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GOLD! Moved to Scottsdale, Growing a Web Design Firm

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GuitarManDan

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The default for a single-member LLC is a disregarded entity, so it would just show up on your Schedule C. You would need to elect to be treated as an S Corp.
Technically, if you want to be an S Corp, you have to elect within 2.5 months of entity formation (or year-end for the subsequent year), but the IRS has historically been extremely lenient on late elections.
Thanks again for your help. I think I'm going to efile online myself ($85 vs. $500 with the lawfirm I spoke with). It's going to be a single-member LLC and then I can file for an EIN after.

The law firm recommended that I get quickbooks too for accounting purposes. I'm currently just using freshbooks for invoicing and I've been using google sheets to track any relevant expenses/revenue. Do you think I need a system like quickbooks with what I'm doing?

I'll also be sure to open a business bank account in the company's name after I get an EIN and after I efile.
 

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I've heard amazing things! Any recommended spots to catch a good sunset view? I still need to do some hiking while I'm here too, I've only checked out Pinnacle Peak so far, but have heard great things about Camelback and Tom's Thumb.
Not much of a hiker myself so I can’t say. I just take it in wherever I am. With that said, any elevation gain here will make it that much better.
 

Crexty

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get quickbooks, its worth the money. When you can, hire a bookkeeper for like $150 a month, it takes a big burden off my shoulders by letting them do it for me.



Thanks again for your help. I think I'm going to efile online myself ($85 vs. $500 with the lawfirm I spoke with). It's going to be a single-member LLC and then I can file for an EIN after.

The law firm recommended that I get quickbooks too for accounting purposes. I'm currently just using freshbooks for invoicing and I've been using google sheets to track any relevant expenses/revenue. Do you think I need a system like quickbooks with what I'm doing?

I'll also be sure to open a business bank account in the company's name after I get an EIN and after I efile.
ui
 

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Thanks again for your help. I think I'm going to efile online myself ($85 vs. $500 with the lawfirm I spoke with). It's going to be a single-member LLC and then I can file for an EIN after.

The law firm recommended that I get quickbooks too for accounting purposes. I'm currently just using freshbooks for invoicing and I've been using google sheets to track any relevant expenses/revenue. Do you think I need a system like quickbooks with what I'm doing?

I'll also be sure to open a business bank account in the company's name after I get an EIN and after I efile.
I think it depends on your size. If you're bootstrapping and just starting, I have no issue with spreadsheets and bank statements. However, the point where you need an accounting system to keep track of your financials comes much earlier than most people think.
There are plenty of options out there: QBO, Xero, I think Freshbooks even allows for expense tracking (maybe?), Wave, I've heard good things about Zoho One so you get an entire suite of business tools...the list keeps growing.
 

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Thanks again for your help. I think I'm going to efile online myself ($85 vs. $500 with the lawfirm I spoke with). It's going to be a single-member LLC and then I can file for an EIN after.
I'm not an expert on this corporation stuff. I went through LegalZoom and regretted it, but learned from it. They overcharged for everything. They also made it sound like I had to choose between a C or S-Corp. With my uncle's advice, I went with an S-Corp, but I regretted it afterward. I should have left it what it was.

Also, filing for an EIN is FREE through the IRS. Do not pay for it like some companies make you believe. You can do that now as long as you have your business name.
 
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GuitarManDan

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Hey everyone, haven't posted on here in a while. Here's what I've been up to since I last posted:

-Successfully finished and uploaded my first paying client's website, he was very happy with it and it led to repeat business.
-Recently closed a small/easy $800 site with a previous client that owns another business.
-About to close and get paid for a $4000 site with someone I networked with back in New York that we agreed upon.
-Proposed a $6500 site for a really successful Scottsdale law firm. Still haven't heard back yet but going to follow up next week as the in-person meeting went really well.

In terms of taking action since I've been out here:

-Made over 200 cold calls reaching out to local businesses. This led to the potential 6500 site and a few other pending deals I'm working on. I think this may not be the best use of my time though, so I'm going to start focusing heavily on in-person networking events. A lot of business owners I cold called didn't need a site, but were happy to meet up and introduce me to other business owners in the area so I took advantage of that opportunity.
-Met up with some other Fastlaners in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.
-Joined a few sports leagues and have met some friends and really cool people out here so far. Focusing on taking massive action and growing the business as the #1 priority, but coming from the insane hours and awful environment of investment banking, I'm trying to take it all in and enjoy my time out here.

Good news is it looks like April will be at least $4800 in revenue for my web design business! The main goal is to get to a point where I'm consistently covering my expenses and keep scaling this up.

Will keep everyone posted how it's going.
 

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-Met up with some other Fastlaners in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.
I would have joined you guys, but I didn't get the memo because I don't FREQUENT FREAKING FACEBOOK! :clench:

Play any poker? :playful:
 
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GuitarManDan

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I would have joined you guys, but I didn't get the memo because I don't FREQUENT FREAKING FACEBOOK! :clench:

Play any poker? :playful:
Haha, I've found myself using Facebook these days only for the events feature. I do enjoy playing poker!
 
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GuitarManDan

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Really exciting news today! There were some delays with the $4k site that I closed a few months back, but he just called me up that he's all ready to go.

Sent over the invoice and collected the 50% deposit this afternoon. I see this as a client that can bring me to the next level and my main focus these next few weeks is doing the best possible job for him!

The deal includes:
-Customized website
-Email marketing integration and setup
-Scheduling coordinator integration and setup
-Basic social media platform setup and some basic assistance to get him started

In other news, I've been focusing heavily on in-person networking and it's been going great so far. Last night I went to a happy hour for business owners and everyone seemed to enjoy my story of saying screw Wall Street and starting my own business.

Instead of miserably cold calling people, I was hanging out at a bar with a few drinks and had people coming up to me asking if I could help with their website. Next steps for this upcoming week:

-Set up the LLC and create the business bank acct
-Look into joining the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce to have more opportunities for in-person networking
 

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GuitarManDan

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Huge news, guys!!

Just closed a $1,500 WordPress site redo for a famous comedian!

So a little back story, a good friend of mine back in NYC told me she brought in a big client for her comedy talent management business she works for and she isn't going to see any commission on that. A light bulb went off in my head and I told her if she introduced me to anyone where I made a sale, I'd give her 15% of the total sale.

Next week, famous comedian she works with said he quickly needs a redo for his WordPress site and their company was frantically trying to find someone.

I quoted them at $800 - $2000 and the manager said $1500 works.

Just had a call with the comedian and my friend and he saw me as an expert because I had social proof (introduced from his management company). He told me exactly what he's looking for in the site (basic social media feeds, link to his iTunes comedy specials, YouTube videos, etc) and he kept thanking me for helping him out.

The manager of the comedy talent agency said "do right by us with this client and we'll make sure you have plenty of work in the future".

I'm so damn excited that months of hard work is finally paying off - This April will be my first month I cover all my expenses and I'll bring in $5500 total (so far) just this month.
 

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Just closed a $1,500 WordPress site redo for a famous comedian!

So a little back story, a good friend of mine back in NYC told me she brought in a big client for her comedy talent management business she works for and she isn't going to see any commission on that.
Could open the door to a nice little niche. I designed Jo Blow Comedian's website, I can do yours just as well!
 
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GuitarManDan

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Could open the door to a nice little niche. I designed Jo Blow Comedian's website, I can do yours just as well!
That's exactly what I was thinking too! So the #1 priority was overdelivering for this client and giving him a great customer experience.

After working like crazy for the past week, I sent over the comedian the first full draft of the site and just got this feedback and I couldn't be happier:

"Hey Dan! I think this is great! I love the layout. I will try and get some high res pictures for you and a list of tour dates, music videos to include, etc by later today. But terrific work! I love it!"

I couldn't ask for a better first impression with the comedian and the management company who promised me more work if I do right by them here.

Now it's time to continue to do a great job and finish up the final touches with this site and ensure everything goes smoothly. I'll keep everyone posted.
 
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GuitarManDan

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Hey Everyone,

I know it's been a while since I updated the thread on here - I've mainly been working hard to overdeliver for the two clients that I closed at the end of April ($1500 for the comedian and $4000 for the retirement planner).

The challenge I've been facing so far is the learning curve and trying to wrap up the projects (and of course, deliver) in the quickest time possible so that I can free up my time to bring in new business. Right now the current two projects have been going on for 4-5 weeks, which is longer than I'd like, but both are very close to being closed out. Most of the delays are on the clients side... it took me about 10 days to make the full websites for the clients. It's just waiting on small items here and there with few day delays.

I've been continuing to go to networking events to work on getting some business in the pipeline.

Another challenge is trying to line up new business while I'm spending most of my time working with the few clients I have now.

I'll keep everyone posted as updates come in! On a more personal level, Scottsdale and Arizona has been incredible...

I've already made a lot of friends out here and decided to renew my lease on my apartment. I've started to date a girl I met out here too and it's been amazing for my personal development making this move. It's really great to know that I can move somewhere new where I don't know anyone and make it work.

At the moment I'm involved in a bowling and a sand volleyball league with some friends and so far it hasn't gotten crazy hot (yet) in the AZ summer!
 
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GuitarManDan

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It's been too long since I've updated everyone so here's what's been going on since I last posted:
  • Comedian's Website: The comedian's website is completely finished. I really made a huge emphasis not only on over delivering but also giving the client a great customer experience from start to finish. Everyone in Fox's web design Facebook group helped me out a lot to provide a great website and copywriting for him. The client was really happy and now I'm going to see if he could give my business a shoutout on Twitter (he has around 55k followers so I figure that should lead to some referrals).
  • Retirement Planner Website: The retirement client has been dragging his feet a little bit as he's been crazy busy. He's still very happy with how everything is coming out and keeps thanking me, but the website has been 99% completed for about 3 weeks now and this one is dragging on longer than I would prefer. Definitely one of the challenges of this that I wasn't familiar with.
  • Overall Pipeline: One big challenge I've had is that for the past 4-6 weeks I've just put my head down and focused almost all my effort on over delivering for my two big clients (previously mentioned) and now I'm having issues getting new deals in the pipeline. I know these two big projects will lead to solid referrals, but who knows when they will come in. This is what I've been doing to work on getting more deals in the pipeline:
1. Networking - I've been attending a lot of events and trying to gain a local presence here in Scottsdale. I'm planning on joining the Chamber of Commerce and one other group that meets every Monday. I'm the only web designer in the Monday group so I'm excited about that.

2. Cold emailing/calling - I'm trying to not fill my days cold emailing/calling because I'm not sure how effective that will be as a use of my time now that I have some solid projects under my belt.

3. Following up with previous leads that never went through (for various reasons) - a lot of business owners drag their feet with this because they don't see it as being too important to them and I'm sure other projects come up

It's a challenge and definitely a little stressful as I haven't brought in new business in around a month and half due to how much I've been working on the other two sites. But the great news is my clients I've worked with are happy and I'm sure it will start leading to referrals.

For now though, the heavy emphasis is marketing and getting more deals in the pipeline ASAP.
 

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It's been too long since I've updated everyone so here's what's been going on since I last posted:
It's starting to get HOT -- whatdya think?
 
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GuitarManDan

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It's starting to get HOT -- whatdya think?
It was definitely a shock the first day it was almost 110 but I think I’m getting used to it!

No more hiking but the AC in my apartment is great and most of my outdoor activities have been at night (joined a night sand volleyball league).

Curious to see what 120 feels like now haha.
 
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GuitarManDan

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Closed a $1,200 WordPress site sale today!

This afternoon I was doing some cold calls and following up with some older leads when this one guy I'd been going back and forth with (didn't seem interested at first glance) was open to hearing about how I could help and eventually convinced him to go ahead with updating his site for $1200 (deposit already paid this afternoon).

Huge relief because I know I can deliver on this project and I know I'll get him better results and it's great to make another decent-sized sale.

If there's anything I learned from this one, it's the benefit of persistence and not taking things personally. When I first quoted this business owner for 1200, he pretty aggressively told me he would never pay that much for a "website that looks somewhat nicer".

Instead of getting offended or hurt, I simply pushed back that I get build websites that get businesses results and went through different benefits and highlighted issues with his current setup.

Will keep everyone posted on how this project goes, but he seems very committed so far (already paid the deposit, sent over pictures, and provided some additional info I need to get started).
 
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GuitarManDan

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Another deal closed! This has been a great week for the business.

$1,000 one page simple HTML site for a networking business owner I met at a few events.

I just happened to look at his site and saw how bad it was and sent him an email suggesting a few things he could do to improve it and he wanted to have a call to discuss.

Call went really well, I originally quoted him at $1250 and he said he could do it at $1000 which I'm fine with because this guy knows a lot of local business owners and this is my first client in Arizona since I've been here (all other clients are back home in NJ/NY).

I know I'm going to overdeliver for this client and I'm really excited to work on this one.
 

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You are making me nostalgic! Congrats on the sales.
 

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GuitarManDan

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You are making me nostalgic! Congrats on the sales.
Thanks MJ! It’s been quite the ride so far starting a whole life over here in Scottsdale.

I have a few sales meetings this week too so hoping to start really bringing in some new business.
 
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GuitarManDan

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Hey Everyone,

Wanted to stop in and provide another update for what's been going on in my world.

Haven't closed a sale since my last update but I've been grinding away at overdelivering for the clients I'm working with and going to networking events / reaching out to targeted niches. I'm very close to closing a few different ones at the moment. I'm currently in discussion with a smaller site for a party planner (more of a portfolio/networking piece), a complete redesign and SEO package for a CPA firm in Scottsdale and a complete website redesign for an investment mgmt firm in Chicago that was referred to me from someone I met a networking event.

What I'm Currently Focusing On: It's great that I've been able to pick up some smaller jobs for people that I've networked with in Scottsdale (most recent sales were for $1200 and $1000) but I understand these types of clients are going to get me anywhere besides breaking even with my business.

I know that overdelivering for these clients can lead to great referrals down the line and that's why I'm still doing them, but at the same time - I don't want to be known as "the guy who does cheap websites".

Someone referred me to a small business owner saying "everyone is trying to charge her 2k or more, I know you can beat that price.

I'm working with Fox and some other really helpful and experienced individuals in his inside group to start heavily targeting and delivering for clients in niches where it makes sense for them to invest $5k - $15k for a website, such as:

  • Financial services
  • Legal services
  • CPA firms
  • Construction companies
  • Doctors
The good news is that one of my first clients ($4k total for a retirement planner back on the east coast) website is finally online so I've been using that as a portfolio piece to show other professionals in that space my recent work.

I feel like I'm so close to that cusp of closing a few huge sales and I know I just need to work smart and hard and I'll get there.

I'm definitely not afraid to roll up my sleeves and hustle, but at the same time I want to make sure I'm constantly reassessing my strategy so that I don't get complacent and end up not meeting my goals.

I know it helps to put it in writing, so here they are:

Business Goals:

2018: $50k total revenue brought in from the business (currently sitting at $10k with around 5 and a half months left in the year)
2019: $100k total revenue brought in from the business

Also, I'm sure some of you will enjoy this... I keep having recurring nightmares that I'm back in NYC working in that awful toxic environment!
 
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GuitarManDan

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Hey Everyone,

Could use some advice/help on this one. Here's some quick background on what happened:

  • Networking contact referred me to a successful investment mgmt firm in Chicago (owner lives in Scottsdale currently)
  • Owner emailed me saying he liked my other sites and we had a great 1 hour call or so about what he's looking to do.
  • I sent over a proposal for just under $7,000 to do a complete website redesign and some help with other things (email marketing setup for example).

The owner just responded today saying that the price sounds good to him and that he'll take a closer look this weekend, but he wouldn't be able to get started until end of August.

So it's great news, but I know to be cautiously optimistic and want to focus on what I can do to increase the chances of this deal closing.

He lives by me so I figured a personal face to face meeting would be a great idea, but he's traveling and said we can get coffee to further discuss this at the end of August.

My Question: What are some good ways to keep up this relationship and to stay in his peripherals so that when he's ready to move forward (end of Aug / early Sept) he will want to move forward and not look to other competitors?

Someone in Fox's inside group made a great suggestion of sending the owner a value-adding email every week or so, maybe an interesting article about email marketing and something that relates to his project.

Thanks so much!
 

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Someone in Fox's inside group made a great suggestion of sending the owner a value-adding email every week or so, maybe an interesting article about email marketing and something that relates to his project.
Great idea.

Maybe send some ideas or a few questions on what's important to him and his firm. Something like, "when a potential client visits your website, what's the #1 thing you want them to know? Or do?"
 
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Great idea.

Maybe send some ideas or a few questions on what's important to him and his firm. Something like, "when a potential client visits your website, what's the #1 thing you want them to know? Or do?"
I like this idea too! My main goal was to get a verbal commitment asap but it seems like that'll be a challenge if he's traveling for the next 3 weeks or so.

My first big client ($4k retirement planner) shook my hand and we agreed upon a price in person and even though he dragged his feet for 2-3 months before we started, he told me when other web designers pitched their services he'd say "I already have a guy for this".

^That's the kind of security and relationship I want to build where he sees that my solution is exactly what he needs for his business and he's not even looking elsewhere or fielding other offers.

But anyway, that will be a project that kicks off in September so it's great to build out high-value contracts in the pipeline... focusing now on August.

Sending out a lot of cold emails and going to networking events targeting high-paying niches to work on some new projects:

  • Sent out a proposal for a $5k website and in-depth SEO work for a Scottsdale CPA (sent out a really detailed email to show the ROI he would see if we increased his ranking)
  • Sent out a proposal for an $11.5k website for a pretty complex ecommerce website for a doctor that I networked with here - Going to keep following up but I think he thought it was way cheaper than this so he probably won't close. I was originally going to charge around 4-5k but spoke with some ecommerce website veterans and learned how much to actually charge.
Will keep you posted when I learn more about the current and future pipeline for the sites!
 

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Hey man! Happy to see you're making progress! Hope you're liking it out here (And this damn heat)

Definitely keep up the cold emails & cold calls, a huge chunk of my biz comes from doing it. Seems like its starting to work for you.
 
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8/8/18 Update:

I'm all for being upfront and honest, so I'll be the first to say that it's been tough the past 3 weeks or so. I have some good leads in the pipeline but nothing officially closed and haven't had any projects to work on the past 3 weeks besides doing outreach and followups.

While business has been slow, I asked a handful of past customers for testimonials and updated my own personal business site to have more of a professional appearance and rank better for keywords that people may be searching for in my local area.

I'll provide a quick update of some things going on at the moment and then where I'm going with the general direction of the business:

Current Leads:

1. Chicago Investment Mgmt Firm: Referral came in from a networking event - Chicago Investment Mgmt firm has a terrible website and they're looking for a completely updated site from scratch and to setup email marketing.

Had an excellent call with the owner, he really liked that I have a background in financial services. Quoted him at $6,950 and he told me that price seemed reasonable to him but he's traveling so we can grab coffee at the end of August.

This is a really great lead and exactly the type of clients I'm trying to get, but I'm working on doing the best possible job to land this client and not getting ahead of myself or putting myself in a spot where I "need" this one.

2. Scottsdale CPA Firm: Cold email led to a few different calls back and forth. Owner has a decently successful firm but is looking to move it to the next level (higher net worth clients). I pitched him on a new website and really in depth SEO work for $5,000 - he told me he wasn't sure he could find that in the budget.

Working with some members in Fox's inside group now to try to send another follow up email to really show him the value of the SEO work (already did an ROI analysis).

This owner seems to really want to work with me though (kept asking if I could work with him, something like less money upfront and a contingency depending on the results he gets). This could get dicey if I did that but I'm trying to get him to see the value first and maybe go as low as $4,000

3. Scottsdale Photobooth Vendor: Referral from the weekly networking group I joined - simple $1,100 WordPress site.. doing this one more as a referral source for the future, but she doesn't want to get started until end of August but a great testimonial from another owner I worked with in the group I think sold her on this one. Not going to make me rich with this one, but still pays some of the bills.

4. Austin, TX Hedge Fund: Cold call actually led to the CEO of a company that manages $300 mil assets had a call with me. They're not looking for a new site but instead for SEO work and maybe some help running their digital marketing campaign. Not the exact type of client I'm looking for, but they will probably have a great budget and it would be a learning lesson for me to really get in depth in SEO and AdWords. Call went well and going to have a follow up in 2 weeks with some people on his management team.

5. Scottsdale Resume/Career Coach: Referral came in from someone I networked with here in Scottsdale. They told me they need help with SEO/AdWords/Analytics... I have a call with them tomorrow where I'm going to suggest that they get an updated site because SEO/AdWords are going to lead people to their current site which is not going to convert and would be a waste of their money to pay someone to increase the presence of a bad site (obviously I'll say this in a more professional way).

General Direction of the Business:

This is becoming a long post but this is my thought process at the moment where I'm trying to take the business:

  • I've built up a solid portfolio and have gotten business owners some results so far (5 paid jobs, 1 of those jobs with a famous comedy central comedian)
  • I want to leverage that portfolio to start targeting higher paying niches and transition from the difficult clients that want to low ball you to professionals who are willing and have the money to pay for $4k+ website projects so that I can get some of my time back and don't have to worry about always hustling to bring in a crazy amount of new clients
  • Although it's great I'm getting referrals, they're coming from clients that I worked with for a low budget $1-2k so the referrals are expecting low prices like that which isn't sustainable for me. It feels like growing pains right now but I have a good feeling I'm on the right track... just stings to keep seeing the bank account dropping lower and lower the past month.
 

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