2019 Website Agency Debrief

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How I sold & built 92 client websites from a hotel basement with no marketing spend.

This has been a good year for me and my new website agency, Spirelight Web.

When the digital dust settled, and the numbers were crunched, I ended up landing and building 92 website projects in 2019.

As a solopreneur, I spent most of the year working from the basement of a 1920s hotel that had been converted into a collaborative work space called “The Hashtag” in downtown Fresno, CA.

It provided me with just enough structure to stay disciplined (no crashing on the couch), but enough conveniences to be comfortable (stand-up desks, kitchen, etc).

This turned out to be a lifesaver for me, as working from home quickly proved counterproductive.

While Spirelight Web is only 12 months old, I have over 15 years of experience in my niche – small and medium churches.

As this web agency was formed from a conglomerate of two former agencies, I had the advantage of starting with an active client list of several hundred.  Not only did this give me the benefit of an existing client pool to draw from, but it also provided me with enough recurring revenue to pay the bills and be able to breathe financially.

As we end the month of December, I’m taking the time to reflect, consider what happened, determine what worked, what didn’t, and figure out what’s happening in 2020.

So if you’re interested in how 2019 went down for me, here’s what I learned along the way. Perhaps this will be an encouragement to other solopreneurs out there who are trying to get things done in 2020!

Show up consistently.

Show up for your customers. Show up for yourself!

As a solopreneur, you’re the employee and the boss.  As the boss, you’ve got to tell the employee what’s expected.  While I am very disciplined in some areas, I’m like a squirrel with ADD in other areas. One thing I had to decide early on was that I was going to put in the reps Monday-Friday.

I was getting up and going to work even when I didn’t feel like it. I showed up, not always on time and not always with a great attitude; but, nonetheless, I was on the job consistently.

Push through distraction.

Learn to become indistractable!

To be raw and honest, I’m awful at this.

I’ve got that distractable tendency that starts a critical task and finds himself halfway through a “Best NBA Dunks of All Time” playlist on Youtube fifteen minutes later.

It’s the worst, and can be so frustrating for me.  While this was a weak point of mine in 2019, I found great success when I was able to cast distraction aside, and stay on task.

Earlier this month, I finished the book “Indistractable” by Nir Eval. It was an awesome read and a big help to me!

Prioritize customer support.

Customer support be like…

Some business owners and entrepreneurs look at support as a necessary evil.

It’s relegated to the bottom of the list in the “if I have time” category along with “work out” and “eat healthy.”

Let me encourage you to flip that trend.

Look at customer support as a top priority!

There’s no better way to stay in touch with your customers, build loyalty, gain referrals, and learn more about your niche than by becoming a support rock star.

I mean, own that monster.  Slay it every day with an attitude.  It will cover a multitude of other flaws in your business, and give you an immediate competitive edge over most of your competition.

Maintain high availability.

You can’t go dark as a solopreneur.

When you’re the only guy or girl in your company, you don’t get the privilege of just disappearing and going dark for days on end. You’ve got to be available to current clients and potential clients.

Don’t force everyone into the same communication channel.  Don’t make email the only way people can get a hold of you.

While I prefer email ticket support through Help Scout, I’m also available by chat widget, FB Messenger, and phone.  I don’t give out my phone number proactively, but I make “schedule a phone call” available for anyone through my agency website.

Outsource the mundane.

Around July of 2019, I found myself buried in web projects.

I had made a load of sales and had a full hopper of websites to build without an end in sight.  I just couldn’t handle it all.

So, I hired my 18-year-old son to do one thing: transfer website content.

I built customer relationships, made sales, launched websites, and supported clients, while putting my highly creative son on task with the one critical thing that I was falling short on.

Within a month, he had built out almost 20 sites, and breathed new life into my schedule.

If you insist on doing everything yourself, you won’t.  You’ll burn out.  Pinpoint those mundane, but critical tasks, and outsource them.  Even if you have to raise your prices to cover the cost.

Say no to the wrong clients.

Say no to shiny objects outside of your ring of fire.

Several times in 2019, my website agency was presented with the opportunity to pitch big proposals for clients outside of my niche.

These were ten, twenty, thirty thousand dollar jobs that I very well could have landed, but they would have dominated my time and stretched my resources.

I said “no thanks” and politely referred them elsewhere.

Why? Because the more you try to accomplish, the less you actually get done.

This is a beautiful principle I learned from “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” by McChesney, Covey, and Huling.  Don’t be lured by shiny objects, even if they have lots of commas and zeros.

Stay in your lane and lean into your strengths.

Learn to say “no” if it’s not the right fit.

Leverage referrals

With an ecosystem of around 400 websites, my website agency’s overwhelming referral source is the back link to my agency website that exists in the footer of my client sites.

If you do good work, others will notice and will want you to do good work for them, too.

Make it easy for them to find you!

I spent zero marketing dollars in 2019.

Not one Facebook ad, not one funnel or giveaway.  I’m not against them – in fact, I’m planning some for 2020.  However, you don’t have to spend crazy money to get clients.

It’s certainly not as fast, but if you go for the long game, provide a great customer experience, and then find creative ways to leverage those experiences for referrals, you can find great success, even if you only have a handful of clients.

Conclusion

As the sun sets on 2019, I’m pretty stoked to take lessons learned into 2020.

I’ve got some personal goals and business goals to crush and lots more to learn about myself, my website agency, and the clients I serve.

What did you learn as an entrepreneur / solopreneur in 2019?  I’d love to know.

If I can help you in any way, or you just want to connect, please reach out.

Let’s make 2020 the best, for us, our families, and our customers!

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