How to Make Your Web Design Business Coronavirus Proof

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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.

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

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I have to be honest and say I did not think the Coronavirus would affect us as much as it has. I thought everyone was going a bit overboard.

But, things kept getting worse. Then last week the CEO of the company I work for sent out a message telling us that we would all be working from home for the foreseeable future.

That took things out of the “don’t worry about it,” category into the “this is very real,” category.

You might be thinking that the Coronavirus won’t affect us web designers very much. But, I think you might want to reconsider.

Nothing in our economy is unaffected by some major, globally scaled incident that interrupts the lives of billions of people.

And, I’m don’t think we should panic and trade in our laptops for something else. But, I do think it’s important we take a second and consider how this will affect us as freelance web designers or business owners.

That’s the topic of this week’s podcast.

I go through all sorts of things to help you prepare and hopefully diminish the effect the Coronavirus has on you and your business.

You’ll Learn

  • How to have the right mindset during crisis as a web designer
  • How to budget and pay yourself as a freelance web designer
  • How to determine if the niche you’ve chosen is the right one as a web designer
  • The importance of a community or network
  • How to reach out and support your network despite not being able to grab a coffee
  • How to stay productive and mentally healthy while working from home
  • How to work at home when your kids school is canceled
  • How to pivot your skillset and make sure you don’t become obsolete
  • How to grow in your ability as a web designer


Hello, and welcome to the self-made web designer podcast. My name is Chris. I'm so excited that you are here with me today. Some exciting news that might not be that exciting to you, but it's pretty exciting to me. This is our sixth episode. You thought I had something amazing to roll out. But guess what, it's exciting to me, okay, because most podcasts that get started only make it to the sixth episode, and then they are done. But that's not the case with us. We're gonna keep going. We're gonna go strong. We're gonna make it to the seventh episode. We're gonna make it to the eighth episode. You know what, we're gonna go to 100 episodes and beyond. I'm so excited that you have decided to take this journey with me and I hope that you continue to go all the way to the hundredth episode and beyond with me because if I'm just going to be completely honest with you, I like you.

I don't even know you well, but you just being here listening to me putting up with my antics and my silliness, like, it means something. Okay? You know what else would mean something to me, it wouldn't mean a lot to me if you took a second and wrote a review for the podcast that helps me know that what I'm doing is helpful. And it helps other people find this podcast and lets them know that it can help them as well on their web designer journey. We're going to be doing something a little bit different than what I had anticipated for what is now our sixth episode. See, what I'd planned was to roll out a guest episode for the next few weeks. So some people came on who has great insight on freelancing and web design and product design and software development and web development and all those types of things. But something is happening in our world today that I think it deserves to.

Taking a second and pausing and just addressing it. If you don't already know what I'm referring to, I'm talking about the coronavirus. I have never experienced anything like this in my lifetime, right? Like, like people are out of toilet paper stores are packed, right? People are buying up all of the dry goods that they can, offices are shutting down. And it's affecting us. It's affecting us in ways that we probably hadn't anticipated. And so that means that as a web designer community, as a freelance community, we're going to be affected as well. And so I don't think it's a good idea to freak out and I'm not advocating that you do that. But I do think that it's important that we take some steps and be intentional about the next few weeks in our web design business. Or if you're just getting started in your progress your path to becoming a web designer or have a freelance business.

We're going to talk about how the coronavirus is going to affect the web design industry. And we're also going to talk about how to avoid some of the negative impacts that are inevitable for what's coming in the next few months. As a web designer, are you ready? I know I'm excited. I know I'm ready to talk to you about this. And I know you're itching to hear it. Okay, here we go.

The first thing that I think it's important to do is adjust your mindset. I think it's really important that you do take a second and figure out some things that you can do to decrease the negative impact that this is going to have on you. And listen, some industries are going to be affected much more than others. Right? You know, knowledge-based workers aren't going to feel this as much. So industries like graphic design or web design or web development or product design or UX design, or software development, software engineering. All of those types of jobs won't be affected to the extent that jobs like retail or things that have a brick and mortar business.

For instance, I have a friend that reached out to me this last week, he works in the audiovisual fields. And he said that a whole bunch of conferences that he was contracted to work at got canceled. And it made a big impact on him and his family. And so he's having to figure out some things. So I think that if there is an industry that is safest from what's going to happen, it would be an industry like web design. It would be an industry like freelancing on your own in your own home, where there's not a physical service. It's more of a digital technical product that you are giving to people. But we are going to be affected.

The economy is such that every industry is stacked on another industry, and it's like one big Jenga puzzle. You know, when one thing moves, everything else becomes weaker. Everything else is affected. And if enough pieces move, then the whole thing crashes. And so you've got to realize that so I think it's important that you take a second and just begin to ask yourself some hard questions. Where am I at? In my web design career? Am I in a solid place is the niche that I'm serving the best niche to serve? Right? Some niches are going to be more affected than others. And so that means if you are serving that nice as a web designer, if you are a web designer for service-based industries, then you're going to feel this a lot more. And so it might be a good time to just take a second and consider, 'Is this the niche that I want to be in? Is this the direction that I want to go?' If you're just getting started, it might be a good time to maybe go back to the drawing board and say, What niches are safer for me, in this season of my life.

And you might come to the same conclusions. You might say, you know, yes, I'm going to be negatively affected by this because I serve this niche more, but I just love this. The client that I serve, I love the type of websites that I'm getting to build in the type of projects that I get. And that's all fine. It's all about understanding the risk that you are taking by choosing the niche that you have, and then making an educated and rational decision as a result. I think it's also important to realize that we're gonna get through this, right, as economic downturns have happened before, they are likely to happen again. But it turns around, it's going to be okay, you're going to come out of this. It's just all about being intentional, and making the most of this opportunity that might be a good time to take a second and just think about how you've been conducting business, how you've been looking at who you are, as a freelancer.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see freelancers make is that they don't consider themselves an actual business, they just consider themselves a person that's doing a job for someone else. And he just happens to be able to get to do it in his own home or from a coffee shop. That is, that's, that's a wrong way to look at yourself, and that will negatively affect you. When things like crises happen, the biggest way that will affect you is in the ways that you get paid. If you're taking the full amount that you are getting from a project and instantaneously, putting it in your account. That's going to be bad for you. Think about a business that has multiple employees. That's not the way that they do business or it's not the way that they should do business if they are doing it that way. They don't just instantly take the money that they get and they spend it right. They take it they put it into account. They build up a cushion and then they pay employees overtime.

No employee would come to a job and say, I'm okay for you to pay me, whenever we get a big lump of sum throughout the year if that's at the end of the year or the beginning of the year, I'm fine with that most employees think to themselves, I'm expecting for my company, to pay me at specific increments that are consistent so that I can plan for my life and my family. So this is something I learned very early on, it's something that I encourage you to think about, especially in light of the crisis that's happening right now, is when you get paid from a job, don't just take that money and spend it or put it into your account right away, like take it and for sure, live off of some but put some aside and keep doing that until you have a cushion. And then after a few months have gone by you look back and you look at the averages that you've made as a web designer, and then you pay yourself. And you're putting a little bit on the top back in the business for when things like this happen. And if you begin to see an increase in the average, you give yourself a race, just like a company would give its employee a raise. And here's what that does. That keeps you from being vulnerable for long periods during a crisis. And crisis could mean something like what's happening right now with a Coronavirus, or it could be you have a dry spell in your business, and you are having a tough time finding your next project or finding the right client, or whatever it is. If you do things this way you can keep paying yourself whether or not you have a project. And so that you don't have to force yourself to take on projects that you wouldn't necessarily say yes to or projects that aren't giving you the value that you're worth because you know, I have money in the bank to keep sustaining me for X amount of months. If I don't get another job for the next six months, I'm gonna be able to keep paying myself these increments over that amount of time and it's not going to affect me at all. So if every month you're bringing in $5,000 over the average of 12 months, you don't want to give yourself $5,000 a month, you want to give yourself three or $4,000 a month.

So every month, you're getting paid. And you're putting a little bit on the top back in the business for when things like this happen. And if you begin to see an increase in the average, right, you give yourself a race, just like a company would give its employee a raise. And here's what that does. That keeps you from being vulnerable for long periods during a crisis.

So make sure that you take a second take this as an opportunity to review how you're looking at yourself, how you're looking at your freelance business, how you're looking at how you're growing, if you're just getting started this might be a good time to, to take a second and think about if you are learning the right tools to be able to serve people the best way if something like this should happen again. Or are you learning things that people will eventually see as a commodity in the future?

This has happened at different increments of time in the history of web design, certain things at the very beginning. For instance, in the old days, you had to have a website and you have to hire somebody to build that website for you. Now we have platforms like the company that I work for Show It, we have platforms like Squarespace and Wix, where a website is becoming much more of a commodity. And when a crisis happens, everybody else's budgets begin to shrink. And they begin to take a look at what it is that they're spending money on. And if there's an opportunity for them to save, without it negatively affecting them too much. They're going to take that opportunity. And so a lot of businesses are going to say, you know, we were going to spend $10,000 to hire this person for building our website. But now we're at the place where we just need to go and do that on Squarespace. And, and that's, that's it. That's a tough reality. But that doesn't mean that you don't learn web design. That just means that you think about it strategically. It means you think about what other skills can I add on top of these skills to add more and more value.

So I take myself out of the commodity industry. And I put myself back into what a consumer or a client would look at as a need. Another important thing that I think we can focus on doing right now during the coronavirus pandemic, as web designers, is to take a second and pour into our community, our professional network. And listen, I understand that right now, it's kind of a tough time for me to say you should work on building a strong network, right? Because everything concerning networking is being either postponed or altogether canceled. For instance, I was on my way at the end of April, to the Creative South Conference, which is an awesome community that's been built of creative workers, and it got postponed and I was super bummed. But that doesn't mean that you still can't reach out to people and connect with them. It doesn't mean that you can't send them a Facebook message or Instagram DM or Twitter DM, and connect to people and tell them like, 'Hey, I'm here. I understand you might be feeling this if you need help. I'm here for you.'

My wife's cousin is a guy named Jamie Tworkowski. And if you're not familiar with Jamie, he's an awesome dude. He built this nonprofit organization called To Write Love On Her Arms. He's a best selling author and a dynamic speaker. And Jamie this last week, came out and said something profound. He said that despite all of the things that are being canceled, relationships aren't being canceled. Community isn't being canceled, hope is not being canceled. So you have an opportunity right now to invest in the people around you. And listen, when you do that, when you look at yourself as somebody who is out to help people who are struggling, even if you're struggling yourself, personally, right now, what happens is that it always comes back to you. Right? People begin to look at you differently and are more than willing to help you when you need it because you were there for them when they needed it.

There's a great book that I just finished called Love is the Killer App, I encourage you to pick it up. It's somewhat of an older book. But the principles are still really important for us today as a web designer. And the idea is that whatever you have, right, whatever resources, whatever secret sauce you have, don't be afraid to give it away. You know, don't be afraid to give your highest valued connections to somebody else that might be able to use that connection. because believe it or not, having a community is probably one of the single most important factors of being successful as a web designer, and that's why I talk about it in the Self-Made Web Designer Starter kit course on my website that you can go and visit and sign up for for free. It's a four video email course that I go through all the things that I did when I first got started. And the first thing that I mentioned is a community is finding people around you who are like-minded, who are going to be able to support you along the way. And you are going to be able to support along the way as well. There's this idea that your net worth is determined by your network, right and so even though you won't directly be paid from your community, if you're going to build a freelance web design business that lasts in that sustains through the economic crisis, like you must take a second and begin to invest in other people. Reach out to people on social media. Ask them how they're doing. Ask them if there's anything that you can do to help them, if they're having a difficult time, right, even if you don't know somebody, try to figure out a way to connect to them, try to figure out another person that you might know that might be able to introduce you to them.

In my journey, as a web designer, I found that people are a lot more open to making connections if you just genuinely want to build a relationship. If you're out there to get something from someone, they're going to smell it a mile away. And they're not going to return your DM's or your messages or whatever you're trying to communicate to them with. But if you genuinely are just looking to say, 'Hey, I just want to build relationships. I feel like I've seen some of your work, or I feel like you've been in this industry a lot longer than I have. And I have a lot to learn from you. And so I'd love it if we could just connect. And that doesn't have to mean anything for you. That doesn't mean that we have to be on an hour-long phone call every week, that could just mean that we talk to each other over DMS or I send you ideas and you give me feedback. If you're available, right?' But whatever, whatever you're doing, or wherever you are, in this season of your web design career, this is the perfect opportunity to take a second and look at the strength of the community that you have built and the relationships that you have built. And if you don't feel like it's really strong right now is the perfect time to start building into it to start taking the time and investing in it. And if it is really strong, this is the perfect time for you to pour in and to invest in those relationships. Even.

Another thing that I think we're all going to be forced to do is to focus a little bit more on productivity as freelance web designers. A lot of schools are shutting down. And what that means is that spring breaks are getting longer, and you're going to have your kids at your house with you while your office is closed and quarantined and so you're working from home. So this is the worst possible scenario for trying to be a productive freelance web designer, take a second and figure out a few ways to help you be able to fine-tune your focus when you're working in your house. And when your kids are with you. I just recently wrote an article about how to work from home and not go crazy. Working from home sounds fantastic. But there's some tricky things and issues that it brings up. And if you're not careful, it can take a toll on you. And so you've got to make sure that you're doing things and being intentional about your time in your house, and not just leaving your PJs on and turning on Netflix while you're working right. You're making sure that you are doing everything that you can to stay as productive as you possibly can. If you find yourself with kids in your home while you're trying to get work done. Something that I've done is make a simple list for your kids to do throughout the day. For instance, this last week, they had half days before they got off for spring break. And I just made a really simple list. And I put it in Comic Sans. And I made all the different bullet points, different colors, and they could check off different things that they had done. And if they filled out their entire list by the end of the day, then they got a surprise. And my girls were incredibly invested and incredibly interested in actually going through this list and it kept them busy the entire day. Right? Like they weren't interrupting me saying, I'm bored. What should I be doing? Can you help me? Well, you can play with me even though I love being able to interact with my kids while I'm working from home, right? I've got to get work done. I have to be productive. And so it's not like this is a burden to me. But it is something that if you're not intentional, you'll find that your day is fully wasted. Because your kids are just demanding your time. So the night before planning out their meals, right? plan out their lunches, make it as if they were going to school, make their lunch boxes, make their sandwiches, put it all package it all together so that they know when they are hungry. They don't have to ask you anything, they go to the refrigerator, they grab their lunch kit, and they are set and give yourself some grace in this season as well, right? It's tough to be productive anytime there's a transition in your environment. And so if you've been working from home and you're adding kids to that environment like it's gonna be tricky. Or if you've been working from an office and all of a sudden you're working at home, it's going to be tricky, and it's going to take some time to adjust and to find ways for you to be more productive. But what happens is if you're, if you're negative, if if if you have a lot of self-condemnation about 'man, I didn't get nearly as much as I would have if I'd gone to the office.' It's only going to make it worse, right? So have some self-compassion right now. It's a great season for self-compassion. Right when we're surrounded by a crisis, and none of us have ever seen anything like this. So take a second, be intentional and be patient with yourself and with your family, as well.

Finally, I think it's important to start to think about how to add some skills to your repertoire. And something happened in 2007 and 2008. During the recession, everybody went back to school, everybody started adding more and more to their skills and their ability. And so it increased the level of the value of the entire workforce. And so right now, if, if you're not thinking, that's not gonna happen again, you're gonna get left behind in a few years, because a few people out there are going to be going for it because they just lost their job and they're super motivated to figure out other ways to make more money. Right. And so if you think to yourself, I'm safe, this isn't affecting me as much I think you're going to be met with some heartache in the next couple of years. So think about some things that you could add to your list of skills, sharpen up your JavaScript skills. If you're a designer, work on some development, if you're a developer, start thinking about working on a little bit of design or mastering another language or getting more and more proficient at a specific language. But don't just sit back and expect that once this is over, everything's going to go back to business as usual. Right this the coronavirus has happened there's we cannot change that there's nothing that we can do to go back in time and keep it from happening. And because of that, we are met with an entirely new reality. The world will look completely different once this is all over. Right? It's impossible for it not to because most of us right now are feeling the effect of it. You're probably asking yourself, in what ways can I never feel the effect of something like this happening again. And so you're adjusting. And while you're adjusting, so are thousands and millions, potentially billions of other people out there who are asking themselves hard questions and taking a hard look at who they are, and the path that they are going on in life, in their careers. And personally, and, and don't be worried about this, don't be afraid. But take a second, add some skills to your skillset, add some tools to the toolbox and get better. And more than anything, I want to encourage you that no matter how much this is affecting you, you're gonna get through it, you're gonna come to the other side of it. I have had plenty of up and down seasons in my freelance career. Some of them were great, and I thought this is awesome. And it's gonna be like this for the rest of the time and I'm making tons of money and I'm more Working with amazing clients. And inevitably, that season dipped, right, I got to a bad season where I didn't have great clients. I wasn't making a ton of money. But what happens is, is that along the way, my dips got less and less and my peaks got higher and higher the path of your journey as a freelance web designer will never look like a straight line from one small point on the bottom to one big point on the top right, you're gonna have peaks and you're gonna have valleys, you're gonna go up, and then you're gonna come down. But the point is, is that when you come down, it's not as low as the last Valley season of your web design career. And when you go up the next time, you go up a little bit higher than the last peak season and you keep going up and eventually, you find yourself you look back at the season that you came from, and you go Wow, look at how far I have come.

Things look nothing like they used to look you might not be as far as you had hoped you would be at this point in your life. But I can guess and bet that you're probably a lot farther along than when you first started. It, things like this are gonna happen again. And so don't let it come as a surprise to you. But take this opportunity as a moment to learn everything that you absolutely can from it so that the next time that it comes along, it doesn't come along as a surprise. And it's not nearly as detrimental to you as a web designer.

Hey, I hope you were encouraged by this episode today. I hope that you know that. The whole point of this podcast is that you would grow as a person you would grow as a web designer, you would grow as a freelancer and you would grow in general. Hey, I'd love it if you take a second and leave me some ratings. Leave me a review, write a comment on whatever podcast platform that you are listening to. And if this is encouraging you, please send this off to somebody else. Help encourage them because I'm sure we're all struggling a little bit right now in a tense season of the world, right? I'm not exaggerating that the entire world is feeling this. And this encouragement could go a long way. Hey, I can't wait to connect with you next week. For our next episode, we will be having a guest on so you don't have to hear more from me because I'm sure some of you are probably getting tired of me. So next week's episode is Coronavirus free. We're not gonna talk about it. We're not even gonna mention it. Okay, maybe we'll mention it a little bit, but it's not gonna be the extent that we did on this podcast. But I've enjoyed the journey. I hope you have to. And remember, if you don't quit,
you win. We'll see you next week.

A Face Mask lying on the concrete


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.



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