Most web designers who try to start their own business burn out and fail because they start with a foundation that will not generate the income they need fast enough. There are five fundamental mistakes I see all the time from web designers who take the “mainstream” approach to building their business.
Discover the fastest way to build your own web design business by avoiding this common, well-intentioned, but misleading advice.
Finding Work On Job Boards
The most common question people have when they're starting their web design business is where to find clients. The mainstream answer is to go on job boards like Upwork and Fiverr or even run an ad on Craigslist. The idea is that these platforms have a built-in audience of people looking for the services you offer. Yeah, maybe you'll have to lower your prices at first while you build up your reputation, but it's the fastest and easiest way to get work.
The truth is, this is the fastest way to burn out and lose your business. Here's why.
You're competing against the entire earth including people in other countries who can afford to work for way less because of financial conversion rates and the difference in the cost of living. If you're living in the United States, you can't compete on price in these environments.
Even if you do land a job it will be for way less than you actually need to keep your business running.
Most people don't think about the timing factor, but it's probably the biggest reason why job boards run web designers out of business. By the time a job gets posted, the business owner (client) already thinks they know what they want. There's no room for business development or leadership in your offer. In other words, you're seen as a low-budget, easily replaced commodity.
Bottom line: Job boards are the wrong pool to pull clients from if you want to build a web design business that actually makes money.
Marketing Your Services
This is hard for most web designers who are just starting out to wrap their heads around because it just seems so obvious. If you want people to hire you to do something you know how to do, then – of course – you have to let them know all the things you can do, right? How else will your clients be able to know if they want to hire you or not if they don't know what you can do for them?
Well, here's the truth. Web designers who market their business based on the services they provide attract low-budget clients.
There are some web designers who may get higher-paying clients by way of a referral or by partnering up with a marketing agency or something. But when it comes to their own marketing efforts, the clients that they attract are low-budget (usually high-stress) clients.
There are a lot of reasons for this:
- Clients have been conditioned to think that websites are cheap
- They are just looking for a quick way to test out a new business online
- They don't have any confidence in the financial viability of the project (or even their business)
- They believe they just need a quick website – nothing too complex for now
- They are only looking for one of the services you offer, not your full suite of services
When you market you business (and define yourself) based on the individual services you offer, then you attract people who are looking for an individual (low cost) service. Makes sense, right? But that's not what you want. You want people to hire you to do everything you can do the best.
If they would do that then you'd be:
- making more money
- you'd be delivering better work
- and your clients would be getting dramatically better results
But, that's not what you get when you market your individual services.
Taking The Long Road
Out of all the items in this top five list of why most web design businesses fail, this one is all about accidentally sabatoging your own business. It's very tempting to build very time-consuming, expensive, requirements into your marketing strategy. Here a some common myths that will wreck your business before you even start.
I have to have a portfolio first. For example, I hear web designers say they have to have a portfolio of work before they can really get off the ground. Therefore, they take on cheap (often free) projects for friends and family just to build up their portfolio. Then, once they have their portfolio, maybe they can get some real clients.
I have to blog. We'll talk about this more in a minute but it's very common for web designers to feel like they need to develop a content marketing strategy in order to attract clients. Even if you pick the right key words, write amazing content, and get people to share it, content marketing (or blogging) will take at least six months to get any traction whatsoever. Do you have six months you can spare without making income?
I need a podcast. People feel like if they had a podcast they could develop a following and that would be a great source of leads. The truth is, it's incredibly difficult to build an audience around podcasting. It's very hard to keep thinking of great content. It takes a lot of time. It's hard to get people to subscribe. It's just a long road.
These aren't the only things people do that sabotage their success, but these are examples of how people tend to take the long road and then burn out before they actually get results.
Why do they do it? They do it because:
- It feels like they're making progress because they are so busy
- It's better than just sitting there waiting
- They get to stay within their comfort zone. It's easier to sit behind your screen and blog than it is to actually reach out to clients.
Teach What You're Learning
Blogging, content marketing, podcasting, etc are all long roads (usually very long roads) to success. But, even the people who put in the time end up failing because they create content that appeals to their peers more so than to their ideal clients.
Who are you trying to attract with your content? In other words, who is searching for the articles and content you are creating? Do you think your ideal clients are Googling for your content or are you attracting an audience of your peers?
Most web designers teach what they learn and that attracts an audience of their peers. They're attracting their competition rather than attracting their clients. For example, they'll write articles about
- The top trends in SEO
- How to build a content calendar
- New email marketing tools
- The most efficient WordPress themes and page builders
- How to build a webinar funnel
Clients (business owners) don't care about and don't search for this stuff. Teaching what you're learning will not attracting your ideal clients.
Charging More For An Inferior Experience
WordPress developers struggle with this one big time. They don't have a good answer for why working with them is better than just getting a cheap site on Wix or Squarespace.
Build a client site (or migrating a client) to WordPress means:
- You have to worry about plugin updates
- Keeping WordPress updated
- Automated backups
- Storage for offsite backups
- Additional security requirements
- More complex back end experience
- Heavier requirements on keeping a developer on call
In other words, it's more expensive, more complicated, more dependent upon other people, etc. So, the secret to winning high-ticket clients is to actually build an offer that inspires people. That's the primary focus of what we do in DoubleStack.
We help you put together a high-ticket offer that attracts clients who are ready to hire you for ALL of the things you do best. This means you're charging what you're really worth, doing your best work, and driving the best outcomes for your clients.
If that sounds good to you, let's talk so we can get you out there making the money you should be making by generating a huge impact for your clients.