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EXECUTION From Spain With Love - Building a Web Design Business While Living Abroad

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mjb234

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At the beginning of last year, I started my journey towards building a web design business from scratch. It did not go as planned...

While it only took me a couple of months to learn the basics of building a website, I ended up spending a few more months stuck in “learning mode”. You know what I’m talking about. That state of mind where there’s always just ONE more thing you need to learn before you can start getting clients.

Fortunately, towards the end of the year I got the strong kick in the a$$ I needed to start making real progress. Well, two strong kicks to be specific.

One came in the form of @Fox (you might have seen his infamous web design business thread) and his extremely helpful Youtube channel. His focus on building sales systems as opposed to just fancy looking website really resonated with me. It switched my focus from trying to build the perfect looking website to actually looking at how my current skills could help REAL businesses.

The second kick in the a$$ was self-imposed - I moved from California to Spain to live with my girlfriend. With no job lined up and barely any savings, I knew I needed to make this web design thing work soon.

Feeling inspired but knowing I needed help, I joined Fox’s Sales Legends Program and began soaking up the wisdom from him and the other veteran students of the program. It’s been almost two months since I joined and I’ve already made more progress than in the previous 11 months combined.

But I want to do more than just make some decent progress this year. I want to end 2020 making at least $10,000 per month on web design projects. That would be more than enough for me to live comfortably and also invest in growing my business even further.

More importantly, though, I want to develop top-notch sales and marketing skills. A successful web design business isn’t my end-goal. It’s just the first step on my path towards building a larger Fastlane business.

In this thread, I’ll be keeping track of:
  • My general progress towards building my business
  • The different projects I complete and how I approach them
  • Different pitfalls and challenges that come with web design
  • The different sales and marketing lessons I learn along the way

In my next post, I’ll talk about the process of landing my first few portfolio projects (two of them paid), and some of the major lessons I’ve learned so far.

Thanks for reading!
 

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MaxKhalus

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Glad to see you on the Fastlane!
I post daily on my Execution thread as a freelancer from Spain, so I can relate in some way. The key is to post frequently to keep the dream alive.

Maybe I didn't pay attention, but what "unit" will you use to measure your progress?

  • My general progress towards building my business
  • The different projects I complete and how I approach them
  • Different pitfalls and challenges that come with web design
  • The different sales and marketing lessons I learn along the way
What you added here doesn't sound very specific other than "what I learn on the process."

Also, why do you see important starting a progress thread? Many guys make great promises on post #1 and quit soon. Get it straight from the beginning to invest well your time.

Good luck!
 
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mjb234

mjb234

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I post daily on my Execution thread as a freelancer from Spain, so I can relate in some way. The key is to post frequently to keep the dream alive.
@MaxKhalus thanks for the feedback. Where in Spain are you based?

Maybe I didn't pay attention, but what "unit" will you use to measure your progress?

What you added here doesn't sound very specific other than "what I learn on the process."
That's a good question. As of right now, my main unit of measure is how much money I'm earning each month on web design projects.

Also, why do you see important starting a progress thread? Many guys make great promises on post #1 and quit soon. Get it straight from the beginning to invest well your time.
I wanted to start a thread for a few reasons:
  1. To track my progress in one place
  2. To create some extra accountability for myself
  3. To work on my writing and communication skills
 
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mjb234

mjb234

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Getting Through the Portfolio Stage

Right now I’m in what you’d call the “portfolio stage” of my business. I know how to build a website but I don’t have any past results that I can use to sell my services.

The main challenge I’ve faced so far has not been finding my first portfolio projects but actually completing them.

I got my first client - a family friend - in October of last year. She runs a fairly successful chiropractic center but didn’t have a website yet. I reached out to her by text and offered to make her a website for free in order to build my portfolio. She happily accepted.

The plan was to build her a basic WordPress site (8 pages) and then put her on a maintenance plan when it was finished.

Even though WordPress was new to me, I was able to finish the basic build of the site before moving to Spain at the start of November. However….after four months I am still waiting for the client to send me the written content that goes on the site.

My second portfolio project came in December. I posted a message in a local Facebook group (back in California) offering my services for free or at a reduced cost depending on the project. I got quite a few leads from that post, one of them being a lawyer who was willing to pay market value for a new website.

We agreed on a final price of $1000 for a 6-page Wordpress site, with a monthly maintenance fee once the site was finished. Considering I hadn’t been paid before, I was pretty excited about the opportunity.

Even better, this client seemed ideal at first: he was incredibly responsive to emails and questions and promptly provided me with photos for the site. However, he was quite adamant about writing all of the content for the site himself. Considering how responsive he was already, I didn’t think this would be a problem.

Once again, I’ve been left waiting for content for well over a month.

As frustrating as this situation has been, I’ve learned a very valuable lesson from it.

Taking Care of the Heavy Lifting

I’ve seen other web designers such as @Fox say that they try and make the process as easy for the client as possible by taking care of things like copywriting and images themselves.

At first, I thought this was to give a superior client experience. I’m sure that’s part of it, but I see now that taking that approach also ensures you won’t be depending on the client to write good content quickly.

That means I’ll need to find clients who will actually trust me to do the heavy lifting as well. I’m assuming this comes down to making those expectations clear during sales conversations.

With these first two projects (especially the paid one), I was so eager to get the clients to commit that I barely discussed those kinds of details. In the future, I need to take my time and really emphasize that I’ll take care of the whole design process for them. Once I have some more consistent income (larger projects and more recurring revenue), I can probably afford to go at the client's pace more often.

While I’m still waiting on these two clients, I’ve kept myself busy working on a free website for my mom’s new interior design business. The site probably won’t get much organic traffic, but it will give her a good place to showcase her past work and what she can provide to clients.

I also just started a $2,000 project from my dad’s girlfriend, who owns a medical equipment supply company. I’m hoping to finish both of those projects by the end of February.

As soon as I get one online, I will start prospecting using those results to build more trust.
 
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Fox

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Didn't see the tag in this thread before - great you are posting this and I know it will be a ton of value for other people. Following this thread for sure.

Some great points above - you got to be moving the project along with or without your client's help. A lot of advanced projects will depend on you being able to manage and handle your client effectively. If they could have done it already - they would have.

This is good and bad. It gives value to our service but it means we are getting paid by the same people who can sometimes be the biggest project obstacle to success!

You are well on track already with picking this up so I am sure the progress will come fast. Tag me in whenever you need me. Thanks for getting this thread going.
 

JSammich

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The plan was to build her a basic WordPress site (8 pages) and then put her on a maintenance plan when it was finished.
How are you operating your maintenance plan? Does that just mean the hosting of your WP sites are under your name? And a certain amount of content updates a month? You have a great start already with 2 paid jobs right away, great job!
 
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mjb234

mjb234

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How are you operating your maintenance plan? Does that just mean the hosting of your WP sites are under your name? And a certain amount of content updates a month? You have a great start already with 2 paid jobs right away, great job!
Thanks!

It's still a work in progress, but my plan is to charge a monthly fee ($50-$150) for basic WordPress maintenance. That would include monthly backups, plugin updates, and a couple hours of changes each month. Of course, it will also depend on the specific needs of the clients.

I have my clients purchase their own hosting and domains.
 

JSammich

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Thanks!

It's still a work in progress, but my plan is to charge a monthly fee ($50-$150) for basic WordPress maintenance. That would include monthly backups, plugin updates, and a couple hours of changes each month. Of course, it will also depend on the specific needs of the clients.

I have my clients purchase their own hosting and domains.
Thanks for the info. I definitely like the idea of avoiding maintenance for the clients for WP.
 

aeden

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It's still a work in progress, but my plan is to charge a monthly fee ($50-$150) for basic WordPress maintenance. That would include monthly backups, plugin updates, and a couple hours of changes each month. Of course, it will also depend on the specific needs of the clients.
A few thoughts:

1. Don't customize. See if you can sell a fixed plan. Just monthly backups and plugin updates would be enough for most clients to pay you I bet. I could even see you automating both of those things once you understand the process for a few clients.
2. Don't make changes for someone as part of this first plan. Package that as a separate, higher cost plan. You're setting yourself up to trade hours for dollars, which is what you should be trying to avoid.
3. You're charging too little (or the market is really soft, but I think it's more likely you're charging too little).
 
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mjb234

mjb234

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A few thoughts:

1. Don't customize. See if you can sell a fixed plan. Just monthly backups and plugin updates would be enough for most clients to pay you I bet. I could even see you automating both of those things once you understand the process for a few clients.
2. Don't make changes for someone as part of this first plan. Package that as a separate, higher cost plan. You're setting yourself up to trade hours for dollars, which is what you should be trying to avoid.
3. You're charging too little (or the market is really soft, but I think it's more likely you're charging too little).
Thanks for the suggestions. I'll definitely take those into account going forward.

For my portfolio projects I don't feel comfortable charging much more (as I didn't charge much for the sites in the first place), but I'll definitely raise my rates as I take on more clients.
 

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mjb234

mjb234

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We are officially locked down for at least 15 days here in Spain. That means no leaving the house except for necessities like food and medicine. On the bright side, that means more time to focus on the business.

Since my last update I've mainly been working on finishing up four portfolio projects and reaching out to new businesses.

Portfolio Projects

I got my first portfolio site online last week and I'm hoping to get my second online by the end of this week. I'll also be implementing my maintenance contracts after a month, so I'll get be getting a bit of monthly revenue starting in April.

With the Corona crisis going on, I'm expecting my other two projects to drag on for a while. In the meantime, I'll use the two finished projects to do more prospecting.

Prospecting

This has been a bit of struggle for me so far. I've sent about 25 personalized cold emails and haven't received any responses yet. I've also reached out to around 10 businesses through social media and either got no response or was quickly turned down.

I've been avoiding cold calling (mainly out of fear, but also because there's a 9 hour difference between Spain and my target audience in California), but it looks like I'm going to have to suck it up and start calling.

My plan for the next few weeks is to reach out to businesses who might be struggling with a lack of an online presence because of social distancing policies. I want to see if any of them need help transitioning their services online. If I can help one or two businesses even with simple things, I think I can use those jobs to attract other businesses that need help.
 

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