Every web designer has dreamed about running a profitable business. One that feels light, easy to run and dare I say fun.
Over many years I’ve come to realize the web designers who create a profitable and fun business have very specific habits they tend to follow. While you may be thinking they have their lead generation funnel dialed in and they’ve been lucky with big clients, those aren’t the habits that ultimately made them successful.
So if you have experienced any of the following:
- no idea of where to find your next client
- clients who don’t pay what you’re worth
- being bogged down by work you’re not enjoying
- working long hours with little to show for it
- and clients who delay projects
… these habits are for you. If you not only want to create a business that you love but also be able to enjoy your life at the same time, start incorporating these strategies and you’ll notice a difference in your mood, motivation, and of course, profits.
As a Portable Entrepreneur I want you to be exactly that…an entrepreneur, not buried in client work from the wrong clients and not having any fun.
So let’s transform your business and start having fun again with these 43 habits…
#43 Design your business from the beginning with intention
Close your eyes and imagine you are already successful in your business. What would that look like? How much money would you be making? How many hours would you be working? What types of clients would you be serving? What tasks would you (and would you not) be doing in your business?
Most of us determine what success looks like with a dollar amount. That’s a dangerous path as it doesn’t consider our lifestyle at all. It’s easy to unintentionally build a business you don’t actually enjoy so while your business may be financially successful, you secretly hate it.
#42 Create a goal range
It’s easy to say you want to make $10,000, $20,000 or more a month. And you know what, there is absolutely no problem with that goal. You can do it. The problem is that when you sit down to work without even $1 in income, that goal can feel daunting. This means if progress is not made quickly, overwhelm sets in and motivation fades quickly.
Let’s combat this by creating a range of goals. When looking at income goals I like to create 3 different targets
#1 Minimum success goal: this is the minimum amount of money you need to make in order for your business to be successful. For example, this could be the amount of money you need to cover your basic expenses.
#2 Middle-of-the-road goal: this is exactly as it sounds. This goal gives your pocketbook some extra padding but doesn’t feel totally out of this world to achieve.
#3 Crazy-scary-good goal: this is the goal that will put you on top of the world when you achieve it even though you may not be sure of the steps you need to take to reach it just yet.
Now aim for your crazy-scary-good goal and if you fall short, you’re still successful as you’ve hit one of your other targets.
Most of us create one goal, aim for it, fall short and then beat ourselves up when it’s not enough to cover the minimum. The problem here is not that we haven’t reached our goal, it’s that when you don’t aim big, you don’t think big so you don’t hit big.
This is important so really think about that last sentence. If you want to bring in a $10,000 contract but you only think you can do $1,000 and you only set your goal of $2,000 your mind doesn’t bother going to work to figure out the action steps that will bring you that $10,000 client.
#41 Run big business decisions by your intention and goals
When you know what your goals are and you are intentional in designing your business, whenever you have a decision about your business, review your intention and goals. This makes every decision you will need to make about your business significantly easier. It also helps you avoid shiny object syndrome which can take you in a thousand different directions.
#40 Read your intention and goals everyday
When you start getting bogged down in client work, in the daily tasks of running a business or dealing with a difficult situation, it’s super easy to forget what your motivation was in the first place. You’ll stay more motivated when you remind yourself everyday why you are doing what you are doing. It only takes 2 minutes and will increase your motivation and productivity massively.
#39 Take great care of yourself
There are only so many hours in a day so it’s tempting to wake up and go straight to work. When you take some extra time to take care of yourself every single day (yes, every. single. day), you’re actually gaining time even though it feels like you’re losing time.
For example, I wake up early everyday to go for a walk. I’m typically out the door between 6 and 6:15 a.m. (roughly 7 minutes after I get up!) and I walk for at least two and a half miles ( 4 – 5 miles if my friend goes). Then I come back and have a healthy breakfast (for me that’s a couple of scrambled eggs with coconut oil, kale, tomatoes and topped with avocado and chia seeds).
When I do this my productivity is through the roof. I am much more motivated, I get a lot more work done and I still have energy for my personal life when I’m done working. When you do this you immediately notice on the days that you don’t take time for you, how different you feel. So make it a priority and you’ll get more work done in less time, I promise.
#38 As silly as it sounds, be grateful
When we feel like we don’t have what we want yet, we don’t have the clients, we don’t have the results, our focus is constantly on what we don’t have but wish we did. This is actually counterproductive and makes getting the results we want harder.
So everyday remind yourself of what you’re thankful that you do have. Be thankful but you have the time, energy and perhaps even support and money to be pursuing the journey you’re on now.
#37 Celebrate your wins weekly
Remember this is about fun. Look back at the end of every week at what you did accomplish no matter how small it may seem. Every small step is taking you one step closer to the ultimate result you’re after. So celebrate those small steps so you can enjoy this. After all, it’s entirely up to you how fun this journey will be.
#36 Focus on improvement
At the end of every week don’t focus on what you didn’t accomplish that you thought you should have. Instead ask yourself what you can do better next week. So instead of beating yourself up for not landing any new clients, ask yourself what specific steps could you take next week to get better results and then schedule those tasks on your calendar. Make your goal to always be improving.
#35 Talk to yourself like you would a friend
Many web design entrepreneurs are waaaaaay too hard on themselves. Have you ever told yourself you’re not good enough, don’t know enough, don’t have enough experience, you aren’t worth more money, etc.? If so you need to stop that now. If I were to hand you the best lead generation funnel in the world and at the same time you were telling yourself these things, you will not be successful. I guarantee it.
So pay attention to what you say to yourself. It matters. When you catch yourself in one of these thoughts, ask yourself if your best friend was an entrepreneur, would you tell them they aren’t worth more money? Would you tell them they’re not good enough?
If the answer is no, which I’m sure it will be, then don’t say those things to yourself. Replace it with what you would say to a friend you cared about.
#34 Plan your week in advance
Don’t sit down on a Monday morning, or any morning for that matter, with no idea what you should be doing for the day. On Fridays or at a specific time over the weekend, set your intention for what you want to have done by the end of the following week. Break that down into tasks, and schedule your week with intention.
#33 Start your day with the most important task
Do your absolute best to start working on the most important task in your business first thing when you sit down. This should be the task that if nothing else gets done you will still feel productive. Otherwise all the other little tasks will fill your day and the most important tasks will be left undone. So while you did a lot, you will still feel unproductive.
#32 Always, always, always be working on your business
Your business is a constant work in progress which means you should always be working on it. If you are not intentional your client work will absolutely dominate your entire week. So while working on client work and getting paid feels good in the moment, that time will end and your business will not have grown. You will not know where your next lead is coming from and you’ll be starting the process over.
Schedule specific time on your calendar every single week to work on your business. If all you can find is 30 or 60 minutes a week, that’s fine. Schedule it! I schedule my time for Fridays after lunch. This allows me to turn off my phone, close my email and eliminate all distractions and not have to worry about clients so I can focus. This is usually when most clients have mentally checked out for the weekend anyway.
#31 Be intentional with your business growth time
When you sit down to work on your business, you should already know what you’re going to work on. You don’t want to waste 30 minutes of the 60 scheduled minutes wondering what you should be doing.
#30 Get comfortable hearing no
Most web design entrepreneurs don’t make progress simply out of fear. If left alone, this fear will take over and keep you from taking action.
Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach just at the thought of speaking to a client and what they might say? What if they don’t hire you? I mean wouldn’t that feel awful.
Hearing no isn’t personal. There are specific ways to design these conversations so you get “the yes”. So stop hiding behind the fear of being told no. There is no way to get a yes, unless you’ve heard no. If you need help getting over it, read this book and thank me later.
#29 Remember you are a problem solver
You may think that you are a web designer but in reality you are a problem solver. Businesses don’t hire web designers simply because they want a pretty website. There is a specific problem they are trying to solve even if that’s not what they say when they contact you. At the end of the day these businesses are looking for more leads, more customers, and more sales just like you. So remember that, design your client conversations around that and the money will follow.
#28 Drop the guilt around asking clients to pay
When there is scope creep or a client starts asking for more and more favors, don’t feel guilty charging them accordingly. You’re in business after all and time is money.
Would you call up a business and ask them to work for free? Of course not. So don’t allow your clients to expect that out of you.
#27 Always remember who runs your business
In case you don’t know…it’s you and not your clients! When a client asks for an exception, an addition, a change or something else, plan in advance how you will handle these situations. It’s always easier to figure it out when you’re not in the situation.
That way when a client requests something you know exactly how to respond and stick to it. Don’t let clients change your processes or rules for your business. That always creates an unhappy client and an unhappy web designer.
#26 Fire bad clients
If a client isn’t working out as you expected, let them go. Fully trust that the right client will come. After all, if you don’t let go of the bad clients you can’t make room for the good ones.
#25 Listen to your gut
Trust your gut fully. Have you ever worked with a client who ended up being horrible but you knew in your gut when you took on the client that it wasn’t right? When you don’t listen to your gut, you’re giving up the right opportunity that’s just around the corner as you won’t be available to see it.
#24 Spend money on revenue generating right tools
Send money on tools that will help you generate revenue (such as MyWebAudit and Better Proposals) and don’t be scared of that. If you want more clients quickly and you want your revenue to grow fast, just spend the money on the tools to help you. It’ll more than pay for itself (assuming you follow habit #1 below of course!)
All the tools that will help you be efficient and complete the process faster, you can start using as your business starts to grow and in fact, you shouldn’t hesitate to spend money on tools especially as your business grows. They will make you more profitable. I wish I did this waaaay sooner.
#23 Create processes and systems in your business
This will keep your business on track, you will finish your project faster and you will be more profitable. This also helps you bring on team members who can produce consistent results when you have these processes and systems in place.
Don’t try to build these before you start serving clients rather build them as you serve clients. Then after a handful of clients you’ll have tested processes that you can use moving forward. Here are some to get you started.
#22 Pick 1 lead generation strategy and go all in
If you’re trying a handful of lead generation strategies, there is no way to do them all really, really well. So pick one and go all in for at least 30 days so you can truly know if it is working for you or not.
#21 Create an automated email series
You want to be warming up all leads in your funnel at the same time you are serving clients. The more you can automate this process the better off you’ll be and the bigger pool of leads you will have to pull from when you have an open slot.
So schedule some time now to create an automated email series for potential clients and even if you write one short email every one to two weeks just imagine what that email series will look like and can do for you in just the next six months. (If you want my email templates that are already done for you, you can buy mine here)
#20 Be yourself
Forget everyone else in the industry and just show up as you. Clients will naturally gravitate towards you just because you are you so don’t try to show up as someone else.
#19 Stop looking for the next best lead generation strategy
These “new” strategies are typically just a distraction from what you should be doing to grow your business. Many of the strategies that have been around for years will work wonders for you once you just apply them.
#18 Define who your ideal client is so you know them when you see them
How many years have they been in business? How many employees do they have? How much annual revenue do they have? And so on.
#17 Look for others who already have your audience
See how you can get in front of their audience and work or partner together when it makes sense.
#16 Look after your previous clients
Don’t leave past clients high and dry. Past clients are my best source of revenue. After a job is done, how can you continue to serve them? Are there other marketing tasks? What could you upsell?
Audit their website or review their analytics quarterly and share an unexpected report with a couple of action items they could implement to see improvement. They’ll be back for more!
#15 Stick to what you love and do best in your business and hire for the rest
And if you think you can’t afford to outsource, that’s because you’re not outsourcing. ?
#14 Hire slow, fire fast
Don’t try to make it work if it just doesn’t. If they’re not bringing their A-game, let them go. It’ll only go down hill. (side note: hiring should have a process too so you take the time to hire the right person and not just any person)
#13 NEVER make a potential client wait
When you receive an email or phone inquiry drop everything you’re doing and get right back to them. I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve gotten just because I responded quickly.
#12 Be results-focused
Make getting results the goal of every project. When you focus on getting true results for clients, the revenue will come. They’ll bring you more business, they’ll refer others to you and you’ll have results people are willing to pay for to show new potential clients.
#11 Serve fewer clients
While it sounds counterintuitive, the more clients you serve, the harder it will be to get great results for them all. You’ll also be more stressed and work more hours. So raise your prices and serve less clients so you can get more results. There will be a happy you and even happier clients.
#10 Advise your clients
Clients may try to tell you how they want a site designed, what colors, layout, and so forth. Don’t hold back your advice. They are the expert on their business and you are the expert on what you do. So advise them on why you design the way you do (to get results!).
#9 Protect your personal time
If clients absolutely need work done after hours, on a weekend or holiday, charge accordingly. I charge 3X my normal rate for that. And guess what, rarely anyone takes me up on that and they know to plan in advance. Afterall, a failure to plan does not constitute an emergency on my part. ?
#8 Charge for in-person meetings
These time-sucking meetings should not be scheduled unless absolutely necessary. Tell clients you don’t do in-person meetings as you would have to charge for the time that takes you out of the office or raise your prices. Instead, you offer face-to-face meetings via Zoom or Skype. If clients really need you in-person, they’ll pay for that time.
#7 Offer the service that provides the most results and ditch the rest
Especially if you’re just getting started, stop trying to provide everything to everyone. What happens is you don’t offer anything of true value. So start with one target client and one offer. You’ll grow faster and can expand from there.
#6 Make recurring payments automatic
Every time you send a monthly client an invoice, they are unconsciously redeciding if they want to continue working with you. Put those payments on automatic withdrawal.
#5 Make saying yes and getting started easy
Present proposals live and allow clients to sign and pay with you on the phone. You can do this with a tool like Better Proposals and it’s worth every penny (and yes, recurring payments can be automated with this software too).
#4 Schedule your vacations and downtime
To stay fresh and motivated, you need time away from your business. Plan your vacations at least 6-months in advance so you have plenty of time to prepare for this time. This may mean scheduling your vacation during a slow time of year or ensuring you have someone to cover essential tasks while you are away.
#3 Lead with value
If you’re constantly thinking about money, money, money, don’t forget that you’re serving real people with real businesses with real problems that need your help. So ask yourself, how can I add value to a business this week? When you focus on the value you can provide, the revenue will follow.
#2 Stop thinking
You probably think too much. Thinking too much gives you the opportunity to let all those paralyzing thoughts based on nothing but fear creep in. Just do!
#1 Be consistent
Consistent action is what will get you results. This is the only way to learn, to improve and to bring in new clients. Plan your daily action, track it to make sure it’s actually being done and your profitable results will be inevitable.
Summing it up
To sum it up, be true to yourself. Lead with value. Show you truly care about your clients and their business. Show up consistently in your business by taking consistent action and trust no matter what that the results will follow.
Along the way don’t forget to take care of yourself and watch how you speak to yourself. It’ll make the difference you’ve been looking for.
Over to you…
Now choose 2-3 of these habits to start implementing and then come back later and pick a few more to implement. This is a journey so let’s not rush it!
What other habits work for you? Which ones of these will you try? Leave a comment and let me know!
Article by Christine Maisel
Christine Maisel is the founder of Portable Entrepreneur where she serves web design and SEO entrepreneurs by helping them start and grow their business.