1-on-1 Web Design Coaching Session | Episode #13 CJ Gilland

Table of Contents

1-on-1 with Patrick is a series of web design coaching sessions for wannabe web designers.

In this episode we have CJ Gilland from Kalamazoo, Michigan! We discuss:

  • Where CJ is at in his web design journey
  • Struggling to find motivation and momentum
  • Hosting and maintaining client’s websites vs handing them over
  • Register the domain on behalf of the client or let them register it?
  • Why you should always take a 50% deposit before doing any work
  • Do I still recommend Weebly to web designers?
  • Why coding for web design is gone forever
  • How to deal with “feast and famine”
  • Some advice about personal finances
  • Prioritizing practice and closing thoughts


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Episode Transcript

Where CJ is At in His Web Design Journey

CJ: Okay, can you hear me now?

Patrick: There we go. Okay. Now we’re going to have a connection issue. Hang on a sec. Let me grab my phone and move it closer to my computer. All right that should be better, because I’m tethering off of my phone. So it was a bit, farther away, but now I’ve moved it closer. All right. Now it’s the tech support out of the way. How’s it going? Do you, prefer Charles or CJ?

CJ: Well, yeah, most people they just call me CJ, but it’s Charles, but yeah.

Patrick: Cool. Where are you from?

CJ: I’m from Kalamazoo, Michigan, so, we’ll ways away, but yeah. I’ve been starting, well, I picked up an interest in web design. I’ve always been interested in it. You know, I did like graphics design in high school and then I sort of moved in to CIS through there. I went to College or Western. And then, I got a degree in Computer Information Systems,  where I did like data analytics and that was nice and all, but I’ve been thinking more and more about web design, just because of the fact that that’s sort of been something I’ve, I guess I’ve been wanting to do. There hasn’t been a whole lot of opportunities for it. And then, you know, just one day, I was looking through like Google and YouTube, and then I saw your videos and I’ve just been sort of more interested in the field, but at the same time I’ve been kind of hesitant because it’s like, okay, if I do this, you know, what opportunities are out there in terms of it? Cause, I mean, I do enjoy, like I said, data analytics, it is something that I’m good at, but at the same time, that’s not like really my passion, you know, it’s more been like the whole, graphic, web design type of field. It’s just that, you know, finding the opportunities. Well, if there are opportunities, just seeing what that landscape is like, so that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.

Patrick: Okay. So you’re very much at the beginning of your, web design journey then?

CJ: Yeah, I mean, like I said, I’ve done Adobe. The closest that I’ve done is in terms of like designing websites, would probably be like Google sites. It was like a little project that we were working on for our class. But in terms of, I mean, I did download, Windows, not Windows, WordPress, local. So I’ve been kind of playing around with that with Elementor and for the most part, I mean, it hasn’t been like super complicated and like me not understanding it. I’m still messing around with it, I have a lot to learn, but, I mean it’s definitely something, you know, that I’m seriously looking into, so. But I’m still like a beginner.

Patrick: Okay, cool. Yeah, yeah. That’s all right. Most of us are, are mostly people I talked to here are. So what’s, your biggest challenge right now? Or what can I help you with?

Struggling to Find Motivation and Momentum

CJ: Well, I guess my biggest challenge right now is like trying to find that like first step, you know, like I said, I’m still like playing around with it, you know, through tutorials and, you know, trying to like designing, like right now I’m like working on like my personal website, you know, if I actually like went down the like that avenue, but, it’s I guess, yeah, for me it’s just been like, okay, what’s like the first step to like, get that like snowball effect to just keep going.

Patrick: Well, I think you’ve started the snowball, I think it’s rolling. But honestly, yeah, I think the, what the biggest mistake people do when first starting out should say the biggest mistake they don’t do is because they don’t practice. They just don’t put in enough time using the tool that they, you know, like using WordPress and Elementor, and you download the, you know, local staging. And then you just work at you’re practicing, like make up a project. So you can pick any, any small business, go on Google maps in your area, find some local businesses or local restaurants that have either a really crappy website. Actually, you can’t really have or go to no website. They have a website already, but it’s really crappy, it’s really dated, it looks ugly. You know, maybe it’s not responsive for mobile devices.

The reason why you want to pick one, a business already has a website is because you can pull all the content from the website and redesign it. So do the same thing over and over with different businesses. And the best part about this type of practice is that once you, once you’ve redesigned the page for them, you get your practice in, and at the same time, you can turn it around and try to sell them the new website. You can contact them and say, Hey, I redesigned your website for you. The work’s already done. Here’s what it looks like. If you’re interested, you know, here’s what it would cost to, go live with it. So you accomplished two things. You actually, you’re putting in the work for the practice to get to improve your skills. And you’re also potentially getting your first clients.

Hosting and Maintaining Client’s Websites vs Handing Them Over

CJ: Okay. And when you’re doing that, do you normally, do you manage and host or do you like manage their sites too? Or do you just normally just give them the site and have them deal with like the managing part of it?

Patrick: So I, yeah, I, when I first started out this whole thing, my whole objective was to build a business that had passive income and for web design, there’s a number of ways to do that. But one of the most common is, website hosting and maintenance because once a website’s live published, it’s not done, the work continues. It needs to be maintained, and the average person doesn’t know how to do that. So for a modest fee every month, I would maintain their website for them. So I would encourage you, I always encourage people just starting out to try to implement that part of their business as soon as possible, because that is where your real, revenue growth is going to come from long-term and it’s going to make your business more sustainable, long-term. You’re not going to eventually, as you grow that client base, you won’t feel so much pressure to constantly having to go out and get new clients, new clients, new clients, because it’s like a one and done thing.

You know, you build a website, you publish it for them, you get your, your nice fee, your cash, and then it’s done. You never see them again. And that’s what you don’t want. Okay. So if you, if you have the opportunity and you have the time, I definitely would encourage you to dig into, building a website hosting business. And I’m going to be coming out with some more content about that over the next few months, because it is some of the most common questions I get. How people can start their own website hosting business. So keep an eye out for that. But, yeah, I would definitely recommend starting that out as soon as possible.

Register the Domain on Behalf of the Client or Let Them Register It?

CJ: Okay. And then, you know, you were saying like, building websites for other people. And so I guess, my question would be when you’re doing that, do you normally, do you have the domain already set up or do you just start locally and then say you’re designing a forum and then you set up or purchase their domain and information and then you go from there or is it just one of those things where you first just wait out and see if they want the site and then they go ahead and they purchase the domain or do you like do that for them?

Patrick: I always, well try to get my clients to purchase their domain themselves. Reason being, I don’t want them to ever feel trapped with my, with my services. If they, at some point decide they want to cancel or migrate their site somewhere else, they should be able to do that, it’s their website. And the thing is with the domain is that once you register a domain, it’s very difficult to move it. So for example, if I register a domain under my name, under my account to represent a client, and then one day they say, I’d like to move my website to this such and such, it’s, it will be such a pain to migrate the domain registration to their name at that point. So I always say, and I give them instructions to do so. I just tell them to go to namecheap.com, open an account, and it’s very easy to pick a domain and register it.

Why You Should Always Take a 50% Deposit Before Starting Any Work

CJ: Okay. And so when you’re designing websites locally, do you normally just have them, like, I remember one of your videos you were saying, have them pay half. Is it best to just work within their budget or just have a set price?

Patrick: So when I first started out, I was very flexible on pricing and you kind of have to be. In all honesty, the first couple of websites I did, I basically did for free just to build my portfolio, to show that I, some examples of work that I’ve done. And then the few website and I slowly increased my rates as I, as I got better. And as I grew my brand, but for sure, the first few, you have to be flexible on price. But, the one thing I will say is never start with, if you agreed, if you get a client and they agree to build a website with you, don’t start the work until they give you a 50% deposit. That should always happen. Even if they’re only paying you 200 bucks for the site, get the a hundred bucks because it, gives them, they buy in to the project.

There’s an upfront investment, and that will create the incentive to finish the project, because they’ve already put some of their own money into it. If you just start working without any deposit, any down payment at all, there’s a much higher chance that in the future, over the next few weeks, they kind of just forget about you or they get busy because people are busy, especially if they’re a small business owner, they’re super busy and it’s very, it’s a lot easier for them to kind of put you on the back burner. And at that point you’ve already put in the work and you’ve spent your time. So you’re, already invested and you haven’t gotten anything out of it. So always get no matter how low the rate is, no matter how low you’re charging always get a 50% deposit.

Do I Still Recommend Weebly to Web Designers?

CJ: Okay. And then I remember, in your videos, you were saying how you use WordPress and Elementor. But I’ve seen some people talk about Webflow and Weebly. And I remember, I think you said like, we believe it was like your first one that you started to go on. And so I was just wondering, even like right now, would you still say Weebly would still be pretty good or would it just be better to work somewhere like what’s WordPress or Webflow?

Patrick: So, as of right now, I would, I still recommend Weebly to small business owners that want to build their own website. It’s still, the easiest website builder for people who knows nothing about web design. I just want to put up a simple, small business website. I still always recommend Weebly to them. It’s just, it’s very easy to use. And that is how I started my business. I used Weebly on my own and, you know, I ranked it very well within Google and people. There’s a lot of web designers that say, I can’t rank a Weebly website high in Google, and that’s simply not true if you know what you’re doing, you can do that. So, for small business owners, they want to build their own site, I recommend Weebly.

For web designers and freelancers that want to build own web design business or agency, I don’t recommend Weebly because they have a version of their web designer. They have a web designer platform, basically a version of their platform is specifically for web designers and it’s not good enough. For years they did not update it. They neglected it and they should be, web designers should be their best customers. And I don’t know why they neglected it for too long. It was a huge mistake and that’s why I ended up moving all of my Weebly websites to WordPress. I ended up having to rebuild them on WordPress Elementor, it took a while. But it also got me familiar with WordPress and Elementor so like, we talked to that before you put in the practice, and you build your skills. So it was valuable in that sense, but yeah, I would definitely, WordPress is the most popular platform, so I encourage people that can learn it, they should. But I also, if you feel like you want to start out with Weebly, just know that at some point you’re going to want to migrate to something else. With Webflow, Webflow is advanced. What there’s like Weebly, WordPress, and then Webflow is a more advanced tool. If you know, a lot more about web design, you’re more advanced in your skills, then I’d recommend Webflow. But otherwise if you’re just starting out, it can be pretty overwhelming.

Why Coding for Web Design is Gone Forever

CJ: Okay. Yeah. And then coding wise, because I’m still, I’m pretty familiar, with HTML. I’ve done CSS and Java, but web design itself, would you say that would be an important tool or would you just say that, you can still get by just like using the, I don’t want to say like drag and drop, but like just going like through the elements or perhaps.

Patrick: True its drag and drop. Honestly, if you look at, coding is not necessary to build great websites, it hasn’t been for years. It’s actually a big reason why it hasn’t been when I first started the Baffler web launch was 2014 and a big reason why I got into it was because at that point it had website builders had already progressed to the point where you don’t have to know how to code, because I was interested in web design at a younger age, when I was like in my early teens, but I really didn’t like coding. I hated it. I thought it was super boring and at the time that was, you had to know it to really get into, like even with WordPress design, you need to know the basics at least to do a lot of custom edits and stuff.

So I kind of abandoned it and then I came back to it when I was older. Once the technology had advanced drag and drop builders are the future they have. And they’ve been the standard for the past, you know, six or seven years, at least. So, no, you don’t need to know how to code. It’s always a good skill. It’s always good to know. You can always do it more advanced projects if you know it. And in particular, if you do know how to code Webflow might be an option you might consider and they have free trials and you can, and free staging sites, you can toy around with all these, with their product and their platform and see if you like it. I know a lot of advanced designers seem to love Webflow and there’s even people in our, a little launches community just starting out and they chose Webflow because they really want to get into straight into the advanced stuff right away. But coding is definitely not essential. And, it won’t ever be again.

CJ: Okay. Well, that’s probably a good thing because I can definitely be irritated.

Patrick: It’s good for a lot of reasons. It’s, it’s what I call the democratization of web design. Like it’s, yeah. It makes it more accessible than ever to, small business owners first and foremost, and to people that want to get into building websites. So there’s never been a better time to learn.

How to Deal With “Feast and Famine”

CJ: Okay. And like finding clients, has there ever been a point where, you’ve gone I don’t know, like six months or whatever, even like a year or more of just like not having clients or have they always just been this non-stop but there’s never been a point where it’s like okay, I really need clients and it’s getting difficult. Have there ever been those kinds of rough patches with web design? Because that’s kind of where I am.

Patrick: That’s called a feast or famine. There are periods of time where it just feels like, all the clients are just coming in. Like draining clients and it feels like it’ll never end. And then all of a sudden there’s a dry spell and you go a few months and without new clients, yeah. Every, designer goes through that. Especially the first few years, there were, months that went by, I didn’t get a new client. But that again is why I was slowly building up the passive income side of things, the residual income, the maintenance and hosting, because with each website I built, I was able to bring in more income automatically, after the site was launched. And eventually I got to a point where just the hosting and maintenance was enough to live off of. I didn’t have to bring in new clients anymore, ever as long as I maintain my decent client base, decent size client base, I was okay. And that is where once you get to that point, that is where your reach, it’s truly a liberating feeling. Because at that point you can pick whoever, whatever clients you want, you can pick who you work with. You don’t have to be desperate for new clients, you don’t have to lower your rates to get new clients, you know, you’re not constantly chasing and, selling, you let them come to you. And if you don’t really feel like you’re a good fit, you just say, no thank you. And what’s funny about that, Is that, the more you become more confident in your sales, because you can say no at any point, and that actually makes people want you more, they want your services more.

If you’re desperate, that scares people away. Because then they’re like, well, why is he so desperate? He must not get very many clients. If he does not get many clients, he must not be very good. You know, you go through this whole process, but if you’re like, you know what, and you’re the one interviewing them and you’re asking them questions. Like, how long have you been in business? Like, what’s your, what are you selling? And you basically flipped the table, you turn the tables on them. And they’re interviewing to get to hire you, so it’s a pretty great feeling. It takes, a while before you get to that point, but that’s why I say, start doing the hosting and maintenance as soon as you can, right from the beginning.

CJ: Okay. And then when you’re doing like the, did you have like your website already built and have a domain and all that set up before your business? Or did you just start doing kind of like a hybrid of both where you’re building your website, but also, looking for clients?

Patrick: I had my own website pretty much right from the beginning. Yeah. You need to have something, it wasn’t pretty. I wish I had saved more of my earlier stages of websites that I built and different revisions of my own website, even so I could show you guys so I can show everyone that, asked me about that. Because your first websites, they’re just going to suck, like, they’ll be ugly. Like that’s part of the learning process, but a web designer that’s trying to sell services, web design services who doesn’t have his own website, that’s like, that’s a huge red flag. Right? And there’s a surprising amount of people that do that. So yeah, you need to build your own website as soon as you can.

Some Advice About Personal Financial Goals

CJ: Okay. And what would you in terms of, like how much would you say you’d have saving wise? Can you hear me?

Patrick: Yep. Sorry, can you hear me?

CJ: Okay. Sorry like when you first like said, okay, I’m going to start doing my own, having my web design business. How much money would you recommend, saving wise just to prepare for that dry spell or anything like that?

Patrick: You know what, that all comes down to your personal budget. So yeah, because everyone’s different. Right? So yeah, you have to figure out what you’re in and that’s basically all that based on what my monthly budget was for my living needs. And you have to figure that out for yourself, and kind of determine how much money you would need to have in the tank basically for those dry spells. Until you get to that point where you’re making your residual income each month, the maintenance.

Prioritizing Practice and Closing Thoughts

CJ: Okay. So, yeah, that’s pretty much all my questions so yeah, thanks again Patrick. Is there any other tips or advice you’d say?

Patrick: Just generic tips or advice? My number one, when people ask me that, I always say, devote time, spend more time on the project and you’ll get better, faster. And I see that in, our little launchers community, the people that are the most engaged in the community, the people that are putting in the work, the practice of website building they’re progressing faster and they’re getting clients already. And the ones that are talking about doing things and talking about this and asking a lot of questions and getting answers, but not acting on it, they’re not making much progress. So it’s all about action, it’s like any other skill, if you want to learn a guitar, you got to put it into practice daily. If you want to become a carpenter, you got to put in practice for years. Web design is no different, but the good news is that, you know, with this crazy pandemic and everything going on, I mean, I know most of us being locked up in our homes are trying to stay home. We have a little extra time most of us, so instead of using that time for Netflix or PlayStation five, I would encourage you to, yeah, put it in the practice and yeah you’ll get better faster.

CJ: Yeah. Cause I’ve definitely given up on both of those from week one, but yeah. Okay, all right. Well again, I appreciate it and thanks for your time.

Patrick: No worries. Thanks for reaching out CJ. And when you finish your own website, I’d be interested in taking a look at it.

CJ: Yeah, definitely. I think you had a link where you gave people, at the end of your videos, where to go, if you want it, like to rate their websites. So yeah.

Patrick: I’m doing free website reviews now. It’s kind of a new YouTube thing of doing, so people seem to like it.

CJ: So yeah. So I’m still working on it. I’ve got a few more pages, but that’s definitely something that I would be looking into so appreciate it.

Patrick: All right CJ, Stay safe.

CJ: Yes, you too.

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Patrick Antinozzi

This post was written by an organic being with the help of AI. Pretty wild that I have to disclaim that, eh? I'm just trying to provide value. It's not always the prettiest or the most succinct.

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