Web Design business owner and completely lost...

Discussion in 'Web Design' started by cool_nation, Mar 5, 2015.

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  1. cool_nation

    cool_nation New Member

    Messages:
    3
    I wanted to share a little bit about myself and see if I can seek some advice from folks here as I believe you will be nothing but blunt/honest about providing advice. I graduated from school with a business degree, but because the economy was not so hot around 2010 when I graduated, I pursued the idea of opening my own business with credit cards and what not. It was a business that sold electronic items and then soon, me and my partner (who also went to business school) decided to pivot as had established a good understanding of what it takes online to sell the product. With whatever knowledge we had about web design, we utilized that and built over 5 websites back in 2011-2012 supporting our 1st business of selling products. We wanted to get out of that because we didn't have much capital to keep buying the inventory and do something that would be more profitable and perhaps something we can call our own. We thought to ourselves that "hey, we have built a few websites, and know how wordpress works, so why not build websites for a living along with implementing what we knew at business school". Long story short, I am 28, and my partner is almost the same age. We actually have great design living in a city that isn't so hot, but we have over 30 portfolio examples that are spread out in different niches and actually look good. There are interactive elements, parallax scrolling, and many genres. You name it. My partner started focusing on design and development, where as I started focusing on sales/prospecting. That is how our team has worked so far. I have hired 1 outside sales consultant who is paid hourly to find projects based off of our leads that we have generated, but that is a slow process. Right now we have a few referrals and we close a few sales per month. All together we probably close 2-4 sales per month giving up anywhere between $3k-7k depending on how we do. But we are having difficulty now. I am trying to decide if this is the route we should continue on and how successful can we be. Do we pivot again and do something else? Or should we go our own way and I get a corporate america job? I know we are not charging enough and based off of our portfolio, we can charge a lot more. But the issue is we are barely getting any projects. We have invested time in to SEO, primarily just getting google reviews and adjusting our meta title, description and such. But not more. Do I continue this crazy journey of building a business or throw in the towel and realize that wordpress will be obsolete 5 years from now, and move on to a proper 8-5 job. Please ask questions or offer advice. I am open to anything at this point.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
  2. Edge

    Edge Member

    Messages:
    461
    I'd always go for trying to build the business up purely because that's the kind of challenge I like - there's just no way I could submit to being an employee so that effectively takes away the choice. Building a business up is bloody tough and it takes time - if you are up for that then read on.

    1. Get external advice and support - you can get a ton of advice all ERDF funded. You need to invest in yourselves as you are key to the business. Professional development never stops - make sure that you are regularly talking to someone outside the business about the business. Ideally to someone who understands the challenges of an SME.
    2. Develop a business plan - this should be easier for you as you have been in the business for a bit so you can make it realistic. Put simply the plan needs the following:
    - a mission
    - a marketing strategy
    - goals/targets
    3. Recognise that you don't have all the skills and experience within yourselves (and never will) and look into getting funding & vouchers in order to bring other specialists into the business to develop it further.
    4. Look to partner with other companies/agencies who you complement

    You can't expect to grow without a plan - research shows that the businesses who plan effectively, and monitor what they are doing are the most likely to succeed. Look back and look forward.
     
  3. chrishirst

    chrishirst Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Messages:
    2,662
    You're dead right on that!

    There is no such thing as a "meta title"


    Have you invested real money in advertising though.

    Sitting back and hoping Google is kind to you is a mug's game, especially when every man and his dog (with a "cracked" copy of Dream Weaver) thinks they are "designers".

    You have to get "out there" AND PROMOTE YOUR SELVES NOT your website.
     
  4. Edge

    Edge Member

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    461
    Totally disagree assuming that above means 'promoting yourself through online channels is a mug's game'. If that's the case, the only thing I'll say is it has totally worked for us. Good rankings for search terms relevant to our services brings us in abut 80% of our new business.
     
  5. cool_nation

    cool_nation New Member

    Messages:
    3
    My partner codes, but primarily uses WP. For site security, we offer a monthly cost and purchase 3rd party software and install for clients. We don't charge monthly maintenance cost because we train our clients how the back-end operates so they can makes changes themselves, unless they are major changes. We are more design oriented right now than development oriented. I guess we could think about bringing on a 3rd partner and who is strictly a developer, but pay is not huge right now..so he will have to start with a much lower pay at least for first half of the year or so. We do have a business plan, but it is not on papers. The business plan really is to grow. Build our portfolio as much as we can, and then we don't know right now..right now we are just trying to survive with getting clients and making the most out of every client.

    We don't use themes. We at this point built websites on wordpress from scratch. A client CAN provide us a theme, but narrow down their business plan before we get started and build a custom design primarily on WP, but other platforms like ASP.NET can be used if needed. I guess I am trying to get a non-biased advice that will help me decide if I want to continue on with this and pivot in this industry with the limited knowledge, and perhaps hire more developers/designer, or just throw in the towel, which I really don't want to do
     
  6. chrishirst

    chrishirst Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Messages:
    2,662
    That's a risky position to be in, could the business survive on 20% should those results disappear one day?
     
  7. Edge

    Edge Member

    Messages:
    461
    Yes - because SEO is a new business generator. Once we get the new business through SEO we get repeat business of it & recurring income. So looking at our income last year - 80% of it came from our existing clients. However 90% of those clients originally came to us through SEO. If SEO stopped generating new business we would have plenty of time to adjust and develop new channels. I would admit, though, that in the near future, as we grow, we are actually planning to develop new sales channels and processes for different kinds of markets. But for now and the last couple of years a focused SEO strategy has worked very well. We have tried very hard to develop content that is useful to people and not just more of the same crap and I don't think Google is planning to stop rewarding that in the near future at least.
     
  8. Edge

    Edge Member

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    461
    Vague statement so qualify please. Physical networking? Telesales?
     
  9. chrishirst

    chrishirst Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Messages:
    2,662
    Yes and ... No.

    But what I mean is, browse the Internet where people go LOOKING for designers (that does NOT mean finding where designers talk among themselves necessarily) and answer peoples questions about what THEY want from a designer, certainly leave a link to a useful URL on your site (not necessarily the 'home' page), but promote yourselves as being knowledgeable about the topic and willing to help others.

    Altruism may seem a curious concept in a 'cut-throat' business world but it gets you known and noticed, sometimes by other designers and developers who may recommend YOU should they be unable to take the business from some requests.

    It's not difficult or complicated, you simply have to be remarkable, in the true sense of the word ... ... e.g. to be worth making a remark about (making reference to).

    The only thing really needed for Search success is to get other people to say [good] things about you.
     
  10. cool_nation

    cool_nation New Member

    Messages:
    3
    @Edge
    How did you approach SEO? I know content writing is important aspect with landing pages and all that. But we are having trouble with that aspect right now. We charged a client $1k for doing market research and putting together specific keywords based of the research that we could expand further content on. That money got burnt up real quick and the results were not guaranteed to the client as you know the process is slow and organic. So how do you quantify it? And do you keep charging for a certain period of time? Like a few years? Thank you
     
  11. chrishirst

    chrishirst Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Messages:
    2,662
    It depends on the marketplace and the target audience.

    There is no "one size fits all" approach to Search.

    Landing pages for what?

    Specific ad campaigns?
    "Social media" advertising?

    OR ......

    And how did you do this research?


    Only if you are hoping or planning to rely entirely on search referrals. Which is a very poor strategy.
     

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