January 1, 2017 marked 5 years of full-time self-employment for me. Wow! To say I’ve come a long way would be an understatement. I remember charging $500 for a blog design back in 2012 (and being happy with that!). Now my prices start over $10,500.
But I’ve done a lot more than just raise my prices, I learned a lot of skills and developed confidence in myself to make that $10,500 worthwhile to my clients. The websites I create today are certainly more effective, strategic, and look a heck of a lot better than what I was making back in 2012. It’s actually probably time I bumped my prices again!
Beyond improving my design/development skills, I learned a lot about running a business. There are things I wish I’d done a lot sooner–like make connections–and some things I wish I’d stuck to. I want to share these with you so that you can get started early, and avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made!
Psst! This post contains a few affiliate links–but only for things I’ve used myself, love, and recommend. If you click one of these links and then make a purchase I’ll receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks!
Connect with others
This is my #1 piece of advice. Join a community, create a mastermind, go to a conference. Connect with others early, and form relationships.
Back when my business was starting out, Facebook groups weren’t really a thing. Now, they’re everywhere, and there’s no easier way to jump in and start connecting with others. Don’t connect in a sleazy way, just connect. Make friends without an agenda. That woman in a completely unrelated industry might be your best cheerleader, promoter, and referrer for your business. Join a community ASAP.
Join or create a mastermind. Once you’ve made your connections and have a circle of people who “get” you, get together for regular sessions and bounce ideas, support each other, and work on moving everyone’s business forward. I love my mastermind groups. And the people in them have been SO helpful in helping find and fill holes in my business, as well as figure out if my crazy ideas are crazy good or crazy bad.
Go to conferences! I didn’t make enough money my first few years in business to justify going to conferences, but I wish I’d set aside the money earlier and made it happen. I love conferences. I love the presentations, I love the attendees. I love singing Spice Girls with some of the speakers when we’ve all had too much to drink. Connecting with others in person is SO much more powerful than online. You can build relationships faster when you meet in person. Choose a conference, budget for it, and go!
Build your business around your life
Don’t think that because everyone else works 8-5, Monday through Friday that you have to too. You can create your business to fit around your life, and support the life that you want.
I didn’t get that when I was starting out, and I accidentally created a business that had me working ALL THE TIME, and barely making any money. It was exhausting, and almost worse than working for someone else. Okay, it actually was worse.
Checking emails during my wedding/honeymoon and putting out fires made me realize that I needed to make a change.
And I did! And so can you. You can restructure your business to fit around your life–whether you work a day job, have kids, want to travel the world, or just want to head off to the mountains for a long weekend every weekend. All you need to do is plan your life, then fit your business around it.
This is what I still struggle with the most. I get bored easily, I like to try new things. But when you’re not consistent, people forget about you–or worse, they know who you are, but have no idea what it is you do. What a waste of effort on your part!
If you’re going to blog, blog regularly.
If you’re going to make websites for female entrepreneurs who like pastel colors–don’t put an edgy black and red automotive website in your portfolio.
The key is to focus and become known for something. Then be consistent with that focus. That’s how people get to know you. You want them to say, “Suzy? Oh yeah! She makes amazing websites for nutritionists!”
And show up! Don’t blog every day for a month, then disappear for three. Show up consistently so that readers and customers know what to expect and when to expect it. You want your blog, YouTube videos, or whatever you put out to become part of their routine. When you disappear, or do something completely unrelated to what you have been, it confuses people and they either forget about you, or get turned off because you’re not doing what they thought you were.
You NEED systems. Reinventing the wheel every single time you work with a client is inefficient and exhausting. Having your processes mapped out and streamlined will save you so much time you won’t believe it!
And, it will make you look ultra-professional, and enable you to charge more. Win!
I’ve always been an organized person, but it took me a while to map out my processes and figure out what worked. You can skip all that with my course, Streamline Design Profit.
But you have got to get those systems in place if you want to spend time doing the work you want to do, instead of the admin stuff!
Never stop learning! The web design/development industry changes rapidly, so you need to keep taking courses and keep yourself up to date! But don’t stop just at design/development. Learn about business, learn about marketing, learn everything you can!
I create a budget each year for training/learning. You should to! Set aside a certain amount of money (how much depends on you!) to invest in your education. These can be online courses, in-person courses, conferences, workshops, whatever you feel you need to learn to improve your business.
I strongly recommend learning both design/dev skills, and business/marketing skills EVEN if you don’t feel like you need to market your own company. Why? Because the business/marketing skills will help you make better websites for your clients. You’ll be able to increase conversions and improve their businesses, which will make you more valuable.
Five years has gone by both quickly, and painfully slowly. Quickly because I can’t believe it’s been five years already, but slowly because I remember working around the clock, stressing out about every email that came in, and being miserable in the business that I had built.
I fixed all that.
Making connections gave me friends and allies for support when I need it.
Restructuring my business to fit around my life gave me the freedom I want.
Staying consistent is still a struggle, but I’ve become known for what I want to be known for.
Systems have streamlined all of my processes, and made my business much easier to run–in less time.
And learning has opened new doors, given me the ability to charge more, and kept my passion for business and web design alive.
Don’t wait five years to make all these things happen. Make a plan and get them going now. You’ll be happy you did!