Nobody ever walked out on paying me. Not once. I always made sure the client was satisfied. If there was a problem with the project or they weren’t satisfied, I returned their money in full. 100% return if the client is not satisfied. If you don’t do a good job and you don’t make the client happy, you shouldn’t be paid. This drive for quality started from day 1 of Finsweet. It's still in our culture today. If you can’t stand behind your work, stop making websites. You’re in the wrong industry. To be successful in this industry, you must be able to make people happy.
All of these strategies I’m talking about are for fast growth. You don’t have to do 0% upfront, 100% at launch. You can do 50%, 50% and you can be super successful. However, 0% / 100% gets more people to say “yes”. So 0% / 100% will naturally let you grow faster.
More people will say yes, you have a bigger portfolio, you have more experience. A big portfolio + a lot of experience is a powerhouse combination for long term success.
There are key points in your career that you will need this mentality to grow.
When a big name client comes our way, I can always guarantee a sale. I will make any offer or agreement to get the project. Anything. Pick your price, any terms if it will secure a yes. I did this when I first started. I do this actively now in year 5. Every time you get a big project, an important client, a beautiful website - it’s a stepping stone to your next level. Your portfolio improves and higher end clients start coming your way. When you have an opportunity to make a beautiful website, you do anything you can to make that website.
I will make any offer or agreement to get the project.
In that first year, I took this mindset to max 100%. After 100 failed cold calls, I knew I needed to loosen up and stop caring about money and terms. I spent 2 weeks on the phone, and not enough time practicing my new trade. I had nothing real to show these people I was calling. They asked for a portfolio and I had some personal sites and half of a wedding website. This lack of portfolio turned into - I would do any website project for anyone, at any cost, for any reason. I begged people to let me make them a website. A little bit for the money, but mostly for the experience. I got turned down from all of those calls because I had no portfolio to show.
One time I accepted a 2 month project for $300. Ridiculous. It was a huge blog on Wordpress and I had never made a blog before. I learned so much during that project. It was worth it in experience.
Webflow was a huge turning point for me. Within days of using it, I was 100% sold.
I would never take another Wordpress site again and I was only going to work in Webflow.
Everything was faster and more simple. I had more creative control and I was able to visually see how html works with css on a webpage.
I remade all of my Wordpress client sites on Webflow. I remade each one without asking the client. I sent each client an email saying I rebuilt their website on a better platform free of charge. It’s faster and functions better and has animations. Within a few months of Webflow use, I had 10 full, clean, real client websites built in Webflow. This is important when trying to grow a Webflow-based web company.
I picked local businesses in town and remade their website for them. Didn’t tell them, didn’t contact them, just redesigned and developed their website based on what I thought they needed. Huge upgrades. I was taking 2005 sites and turning them into something usable and above their industry standard quality. I would present it to them and tell them that they didn’t have to pay for it. I just want them to use it. Believe it or not, this worked 0% of the time. I surprise-built around 5 full size websites, offered them for free, and was rejected every time.
I told leads to pick any price they wanted for the project. Choose any price. I’m in. In Webflow it was no more than 2 weeks of work.
At the very least I had experience.
I created test sample brand websites and sample brand websites. I must have had 30 or more of them. It was a great way to experiment with styles, interactions, and presenting a fresh brand online. I learned so much and I had a list of links I could send to clients to show them what I was able to do for their brand. I would send them 2 lists of links: Here are live client sites - and here are sample company websites that I created.
I tried to make a new website every day. I worked long hours. I was working unpaid for 80% of the day, just building and learning. Client websites, test websites, imaginary brand websites, nice websites, terrible websites. I did not stop. I worked a lot and I learned at a very fast rate. I honestly did not care how much I got paid. I knew that experience was needed to truly be successful in this industry. I was never going to be ultra successful with my current level of experience.
By the end of the first year, I had 2 things - no money and a lot of experience.
I made less than a part time minimum wage worker in the first year of business. Doing the numbers at the end of that first year was disappointing. I could have made more money doing almost anything else. However, I knew this wouldn’t have to go on forever. My portfolio was growing and I was getting referrals. Paid site prices were starting to rise. With all of that time in my room building websites, I didn’t have much time to do anything else. So I saved a lot of money - and racked up a reasonable, safe amount of credit card debt.