How do I scale my one-man web design agency?

I want to be able to give value to the clients and earn more than $2000 per website.


So, having started from a shed in my mum's backyard, and building $1,000 websites, and growing that without investment to 200 people. My biggest two websites builds at that later stage were $1.5M so I'm probably qualified to answer this question :-)

Firstly I wrote a whole book on the subject called Agencynomics, so I'll keep the answer less than 250 pages for you!

The first step is to understand that you need to get the business to a position where one person is designing/building and one person is selling/account managing and project managing. To do that you need to get your billings to a level where you can afford two salaries.

When I started, I was selling all day and designing/building all night or vice versa, but I sold $45K dollars in that first year and managed to recruit someone, once I got to about $6K a month, as a result, the next year I grew to $150K, with that second person. I was able to charge for Account Management/Project Management/Strategy from me and Design and Build for my employee. The key thing was to keep adding in value-added lines, which slowly bought the price up, like UX, SEO optimisation etc. Today websites are commoditised so maybe a shift to focus towards progressive webapps (PWA) or other more scarce services will help you drive up day rates.

What I found was and still do today, in the early stage you give away the thinking planning, strategy, and small clients don't want to pay that much either, but as you grow you master selling better.

Try not to sell to price buyers, but to clients that are relationship or value buyers, people that appreciate the service. Try not to overdeliver, underpromise and overservice, but not overdeliver! Scope creep from clients makes it harder. So be careful. The truth is as you scale you naturally get better at pricing and the projects get bigger and you get more confident in your pricing. But if you play in the "many providers" market of websites, the prices are going to be commoditised. So think about the design and build problems you can solve that are scarcer and therefore people pay a higher premium for and can't get your service everywhere. Lastly, set yourself targets. Each month, everytime you hit the target move it up and keep pushing. This is the best way to scale faster in the earlier years. Everyone forgets to set targets in those early days.

Answered 2 years ago

I started a web development company 13 years ago from my bedroom and grew it over 15 employees. This is a very simple answer - you focus on sales and marketing and leads flowing every month. Contract out the web development, design and project management. In other words, get out of doing the day to day grunt work of web design. Thats how you will scale.

Answered 2 years ago

I've found that scale for a solo enterprise translates into maximizing revenue and efficiency.
To achieve those:
* Ensure that your pricing is appropriate for the market you're going after
* Confirm that your service offers more value than your competitors
* Develop a complete sales process from identifying prospects to connecting with those prospects and getting to yes
If you wish to discuss, send me a PM through Clarity for 15 free minutes.

Answered 2 years ago


It comes down to a few key factors:

- what do you do to be perceived as THE expert?
- What do you do to constantly improve your selling skills?
- How do you differ yourself from other players?
- Which story do you have to tell about the customer, his pains, needs and glorious future?

I guess a suitable fast track tactic for your space will be:

- Building valuable free content around your subject
- Using as much personalized communicational material as possible (book: never loose a customer again)
- pre-dealing with your customers anxiety by creating an analysis (during the sales stage) of the predicted outcome of the website, customized to the customers goals i.e. leads, purchases etc.
- over deliver with additional included services, trainings, consulting or products
- grant some form of satisfaction guarantee

Lastly: work hard and then work header!

I hope this gives you at least a perspective and some inspiration.

If you ever have an additional question or you want to dive deeper into how to grow into the "high tickets" - get in touch!


Answered 2 years ago

#1. Specialize in just 1 (at first) service that is teachable
#2. Create a specific, repeatable process
#3. Incentivise people to make sales while your fulfill orders (or vice versa)
#4. Read Built to sell...

Answered 2 years ago

You have two options:

1. Cultivate more valuable expertise
2. Increase operational efficiency

Those two options are, in some cases at odds with each other, but if you focus on #1 first you can use that expertise to drive #2 later. Or, you can ignore #1 and focus exclusively on #2.

#2 looks like productization. Ex: You basically trade the occasional dramatic upside of custom work for the more consistent upside of standardized work, which lets you iterate your way towards a highly efficient operation and gain incremental improvements in profitability along the way.

#1 requires that you specialize. This does two things. It addresses marketing efficiencies by helping you answer the questions "who are my best clients?", "how do I find and connect with the?", and "what job are they wanting a website to do and how can I help them do that job better?". Second, it allows you to cultivate exceptionally valuable expertise.

About expertise: Skill gets it done; expertise ensures it has meaningful impact for your client.

If the most you've been able to earn from building a website for a client is $2,000, you probably have skill but lack expertise.

Specializing in a market vertical (ex: manufacturing, retail, etc.) or a type of website (ex: e-commerce, membership sites) will accelerate your ability to cultivate expertise. Repeated exposure to similar-enough situations will allow you to move beyond offering just skill to offering impact, for which clients will happily pay higher fees.

Answered 2 years ago

Good question. Hard question. Complex. I'll group some ideas for you to consider this way:

Choose a Structure - Start with the end in mind. Building up an agency full of people is like bundling sticks. And this type of model (without platform/foundation) has a lot of entropy in it. Things naturally fall apart when others leave and start their own. That's why most agencies only get to 20-30 people. Most don't build in the technologies, platforms, proprietary intel, depth of talents, and layers of opportunity to allow people to enter and thrive and stay - and then not leave and take others and compete effectively with you. So first I would say understand what you want to end up with. If you want to grow into a larger firm, better start thinking about processes, procedures, platforms, tech, scale, talents, etc.

Know Who You Are - You've got to come to terms with who you are inside. Are you comfortable going wide and general or do you really enjoy going deep and technical. Are you the technician or consultant that thrives on working on a problem and delivering a solution? Or are you at your best delegating to others, prioritizing their work, and building up moral so others can achieve success (which ultimately serves the company and you as well). The sooner you come to terms with which you are the better and easier it will be.

If you want to be an owner/operator, then decide which parts (of which their are many) you need to succeed and build and grow toward that. It might make sense to get experience in a large firm so you have "memory muscle" for building up into large consultancies. Maybe you have enough experience to figure it out without. Either way, decide what you need, begin to put it in place, and see that future "true north" as your goal. Then work toward your goal and bring others around you, lock down processes, think about scale as you consider tech, etc.

Going From One Person to More - If you are your own one person consultancy now and might want to either add people or increase billings and rate to make more money, here's some ideas:

(1) Take 30 minutes to draft a personal doc and outline the problems you want to solve for others and then your answer (services, solutions) to those set of problems. Include the problems you can actually solve, explain specifically to yourself what you do to help others, and rethink your approach to delivering value and capturing marketshare and money.

(2) With your problems to solve clearly articulated and in mind, begin to visualize your ideal prospect or client persona. Start to reach out to them and blog about how you can help them with specific problems - their problems. If you are aren't sure, reach out and meet with a few dozen of your ideal prospects and ask them what their problems are. Point here is to lock in on the right prospects and their real problems - not your ideas about who they are and what they struggle with. Get real laser focused. Know who it is, what it is, and then speak to them clearly with insights that are relevant and useful. This will build up your credibility and begin to position you as expert-level.

Which brings me to money. On your next website do something different. Use Asana + Harvest to understand clearly how much time you invest in building up a website. Give yourself a rate - and if your websites are good then you should be between $100/hr and $175/hr or more. Then add up the hours invested and multiply by your rate. I bet you are charging way too low. If you are at $25-50 per hour you should immediately go to $100 or more. Push the fear aside. Just do it.

When you are are focused on a specific type of prospect, and clearly understand their problem to solve, and have aligned your solution/answer to solving that problem, then you become worth whatever money the prospect believes is required to solve that problem.

After you solve those issues above, begin to focus on the work that fits your bill rate. This means you will need to go from $2000 websites to $20,000+ websites. You might need to value your creativity and brand/marketing abilities. Or you might decide to focus efforts around helping companies use websites to generate more leads. Or you might leverage tech and help them integrate tech into websites. All three will move you away from building standard brochure-type websites. Also, if you prospect for larger deals, talk and write about larger problems to solve, and start to say no to smaller deals - then you will find yourself going from $2000 websites to deals that are 2-3-4x larger in short order.

Trust the process. Start at the beginning and set one month to work through the above. You won't regret it. The reason you are doing $2000 deals is because that is what you are getting. Nothing wrong with that. But if you want to "earn more than $2000 per website" you will need to be the change. You started your question correctly with "I want to be able to give value to the clients...". You will back into the right answer if you take the time to connect a few dots.

Right Prospect + Right Problem + Right Structure + Right Deal

When you focus on the right kind of prospect, understand their real problems, focus on the larger problems (which often mean more time/resources required to solve them), align your answer to their larger problems, speak to your target prospects (in person and blog) about how to solve their larger problems, value your time and correctly, bill at the right rate for all your time,...when you do that, you will start to earn more.

Doing this will also give you the focus and credibility and visibility to open yourself to others bringing you into their deals.

Hope that helps. - cm

Answered 2 years ago

2 things: Find a scalable solution to offer and hire a team member.

You may hire someone to be your VA so they can help you with marketing while you focus on sales. Someone with marketing experience with social media, marketing automation, and such should be good.

Find one facet of your services that you can likely offer in a subscription model and start selling it. You won't be able to scale doing 100% custom work so you have to find something that can provide you recurring revenue.

I literally just went through this in 2018 and further expanding in 2019 so I can provide more information on it if needed.

Answered 2 years ago

Add in some sort of continuity.

This will depend on your level of expertise.

Simple add-on is hosting.

I provide client hosting from $100/month - $1000/month with all ad-hoc hourly work at $100/hour, so some clients may pay $10K+/month.

You're welcome to give me a call + we can run do an inventory expertise for you + figure out a monetization approach to reach your goal.

Answered 2 years ago

There is one flaw with the question itself, "ONE MAN". I want to ask you why only one man? Why not many men for the price of one?

Baffled? You should be. Contact me and I will show you how you can get things done cheaper with cost lower than your morning coffee.

But only contact me IF you are coach-able. I wish you great success in life.

Answered 2 years ago

Hi, how are you? I hope you are doing great!

The first thing to do before we can even talk about scaling your agency is to answer the question?

What is what you really want to accomplish?

- Do you want to grow the "agency"? If so, how do you envision it?
- Do you want only to charge more per client? If so would $2,100 will do? (being a little extreme so you can see the point)
- Do you need more clients? If so how many?

My best guess and I apologize if I am being to upfront, that you are experiencing that you sometimes have what you need for you lifestyle and sometimes you are worrying about make it at the end of the month. (I can totally relate as many can.... been there and I know it ain't fun)

Anyone that tells you that there's a one size fits all solution for your particular situation without ever having spoken with you and understanding were you come from is probably talking theory.

If that's what you are looking for then there are only 3 ways in which you can do that:
A) Increase your pricing
B) Get more clients
C) Make your clients buy more often from you

There it is... no magic formula, the real deal

But if you are serious about making a change and take a leap, then I recommend you to take a moment, a real and serious moment to think what it is that you want, where do you want to go and then we can brainstorm how to get there.

If you can please provide more detail I'll be glad to talk to you.

Answered 2 years ago

1. It does not have to be an industry-specific niche, maybe you are just an expert in a specific marketing vertical like marketing for Shopify stores. Anything to help you distinguish yourself from the other thousands of full-service agencies. Most visitors to your agency website will not convert to leads. By offering them an alternative to an intimidating phone call you can collect their business information and move them along the path to becoming a client.

2. Powered by Search offers a website grader with an enticing offer to «10x your growth». It can be as a simple SEO audit which points out some flaws in their website. Regardless of whether you specifically offer web design I believe that it is imperative to have a clean and presentable website. If your website looks like it was designed in 1998, your revenue will stay at 1998 levels.

3. Your website is how people perceive your company online. There are several agency-ready WordPress themes available for next to nothing. Of course, that is the bare minimum and there are some agencies which go above and beyond to display their services. If you are collecting leads from your agency website, it is essential that you get back to them as quick as possible.

4. These potential customers are shopping around, and your agency will not be the only one they stumble on. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that many companies take far too long to respond to leads and just let them go cold. They found that the average response time among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours. This is worrying for those companies since a separate study found that firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour were seven times more likely to close the deal than those that tried even an hour later.

5. So many start-up digital agencies are dead scared of outbound sales. It works even better if your agency targets a specific niche because your prospectors will have clearer targets. While it is not for every agency, you should consider building an outbound sales funnel. There are several platforms like Lead feeder popping up which match visitor IP addresses to databases of companies.

6. They essentially tell you who has visited your website even if they have not converted to a lead. If somebody at that company has visited your site, there is a good chance they are looking for a marketing solution. According to a study by eMarketer in 2013, client case studies are the most popular self-promotional tactics used by marketing agency executives. Make sure you lay out specific strategies you used and back everything up with data.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 2 months ago

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