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WEB SCHOOL Hustling! My progress as a freelancing web designer

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spirit

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Hello!

My goal is to make $70K+ a year.

My mindset has totally changed, and to get to that goal, I will freelance in web design.

In this thread I will discuss my progress, and likely ask a ton of questions. Hopefully this will not only help me, but also guide others down the correct path.

Feel free to constructively criticize me and my decisions, even if painful!

Where am I now?

I know HTML, CSS, and some JavaScript. Before, I thought this would earn me good money, but after reading @Fox 's book The $1,000,000 Web Designer Guide, I now understand that businesses don't give a shit. My focus should be on marketing and sales.

I ordered a couple of books from Amazon:
https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1640854630/
https://www.amazon.ca/dp/0525540830/

In @Fox 's book he recommends starting with people that are already trusting.

I built a website (and got paid) for a local mental health counsellor. The site talks about what they do, certifications the client has, gives contact information, important forms, and a Google map. The client was very happy with the site. This was before I learned about marketing, however. I'm not sure how much the site has helped, or if there are any ways I can help the business. I was thinking of sitting down with her, to ask questions about areas that I can help.

Current questions

I'll be asking a lot of these, so hopefully no one minds! Again, I hope others can read this and speed up their own journeys.

I'm going to be using templates to build these sites. Here is an example: Canvas | The Multi-Purpose HTML5 Template. Is it OK if I pay for the Regular License? The Extended License is $800.

As you get bigger and bigger clients, is it still acceptable to use templates? I ask this because I had the mindset before that clients want something completely original, although now I assume they only want results.

When asking a client questions, is there a certain pathway to follow? Are they usually open to talk about their business problems?

As I get more clients, is it best to have an online portfolio to gain trust and social proof?

Where I'm going right now

I am going to contact the previously mentioned trusted client and ask questions. Once I see where the business can be improved, I'll assess the problems and see how they can be solved.

Let me know about your thoughts, and ask anything! :)
 

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spirit

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Current questions

I'll be asking a lot of these, so hopefully no one minds! Again, I hope others can read this and speed up their own journeys.

I'm going to be using templates to build these sites. Here is an example: Canvas | The Multi-Purpose HTML5 Template. Is it OK if I pay for the Regular License? The Extended License is $800.

As you get bigger and bigger clients, is it still acceptable to use templates? I ask this because I had the mindset before that clients want something completely original, although now I assume they only want results.

When asking a client questions, is there a certain pathway to follow? Are they usually open to talk about their business problems?

As I get more clients, is it best to have an online portfolio to gain trust and social proof?

I answered some of my own questions!

It is OK to pay for a regular license: Licenses | ThemeForest

It states:

Note to freelancers and creative agencies:​

You may charge your client for your services to create an end product, even under the Regular License. But you can’t use one of our Standard Licenses on multiple clients or jobs.

I think when I talk to a business I'll ask how they would like to improve, instead of asking about problems. I don't want to seem critical.

I think I'll build an online portfolio once I get a few trusted clients. I'll have quotes for social proof.
 

Kid

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I think when I talk to a business I'll ask how they would like to improve,
Just a quick tip that other FLF member shared:
"Offer them what they want, give them what they need"

Basically business owners might think that they know what they
need at their website, but its your job to "really" know.
 

spirit

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I'm talking with my first trusted client on Monday. I'm asking her about how she'd like to improve her business.

Two things of concern.

1. Visual design!

I know how to use templates, and I know that customers only care about results. However, in the back of my mind I get thoughts that templates are cheating and customers will want a completely unique site. Also, If customers are local, I bet they will want photos. I have 0 photography experience.

2. Conveying the value of my actions, and ensuring I actually get results.

Say I learn marketing and copywriting. How do I tell the client that I can use this to help their business? Do I flat out tell them I will combine web design, sales, and copywriting to increase their business, once I hear out their problems?
 
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spirit

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I'm talking with my first trusted client on Monday. I'm asking her about how she'd like to improve her business.

Two things that are freaking me out!

1. Visual design!

I know how to use templates, and I know that customers only care about results. However, in the back of my mind I get thoughts that templates are cheating and customers will want a completely unique site. Also, If customers are local, I bet they will want photos. I have 0 photography experience.

OK, so the solution to providing a more unique site has been solved. The trick is to use a general, best-selling theme, for example:


If you use a specific theme, like say for a hamburger restaurant, it is harder to customize and build toward a specific outcome (ex. sales).

In another topic, @Fox (thanks again!) mentioned for photos if the client lives far away:

- Use free stock photo sites like Pexel
- See if they can take some photos themselves
- See if they will have the budget to hire a local photographer for a day
- See if you can use images they already posted on social media or elsewhere

Usually I use a combination of these ^
Just try make the style match and focus on images that seem real and that will build trust.

However, would it be viable to invest in a camera for local businesses? I know absolutely nothing about photography, but I think it may help?

2. Conveying the value of my actions, and ensuring I actually get results.

Say I learn marketing and copywriting. How do I tell the client that I can use this to help their business? Do I flat out tell them I will combine web design, sales, and copywriting to increase their business, once I hear out their problems?

I'm still a bit lost on this. When I interview the client, and I get problems to solve with the website, how do I communicate with the client how I will do this and how they will see results?
 

spirit

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I just spoke with my first client (a mental health counsellor) over the phone.

Basically the site is to get people to send a referral form. She said on the existing site, people are unsure of where to find it. So, I'm going to have a Call To Action on every page that points to the referral form and how to send it. Besides that, everything else is good. I don't know much about copywriting yet, so maybe some of the wording can be changed. She doesn't want more clients (she has a lot!) or a schedule system. She also doesn't want testimonials. I asked her if there are any questions that she gets asked all the time, so maybe I could add a FAQ. She said she would email a list, if she could think of any.

The site is pretty much there to make her business easier to manage!

Oh, on a side note, I know how to do photography if I ever need to. My father knows photography and I think even taught a course on it in high school. He said he'll help me, and he also has as camera.

I also know how to convey value to the client. Basically, I will just tell them how I will solve whatever they ask for during the initial interview. This is entirely from a business perspective, of course (so no talking about how it'll be responsive or what fonts it will have!).
 
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spirit

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Another update! The previously mentioned client was using a document for clients to download, fill out, then email. Instead, I suggested on online form. This process would save a lot of time. The client is very interested, so I'll figure out how to do this! :)
 

spirit

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Another update! The previously mentioned client was using a document for clients to download, fill out, then email. Instead, I suggested on online form. This process would save a lot of time. The client is very interested, so I'll figure out how to do this! :)

OK, the current website is in Wordpress, so for the form I'm going to use WPForms - The World's Best Drag & Drop WordPress Forms Plugin

Here is an important question though, hopefully someone can answer. Will people trust their information with this form? I'm asking for things like insurance numbers. The form itself is secure, and I'm installing SSL. Should I still have the option for people to do it the old way (download a form, fill out the form, and email it)?
 

spirit

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Does anyone know of a service that securely handles online forms? I just want people to be able to fill out a form and have it sent to my client, through email or by other means.
 

spirit

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spirit

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Here is an important question though, hopefully someone can answer. Will people trust their information with this form? I'm asking for things like insurance numbers. The form itself is secure, and I'm installing SSL. Should I still have the option for people to do it the old way (download a form, fill out the form, and email it)?

Still need some advice on this.
 

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spirit

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As it turns out, the client wants to keep the old system. They're getting enough clients as it is, so they don't want to change.

Almost done my work with this client. Then I'll have to find the next one!
 

spirit

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To any moderators, can I keep this page strictly as a journal, and ask the big questions separately? I think it would be easier to manage.
 

spirit

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I finished work for my first client!

The site was built in Wordpress and it looks pretty simple, but it's attractive and most importantly, effective. It gives all the necessary information about the mental health counsellor, including certifications for social proof. It helps people find this business with a built in map and all the contact information. The most important part of the website however, are the Referral Forms. The ideal outcome is for visitors to fill one out. So, I have a Call to Action on all the pages.

The client is pretty happy with the results. I know I could do more, like copywriting and I was hoping to install a built in form to handle the referrals, but the client doesn't want anything changed.

I just got a good copywriting book in the mail, called Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards. So, I'm going to read that and work on finding my next client!
 
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Simon Angel

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Awesome progress man! I like how the first person/business you helped is mental health-related, something that's close to you and your life.

If I were you I'd make sure to help this client as much as possible to maximize their results and use them as a case study to find other clients in this niche (mental health).

Case studies make it THAT much easier to find bigger and better clients which will be happy to give you a lot of money for the results you acquire for them.

Sharing a little bit of your story with future prospects will really help in establishing trust, too. A "this is why I do this" kind of thing.

Keep it up!
 

spirit

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Awesome progress man! I like how the first person/business you helped is mental health-related, something that's close to you and your life.

If I were you I'd make sure to help this client as much as possible to maximize their results and use them as a case study to find other clients in this niche (mental health).

Case studies make it THAT much easier to find bigger and better clients which will be happy to give you a lot of money for the results you acquire for them.

Sharing a little bit of your story with future prospects will really help in establishing trust, too. Like a "this is why I do this" kind of thing.

Keep it up!

Thanks for the response :)

The thing with this first client is that they already have enough clients! So, there wasn't too much I could improve, in terms of metrics.

Here are the things I did:

1. Clearly laid out what the counsellor is about (and yes the site is attractive!)

2. Built social proof on the website with certifications the counsellor had

3. Clearly laid out contact information and included a Google map so people could actually find the business.

4. And most importantly, clearly showed how to get a Referral Form (the main purpose of the website!) and included multiple Call To Actions to do so. The site also hosts the Referral Forms so clients could get it easily.

Is this sufficient for a case study? I don't really have numbers for example, "after the website was built, my client received 2x as many customers". The client was very happy with it, though.
 

jsb13

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Does anyone know of a service that securely handles online forms? I just want people to be able to fill out a form and have it sent to my client, through email or by other means.
Sign up for Thrivethemes suite on Wordpress. They have plugins to capture lead generation information and for online forms. You build it and connect it to your clients email provider (webchimp or others). Saves lots of time and pretty easy to do .

Search Youtube for Thrive tutorials. I use the product and find really good. Not an affiliate or anything like that. Cheers
 

Simon Angel

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Thanks for the response :)

The thing with this first client is that they already have enough clients! So, there wasn't too much I could improve, in terms of metrics.

Here are the things I did:

1. Clearly laid out what the counsellor is about (and yes the site is attractive!)

2. Built social proof on the website with certifications the counsellor had

3. Clearly laid out contact information and included a Google map so people could actually find the business.

4. And most importantly, clearly showed how to get a Referral Form (the main purpose of the website!) and included multiple Call To Actions to do so. The site also hosts the Referral Forms so clients could get it easily.

Is this sufficient for a case study? I don't really have numbers for example, "after the website was built, my client received 2x as many customers". The client was very happy with it, though.

Anything can be used as a case study! Sure, you may not have increased their customers by a statistically significant amount nor upped the traffic to their website, but you made it much more effective for said traffic to convert thanks to the improved UX! That's valuable.

You can also ask your client to film a one-minute testimonial video talking about the work you did on their website and how it has helped/how happy they are with it.

"spirit did a fantastic job with our website. We already had a decent amount of traffic coming in, but the conversion rate was nothing to rave about and our user experience was rather poor. After the work he put in, we're converting the traffic to our website much more frequently and effectively than ever before.

Having a web designer so invested in our business and so result-focused has left a really good impression on us and we'd love to work with him again!"

Something like this would be ideal.
 

spirit

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Anything can be used as a case study! Sure, you may not have increased their customers by a statistically significant amount nor upped the traffic to their website, but you made it much more effective for said traffic to convert thanks to the improved UX! That's valuable.

You can also ask your client to film a one-minute testimonial video talking about the work you did on their website and how it has helped/how happy they are with it.

"spirit did a fantastic job with our website. We already had a decent amount of traffic coming in, but the conversion rate was nothing to rave about and our user experience was rather poor. After the work he put in, we're converting the traffic to our website much more frequently and effectively than ever before.

Having a web designer so invested in our business and so result-focused has left a really good impression on us and we'd love to work with him again!"

Something like this would be ideal.

That's a great idea! I'll see if the client is interested in doing a testimonial. That reminds me, I'll have to get a portfolio website up and running!
 

spirit

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Anything can be used as a case study! Sure, you may not have increased their customers by a statistically significant amount nor upped the traffic to their website, but you made it much more effective for said traffic to convert thanks to the improved UX! That's valuable.

You can also ask your client to film a one-minute testimonial video talking about the work you did on their website and how it has helped/how happy they are with it.

"spirit did a fantastic job with our website. We already had a decent amount of traffic coming in, but the conversion rate was nothing to rave about and our user experience was rather poor. After the work he put in, we're converting the traffic to our website much more frequently and effectively than ever before.

Having a web designer so invested in our business and so result-focused has left a really good impression on us and we'd love to work with him again!"

Something like this would be ideal.

Hmm, a few things that are bugging me about my first project:

All my site really does is represent the company, help people find it, and get referral forms.

There isn't really cold traffic coming to the website, as it's mostly word of mouth. And the client doesn't even want more clients.

The website is very basic. I don't want future clients thinking I'm very limited.

There is no copywriting on the website. The client wanted to keep the original text.

Hopefully someone can weigh in on this.
 

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Tiago

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Hmm, a few things that are bugging me about my first project:

All my site really does is represent the company, help people find it, and get referral forms.

There isn't really cold traffic coming to the website, as it's mostly word of mouth. And the client doesn't even want more clients.

The website is very basic. I don't want future clients thinking I'm very limited.

There is no copywriting on the website. The client wanted to keep the original text.

Hopefully someone can weigh in on this.

If you really want to help him, and go above and beyond, I would perhaps explore with him why he doesn't want more clients. Maybe he believes that he'll have to work more etc... and you can help him create a new business model.

Check out @BizyDad's thread on how turning down potential clients leads to even more referrals. It's not a formula, but a long-term view way of operating that will yield good results, if you're willing to play the long game.

 

spirit

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Well, I'm resurrecting this thread!

I'll be asking less questions and try to figure out more on my own.

Where am I now? I did take action. I cold approached a few coffee shops and restaurants in person, and it didn't really work out.

I decided that these businesses probably weren't great choices for websites anyway. I then began a big search for prospects by checking out Google. That turned out to be rather unsuccessful, so I tried some software (I made a post on that too). However, it turned out that Yellow Pages was the best way to hunt for businesses that either have no website, or a poor one.

I am now beginning to mass cold email prospects. Keep in mind, I'm just starting out, so I have no portfolio or results yet.

Broken down, these are the parts of a cold email:

Intro
Reason for emailing (attention)
Value to them (interest)
Context of who you are (desire)
CTA (action)

Here is my first cold email:

Title: Quick question

Hello.

[Personal comment of seeing their local business]

I went online to find out more about [their business], and I noticed that your website [problem, ex. outdated].

Would you be interested in a website that would showcase how awesome your business is?

I’m starting freelance web design, and I’m looking for the right first client. I will do my best work, and will strive to make sure you love your new website. You won’t have to pay much, and there is zero risk. If you don’t like the website, you'll get a full refund and you don’t have to use it.

Please let me know how you’d like to further discuss this.

Nice to meet you, and thanks!

Is there anything I should change about this cold email?

Thanks and I'll continually mention my progress and actions.
 

Black_Dragon43

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Well, I'm resurrecting this thread!

I'll be asking less questions and try to figure out more on my own.

Where am I now? I did take action. I cold approached a few coffee shops and restaurants in person, and it didn't really work out.

I decided that these businesses probably weren't great choices for websites anyway. I then began a big search for prospects by checking out Google. That turned out to be rather unsuccessful, so I tried some software (I made a post on that too). However, it turned out that Yellow Pages was the best way to hunt for businesses that either have no website, or a poor one.

I am now beginning to mass cold email prospects. Keep in mind, I'm just starting out, so I have no portfolio or results yet.

Broken down, these are the parts of a cold email:

Intro
Reason for emailing (attention)
Value to them (interest)
Context of who you are (desire)
CTA (action)

Here is my first cold email:



Is there anything I should change about this cold email?

Thanks and I'll continually mention my progress and actions.
It’s a bit long, but you come across as sincere and honest. Good job!

I would say try to reach out to 500 businesses with 3 touches at least, and explore different angles before you change your niche. Otherwise it’s hard to have a reliable measure of how effective it is.

Angle = the offer you make them. Website to get more leads vs website to showcase their capability, etc.

Niche = the kind of businesses you’re reaching out to. Say construction companies.

Don’t reach out to professions like plumbers, roofers and so on, because most of these guys have more work than they can handle from Yelp and the like, and they do NOT want more leads/sales.
 

Miketing

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Well, I'm resurrecting this thread!

I'll be asking less questions and try to figure out more on my own.

Where am I now? I did take action. I cold approached a few coffee shops and restaurants in person, and it didn't really work out.

I decided that these businesses probably weren't great choices for websites anyway. I then began a big search for prospects by checking out Google. That turned out to be rather unsuccessful, so I tried some software (I made a post on that too). However, it turned out that Yellow Pages was the best way to hunt for businesses that either have no website, or a poor one.

I am now beginning to mass cold email prospects. Keep in mind, I'm just starting out, so I have no portfolio or results yet.

Broken down, these are the parts of a cold email:

Intro
Reason for emailing (attention)
Value to them (interest)
Context of who you are (desire)
CTA (action)

Here is my first cold email:



Is there anything I should change about this cold email?

Thanks and I'll continually mention my progress and actions.

Not bad - the offer is important, which sounds very fair in your case. You've removed the risk for them.

Main thing I'd say is just to make your CTA clearer. You have:
1. "Would you be interested in a website that would showcase how awesome your business is?"
and
2. "Please let me know how you’d like to further discuss this."

So what is the next step for them here? It should be simple enough to not require much thought on their part and not be a big commitment.
 

spirit

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A couple things...

1. What are some sub niches that need a simple website? I've been targeting potential projects that are more advanced, like real estate.

I was hoping we could brainstorm. Here's my list so far:

Asphalt
Waste Management
Construction
Junk Removal
Woodworking
Auto repair
Lawn care
Carpet cleaning
Landscaping
Pest control
Window cleaning
Recycling
Air condition repair
Plumbing (maybe?)
Roofing (maybe?)
Gardening
Lawyers
Dentists

2. Here are my questions for when I get a client:

- May I ask you some questions about your business?
- How did your business start?
- How do you get your customers?
- What kind of challenges are you facing at the moment?
- At the moment how are sales?
- What do you think are your advantages over your competitors?
- How do you see your business growing in the future?
- Do you have any specific ideas for the website?

Does this look good?
 
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Itizn

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Everyone's different. But I prefer cold calls over cold emails.

Have you tried the phone?
 

spirit

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Everyone's different. But I prefer cold calls over cold emails.

Have you tried the phone?

I'll have to use the phone. 95% of businesses I'm finding don't have websites, and therefore no email address.
 

spirit

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I created a massive database of businesses in my area that either have a poor website (about 5%) or don't have a website at all (95%).

I've been told a few times to pick the right clients. I want to pick clients that I could give great value.

Here are the niches I've chosen:

Asphalt
Construction / contracting
Excavation
Waste control
Air conditioning
Moving companies
Auto repair
Towing
Landscaping
Carpet cleaning
Windows and glass
Auto glass
Heating contracting
Plumbing
Roofing
Home renovations
Steel fabrication
Welding
Machinery
Electricians / electrical contractors
Engineers
Lawyers
Dentists
Chiropractors
Therapists and counselling

Ones I'm avoiding:
Real estate - these sites are pretty advanced, and need to be continually updated with listings
Restaurants / coffee shops - most have websites or don't need one, and I'm not sure if I could greatly help restaurants
Gyms - all the decent ones in my town already have websites

That's all I could think of for now. Please let me know your opinion on these choices, or if I missed anything.

Also, a lot of these are "boring" companies, so I'll have to figure out a way to write compelling copywriting for them.

I'll post up again once I get a sale over $500.
 
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