Building your own web design business is challenging and unpredictable. And when business is slow, that’s when you’ll hit your lowest point.
Your thought process probably looks a little something like this:
I’ll let you decide what stage you’re currently at, but I’m willing to bet it rhymes with Bark Knight of the Bowl. *writes down idea for puppy parody of Batman*
The reality is, every business has slow periods. It’s not unique to web design.
It’s at these low points where your true perseverance and determination has an opportunity to shine.
“The enemy is our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications, and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we need to do.” – Steven Pressfield (author)
At this point, you have two options:
- Quit and go home
- Make the most of your spare time to further your web design business
The choice is yours.
If you choose option #2, I’ve got some ideas for you. In fact, I have 16 of them.
Let’s break these down into 3 categories:
“Life is growth. You grow, or you die.” – Phil Knight (Founder of Nike)
When business is slow, you’ve got a wide array of opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Whether it be technical skills, people skills, communicating with clients or refining your customer experience, there is always something that can be improved.
Honestly, you should be able to find something without even continuing on with this post. (but by all means, please keep reading, I’ve got a few extra for ya)
But, if you’re struggling to come up with something, here’s 6 ways you can improve right now:
Update your website’s design
Your website always has room for improvement.
I’ve been in business for nearly 5 years, and my website has gone through multiple massive transformations, along with countless refinements and iterations.
Just recently, while I had a slower week than usual, I decided to get a new animated video made to replace the one I had used for over 3 years. It was overdue.
The new video does a better job of presenting what RapidWebLaunch’s core values are. Especially considering how much my business has evolved over the years.
It’s also a much higher quality animation. I’ve watched it dozens of times myself. ????
You should be reviewing your business’ website every couple of months at a minimum. As you inspect it with a fine-toothed comb, you are guaranteed to find some room for improvement in the visual design.
Refine your sales copy
Your website is your sales pitch to the world. As such, your messaging needs to be on point.
It is astonishing to me how few web designers seem to recognize this.
I know you offer responsive web design. Everyone does. I don’t care that you say you do high quality work, everyone says they do. Oh yah? You offer beautiful WordPress website design at an affordable price? That’s nice.
- Tell me why I should choose you.
- Get me thinking.
- Make me laugh.
- Show me who you are.
- Inspire confidence.
- Force me to remember you.
That is what fantastic sales copy does. It gets you to stand out in your visitor’s mind when they’ve already visited dozens of other web designers.
If you were lined up against 30 other web designers, why should people choose you?
Honestly, ask yourself that question.
Then write something interesting.
Optimize your website’s performance
User experience is the most crucial aspect of SEO.
Sure, backlinks are great and all. But they are now a much smaller piece of the puzzle. Google wants to serve their users only the highest of high quality content.
And that means if your site is taking longer than a few seconds to load, you’re in big trouble.
There are many simple strategies to optimizing the performance of your website. I’m willing to bet you’re not using most of them.
This is also something that needs to be reviewed regularly, as web design performance standards are regularly evolving.
In addition, things can change on your website without you even being aware of it. Especially if you’ve got automatic updates enabled for your plugins.
Use sites like GTMetrix to consistently stay on top of your website’s performance. If you find something off, even just a tad, fix it.
Tweak your customer experience
From the moment your visitors first land on your website, to the second they become your customer, your customer experience needs to be stellar.
The good news is, the bar is incredibly low in the web design industry.
To stand out from the pack, it often doesn’t take much more than giving it some serious thought and putting some elbow grease into it.
Here’s how you do it:
- Think of the entire journey your customer takes as they go from “never heard of him” to “take my money”.
- Write down each step on a piece of paper.
- Then, take that journey yourself.
- Identify any weak points or room for improvement.
- Make the necessary changes and refinements.
- Retake the journey and ensure it’s genuinely interesting.
Don’t overlook even the smallest of customer touch points.
For example, I get a ton of positive feedback from this simple message that pops up when visitors submit a request for quote:
Like I said, a little bit of elbow grease and you’ll be well on your way to a vastly improved customer experience.
Check in with your current clients
Do you know how much more it costs to acquire a new client than to retain a current client?
The answer is much, much more.
Don’t neglect your current customers in the desperate hunt for growth and expansion. Check in with the customers you’ve already built a website for. (and ideally are web hosting customers of yours)
Find out how their business is doing and what their current problems are. Then see if you can offer help in any way.
Remember, when it comes to web design, your clients’ success is your success. If their business fails and they have to take their website down, you lose a client.
That may sound selfish to you, but I think it’s the exact opposite. You both stand to gain from each other’s success. That’s a great foundation to build a long-term relationship upon.
Sharpen your web design skills
You know that one aspect of web design you always wish you were a bit better at? It’s time to learn how to do it.
Business downtime is the perfect opportunity to devote time to improving your web design skills.
User experience, performance optimization, SEO, HTML, CSS, plugins, copywriting, graphic design, psychology (yes, that’s hugely applicable to web design), sales, content marketing… the list of technical skills is endless.
But let’s not forget about the even more important human skills. Things like emotional intelligence, empathy, communication, perseverance and time management.
Those skills will get you much further in business than all the techy stuff.
If you can’t find any skills or abilities with glaring holes in them, then you ain’t looking hard enough.
“The mistake a lot of people make is to assume the euphoria of an idea is going to persist all the way through the countless little steps that need to happen before the idea becomes real. Many lose heart or momentum because those little tiny things that have to get done are so dull.” – Rita King (author)
I’ve heard it all before.
“I want to build a web design business that allows me to craft my ideal lifestyle and live the life of a digital nomad. But I don’t know how to get started and get clients.”
I know how. You need to create something. Blog posts, videos, podcasts, something…
“Oh… yah I don’t really have time to do that. Is there another way I can do it but faster?”
Sure. Do you have thousands of dollars to spend on ads?
Ah. Then no.
This might sound like an oversimplification. It’s not. If you really want to build a successful web design business in this day and age, creating high quality content regularly is the best way to draw in leads.
But it takes time and commitment. Which is why so few choose to do it.
If you’re one of those few, here are some ideas for you:
Write a blog post
Just start typing. That’s always the hardest part.
Do some research first, of course. But don’t get hung up on it. Too many people are spending all of their time consuming without doing.
Writing a blog is still one of the best ways to improve your Google rankings and bring in more leads and customers. It is by far the most effective tool that helped me build RapidWebLaunch.
I mean, why are you here reading this blog post right now?
The more you write, the faster you’ll improve your writing and storytelling skills. And as I’ve mentioned many times before, storytelling is the most powerful asset you can own as an entrepreneur and online marketer.
Record a podcast
After you’ve gone through the effort of writing a blog post, go ahead and pick up a Blue Snowball microphone and start recording yourself reading them.
With each new blog post, you’ll create a new podcast episode as well.
Don’t worry, you’ll sound awful in the beginning. (just go back and watch some of my oldest videos for some examples)
But that’s OK. Like anything else, you’ll improve as you practice.
I’ve already detailed why I decided to start my own podcast, and why it might be a good idea for you to do the same.
Produce a video
YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world. If you have an online business, you need to be marketing on YouTube. Simple as that.
Good news! If you’ve already followed my advice, and written a blog post and recorded a podcast episode, then you already have the audio for your sweet new video.
Now you just need to use something like Powtoon to add visuals.
Blog post > podcast episode > YouTube video.
It’s the simplest content marketing framework in the world.
Design an infographic
Infographics are somehow still a thing. People never seem to grow tired of gorgeous illustrations that explain complicated data in a simple format.
I made an infographic a a few years ago. To this day it is still the most successful blog post I’ve ever made in terms of backlinks. It got distributed on many high profile web design blogs.
And that’s your main focus when it comes to creating an infographic. Make something that is irresistibly shareable and ends up giving your website dozens of backlinks.
The easiest way is to compile all of the data and research, then hire someone on Upwork to design the graphic.
Here’s the infographic I made: 6 Excuses Small Businesses Make for Still Not Having a Website
Create an eBook or online course
eBooks and online courses can still be an effective marketing method. Especially when it comes to building a brand.
The problem is that too many “bloggers” go about doing it the wrong way.
They gate it behind mandatory email opt-ins. Or, even worse, create crappy eBooks and courses that aren’t even worthy of an email.
If you’re going to create an eBook or course, do it right. Make something that you yourself would be willing to sign up for, and maybe even pay for.
Here’s the eBook I made for you guys: The Ultimate Website Evaluation Guide
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” – Mark Twain
There’s a reason why Learn is the last category listed here.
Don’t get me wrong, research and education is a crucial part of your entrepreneurial process. But there’s just so much content out there. I see so many of you reading, watching, and listening… but not doing.
Besides, action is one of the best ways to learn. Trial and error and real-world experience will always trump book smarts.
That said, when you’ve already taken action and it’s time to hit the books, here’s some options for you:
Read web design blogs
I think you’ve got this one nailed down already. So let’s move on, shall we?
(THERE ARE NO OTHER BLOGS OUT THERE ABOUT BUILDING A WEB DESIGN BUSINESS OK)
Watch web design videos
When it comes to learning web design, video often trumps reading blog posts. There are a lot of technical tutorials and stories to be told that don’t translate as well in written word.
So, by all means, subscribe to some quality web designers on YouTube. ????
Here’s my YouTube channel if you’re interested: RapidWebLaunch YouTube Channel
Listen to web design and entrepreneurial podcasts
Podcasts are all the rage these days.
There are a bunch of quality web design podcasts to choose from. And more are popping up every month or so.
Here’s my podcast if you’re interested: Launchers – Build a successful web design business
Read entrepreneurial books
Books offer anything and everything. You can find a book written about any topic in the history of mankind.
While I personally prefer to read and watch content about web design online, I do enjoy reading a wide variety of business, creativity and nonfiction books.
Here’s a list of the best books I’ve read so far: My Favorite Books
Talk to fellow web designers
Ah yes, nothing beats old fashioned networking.
Rather than over-reaching and shotgunning your networking strategy all over the place, try narrowing down your niche.
Find out where other web designers like to hang out and discuss topics around building a successful web design business. Facebook groups, Linkedin groups, and forums can all be extremely useful.
Getting tips, advice and motivation from people who have been in your shoes and share the same goals and values is priceless.
But what if there was an entire social network build specifically for web designers??
It’s true! I built it myself.
Here’s the social network I made just for people like you and I: Launchers
Or, enjoy the vacation!
Listen, maybe it’s time to take a break.
Business being slow could be the perfect time to take a step back and get some quality R & R. Your web design business will be here when you get back, I promise.
But that’s entirely up to you. You’re the only one who knows your own personal limitations and the current state of your physical and mental health. (except maybe your spouse, they tend to know a lot about you)
Either way, you have no excuses to do nothing.
If you don’t have any immediate clients at the moment, there are many things you can do to bring in new ones.
Outside of that, you have plenty of opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Otherwise, take some time off and come back when you’re re-energized and ready to do one of those two things.
Just. Don’t. Do. Nothing.