I jumped on a call with Toni because she told about some wins she’d had in her business. Little did I know how well she has done to be able to double the income that she received working for another agency, in such short time.
This call blew me away and there’s a lot you can take away whether you’ve been doing this for a few days or a few years.
Full transcript below the video.
Check out Toni’s Web Design here.
1:50 Why big agencies often aren’t as good as they look
2:50 How that can give you the confidence to go out on your own
3:55 Discussing confidence, starting your own agency
7:15 Why small agencies often have the advantage
8:00 Are you trying to be everything to everyone
10:00 Doing work that you like
11:30 GOLD -> Running a business how YOU want to run it. Setting up client boundaries.
14:50 Avoiding the feast or famine cycle that most designers face
16:00 GOLD -> Packaging your services into retainers. Toni’s mindset here is amazing. The best part of this video. She covers what services she packages, how it’s packaged, how she sells it and how much for
23:17 Educating your clients
24:28 What’s in Toni’s packages & price points
30:40 Toni has doubled her income
32:00 Picking a niche (by saying no to clients you’d rather not work with)
36:30 How Toni has learned so fast
Toni put together this awesome list of books and resources for you!
- The Secret and/or The Power of Positive Thinking – both are based on the same thing: you get what you say, think and do. Stop with the pity party. Focus on positives and your life will change.
- The 10X Rule – basically, you gotta set goals and put in the work. Success comes to movers and shakers, not those who do nothing. Be proactive in your own life and career because it’s not going to fall into your lap!
- The Miracle Morning – This one has had a real impact for me. Taking time out for self-love and self-improvement is so crucial in a busy world. This book is full of tips to help you be a better individual, which will result in better creativity, less stress, and a whole helluva lot more productivity. Take time to start your day using some or all of these suggestions and see how things will shift in your favor.
- I love 17hats – CRM, lead forms, contracts, create email templates, proposals, questionnaires, invoices and more! This is a great resource for freelancers and I’d recommend checking it out!
- I use Freshbooks for invoicing and time tracking. Although 17hats does invoicing, Freshbooks allows me to upload images or pdfs of my receipts (so I don’t have to save the paper!). At any moment I can run a profit and loss report, set up recurring invoices, create an invoice from time tracked on a project, plus so much more – and tax time is a breeze.
- I used Basecamp as my project management software. I like how easy it is to use and clients catch on quick. Right now I set up all my clients with their own folder and once I do – I no longer accept email. ALL of a client’s web assets are to be uploaded to Basecamp. ALL communication takes place in Basecamp and I avoid email and phone at all possible costs. Keeping everything in Basecamp provides me a running record of all things related to a client’s project in one central location. I don’t have to search through emails to find that one that asked me to change their summer hours. I even have a folder set up for each of my writers and can assign them tasks with due dates, they can create or upload their work, and we can communicate easily – again, all in one location. I’d die without Basecamp!
- I use Calendly.com for scheduling calls and training with clients. I have several “calendars” (15 min., 30 minute, etc.) and I love that you can set your days and hours on one and import it into all your others making it very easy to ensure you don’t overbook anywhere.
- I take advantage of some cool deals through https://appsumo.com – I’ve got some great lifetime deals and I’ve learned about some great tools that make my work easier. Just subscribe and you’ll see what I mean!
- I don’t do logo design because I don’t have the time, so I use https://logotournament.com. Designers submit their ideas and over the course of 7 days, you dwindle it down to a winner. There are 3 price points, it’s fast, and the more you provide feedback the better the results. This has become my go-to for logos – and you could mark it up if you wanted and never tell your client you outsourced it.
- I no longer use bloated themes and now use the Page Builder Framework theme to start my projects. I highly recommend it: https://wp-pagebuilderframework.com/premium/. This sucker is fast and the developer, David, is quick to assist if you need it.
- You want to make your life easier? Start using Elementor Pro: https://elementor.com. This is a page builder that works wonderfully with the Page Builder Framework theme. Not only can you do some great stuff with these two, but you can save sections and pages and export them to use in other projects. Have a favorite header layout? Create it once, save it, and upload it to your next project. The templates are still editable in the new project, but it can save you a ton of time if you’ve already got all the settings and styles established so you don’t have spend time figuring them out on each new project.
- I use https://sucuri.net for my “maintenance” plans. This is another great opportunity for recurring income. You can offer backups, firewalls, malware scans/protection and more and they are the best in the business. For agencies or freelancers you buy in bulk and “resell” the seats to your clients. Clients don’t know what I use – they just know they are protected, and I throw in that I’ll update WP, their theme and plugins on a schedule as well.
Personally, I use SiteGround! They have a Reseller Account where you can buy in bulk (credits) and use a credit for each new site you want to have hosted, which is much more affordable in the long run. Also, hosting comes with email and SSL – both of which you have to pay extra for with GoDaddy. To top it off, you can choose if you want to run PHP 7.0, 7.1 or 7.2 which means they aren’t jacking around and are already running the latest and greatest. Their support is top notch too – and they don’t try to sell the sun and moon to you ever time you call. They just want to truly help you.
James: Hey, it’s James here from Content Snare. Now I’ve got an interview for you today with Toni from Toni’s Web Design. I’m starting a series of videos about quick wins that you can have in your web design business or agency. If you have had some little wins and you’d like to share them with me, please drop me a line and we might get you on the show. Toni got back to me and she outlined a few cool, awesome wins that she had had in her business. I was like, “Let’s have a chat, quick 10, 20 minute chat about these things, and hopefully it’s helpful for people.” Then it became a 40 minute epic chat where she drops so much gold. Not even six months ago, Toni was working for another agency, and she’s already I think more than doubled her income, so that’s just so impressive.
James: That’s why we ended up talking for so long. She’s someone you can learn a lot from. She’s pretty much done everything right. We dig into packaging services, recurring revenue, specialization, how to sell websites. Hint: you’re not actually selling websites, as such. From the very start of our chat, Toni was delivering awesomeness, like even before I hit record, so I’m going to have to drop you right in the middle. We start by discussing her time working for another agency, she’s thinking these agencies are perfect, but over time she came to realize that they’re far from everything they pretend to be. That gave her the confidence to go out on her own. Let’s get right into it.
Toni: Kind of felt all over the place. I wasn’t really sure where to start, what to do or whatnot, and I was lucky enough to start with an agency and contract. As I’m moving through this, there’s little things that I would experience or pick up on that I wasn’t really fond of. Customer service wasn’t to the level of what I would like to do. They were more concerned about taking on as many clients as they could and not really caring about the overall quality. It just didn’t suit me well, so I’d move onto the next agency and sure enough, same stuff. It was happening in these other agencies.
Toni: I don’t have anything against anybody who wants to outsource, but if you’re going to outsource, make sure you’re outsourcing to a quality team or a quality person who’s going to get the job done. I just kept experiencing these odds and ends of things that just didn’t speak to my soul and wasn’t how I would do it, and along the way I started to just confirm that my lack of confidence, my insecurities were nothing more than my own mental issues. I was good at what I did, and I think it was more of a matter of the start to finish process and feeling confident enough and doing that and talking with the customers and whatnot. Once I experienced those other agencies, I quickly realized that I had the goods and I could do what everybody else was doing, and in some situations I could do it better.
Toni: I finally took the leap in February of this year, and it was the best choice I ever could have made. I’m so glad I did it and I’m never looking back. I’m already making twice the money that I was making when I was a contractor.
James: Yeah, that’s awesome. I want to unpack a little bit just about what you’ve done here. Obviously we’ve covered the beginning there, but I’d still like to dig into that a little bit more. Why do you think people have an insecurity around this, because I notice a lot of people, there is a, I don’t know what the word is, but people think that agencies are going to do a better job. This outside normal business owners, they see these big agencies and everyone assumes they’re going to do a better job and you working at an agency and this isn’t just you, a lot of people I’ve spoken to have worked in agencies, and it’s a little bit intimidating I guess to go out and get the business, but then one day they realize, you know what, I think I can do everything that these guys are doing. I guess why do you think that it’s like that?
Toni: From the outside looking in, you’re judging that book by its cover. They look like they’re this big thing. They look like they have all these clients. They look like business is rolling well, but when you actually start working for them and you start to see bad code or you see customer service or you’re starting to get emails from clients that are pissed, you start to see the inner workings that you would never even know existed had you not been on the inside. My advice to anybody that’s starting out or has been in this business for a while and still hasn’t developed that confidence, you should not judge those agencies by the outside because I promise you, there’s probably a whirlwind of stuff happening in the majority of them that you’re not even aware of.
Toni: Be confident. I’m blessed in the fact that I got to work for those agencies because I’ve picked up some little odds and ends of things along the way, and of course I was getting paid. The web’s a great place to pick up new skills. Don’t be afraid to go for it because these agencies, nobody’s going to be perfect. No business is going to be perfect, and every one of these agencies started at some point. They didn’t start out big. They’ve gone through their own growing pains and they’ve established some of their own processes, some of them not so great. They don’t always provide the best quality work or the best quality service or whatnot. You can’t assume looking on the outside in that it’s all roses and balloons in there because I promise you it’s not.
James: Oh yeah. It’s very possible, because you’ve picked up the skills in that agency, but even if you don’t pick it up inside an agency, it’s still very possible to do a better job than these big agencies, right, at a lower price.
Toni: Oh absolutely.
James: That’s the way …
Toni: Oh, good. Yeah, and sometimes working for an agency you can pick up bad habits that you shouldn’t be doing. Sometimes it’s better to follow your heart and follow what you know is the right thing to do.
James: I think the market’s shifting to smaller agencies, right?
Toni: I agree.
James: It’s the whole you do business with people you like or whatever. This is the differentiator now between agencies because obviously there’s a lot of us. The only real differentiator is you. If a client meets you and they like you, they’re probably going to do business with you over some massive agency that’s got like overheads in company cars and a giant office in the CBD or the downtown as you guys would probably call it.
Toni: Yeah, absolutely. Honestly, I’ve had clients that have told me that the reason why they chose me was because they could work with me directly. They didn’t have to work with some junior designer or developer. They didn’t have to deal with some reception that had no idea who was coding the website. In a lot of ways, being an independent freelancer, nobody has looked down on me or thought less of me because I am a one woman show. It’s actually been to my advantage with most of my clients. Now am I for everybody? Absolutely not. I know that. I have a no BS policy. That doesn’t work for everyone, but the clients that come to me and stay with me, that choose to hire me love me and they’ve been loyal ever since.
Toni: That’s been a huge benefit since I have packages that are recurring based packages. It works for me.
James: You absolutely nailed it there. You are, not everyone’s view. That’s the key. A lot of people, you talk to them and they’re like, “Oh I do all kinds of websites for everybody.” Your clients aren’t everybody because you try to be everything to everyone, then you’re not going to have a personality, right?
Toni: Yeah, it doesn’t work. There’s an old saying that’s been around for a really, really long time that you can’t please everyone 100% of the time or you can’t please all the people all the time or whatever the saying is, but basically if you’re trying to please everyone, you’re going to piss a lot of people off because you’re not being true to yourself and you’re not going to be able to really be true to your clients. You really need to find your niche. In the beginning, I used to be one of those people that really wanted to please everyone. I wanted to make sure that everyone was happy, but I wasn’t happy.
Toni: If you make sure that you’re true to yourself, you’re going to attract the clients that are best for you, and you’re going to be happier that way and your clients are going to be happier that way. Don’t worry about the other clients that aren’t your fit. Let some other person, other developer, designer work with them because it’s probably their fit.
James: Adding stress by working with people that you don’t gel with, no one needs that in their life.
Toni: It’s not worth it. It’s so not worth it. I think that’s another thing I think is really important to let people that are new into this business know is that I’ve been in a lot of Facebook groups and I see people all the time that will make comments about a client, and it’s all private. No clients are ever … you got to release at some point or another. Some asshole will come along and say, “Hey, just do the job. It’s your job to make them happy.” Not at the sacrifice of my own soul and my own happiness, my own family time or whatever, and I think that it’s important that people understand that there’s graphic design, web design, there’s print design. There’s so many different ways that you could be creative with your skills.
Toni: If you don’t like web design, don’t do it. If you don’t like print design, don’t do it. If you don’t like doing logos, don’t do it. You need to do what makes you happy. You’ll be happier, your business will be better and your clients will be happier.
James: Yeah, absolutely. I think someone in the group the other day, the Grow Your Web Design Business group was talking about they’ve kind of had it, and they don’t want to go down this road anymore sort of thing. I don’t think there’s any shame in quitting at that point. If your entire life is you hate everything you’re doing at that point, I think something needs to change, whether that’s your clients or whatever, but in his case, it was very much like a I think you need a break man.
Toni: Yeah. If you’re at that point that you’re miserable in what you do, I was kind of somewhat miserable at what I was doing, but that’s because I was spreading myself too thin and trying to please everyone else. When I changed my mentality and decided that I was going to run the business the way I wanted to run my business, the whole thing changed. Whole thing changed. I don’t work weekends. I have administrative time that I take care of, I don’t answer phone calls and emails. I outline in my welcome kit that these are the hours. I don’t work by text message. Yay for you if you do, but I don’t like it when clients text me. I have project management software where I keep everything. I don’t want to do emails anymore. I literally established what works best for me, and either you’re going to participate in that process and have a beautiful result at the end or you’re going to go somewhere else. I’m content with that.
Toni: I know that there’s other designers. They’re a dime a dozen. I don’t need to feel bad or have an unhappy life or be frustrated in the day. I’m not going to allow my clients to put me in that emotional state where I hate my job. I think there are some people that probably are at that point that design’s probably not for them, but don’t work in a situation where you’re allowing them to control you. It’s your life, it’s your business, do it how you want to and you’ll be much happier, and don’t worry about the money. I’ve turned down money, and here’s the thing. For every client that I turn down, I have two, three or four more people where the phone will ring. It’s amazing. I don’t know if it’s the universe or what’s going on, but when I turn down something and don’t feel guilty about it and have an open mind, the right client comes along eventually to fill that space. I’m never desperate to take a client.
James: Absolutely. I think I’m going to need to split this into two because there’s too much gold in this. I was like we haven’t even got into what the main thing I wanted to talk about and you’re already just delivering gold. This is awesome.
Toni: Sorry. Sorry.
James: No, no, no, this is perfect. I’m like agency quick wins. I think this is going to be two quick wins.
James: It sounds like you’ve got a lot of things sorted out here like the client education or whatever into your process if there for a reason. They have to fit into your process, not text message you and Facebook message and all this BS.
James: That was really, really good advice.
Toni: I think that if you want to run your own business, you should run it how you want to.
Toni: It’s my name on the business cards. I learned a long time ago, Jesus Christ, his name alone could be on a business card and somebody would come along and think he was doing it work unfortunately. I’ve learned that you stick to your guns, do what makes you happy and the rest will just fall into place.
James: I think another big thing there too, you said other clients just magically come along when you say no, it could be a full on effect of just being who you are and having your processes dialed. You know what you’re doing, so you’re going to end up with referrals because people are like …
Toni: Oh yeah.
James: … “This chick that I worked with is awesome, you should work with her too.” You’ve got personality clearly, so this is probably helps in getting referrals, right?
Toni: Sure, absolutely. Keeps the phone ringing for sure.
James: Totally. I want to dig into the next major piece here. There’s like two things going on your story’s awesome. You left the agency. Well the classic roller coaster feast or famine cycle is what you saw everyone else doing or going through, like with $20k one month, $1k the next.
Toni: Sure. That’s the fear. That’s a big fear for a lot of people.
James: You’ve actually overcome this in two different ways. You’ve done the whole packaging your services and monthly retainers at the same time. Now these are basically holy grails in the business world, right? The whole built to sell book is based on packaging because when you package you’ve got …
James: Yeah, there’s a whole book just on packaging because it’s talking about being able to step out of the business later as well because if you have exact processes and packages of what you do, you can eventually train other people to do that, whereas if you’re just custom development, a la carte everything, it’s basically going to be a job and you’re going to be locked into that for a long time.
Toni: Right. Screw that.
James: Yeah. That’s the package thing. Then you’ve also gone and put people on retainers instead of one-off thing.
James: Tell me about your packages, how you get people in on retainers, the work.
Toni: You know what, I’m still in awe of it myself because it was so freaking easy, much easier than I anticipated it to be. What I mentioned in my email is that what I saw other freelancers doing was riding that roller coaster where they’re up $20,000, $30,000 one money and then they’re $1,000 or $2,000 the next month. I thought, “God, that is not a roller coaster that I want to ride.” I have to figure out a way that I can have steady consistent income. I’ve got a 14 year old. If it was just me, I might be a little bit more on the wild side and wing it, but I got a kid. I got to be a little bit consistent with the money that I bring in.
Toni: Over the course of time, it was one of those things where I was doing these one off projects and I was taking on work just to have that money. In that transition of wanting to do what I wanted to do and be the best that I could be and serve my soul and keep me and my family happy, I just decided that, look, I’ve got to take a leap. I need to niche down. How can I niche down? Do I work with a particular business? I’ve actually created another business that is a niche that works on a particular service industry, but in the process of building that website and trying to get into groups that focused around that particular niche and rubbing elbows with the right people who are already sending me tons of referrals themselves, I decided to take my original website and start to redesign it and start to focus it around these packages.
Toni: What it basically came down to was people would come to me and they’d want a website, and I’d be like, “Okay, $5,000, $6,000, $7,000” and they damn near fell out of their seats. I realized that a few years ago, that websites were $500, $1,500. They were cheap, and I think they’re starting to go up in price a little bit more. I think there’s a little bit more respect for the web world than there used to be. There’s a clear definition between somebody sitting in their basement in their boxer shorts trying to do web design who’s 12 years old and somebody who’s been trained or been to school or has been doing this for a long time and has the skills. I just decided that I was tired of clients coming to me for web design. They would spend that money, they’d be happy with it, but then they thought that build it and they would come would be enough, and that doesn’t exist in web design.
Toni: There’s millions of websites out there, and there’s only so many positions on the front page of Google. There’s so many different marketing strategies out there, and I realize that in order for me to get to where I wanted to go, I needed to educate my clients on what they needed. I needed to do it from the beginning. It wasn’t going to serve me any good purposes, and it hadn’t served me anything good other than a website and then a see you later, to just build them a website and let them go and then try to sell them SEO or sell them any kind of additional marketing. It wasn’t working for me.
Toni: I decided that, okay, you know what, I’m going to establish a package and I’m going to make it an all inclusive package. It’s going to include web design SEO, content marketing, reputation and review, whatever it is. Social marketing, social management, whatever you want to do, don’t give a crap, just package it. I created a package and I basically told my clients when they came to me, “Look, this is it. This is what you need. When you come to me,” and when people come to you, 99.9% of the time, at the end of the day they want to make more money, they want to bring in more clients. If they tell you, “I just need a pretty brochure,” that’s BS.
Toni: They want to make more money. They want to bring in more clients. If they just want a pretty brochure, they don’t need to be paying $5,000 or $6,000 or higher, some people are even higher. I just said, “Look, this is the bargaining package that you need. This is what you need to get online, build your online digital footprint and start bringing in more traffic and converting more clients to paying customers.” It’s going to be a minimum, I started with a six month contract, I’m thinking about going to a 12 month contract, but I started with a six month contract and I tell them this is what it’s going to be every month. Oddly enough, 90% of the people that have come my way have signed up for it.
Toni: Some take a little while. I just had a client that thought about it for two months and literally just called me out of the blue and said, “Hey, send me that contract again. The link is expired. I want to sign up,” and I’m like, “Hell yeah.” I just got another client. What’s strange about it is that I decided to focus on one service industry, but in my other business, I’ve pulled in a bartending service, a tree care service, a plumber, an appliance care place, a wallpaper guy.
Toni: Literally what’s happening is I’m bringing in business from places that I didn’t think I was going to get, and I certainly wasn’t soliciting, but this package for them, when you’re talking to them about what they’re going to get, what’s in it for them, which is to grow their business, they’re signing up and they’re paying their first payment and away we go. Obviously I have to perform. Obviously I have to build them a great website. Obviously I have to get them ranked, I have to get them traffic. They don’t always worry about rankings, if they’re getting clients coming in …
James: Yeah, totally.
Toni: Yeah, I think some people get caught up on the fact that they have to be on the front page of Google. Look, if your phone’s not ringing, fire me, but if your phone’s ringing and you’re getting more clients, if you’re making $1,000, $5,000, $10,000 more a month than you were before you met me, I think we’re pretty good.
James: Absolutely. You’ve hit a huge distinction there. You’re not selling someone a website. You’re selling someone more clients really. That’s what they want.
James: It’s much easier to sell that if you’re packaging it with marketing and stuff like that.
Toni: Absolutely. Clients really don’t know, I have had some clients that contact me and they’re trying to educate themselves on SEO and analytics and AdWords and some of this stuff, but a lot of your clients, like my wallpapering guy, I said, “Well this is the things that we offer,” and he goes, “Whoa, that’s over my head and off the tailpipe. I have no idea what you just said there. Just can you grow my business?” He came to me because he had millennials that were referred to him by one of their friends that have used him, but they wanted to go online to do a little bit of research and he didn’t have a website.
Toni: He’s old school. He’s in his late 50s and early 60s, and he had not been online at all. He says, “All I need to know is can you get me online and bring me more business?” That’s all he cared about. He signed up, no problem. Other people are a little bit more specific, and that’s fine, but I realize that my job was to educate them. Even if they come to you wanting just a website, I would be doing them a serious disservice if I just did the website and let them go on their way, because in the long run, they’re not going to get what they originally wanted. It’s my job to know what they want. A website’s one thing, but a website that actually works and brings them clients is a totally different thing, and that’s really what most of the clients want is they want a website that’s going to work and bring them clients.
Toni: In fact, I haven’t done a one-off project since I went freelance. Well I had when I was working on in February, but by the end of February/early March, I have not done one one-off project and even if they come to me for just a website thinking they want a one-off project, by the time I’m done educating them, they’re on a contract. Now the next six to eight months are locked in with consistent income.
James: That’s absolutely [inaudible 00:24:16], to take that pressure off, there’s no stress. That’s so good.
Toni: Oh yeah.
James: If you don’t mind, I’d like to get into some specifics, like what services exactly are you including in these packages? If you don’t mind sharing, what kind of price points?
Toni: Okay. I’m trying to establish my own kind of, I don’t want to say there’s no rhyme or reason, but I’m trying to establish my own kind of way of determining what would be the best price for these packages. Since we’re doing SEO, I got to look at the market, I got to look at competition because that’s a huge part of the price point is how much work we’ve got to do to get you a very solid social. If you’re a plumbing company in a major metro area, you’re going to be way more competitive than a wallpapering guy. There’s way more work. Do I have to produce four blog posts per month, or is one a month going to be sufficient. I really have to play that in.
Toni: I actually don’t write. I outsource the writing to some writers that I have on staff. I’ve been so busy that a girl that I used to work with at this last agency, she’s a contractor herself for this last agency I worked for. She’s dying to come to work for me full time. She’s working for me about five hours per week right now doing some of my SEO. I will eventually hopefully bring her on full time. The price points originally, I looked at this way, and this is how I sell it, and this might help other people. Let’s say a standard website with no eCommerce is $5,000 to $7,000 is what my price point was for me. I know there are people out there charging $20, $30,000 for all that. That’s not me. I don’t do that.
Toni: It’s $5,000 to $7,000 for a website. Now if it’s $5,000 to $7,000 for a website and I’ve got a six month contract. In my mind, I had to figure out how I could instead of getting $5,000 here and $5,000 there, how can I get that same amount of money every month consistently over the course of several months. Now the six month contract was the least that I was willing to go to make sure that I broke even or got my money back and could show the clients results enough that when the contract was over, they would want to naturally stay.
Toni: Now my original price points, because I was just trying to get people on, I sat down and thought, okay, well if they pay $1,000 a month over six months, that’s $6,000. They’d pay that for a website anyway. If I threw in the marketing stuff, which was SEO, on page and off page SEO, back linking, I would do all their citations. Actually I pay for those. I don’t do them myself. I pay. It’s too much.
James: There’s a whole other chat in there, outsourcing SEO is actually quite simple. There’s a lot of white label providers that are really, really good, that you can use, but I’m going to have to do another …
Toni: Yeah, I purchase the citations. I don’t worry about that. We do the on page SEO. My SEO, my friend, my colleague, she does the back linking. I outsource the writing. We write blog posts. Once we build the site, we do the citations. We do review and reputation management. Google’s been a little funny lately about gating reviews, but there’s companies that have come up with workarounds for that to please Google. We basically are proactively requesting reviews, and these are all service based companies that I work with. We’re proactively requesting reviews from their clients and getting the customer involved with making sure that they’re proactively asking for those. They’re taking care of their customers when the customers are pissed, and that these reviews are being posted to the social media, Google, whatnot, to improve that digital footprint.
Toni: We will post to social media if we need to. We’ll manage their pay per click and their Facebook ads.
James: Oh wow, you’ve gone that far as well.
Toni: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Now I will tell you, when I first started out, now keep in mind I just went February 2nd, which was a Friday, was the last day I worked for this agency. The very following Monday I was busting balls trying to get my stuff together and make sure that I had this figured out in my package. I think for me, that was the hardest part is to figure out what am I going to offer? What am I going to charge? At first, I thought, okay, I got to get my first client. Maybe if I just charge $750 a month, which is way too low by the way, I’ll get a client. It’s $4,500 over the next six months. I thought let me try.
Toni: Well it was so damn easy, I thought, okay, well … and it was pretty low hanging fruit in the sense that it was an overly competitive field, so I wasn’t too freaked over the $750 a month. I just signed a client recently at $1,500 a month for the next six months. I quoted somebody else $2,200, but they were in a very, very competitive field. It was a maid business, and they had 21 competitors. I quoted him based on how much me and my SEO director, who have discussed how much work it’s going to rank him. I can build websites all day long. At the end of the day, a lot of that money goes into the efforts of SEO.
James: Oh absolutely. Yeah, it’s not cheap.
Toni: No, it’s not. I’m not even outsourcing a lot of that. I buy the citations and she does some of the back linking and whatnot and I outsource the writing, but for the most part, I’m doing it. It really came down to how much time would I have to spend, and I don’t want to be in a situation where let’s say you’re a company that we only have to blog for once a week, but there’s another company that we have to blog once a month. Well I want to make sure each client gets equal time and they get the same results regardless of how much time I have to put into it, but my time is not free. It’s a matter of determining it. I look at the population, I look at the market.
Toni: Originally it started at $750 per month, and it’s been as high as $2,200 per month per client. I can tell you that at the agency I was making about $45,000 a year, and between February and now, I’ve already reached the $100k mark.
Toni: Yeah. It’s still growing. Some people may think, “Oh $100k, that’s not a big deal.” Well when I went from an agency, I literally more than doubled my income in a very short period of time, and there’s no glass ceiling. There’s no limit for this, because I literally … now I’m just starting this out now, but with a few more clients, I can probably step away from this and just oversee it. That to me is the key. My daughter’s turning 14 in June and she’s old enough that we can start traveling and all I need is a phone and a laptop and I’m golden.
James: Boom. That’s awesome.
Toni: I’m hoping by the end of the year, I can double or triple where I’m at now.
James: Yeah, and if you are turning these things into processes and whatever that someone else can take over, then it’s absolutely perfect for you, right?
Toni: Oh yeah.
Toni: There’s so many different businesses out there. When I first started, I wanted to do web design for everybody. Even some of those companies I would take on and I’d think, “Ugh, this is so dry. This so bland.” I don’t want to do websites for attorneys. Nothing against attorneys, it’s just not something that I’m excited about. Tech companies, that’s really not my thing. Service based industry, maid companies, bartending companies, tree service companies, I love doing that kind of stuff because for me, when I’m doing the SEO, there is a clear pattern of where the numbers increase that’s so clear you can’t deny it. For me that works.
Toni: I get really excited about it because it’s what I love to do. If you come to me and you’re a company that builds tech toys, that’s not really my thing, but there’s other designers out there that do that. I really think it’s important for people to find their niche, and then when they find their niche, come up with a package. I also include security in my packages. I provide firewall and backups and malware scans and whatnot.
James: Yeah, classic website maintenance stuff.
Toni: Yeah. That’s the kind of stuff, I mean you can buy seats at a company, you can buy packages of 10 at a time or whatever, and by the time you’re adding into your package to your customers, your cost per customer is maybe $10 a month or something. If you’re charging somebody $1,000, $1,500, $2,000 a month, it’s no sweat off your ass to provide them security and it just makes you more valuable, the package more valuable. They come to me and they get 100% done for you package, and then I offer them category exclusivity. Let’s say you’re in Dallas, Texas, and Dallas is a pretty big damn city but if you’re a plumber in Dallas, Texas and you hire me, you’ll be the only plumber that I work with in Dallas. Clients are like, “Woo, sold.”
Toni: I think that originally my packages were small in terms of price, and for what I offer, but that was me kind of building up my confidence and testing the waters to see if that would work.
Toni: Once I realized that when a customer actually calls you and says, “Hey, you didn’t charge me enough, you need to add more money to the invoice,” you know you’re not charging enough. That did happen to me.
James: That’s such a good position to be in. I had a call the other day with it, their biggest concern was that we were too cheap, and I was like, “Holy s**t.” I need more of you.
Toni: Right. You start to think, “Well wait a minute, maybe I need to raise my prices.” I’m still in that kind of mode because its only been since the second week of February, where I’m figuring out the right price points based on the market and the work. There’s not a set price for everybody. I look at population and how many competitors they have and of course I have a really good SEO resource that I can tap into and let me know based on … She does all the keyword research for me, so when she comes back to me she’s like, “Hey, this is pretty low hanging fruit. We don’t have a problem with this one,” or she’ll come back and say, “This one’s going to take three or four hours a week.”
Toni: She’s really good about giving me an idea and then I base my pricing off of that. Without this, I would be a hot mess right now trying to figure out where the hell my next paycheck was going to come from and be concerned about whether or not my daughter can join the cheer squad or basketball or whatever, and now I don’t have to worry about it. If she comes to me and says, “Hey mom, I need a new phone or I need a new bike,” guess what, I got you. I got you.
James: That’s so cool. Well thanks for sharing all this.
James: This is awesome. I was like, “Oh yeah, we’ll just do a quick win,” but what have we gone? I don’t even know how long we’ve been doing this.
Toni: I don’t know, what time is it? Oh it’s only been 40 minutes.
James: Yeah, but that’s a good amount. This is freaking awesome. I can’t wait to share this around.
James: There’s so much in here for not even just people just starting out there. You’re already doing better than most intermediate and even some advanced people are right? I think you’ve just done so much right, like the specialization, the packaging, the retainers, your personality not working with the people that you don’t want to work with. These are all the best things you can do, and you’ve done them all.
Toni: Well I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I read a lot, I follow you. I follow other people. Part of what … I had to find something that worked for my personality. I’ve got caught in that rut myself. It’s easy to do. I’ve paid attention. There’s other people doing this. I’m not the first person to do this. It’s not new. I don’t have to fall down and scrape my knees to figure it out. I’ve taken bits and pieces from all these people that I follow and I’m reading and the books that I’ve read, and I’ve developed something that works for me. I think that anyone who wants to improve their life, get out of the grind. Focus. Package it. Put a contract in place.
Toni: You can find them on the internet or hire you an attorney, whatever, but package it and set yourself up for success because for me, I can be in this grind day in and day out. I love building websites, but if I need to take my daughter to the pool, I can take off any day of the week I want to and go to the pool and not give two s**ts because I’m going to still have a paycheck coming in. My clients are being taken care of. I’ve spaced out their payments. They’re not paying any more, any less by spacing them out. It’s easier for them to come onboard, because they don’t have to pay me $5,000 or $6,000 upfront. It’s spaced out for them. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.
Toni: For me, this is about a lifestyle. At some point or another, I want to be able to step back and travel and do more things with my kid. I love the freedom of being able to do what I want, how I want and not have to worry about where the money’s coming from. It’s not a hard thing to do. People just have to take the leap.
James: There you have it.
Toni: There you have it.
James: One last question.
James: You said you’ve read a lot. Do you have any book recommendations for people?
Toni: Oh god, you would ask me that.
James: No, it’s all good. We’ll do it offline and I’ll just stick a link. [crosstalk 00:38:36].
Toni: Yeah, I think I can come up with a list for you. There’s several of them.
James: Let’s do it.
Toni: Yeah, I’ll send you some links.
James: Books and resources because I’m always down for sharing awesome information with people.
James: I think that’s it. Thanks for joining me.
Toni: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.