How to Build A Web Design Business Even if You’re Super Busy

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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Building a web design business isn’t a piece of cake. Add to that a busy life and you’ve got a real conundrum.

You feel pushed and pulled in so many directions. It’s hard to tell which one you should make a priority. AND, when it’s all said and done you feel like you’re neglecting EVERY area of your life.

This week’s guest both had busy lives when they were starting their web design business.

Kelly was a new mom trying to figure out how to balance taking care of her kiddos while also running a business. When she had her first kid her business suddenly grew by 40%.

Kelly Diekman of K Designs who built a web design business when she was super busy

Then there’s John. John was a touring musician and at one point he was in three different bands while building his web design business on the side.

John Wooten who built a web design business while being super busy.

Both Kelly and John had “turning point” moments where they realized they couldn’t maintain their pace of life while keeping their businesses growing.

SO, they made some changes. AND, that’s exactly what they’re talking about in this week’s episode.

Make sure to check it out AND check out John and Kelly’s course specifically for web designers called Break into Web.

You’ll Learn

  • How to balance family and work with all the other responsibilities you have
  • How to grow maintenance plans with your clients so you don’t have to take on so much work
  • How to delegate what you’re not good at to contractors or business partners


Related Episodes

This week, my guest are going to tell you how to build a web design businesseven if you're super busy. Are you ready? Let's go.

Welcome to another episode of the self-made web designer podcast. I'm going to go out on limb. Okay. And I'm going to make a guess about you. It's an assumption. All right. So yes. You, you listening to this podcast, I'm going to guess that you probably feel like you're a super busy person. Was I right? Okay.

You have no way of actually answering me since this is a one-sided conversation. So I'm just, I'm just going to assume you said yes. And a lot of us feel super busy, pretty much all the time and being super busy. It makes building a web design. Pretty difficult, especially when you're just getting started.

If you've got another full-time job, maybe you got a mess of kids and other hobbies and friends and family and all of these responsibility and things can be really messy. You forget to email clients or maybe accidentally leave off an edit that a client asks you to make or fix or whatever. So this week's guest we're both super busy when they were building their web design business.

One was a brand new. Trying to figure out how to take care of her kiddos while also juggling her own business. And the other was a musician touring the country and all sorts of different kinds of bands. But despite having the whole high demanding other side to their lives, they were able to build a thriving business and they're going to share what they did.

You this week, so you get their secrets and it's going to be fantastic. Everything from creating processes and systems to hiring other people, even down to setting up recurring revenue streams through monthly maintenance plans. So you don't have to take on as much work. When you do that, see hos, and that is it's going to be a good one folks.

But before we dive in, did you know that the self-made web designer podcast has a newsletter? Bing, ding, ding that's right. Every week ish, you'll get an email straight from. To you telling you just how much I love you. Okay. Also, there's a lot of great things about web design building, freelance business and everything in between.

And getting on that newsletter will also give you the chance to know when my. Of course Upwork for web designers is opening up again. So it's win, win, win. You don't want to miss out on that. So go to self-made web, sign up today. And as always, I will leave a link in the show notes. That's going to take you straight there.

All right. Are you ready to hear from John and Kelly about how they built web design businesses on the side, even when they were super. Let's do it, John and Kelly. Thanks so much for being on the self-made web designer, your podcasts. So, so good to have you on, I think this is like my third three person podcast three.

So interviewing two people. So, so welcome. And if you're watching on YouTube, Kelly is kind of sandwiched in between me. And John and the view a little bit. So thanks for sending in a tight space. So anyways, uh, tell me a little bit about you guys and y'all story and, and how you became web designers and, and what got you to where you are today.

Sure. First, um, so yeah, my name is John. I started, uh, artillery media, uh, over 15 years ago. At that time I was working a full-time job in a cubicle. For an, a nonprofit, um, while trying to chase a music dream. At the same time, I was playing in a Christian music band at the time. And then I started getting weapons.

On the side. Folks asked me to do websites on the side because I was in a band. You know, our band needed my space page, uh, graphics, poster, design, CD artwork. And eventually it's a similar for a lot of web designers that I know the need for a website in your band is what caused you to kind of dive in and start checking out website design.

And also the course at college, I was in, um, we had to build a little website. For th for the class we were in and I kinda got hooked from there. So anyway, long story short, eventually this Christian band asked me to go on tour with them and Christian bands don't usually make a lot of money. And so what they could pay me wasn't enough for me to make that leap.

But since I had built my side gig web design to a few grand a month, I could easily quit my full-time job and go play drums and build websites on the road. That was the. Over the last 15 years, I've played in a couple of different bands that used to tour full time, the bus and trailer, the whole thing.

And now I'm a part of a small team. There's five of us and we have an office space and we're just a small web design agency. So that's, that's how I got into it. I am not a rockstar. Uh, I'm like. My friend, John. Um, but yeah, I got into it kind of a similar way. Um, you know what, the year, 2000 probably it was when I first, um, I took some silly court, some gen ed at college and just like John had a little web project in there and totally fell in love.

And I realized how bad the site was that I made. And so I took the whole. Uh, graphic design course offered at my college to try to make it better. Um, and that, that was it for my formal education, the rest, um, very self-taught, uh, you know, have seen WordPress com and CSS even, you know, com throughout the years.

And, uh, And just kind of, you know, evolve and adjust to, to all the changes that have been thrown out the web design industry, which has been really fun. But, um, but yeah, I kind of had the same thing, kind of a little side gig on the side throughout college and throughout my internships went on to get my master's because I didn't know what I wanted to do.

Um, and kept the side gig going and, um, and then, yeah, it wasn't until my husband and I decided to start a family about this like light bulb went off and I was like, oh, I could, like, I could make a business out of this. And so that's when I finally went for it and, um, and went full-time freelance. And, uh, and, and, you know, kind of the purpose of that was to, to stay home.

While raising my babies, um, while also still contributing. And so that has been kind of my why for that whole time, because there were, there were opportunities that came up like, oh, let's, you know, let's start an agency or let's do this. And it's like, no, no, I want to be home with my kids. That was the whole point.

And so, and so now my youngest, um, you know, is finally in, in school. And so I kinda, I kind of did. Yeah. And so now, uh, exploring additional, um, opportunities with, with John and, and some other businesses. So it's, it's been, um, yeah, it's been fantastic. And I love the common thread between both of y'all's stories.

Is that web design with. Kind of a tool that helps you to do what you were like, like ultimately passionate about, right? Like raising your family, going on tour with, with Christian bands. So in, and that, that was my story as well. When, when I first got, started doing websites, it was because I needed to know make more money and, and the church that I was working for.

Didn't have the budget to be able to pay me what I needed. And so, so I love the opportunity that doing something like that affords, but at the same time, there's always this, this tension. Right. And, and I even, I haven't deal with this, this now of like, you know, I love web design. I love what I'm doing, but I've got these other plans.

I've got these other things that I'm really passionate about, that I, that I want to go for. So as you guys were kind of in that season, How did you find that, that balance? And did you ever feel like, oh, I'm spending too much time focusing on my band or I, you know, I was supposed to get a website done, but my toddler needed me eight hours out of the day that I was supposed to be working on like, like how did you balance all of the.

Al, and I know the season has changed. And so you're probably not feeling it maybe as much, but there's probably a good struggle when you're first getting started, when you were kind of working through those things, you know, we just had a, we just had a call last night with, uh, with our, we have do a monthly live call in our course.

And one of the students was like, Hey man, I I'm, I'm married. I have a three-year-old I'm working a full-time job. And I'm really, you know, just, do you have any tips on how I can carve out the time to grow this business and. I have a new, I have a seven month old now, our first child. And I'm so thankful, um, that when I, when I decided to really dive in and take the plunge and build the web design business, I was fortunate.

Cause I wasn't married yet. I was just dating. I didn't have any kids yet. So I would work. I would work. Uh, my, I had a day job at the time and I would sneak in some time there at the day job. Right. Getting some web design in and then I would stay up at night until midnight one or 2:00 AM, just, just building and learning.

So my advice for this guy last night was so obviously I had a lot more free time, um, and I could juggle the band and I could juggle. My day job and juggle web design too. Cause I was just kind of my own man at the time. And for this guy last night, I think it was, I don't know if it was Gary V or, or someone, but there they were talking about, Hey, you know, This guy's wife and kids go to bed at eight or nine.

So maybe you go to bed at 11, you got a couple of hours there that you could get some learning done that you could do some work and you could, you could, uh, progress and get, uh, get a client site partway there and get them knocked out eventually. And my advice to anyone who's like at that point of they're starting to build their web design business, but they're still in that full-time gig.

It's like, The good news is, is that you're growing it. And eventually you'll have time. The bad news is though there's going to be this chaotic period where you're doing both of them. Full-time and, and, and you don't have. That full-time job all at once and just go totally a hundred percent web design.

One of our students, she was working HR for a company in Nashville. She had an hour commute each way, um, to her job. And when she built her web design big enough to get like part-time income, she quit her full-time job and took a job at a, at a restaurant being a server a few nights a week part-time while she built.

Web design business, because she had that extra time not working that full-time job anymore. That part-time job only lasted six months. And then she was full-time web design after that. And she's been full-time ever since. Um, but I'm a big, I'm a big believer and to do lists like this is the, I don't know if you guys know Ugmonk this is analog to do system.

Just things I write down every day. Um, You know, I'm big on deadlines. Uh, this student last night, I was like, so you're working on your portfolio website. He's like, yes. I'm like, when's it going to be done? He's like, well, I don't know. I'm like, you need to set a deadline, get that thing done so you can start using it to build your business.

So it's. Nothing that I did. I was just helped me focus. Um, was I would, when I was in that full-time job, I would write down my goals and these little post-it notes and I would put them up where I would see them in my house. Even my, even my wife would see them. Cause I did this a couple of times. Once I was at, after I was married.

On the, on the, on the bathroom mirror, it said freedom on my, by my alarm clock on my nightstand. It said freedom. And my day job, I had one that said freedom and another one with my calculated per hour, how much I made each day. And as I started building websites, that would take me way less time. Killing that hourly rate.

I was making it, my job. It just motivated me that much more. So those are some ideas to kind of get the motivation cause we all, everyone knows. We all have the same amount of hours in the day. It's about setting priorities and you have the time you just got to make it, but there's some tips on how.

Motivate yourself. So you can kind of get your brain looking for those opportunities. The last thing I'll say about the cars, the reason why I did that was I had heard that if you, yeah, if you write down your goals, that's great. But if you see them often, you kind of prime your brain to be thinking about them that way.

When you do have some free time, instead of watching new girl or something, Work on your web design business instead. And that really came to light from me, my wife and I bought a Volkswagen slug bug once thinking that we were pretty hip and cool, and that we were only one of the few in town that had one, but over the next two months, I started seeing all these other Volkswagen bugs around town.

I'm like, why am I seeing all these well, because I'm seeing mine in the driveway every day. My brain is now. Conditioned to look for other ones. So by seeing those goals every day, my brain is being conditioned to work on them. So, yeah. Kelly, you had a perspective of coming from it with a family and so you could probably speak a little bit more to that as well.

Yeah, absolutely. Um, yeah, like I said, the whole kind of. Of getting my freelance web design business going was so that I could do it from home with kicks. And while that sounds great and kind of simple it's, it's obviously not. And the one thing that I would say often to people who would ask was, you know, I love having my own business love it.

It's like it was, I mean, especially as a mom, it's like the only thing in my world that's mine anymore. Right. My kids took over my car, my body, my bedroom. And so it was like, it was, it was my. Like thing that was just mine. Um, and I also loved being home with my kids. Like I wouldn't have it any other way, but I hated half-ass seeing both of them constantly.

And I think that's kind of the point you're getting at is like, is that balanced? And it, and it was a huge struggle and, and kinda like John, you know, my. The way I looked at, it was, I knew it wasn't forever. You know, I knew that once the kiddos were in school, you know, my wife would dramatically change.

And so I just had to keep that why in my head of, you know, this is why I'm doing it. And then, you know, to, to combat that was, was setting boundaries and in creating structure on my life. So. Could have realistic goals and expectations. Um, I mean, John's heard the story a million times, but there was a, there was a moment in my life where my business grew by 40% when my youngest was born.

And so there was this point that I, again, I don't remember a lot about when she was a baby, but this moment I remember where I was, I was holding my newborn. My toddler was like hanging on my legs and my preschooler was jumping on the couch. All of us were probably crying and, and I just kind of had this moment, like, oh my God, I can't keep like I'm drowning and work.

I'm drowning and babies. And that was kind of the moment where I took that step back and I was like, okay, I've got to figure out how to make this work. I mean, you know, it takes kind of a, a crisis to make that, like, to make you stop and realize I gotta make a change. Um, and that was actually like, the birth of our course was, was me like deciding I need to figure out how to run this like a business, because it had been.

It caught my hobby gone out of control. It would just, I mean, it just exploded and I never like planned for any of it. It just kind of happen. Um, so that was the first time I really started treating it like a business and creating structure around it. And again, setting those boundaries and making sure that I wasn't losing my mind in the process, creating time for family, creating time for business.

Um, and, uh, and anyway, so that, that was kind of what, what started the course was, was me going through that process of. I have got to create some business structure here to save my sanity, um, and, and ha, and make time and, and have that back. Yeah, you guys have mentioned the course a couple of times now. So it'd probably be just a good moment to kind of explain what the course is and, and what it's called and, and, you know, w w what types of people are going through it and what, you know, folks are getting out.

It's called break into web. Um, and you know, the, the point of the course is, uh, it's, it's for creatives. It's for aspiring freelancers, obviously aspiring web designers. Um, and, and yeah, it's, it's, you know, against called break into web. So we're not taking established web designers and, and helping them level up.

It's it's really, uh, You know, starting at the ground floor and, and getting into the industry, um, specifically for web designers and freelancers or creatives. You know, thinking about thinking about what design, um, John I'm sure has much more to say, yes, it's called break into web B R E a K not break as in like pump the brakes and our goal through the courses.

In the course, we, you know, start from scratch. And then our goal is at the end of the course, students are able to go out and. Not only can they build simple marketing websites that every business entrepreneur solopreneur needs to be online, but we also teach them how to sell, how to prospect, how to find clients, how to price, the average price students sell their websites for after taking our course is usually somewhere between two to $4,000 per site.

And then we teach them how to get every client on a monthly hosting and maintenance plan. And so kind of rolling back to your question on. If, if, if I was starting this now with a kid and a wife, I would be sure to. Start off the bat with every client and getting them on that monthly recurring hosting and maintenance plan.

That's actually Kelly and I's biggest regret. If we would have started doing that from day 1, 15, 20 years ago, I wouldn't be on this podcast right now. I'd be on a beach somewhere, just raking money every month from all the clients paying in, you know, monthly hosting and maintenance fees. Um, but yeah, and so we've, so yeah, it's for creatives and for those who are like, man, this web design thing is great.

The biggest and the biggest long-term play, I think is that recurring revenue. I, I joke like. Photographers. They can't really charge a monthly for photos. Hey, Hey, how long do I have access to my wedding photos? Well, they're $49 a month will tell when. Well, until you don't want to see them anymore, I guess maybe when you die or get divorced or, you know what, who knows what but, or videographers, right?

It's a one-time thing. But in the creative industry and the creative space, web designers has a truly unique opportunity. To build that monthly recurring revenue on every site that you launch. And that's a really cool thing that gives you the time. Eventually, eventually when you're making 5, 6, 7, 8 K per month, just on monthly recurring revenue, then you're going to see your time open up for more of that family stuff.

So, as Kelly said, that time sacrifice is not for forever, and you're not going to start every month from zero forever. Build that recurring revenue and you'll get that time. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. And I love it. Just the idea that the progression of, you know, how you start and then it kind of morphs into this thing, you know, like Kelly that you mentioned where it was, uh, a hobby out of control.

I was actually just talking to a friend about this yesterday. About how, you know, I I'm somebody who can kind of navigate through messiness. My, my wife has not. And so like my process along the years has gone from like super messy when it came to onboarding. And getting them, you know, getting their content, helping them with content, helping them with images, to, you know, designing and layouts and then onto development and all that kind of stuff.

But over, over the years, you kind of realize, man, if I, if I'm not going to go crazy, w we have to have some kind of. The system around, around what we're doing. So I wonder if you could, you could speak to that a little bit about how you guys navigated that yourself, how you discovered the systems that you've put into place, um, and what you're currently doing and, and how that has helped you.

Yeah. Um, my, well, and again, but like I mentioned, you know, that the, the birth of my systems was really that, that moment of, uh, madness. Um, and so, and so, yeah. When I started doing was, was looking for ways to create efficiencies, looking for ways to automate, um, you know, things that I kept doing over and over again.

It's like, okay, how can we automate this? Um, you know, like you mentioned pulling content from clients, um, how to create efficiencies there. Cause that's usually like the worst part, you know, that's, that's the biggest, um, you know, what's the word, uh, Yes. Yes. That's the biggest problem. And the process is usually just waiting for client content and or feedback.

And so, you know, just finding solutions to those problems in, and again, plugging it into two, a big process where, and I, I still, I still am evolving my processes constantly. I haven't gotten to the automation stuff until just recently. Um, and it's in, you know, I'm always looking for opportunities and ways to improve or change or, or, you know, try this, um, just because, you know, again, I've I'm, I'm wanting to create, you know, make this business as efficient as possible so I can work on other things.

Um, and so, so what does that entail? You know, it's, it's a series, you know, for me is different than John and is different than the rest of our students. Um, and that's kind of how we go through that process is, is, you know what, this isn't going to be the same for everyone. It's is what works for you? What works for your situation?

What works for your clients, your target, how they want to work know. It's so it's a whole, it's a whole thing. And it's, it's, it's going to be unique to each situation. Um, for me, since it's just me, you know, I'm a, I'm a single freelancer. I have like a team of contractors that I will, um, work with as well.

Uh, when they're needed, I have like copywriters and graphic designers and SEO people and I'll bring them on when needed. So I have processes in place for them. Um, but like, you know, John he's, he's got a small team that he works with and so their, their processes obviously look a little bit. So, um, so yeah, for me, it's, it's, uh, it's really just working with the client one-on-one and again, streamlining and creating efficiencies in that process and automating where possible.

Um, so yeah, I have, I don't have any like super fancy tools that I use. I've I've honestly, I've tried every project management platform on the planet and hated them all. So I kind of created my own with like, Google drive and boomerang and like, you know, just like little tools here and there that have, uh, it really worked for me.

So I actually freelanced solo for eight or nine years before bringing on my partner and, and, um, he excels in that organization. Process. I'm kinda like, I'm kinda like you, Chris, before he came along, I was just like a mess of emails, trying to keep things straight among multiple clients. Um, so back in the day, you know, like this whole show, my age on when I, when I used to do this as a solo freelancer, but like, I, I would have a Trello board for every client.

I had them a template, one that had like to do in progress done, uh, that worked really well for me. Personally. Uh, but when Jay came along, I was in the middle of 19 projects and we were playing in a country cover band together. This kid had a violin running through multi effects, guitar, pedals, lower octave, reverb, compression delay.

And I, and he always looked good on stage. And I was like, man, you have a good, you have a good style. You have a good design eye. Your gear looks good. You look. You're tweaking this pedal thing, dude, you'd probably make a killer web designer. And so he was kind of the first student that I taught. Um, and so when, when I taught him, he took a lot of that process stuff over and now it's like official.

Now we use base camp when we have this template and base camp that has everything spelled out. We have tons of videos for clients that they can watch on. Here's how to get your site outline, turned in. Here's how to. Here's how to give great feedback. We have a video and blog post on that. Cause a lot of clients don't know how to do that.

So we really, we really, uh, we, we still hold their hand, but we have a lot of supporting videos. Instructions for them. So that way we're not explaining the same thing over and over again to every single client. Yeah. Yeah. And I love that the idea of, you know, processes kind of evolve over time as well.

Like Kelly, you were mentioning, you know, and. You do you, you start with something like a system and you're like, oh, I'm going to try this. And this is going to be great. It's going to work perfectly. And then you get in the middle of it. You're like, well, this actually sucks. So we need to pivot a little bit here, or we need to make some tweaks here and there, but you don't have to be committed to the same process.

If it's not working, I think the whole point is you just got to kind of be intentional about what you're doing and then one of the best things that you can do. And this is something that I teach students and my courses that at the end of every project, you need to have your own debrief. You need to sit down and you need to say what has worked, what worked well, what didn't work well at all?

What were like some really big flaws. And then next project, how are we going to change? So that a little bit more of that, that process gets gets fine tuned. Um, as we're going, so, John, you you'd mentioned, you know, bring it on your stylish violin buddy, um, which is, uh, I think you should probably do. You can call him that and whatever slacker base camp channel you, you use with him.

But, um, so what was that like, as you were kind of, you know, working on your own projects, you had 19 projects at the time, but then you're also onboarding somebody who has, you know, essentially never done web design before. So what did that process look like as you were kind of bringing. That that first person on and essentially training them from the ground up.

So yeah, we would, we would ride out to gigs together and he would see me in the passenger seat, like working on a website. It was almost like, yeah, man, I'm making money right now. Yeah. On the way to get noticed. Um, but eventually he asked me about like, Hey, if you do this for a living, I said, yeah, man, this is what allows me to play in this band.

And the other two bands on playing in it's allows me to go on the road and not have to worry about vacation days. So at first I kind of planted the seed of. Being a freelancer in him and, and, and trying to explore as him. What his, why could be what his reason could be because he was in college at the time.

He was a college bartender at night and just go into school. And I think he was in pre-med at the time, but he just, he wanted that lifestyle of freedom, the longer that we hung out and we would go to the gym together and things like that. I guess I was kind of maybe he's my man crush for awhile. I don't know, but I was hanging out with him.

So then when I decided to bring him on it was baby steps. It was like, Hey man, here's how to make a website. No, it was like, Hey dude, I could really use your help at first. Honestly, he, he's kind of a straight shooter. I'm really lenient with clients like, oh, you're two months behind on your bill. No worries.

Hey, if you pay by next month, I'll take 20% off. Right. Like, and he was like, you have to stop doing that. So first I turned over, I turned over some billing stuff to him, which he just. He, he, he was so great at that. So then I thought, Hey man, can you help me with onboarding? Can you help me develop a questionnaire or some?

Cause I didn't have one. It was all through email, right? It was all just, I would just email folks or get them on a phone call and talk to them for 30 minutes. And that was kind of the start. So it was, it was baby things like that after. He helped me with some of that admin stuff. Then I started training him a little bit in the, in the websites software page builder that we use just to make minor edits.

So that way, if someone had a change later on, he could kind of take that over from me. And then slowly I taught him how to build the actual websites and for a while he was building websites, but then that's when we decided, Hey, look, I'm better at building them and designing them, dude, you're way better at this client strategy, communication onboarding.

So let's just team. And do this together. And then we grew a little bit, the first year that he was able to retire his wife from her support job. She worked for a, uh, an app tech company and she was doing support for that. So we brought her in and she does all of our client management client relations.

Now she helps out with wireframes too. All he does now is just sales and a director of operations. And I do all the design stuff. Um, at first, at first, when he was doing websites and he put a couple of them out and said designed by artillery at the bottom, and they were ones I had nothing to do with, it was a little nerve wracking because it's like, I wouldn't have done it that way.

Or I would, I don't know if. Done it that way, man, or that design out, I dropped shadow a little heavy for my face, you know, like, or that font, ah, you know, but he got better and better. And I just had to learn to like, Hey no, this, I gotta trust the process. I gotta trust us. I got to keep training him. But eventually when we identified our strengths, it was like, Hey, if I didn't have to do any admin staff in any process, client stuff, then I could do all the designing and he could do let's do that.

So that's kind of a, that's kind of how it got. Yeah, I love that. Self-awareness of like, I'm, I'm really bad at this, and you're really great at that. And I'm really good at this and you're kind of bad at this. So, you know, teaming up or even for folks who maybe aren't at the place to bring on somebody, you know, like Kelly, you've got contractors that you can kind of farm out some of that work too.

And. Maybe bring a contractor on part-time just to manage client relationships and manage communication back and forth and make sure that you're not missing emails. There's just, there's so many solutions. I think that you can be creative with when it comes to this stuff, to where you, aren't having a poll 80 to 90 hours a week and doing it all yourself and, and you can still live a life and do the things that you love, the things that are really meaningful to you.

So I wonder if we could end off. On what you had mentioned with y'all's biggest regret with, you know, that the monthly service plans and monthly maintenance plans. And just talk about that a little bit. How, how do you, how do you pitch that to clients and, you know, does every client go for it? Is it something that you, you kind of have to wait and see towards the end and hopefully it kind of works out or does it take, has it taken you a long time to build up from the point when you said, Hey, we really needed to be doing this more?

Or was it something that once you started. Got going right away. So yeah, I would say, um, you know, I mean, John resisted the hosting thing for a long time. He's like, Nope, I'm not doing it. I'm, you know, they gotta do their own hosting and deal with it cause he didn't want to deal with it. And I appreciate that.

Um, but you know, I, I really saw the opportunity there for, you know, as, as a reseller actually did it for a while. And then completely stopped because it was a giant headache. And then I started doing it again with the maintenance plans, built into it as well. Um, I personally used managed WP. I know John and artillery use something else.

Um, but yeah, building in the, you know, the, the hosting as well as the, um, you know, the, the updates, you know, the. The theme updates, the plugin updates, WordPress updates, uptime, monitoring, backups, all that stuff. Just kind of wrapping it together in one package, but yeah, offering that and then having just kind of this base one that, that, yeah, we, I, I I'm super upfront about it.

And I think John is too, uh, at artillery and it's, you know, if, if we're working together. This is your hosting base package. Um, we have additional ones as well, that include various hours of, you know, time for edits or, you know, or my contractors or whatever is needed. Um, but this is the base package. And so, yeah, it's kind of a.

It's not a hard sell at all because typically most of my clients are referrals and they're coming to me because either they know like, and trust me or someone else did, um, that they trust. And so it's not a hard sell. Um, and typically again, my, my level of clients. The point, they, they just want it done.

They don't want to deal with any of that anyway. And so very rarely do I have someone who's like, oh, but I want to host it myself and save, you know, 10 bucks a month, you know, so I don't have to deal with that. I did at some point. Um, but again, the level of clientele at, at this point, you know, everyone.

Has to do it and they don't, they there's very rarely any kind of fight. Um, and, and then, yeah, you know, instead of, instead of selling it as this, you have to do it thing. It's more of a, you know, I hate to use the word insurance policy, but that's really what it is. It's, it's there, it's the kind of thing that you don't need or want, unless, you know, the terrible happens.

Uh, your site gonna get hacked and then you're screwed. So it's there for those kinds of things. Um, and then when those things happen, you know, It's right back up where you need it. Um, so again, it's usually a pretty easy sell and, and yeah, I don't have a lot of problems with getting people onboarded to that.

I could talk about this for an hour, but I'm not going to, um, but it's, it's, it's the reason that keeps me going, uh, initially though, Kelly's right. Initially. Initially, I actually did host websites. I had about 20 on this garbage host that went down on Valentine's day. And I had 20 websites on Valentine's day.

I'm getting calls like while I'm out with my wife at an outdoor mall, you know, and I'm like, man, this is not what I want. So then. I got them all to buy their own hosting. This is way back in the day before like super reliable hosts were around. Um, and I instead I offered them a maintenance plan. So I was like, Hey, $29 a month, less than a dollar a day.

Here's this maintenance plan. You're going to get backups every day and I'm going to make sure your WordPress themes, plugins are all up to date. It's going to protect you from hacking. So I, I had that kind of going, I think I'd built that up to 40 or 50 sites when Jay came along and he's like, John, I want to wait.

Eventually, he was like, I want a way to build recurring revenue. And I was like, well, there's this hosting side you could do. I don't want to mess with it, but you can tackle that. And we'll package them both together. The $20 maintenance plan on your hosting, let's package those together for 49 bucks a month.

We'll do a $99 option, middle tier, and then we'll do a 2 99 option, which is like, Hey client, you never log into your site. You just send us all your edits, edits, and updates. And. We'll launch it and see how it goes. Now. At first we gave clients a choice, right? Because I'm thinking as a web designer, $49 a month, but I can go get GoDaddy hosting for like $4 a month, you know, are we ripping people off and you're not, and here's why.

You are the go between when stuff goes wrong, if it does, you're going to handle it for them, they have you in their corner. It's like they have you on a little $49 a month retainer to make, make sure everything goes well, cause they're not gonna, they're not gonna update their plugins. They're not going to update their themes.

95% of clients will not do that. Um, and so it was just in their best interest. So it was first, we gave them a choice and I think our close rate was around five or six out of 10 would say, let's say yes. And then we just kept doing. These clients that wouldn't go with us, they were the support. Uh, the folks causing us the most support headaches and things like that.

So then we thought, you know what? We need to push people a little more. So then we rolled out a, Hey. You can do a website with us, but if you're not going to get on our hosting, it's an extra $600. And here's why, because we got to learn this new hosting environment. Now we got to work with whatever company you decide to use.

We're not used to that. We're specialized in who we use. We have a great relationship with them. We, you know, I know them. Um, these other hosts, all I know about them is they're like hold music when I have to call them and wait. Right. That's what I know. So we did that for about a year and then we made a decision.

We're going to require it either host with us or we're not building your website. And I know you can't do that from the start. It's super hard to do that from the start. You might not have the demand for that, but if you can roll out some, uh, a few different options for them to choose from, I think that's key like that 2 99.

We only have three people on it. One person's been on that plan two $9,300 a month for three years. They, they never hit us up every year. We sent them, Hey, do you want to be on this plan still? Because. Really using it. And she says, I just want to know that when I need something, you guys are going to drop everything and fix it for me.

All right. We'll keep you on. We'll keep you on the plan. I think we get in our heads, our own heads, a lot on how much to charge and how much, because we know how to build, we know how the sausage is made. Right. We know that you can go get hosting for 10, 15 bucks a month from flywheel or psych rounds, some good hosts like that.

Um, but you're offering more than just hosting. Um, and so you gotta, you gotta, you gotta look at it that way. And so at that $400 a month is a steal and my car analogy is here's why you should build recurring revenue and make it a priority. You know, during the pandemic, you might've canceled a gym membership for a few months.

Right. Um, or I knew some companies that canceled their coworking space for a few months. They didn't need it, but personally, you didn't cancel your car. Because you still needed a car to get around. None of the websites company, that companies that we host, we host almost 300. Now, none of them canceled their hosting and maze plans during the pandemic because now more than ever, they need a reliable website.

That's going to be up that when someone types in that web address, it's going to be real. It's going to be up. If something is wrong, they don't have to call the hosting company. Here, the hold music or whatever, talk to some developer that they don't know the language. So that's all the service you're providing.

The last thing I'll say about this, and this is kind of similar to your story. One of our students, when he signed up, he was a small church pastor here in Nebraska. Uh, church couldn't pay him a whole lot. He's like, Hey, John, all I want to do is I'm just trying to make an extra one to $2,000 a month. And, and I was like, oh, thank God.

Because in the meantime, I had looked at his Facebook profile and saw that he was married with five young kids, all five, still in like under junior high. And so if he would've came to me right away and said, Hey, John, I have a wife and kids. I want to bring her home from work. And I want to be full time.

Can I do this? I'd be like, well, It's going to be really hard. I don't know, man. Uh, so I thought, oh cool. We can get you to that one, two K a month. No big deal. That's like a site a month let's and so we took the course, started doing that. Um, eventually he moved to a different town and he was working for FCA fellowship of Christian athletes for awhile.

And so we fund raised the salary. So it's like, if you go out and you fundraise your salary, you're a good salesman. Right? So he started, he started selling more websites. And eventually he quit. FCA has been a full-time web designer. Now for quite a while we interviewed him on our website. There's a 30 minute interview with him.

And in that interview, he was trying to bring his wife home from work. And we're like, oh, when do you think that'll be? And he goes in 13 websites and I'm like, how do you know in 13? Well, he said, cause the recurring revenue in 13 websites, my recurring revenue will match what my wife makes it, her job. And so since then, He, he got past those 13 websites, wife quit her job.

She's helping him in the business now. And it's just so cool to have this couple with their five kids. Now, their lives have been changed, uh, by this, by what we do. And so that, that's another. Great thing with recurring revenue. That fan was not starting from zero every month. They're starting from two, three grand and now, oh, Hey, our bills are covered.

Let's go out. And Kelly and I both make over eight grand per month in recurring revenue. Uh, but we've built it over for a time. And, uh, yeah. So say for example, you're selling a maintenance plan for $49. That's what we that's, what most of ours are on our cost is about $9 of that to, for the hosting. And then the maintenance system we use about nine bucks.

So we net about $40 per month. Um, so if you sold 25 websites a year, two a month, That's a times that $40 per month per site, that's one K a year. And that's about how much my recurring revenue grows every year is about one K. So three years from now, it won't be eight K it'll be 11 K because it's all down to a mathematical science and selling two websites a month.

Not that. Yeah, that's, that's very possible. And that's what we want for our students. Plus when you get that recurring revenue going then, if someone does only have, Hey man, I got $950 from my webpage or I got seven 50 bucks for two pages. Well, yeah, I'll do that. If you hop on our maintenance plan at $49.

Oh, sure. So it just opens up possibilities. I know I'm preaching about recurring revenue magical. Yeah. That's awesome. Well, thank you for those inspiring stories and car analogies is a very well put, so Hey, if somebody is looking to connect with you guys or even learn more about course on the internet where we.

Break into, P R E K, and to There's a fun quiz on there that you can take to see if web design is a great fit for you. There's also a contact thing hit that up. We will reply to you. We, uh, we love engaging with our students and we'll answer any questions that you may have, uh, even if brick and web is not quite the right fit for you.

I'll be honest and transparent and just tell you what's up. You know, I love John and Kelly's passion and I love the idea that no matter how busy you are, it is 100% doable to build a thriving web design business. It just takes some intention. And a bit of perseverance. Hopefully you got a lot out of this week's episode, and guess what we're doing another one next week.

So make sure that you subscribe to the self-made web designer podcasts. So you don't miss out until next time, keep working hard and don't forget if you don't quit, you win.

Persons hand above water to illustrate how hard it is to build a web design business when you're super busy


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



  1. John Wooten says:

    Thanks for having us on Chris! We had a blast!

    Cheers! 🎉

    – John

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