Are you happy with your web design business? I wasn’t. It took a few years of struggling for me to pinpoint what the problems with my business were. I did know a few things:
I hated opening my emails in the morning.
I felt like I had to take on any project that came my way because, money.
I worked weird hours and had my weekends interrupted by client emergencies.
I wasn’t working with clients I loved, even though I did that “Ideal Client” exercise until my eyes bled.
It just wasn’t the “dream job” I imagined, or felt like I’d been promised.
About a year ago I sat down and took stock of what was working, what wasn’t, and what I actually enjoyed about my business. Turns out, I love designing for myself, but the thought of designing for clients makes me break out in a cold sweat.
Not only that, but several services I was offering (hosting, retainers) were making me a nervous wreck. I felt like I could never step away from my computer or my phone because I had to be available to clients 24/7.
I took a scary leap and dropped design completely from my services (I still offer it if the right client happens to come along, but they have to say the magic words in our correspondence for me to offer them design). I also cut out hosting and most of my retainer contracts.
That was terrifying, since that was where all my money was coming from!
But for the first time since I started my business, I felt like I could breathe.
I made more this past year offering just web development, and being really selective about who I worked with. It took a while to get my business restructured and working the way I wanted, but now things run smoothly and I get more inquiries than the past two years combined.
Here’s what I did to turn my struggling business that gave me nightmares (literally) into a business that I love. A business that provides enough income that I was able to take nearly six months off of client work this year and still make more than I ever have before.
Figure out what’s important
For me, money isn’t the most important thing. I want to have the freedom to visit family, travel the world, and live my life. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the infamous six-figures every entrepreneur seems to want, but I would if it meant sacrificing the things I truly hold important.
What’s most important for you? Is it really money, or is it the freedom you think money will give you?
How much money do you actually need to make?
For most of us, it’s not six figures. And while we may aspire to make crazy amounts of money one day, painting a realistic picture of what we need gives us something we feel like we can actually attain. It’s a big jump to go from making $1,500 a month to making over $8,000. Seems nearly impossible, doesn’t it? It is, especially with a service-based business like web design.
Plus, a dream is just a dream. We don’t HAVE to make that amount, though we feel like failures when we don’t. But not NEEDING to make that much isn’t very motivating. We end up in a cycle where we don’t push ourselves hard enough because we don’t really need to, but then feel bad for “failing” month after month.
If we set a more realistic financial goal, we can work towards achieving it and feel good when we reach it. We can always set the bar higher in the future, but jumping straight to six figures just isn’t realistic for most businesses. Instead, incrementally working our way up allows us to grow at a comfortable rate while actually reaching our goals.
How much do you actually need to make? Is it the six figures everyone is always talking about, or an entirely different number?
What’s the focus of your business?
As we work with clients we get requests to add this service or that product, and if we’re not careful, we end up diluting our business. Or maybe we didn’t start with a clear focus, and instead tried to appeal to everyone (which often means we appeal to no one). It’s important to choose a focus that you’re really passionate about and combine that with your ability to help people. Otherwise, no one will understand what you do.
And no, “making websites” does not count as a focus.
What is your business focus? What are you so crazy passionate about that you can’t help but jump out of bed excited in the morning?
Who are your best clients?
Once you get it out of your head that ideal clients aren’t real, you can stop waiting for that magical unicorn to show up on your doorstep. Connecting over your love for a TV show or shopping doesn’t make an ideal client. What does make an ideal client is someone you’re able to communicate with and who values your expertise.
Who are your best clients? Are they an imaginary person you came up with in an exercise, or real people?
How can you restructure your business?
After answering all the questions above, you have the first pieces to restructuring your business in a way that makes you happy. Planning realistic goals, and being honest about what you want out of your life and business are key to creating a business you love. Identifying attributes of your favorite clients can help you target more people like them. It’s not an ideal dream business anymore, it’s real and it needs to work–for you and your clients.
Make the time to figure out what’s working and what’s not. Make the changes you need to make your business successful, while allowing you the freedom to live the life you want.
If you need help, my course, Streamline Design Profit was designed to walk you through it.