It’s been 10+ years since I first started my web development business and in that time I’ve had a few decent success stories, a lot of failures and tons of interesting times.
I’ve written a book, I write a newsletter (or 2), have a lot of my own sites, do a broad range of web development work and have loads of happy clients. I’ve also been ripped, off , screwed over and robbed blind.
With experience comes, I hope anyway, a bit of an insight into what works and what doesn’t.
It’s that old cliche: If only I knew then what I know now.
If I did, here’s what I’d do starting out:
1. Brand myself, not the business
2. Not take on the dickhead clients
This is easier said than done. If you need the money badly, you might just take any client.
If you don’t like the client, don’t take them on.
The biggest factor in slowing our business success has been energy sucking dickhead clients. We’ve gotten rid of them all now, and life is good.
Harsh, but true.
3. Not do unprofitable work
It sounds obvious, but a little harder in practice.
As soon as a client says either:
- Do this job cheap and I’ll give you tons of extra work, or
- Do this job cheap and I’ll refer loads of my friends
then run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.
Every single time a client has said that to me, I’ve never gotten extra work or referred new clients from them.
4. If they don’t pay, they don’t play
If someone doesn’t pay their very first invoice to you on time, then don’t do future work for them.
If they’re late with the first payment it’s been my experience they’ll be a late payer forever and you’ll spend half your time chasing future payments.
5. Market offline more
This is a trick for young players.
I’ve generated probably 90% of my business from offline marketing, not online marketing.
6. Invest in products and services that save you time
Super fast internet connection – pay whatever you have to.
Use big, powerful manly computer, not the 5 year old doorstop.
If those 2 things save you 20 minutes a day that means you have an extra 80 hours of working time in a 235 day working year.
That’s 2 full weeks.
7. Not spend my money on stuff that doesn’t help me make more money
- You don’t need that fancy desk.
- You don’t need that beautiful office artwork.
- You don’t need that expensive car for business.
8. Get over the stupid fear of asking for the sale and the money
These days I make my pitch and basically say “Okay, do you want to work with us? Yes? Good. Now give me the money.”
I once quoted a client something like x5 what his previous web developer used to charge him and I asked for the 50% deposit there and then.
He happily paid.
He told me he was always amazed how his previous web developer charged so little and then seemed too afraid to ask for payment.
Get over it.
9. Not let the haters get me down
There are haters/losers/negative people in every crowd.
- If you do well, they hate you.
- If you write an article, they hate you.
- If you scratch your nose, they hate you.
I once had tons of hate emails because I used the phrase “There is more than one way to skin a cat” in a newsletter.
There’s a lot of cat lovers out there and they are, to a man, completely $#%&*^# nuts.
(Back off haters – or kitty gets it!)
10. Perseverance wins
Keep at it. The longer you’re in the game, the more chance you have of winning.
I’ve been going 10 years now and have such a large base of clients that the work continues to roll in at a rapid rate.
If I had of followed just a couple of those ideas then my business would have been successful far quicker.
11. Bonus Tip – Exceed Expectations
You should always give more than you promise so… wait, that’s not the tip! Bugger….
12. Charge more
One of the reasons I’ve been able to keep the business going and become successful is because I charge more.
I’ve lost count of the number of times people come to us after their web developer went out of business because he wasn’t making any money.
If you charge a decent fee then you have the time to do great quality work.