site. It’s a different site, yeah, and I was like what in the heck? So I messaged them and it was so weird because he paid, like I think it was like a $4,000 website. Three months later he got redesigned and I was not anticipating that. He was kind of a quirky, odd dude. So you know it was kind of a. C client, but still the fact that he just got it redesigned and what I found out was he had hired a marketing company to do their SEO and some paid stuff and they just redesigned his website with a different theme that they use and all this stuff and he just decided to use that. Now, the unfortunate thing about that is I was almost the guinea pig, because they took my exact design elements and they basically ripped my design off and recreated it in this different theme. But that was what happened. I literally lost that client because they were just like, well, we can just throw in the website with what we’re doing in the marketing, so that you know. That is where, again, I don’t want to scare anybody away from this or make you feel like you’ve got to be a whole digital marketing agency, but had I been more of a consultant with strategy and had I had really put some of the SEO stuff, then what would often happen is it would be like well, we just love Josh too much, he’s too invaluable for this, so I want to have you work with him. And that’s what I kind of eventually got to.

Steve: 

Yeah, you know, and that is all well and good. There is a hidden lesson here, though, too, that I feel like. Just you know, you and I we deal with a lot of people who are in the beginning stages of their journey, and there’s a lot of imposter syndrome and stuff, and I feel like it’s important to say, with everything that we just said, while it is true, you can’t save the world, and there are going to be some things that just happen, so literally the exact situation you just described, I mean with the, I mean not the timeline the timeline was the only difference. It was a little actually weirder, because we had actually been working together for a little over two years at this point. This client was a subscription web design client. She was the first one that was paying like a significant amount, you know, over $200 a month for her website, and that was big for me, especially at the time. And yeah, like and I was in conversation with her, in fact, she ghosted me I was emailing her multiple times about, hey, let’s do this, let’s do that, let’s meet up next time you’re coming through town, because she was actually a coach who worked with some of the lawyers at the law firm where I worked and literally same thing login and manage WP. One day the site’s disconnected. I go to it. It’s like it’s my design on a different theme and somebody else’s thing. You know, like most of my design elements were there, hardly anything had changed and it was a niche. It was a niche provider for the legal industry, right, and this kind of thing sometimes just happens. So be easy on yourself. You can’t control everything.

Josh: 

It does happen and sometimes it happens if a client doesn’t even want it to. I had one client who was an insurance agency. He was like a private insurance firm, just him and one other guy and he was in my networking group. He had a guy with my neighbor Like he loved me and he’s actually my insurance guy still, and he was like one day he was like Josh, I’m so sorry, but I’m a part of this, like through my insurance program that, like our stuff is through, we have to legally use their website template, like through their service. And he’s like I just I don’t, my hands are tied. I was like, ah, that’s all, that’s all right. So back up your website designs. And you’re right, steve, it is going to happen. You could be the best web designer of the best product package ever. It will still happen, but the key is to limit that. And the cool thing is too, like you mentioned, a lot of people getting into it might feel the imposter syndrome with this, but just remember, for anyone getting into web design, a couple months into you learning web design, you are an expert to your clients because they don’t know barely anything. So you can just really know what WordPress is and just how to know how to build a site without any code and your clients can be like oh you know, susan is an absolute expert, she’s a genius. All Susan knows is WordPress and a little bit of Divi. For example she’s an expert to her clients because they don’t know anything about that. So that’s the key, and it is a one step at a time process. Well, a lot of this we’re talking about some things that are further along in the journey, but it’s just kind of a heads up and I really I like that. We’re focusing on the trends and why web design is really good today, because there is an amazing amount of opportunities. But you do need to, in my mind, you do need to be a little multifaceted and you need to at least have the goal of being more than just a little web designer. I say that carefully, because I don’t want to devalue the art of web design, but you got to be more than, yeah, than just a web designer who can design something pretty.

Steve: 

Well, and that’s important to know right, Because that actually is one of the biggest things that is different from when you started, for example, and even when I started to today. When we first started, we could just build a website, get in, get out, get done. Even though I’ve always wanted to build a relationship and I know that you’re an advocate for building the relationship as well it used to be almost a luxury back then. Actually, it was a little more unheard of back then. You’d build a website and hand over the keys. Today, there’s lots of reasons for this, but I like to make the example of, rather than thinking of the website as like a house that gets built and then you maintain it so it doesn’t fall down, it’s more like the living organism that’s constantly being battered from all sides, by the weather, if you will, by Google and SEO update that changes everything over here, or a Facebook algorithm update that all those business Facebook posts leading to your website. They’ve stopped working and so now there’s gotta be something else, and your website is the home. Like you said in the beginning, it’s that central hub that interacts with all of those things. So if you don’t have a trusted partner to work with over the long term to get those things done, then your clients are gonna be up the creek without a paddle and so it’s even worse for them. So it’s a good thing for them If you, getting into web design, actually share up your processes and really have a good vision for where you want your client relationships to go into the future.

Josh: 

One thing I learned that I really haven’t talked about to this point, but this is really prompting me to maybe make this a solo podcast episode or a video, and that is to really explain to your clients as much as possible that marketing agencies are going to poach you. They are going to recommend we change the website and they could do it to like let them know this is going to happen, to expect this. And if you don’t do marketing, just say I don’t do marketing, but I am your web guy, I am your web master, and let them know, because I’ve had this happen too. If they try to convince you to pull the website into their platform or whatever they do, that could be all great. But if you decide to leave them in six months guess what just happened? Now your website’s gone, or now I’m not your web guy. So let them know like you can totally work with the marketing folks, but we’re going to work together on this. So I would honestly put in your processes or just your ongoing communication, and maybe this is just an automated email in your sequence once you launch a website, have it go out like a month after or something and just say we just want to let you know. Moving forward, I’m so excited to be your, your, your webmaster or your partner with a represent business, and if I’m not doing these marketing services, you will get hit with a lot of DMs and stuff. Just know I’m open to working with them because and just let warn them what you, because I had to literally do this. I now that I think about it. I did it with a lot of clients later on in my journey and I said, yeah, you’re going to get these and yeah, maybe they’ll do your website. But what happens when you want to turn your marketing off? You have turned your website off too, which is why it’s written, why I really recommend the website. Ongoing services are different and separated from marketing. Marketing services are turned off, turned on, ramped up, ramped down, but clients all the time. Yep did not and do not turn off their hosting Now. They will even turn off maintenance. Potentially they don’t understand it, but they’re not going to take their site down. So that’s like the absolute floor foundation is just hosting websites.

Steve: 

Yeah Well, man, I’m telling you this has been. I mean, this is like the primer if you are looking to get into web design. I feel like we have touched on a lot of things that you need to know, but, of course, there’s a lot to this. Right, it’s a. It’s a pretty advanced journey. So we got about. We got about five minutes left for you have to run, and so I’d love to just take these last five minutes. And number one, just sing your praises a little bit here, because, literally without you, we would not be here. As I said earlier, I joined Josh’s club his web design club as a founding member in December of 2020.

Josh: 

So yeah.

Steve: 

I was December of 2020. And I joined it because, since that fall, I had been in a preparatory. You know a a I don’t know what the word is I’m looking for but I had prepared, I had planned to leave my job in January of 2021, and go full time. That’s what I did. I went full time January 15, 2021. And I wanted to make sure that I had a community to walk alongside with throughout that journey, and so that’s what Josh’s community has been for me, and I’ve been a part to this day and don’t plan on leaving ever if I can help it. So, so let’s just talk a little bit about about that, about the importance of having a community to go through, to learning all of this stuff. You know, I mean, again, without Josh’s help and the the friends in the community. Like, literally today in base camp, I was having a conversation with somebody from Josh’s community. We’ve built these lifelong friendships and and and you know, collaborations between each other, and so, yeah, like, I would love for you to just talk a little bit about your community, how it’s helping people and where people can go to get started with it.

Josh: 

Well, I so appreciate that, Steve, and it’s been awesome, like I said in the beginning, to see you you progress and go full time and to see what you’ve done and become a webpreneur. You’re you’re a rock star student man, so it’s an honor to be a part of your journey and, yeah, I, you know you’re such a benefit. You’re a good example of what makes my community, which is called Web Designer Pro. Now you’re a good example of what makes it so awesome. The people are just freaking awesome and you know I loved having courses and doing things a little more at scale in the beginning, but I learned that I wanted a deeper sense of connection with my students and, and because of all the things we’ve talked about in this entire chat, I almost feel like if you’re going to have any sort of education as a web designer, it has to be ongoing, because things are changing constantly. You know there’s a because there’s so many different models and so many different options. I feel like having a bit of a collective approach is is really needed for for online education, especially for web designers. So that’s really what Web Designer Pro is all about it’s helping you become a pro web designer and building your dream web design business so that you have freedom and lifestyle you love. And actually the next phase of what I’m doing right now is the next step of that, because the majority of questions I’m getting I don’t know if you know this, I don’t, I don’t remember if I told you this when we met but the majority of questions I’m getting now are I’m so busy, I’m slammed, what do I do? Like?

Steve: 

I’ve raised my rates.

Josh: 

What do I do now? I know it’s a coincidence that so many pros are going through this, but it is honestly and honestly, just barely. It’s what’s happening, like so many people are getting such good results. Now the next step is to scale a little bit, but you don’t want to be a big agency with a building downtown and overhead. What’s the option? What’s what we talked about earlier this hybrid approach. So I’m currently working on a new course called Scale your Way, which I’m really, really excited about because it really it really highlights and I probably have one to have you come in and do like a masterclass lesson in it with your experience.

Steve: 

Please, I’m so jealous. I love that name and everything that’s amazing.

Josh: 

Oh no, let me buy the domain name before you rip it off. I’ll sell it to you, don’t worry. So like five grand, but it really is. That’s. That’s kind of where I’m at with. It is like okay, now I’ve helped people get to this point, but what’s next? And I learned a lot, scaling, and I’ve learned a lot from people who are scaling, including yourself and and yeah, that’s kind of the next step, which will be inside of Web Designer Pro and then I’m also in 2024 and Q1, I’m going to open up. uh, this is you know brand spanking news right here on the subscription web design show. I’m going to open up a mastery program which is, as of right now the version will be like a 90 day, like three month boot camp kind of sprint. It will be for folks who are at or closing in on six figures and we’re going to take a deep dive into revenue boosting, profit systems, scaling and just getting your time back for those for those folks. So scaling course let’s be the foundation of that and then and then really dive into tactics a little more. That’s kind of like a time program all in Web Designer Pro. So it really I mean in people who are brand new can join too. It’s at a price point that I realize you know it’s a what? Currently it’s a one, 99 a month price point. So for folks just starting out, the cool thing is you could take a couple of weeks and go through my courses or, depending on how long it takes you, you could do it over a month and you can charge at minimum $2,500 for starter sites with an average price point of 5,000. So you’ll make your investment up like that. But it’s there to get people who are like-minded as a and with a vision of being a pro and then, once you get to pro status that’s what I’m working on helping them on the next evolution.

Steve: 

That’s amazing. Well, look, I mean and what I’m getting ready to say helps me too, but I’m going to say it in the context of what you’ve got going on because I think it’s so important you can’t look at this stuff coaching, whether it’s Web Designer, pros, subscription, web Designer, whatever it is you can’t look at this stuff as a cost. It’s not a cost if you do what it’s what we say to do. If you do what we say to do, it will not only be it’s even hard to say, it’s an investment. It is an investment. But, like, literally, the numbers are so stupid. You know and I’m just being, I’m just like. This is blunt, steve, this is about as blunt as Steve will ever be. Okay, if you don’t, if you don’t, invest a little bit, there’s literally no way to have an investment. If you don’t invest something into it, right, like that’s logical. Like you can’t, your money can’t grow at the bank unless you put it there right. And so, okay, josh’s program is $200 a month. Okay, great, do you have any clue how much more than $200 you’re going to make if he? If you know what? Let me just do real quick. I’m going to use an example of something totally unrelated to this. I’m a huge budgeting nerd and I use this budgeting software called YNAB that I love and there’s all the time on their Facebook group people complaining about how much it costs and it’s like $9 a month and I’m like bro I made. I made the $9 a month. I saved like 15 times that the first month. I used the thing. Like you like pay for the thing, use the thing, and once you put it into practice, man, you will see results that are like that, will skyrocket, and you’ll never want to leave, and so that’s that’s why I’m I’m a member of Josh’s club to this day and or the web designer pro, and I don’t plan to leave ever. So you can find that where web designer procom. Is that right?

Josh: 

Yep, you can go to web designer procom and that will point you over to where it’s at my site right now, at Josh Hallco. Josh Hallco is my, my site with podcasts, youtube videos, everything’s there. And then, yeah, currently web designer procom will point you over there to the, to the, to the landing page, and give you all the details. But you’re so right, man. I mean I tried to make pro at a price point that is affordable for a long term, because it’s not like a 12 month program it is. If it was a 12 month program, it would probably be like $1,000 a month. But I’m in the business of continuity, especially now, and and lifetime clients. I want people. I mean, you’ve been there for over three years, almost three years, and you’re not, you know, no anticipation. So you are a prime example of why I try to keep a reasonable price point. But also, you can make a six figure business in a few months if you really want to do it with everything that’s in pro. So I also wanted to to be at a point where it’s like you know, you understand the value and are at least pushed to to do that. So pricing is tough. No, pricing is tough for websites too. That’s a different combo, but, yeah, I appreciate that man, that’s. That’s what it’s all about. So, anyway, yeah, I again appreciate your, your mindset on that, and I’ve learned that too. It’s like you invest in, do you want? You want to invest in, like a nice lamp for your house? That’s well. Lamp’s probably a bad thing, but I don’t know whatever. People spend money on crazy stuff and but then if it’s, if it’s like, oh, it’s a business investment, it’s going to help me make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Steve: 

I don’t know. Isn’t that strange? We’ll buy $200 worth of Starbucks. And I’m not picking on you if you like coffee, not picking on you to. I love Starbucks, but I will. I will easily spend $100 a month on Starbucks and but then really mull over the decision to get a $100 a month membership program or something like that. Bro, quit the Starbucks, go get the things that you can do your business and afford a lot more Starbucks.

Josh: 

Right, well, yeah, grow your business in a couple of months and you can buy the Starbucks you want without even thinking about it. Exactly,

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