Kori Ashton shares how to improve your WordPress services, pricing and process. This webinar is a part of the PressTribe live series. She reviews contracts and scopes as well as concepts on niching your freelance or business structure. Find more from Kori online.
Hey ya’ll and welcome to another workshop. This one we’re gonna be looking at improving your services, improving your pricing, and thus your profit, right, and improving your process. This can be applicable if you’re a freelancer or if you’re a small agency looking to improve things and grow your team, grow your revenue. This is the workshop that’s gonna get you there.
I’m gonna be showing you specific things on how to walk through an improved process with different tools. I’m gonna be showing you example contracts and reference your legal team, right? There’s the fine print there. I’m gonna be showing you all sorts of cool things and kind of sharing with you the story of how we grew up here at WebTegrity. So let’s go take a look.
So I’m super pumped to say that I got started with WebTegrity back in 2012. This is the shot of our grand opening and my parents who are on the right side of your screen there, who were my co-founders. My mom and dad invested in me as well as in the company to come start things. My Dad had already been building websites and knew HTML and CSS, and he was excited to start with us, and then my Mom came on as our accountant. So we were a very small team. As a matter of fact, one of the gals in this group picture was our very first employee. So, actually, subcontractor. We didn’t have employees yet. So really cool, humble beginnings.
This was our first location, up above a Starbucks was our claim to fame. We had a Chinese restaurant on one side and a girl’s dance bar on the other side. But our claim to fame was Starbucks. And we were down in a very busy section of town, in the medical center area of town, a lot of traffic, so we put this sign up in our window and were advertising our services. So thankfully though, we’ve grown our team.
Now in 2019 we now reside in this beautiful building. And we’ve grown our team from one subcontractor to there are 11 of us now. So even this team picture is older. Our beautiful space we’re so proud of. And this is where we’re meeting with clients every day, brainstorming with them, and getting them inspired to grow their online presence. So thankfully we’ve grown our company from just doing something super small, basically from our couch, to that first brick-and-mortar, if you will, up above Starbucks, to in 2017 we were acquired for over seven figures.
And as of 2019, we have been ranked third in San Antonio, which is kind of a big deal for us, because this is a saturated market here in San Antonio. So what I’m gonna walk you through in this freelance section is really more about how do you do what we’ve done and go further than that even, right?
Hindsight is 20/20. If I had had some of the processes in place that I know today back then, we would have been really able to propel our company forward. So how do you do that now? What are you doing at your current stage to take the next steps needed to grow your brand, your audience? So these are the three things we’re gonna be focusing on, three improvements, improve your service, improve your pricing as well as your profit, and improve your process. What do those things look like?
Improving Your Services
The first thing we’re gonna look at is improving our services. So one of the very first mistakes I made early on was trying to be all things to everybody. So when a client came in saying hey I need a website, they would also say I need a trifold brochure, hey I need business cards, hey I need a car wrap, hey I need to buy radio advertisement, and I kept thinking, well gosh, I don’t want them to leave me and go find another company. I wanna be able to engage with them and hopefully add on to my scope with them, thus adding onto my profit with them, I’m gonna just keep adding onto things.
But what I discovered was, they came to me for a website and I tried to focus on that and instead I’m trying to figure out how to do a layout in InDesign for their trifold. I’m trying to figure out software for a car wrap. I’m trying to figure out what media buy is and how they price things. And that to me is cool if you really want to figure out all those different areas and really become a master in those areas.
What I was trying to do, though, was to grow a web development firm, and I did not niche myself. The other thing that we did do correctly, though, was when we looked at the market for San Antonio, we looked at something we have here in the San Antonio Business Journal, they allow us, or the produce every year The Book of Lists, basically the top 25, in these different industries across the scope of San Antonio businesses.
One of the things they do in there they list out the web development companies. And so top 25, I looked at that list and thought, gosh, how do we get to the top of this? We’ve got a lot of competition in town. And in looking through the top 10 of those, looking through their websites, I quickly identified that no one had really targeted just the WordPress angle, or the niche, presenting themselves as the WordPress experts in San Antonio.
So very quickly my Dad, Mom, and I brainstormed together and said, okay, this is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna just become the WordPress workshop. We’re gonna teach WordPress, we’re gonna go to our local meetup and teach WordPress, we’re gonna go to our kids camps and teach WordPress, we’re gonna offer classes here, we’re gonna do corporate training, and we’re gonna develop WordPress websites.
Services That Complement Your Niche
All things WordPress became our niche, and it really really worked for us. Then what we were able to do is grow and add our services that complemented that niche, right? Not out of the lane, but complemented it. And one of those things certainly is a support plan. Everybody knows when you’re in the WordPress or even web development industry, there are gonna be slow seasons, right?
Make sure and establish reocurring revenue.
There are gonna be lulls where we’re looking for that project. The only thing that’s gonna keep us floating. The only thing that’s gonna keep us moving forward is gonna be reoccurring revenue. So I’m showing you here Jason Cohen. He’s the CEO of WP Engine, as of today at least. Just a phenomenal guy. He came and spoke at a WordCamp in Austin in 2014 that I attended. This guy sat there and told us that if you don’t have a reoccurring revenue, a cashflow reoccurring model in your company as of today your lights will be turned off within two years. And I seriously took that to heart.
It was a big wake up call for me to realize that I did not have a required, reoccurring cashflow model in my company. How can I better do that? So that absolutely was to include support plans. We tried to sell them as retainers. That wasn’t working. We tried to sell them as maintenance packages, and clients were like I’m not gonna need maintenance. But the moment you started using words like support plan, they started to realize in their minds they started to think, okay, of course I want support. And so what we really did is tried to build up that offering and provide them a really great package.
And this is what that looks like. As of today, these are the three different plans that we offer through WebTegrity for our clients to pick and choose from, and these are required levels for them to come onto for a support plan with a minimum agreement of 12 months. So you’ve got a $99 a month package, a $199 and a $499, and just kind of looking at the different offerings, you start to see what’s available in each plan. Now, so the lowest they can go is the $99 a month. And then it’s pay as you go for support. So the other thing we realized was, when we started including free time, basically, inside of this first plan, everybody would say to us, well I don’t use that hour so what am I really paying you for? So we very quickly said, well forget that we’re not gonna include time anymore. We are gonna allow them to do pay as you go model. And then in these upper plans, they can actually purchase buckets of hours if they’d like and use ’em within a set amount of time.
It’s really important that you build up a very strong model when it comes to creating a reoccurring revenue. Imagine this, let’s say you have one client who’s paying you $100 a month. Then by the end of the quarter you now have three clients. That’s $300 a month. That’s a car payment for you. By the end of the year you could have 20 clients paying you $100 a month, that’s $2,000. That revenue right there, $2000 a month, right? That revenue right there would allow you to move into an office space and start to grow your team. It gets really exciting the things you can do with this reoccurring revenue. The other thing it’ll allow you to do is not suffer through your slow seasons as you might be struggling to get more and more clients. Makes sense, huh? Kinda cool.
So the next step that we did in order to improve our services was to go custom. A lot of times we were going to, let’s say Elegant Themes and pulling Divi or going to Theme Forest and getting Avada or the X Theme. And we were using these to offer solutions to our customers, right? One, because I’m not a PHP developer. So I don’t know how to custom dev WordPress themes. But what we did realize was, more and more opportunity for a larger contracts came if we could customize things just a little bit more.
This is where going custom took us from selling $2,000 websites, $5,000 websites, to selling 40,000 websites, $60,000 websites. It’s night and day difference when you’re able to bring somebody into your team or you yourself advance your own skillset to be able to start building custom WordPress themes, custom plugins for clients, custom solutions overall. This will allow you to start adding and incorporating in API feeds where you’re really getting cool and bringing in dynamic content. This will also allow you to not always have to lean on those plugins, right?
If a client comes to you and says, listen, I’m a realtor, and I use IDX and MLS, and I need you to build me out a system that has all my listings on there. You’re gonna look at that and go, okay, well, I’m gonna go find a plugin. One of the issues with that, though, is it’s gonna be costly, right? You’re gonna have to buy a license for that, more than likely. You’re also gonna have to really lean on the fact that that developer hopefully will never lose interest in that plugin and will always keep it supported, up to date, and running smoothly with the most recent version of WordPress.
My concern comes into play if you’re charging a client $10,000 for a website and you’re leaning on a plugin to provide that solution, then you need to educate that client in the fact that that solution might break over time. Maybe their connection with PayPal disconnects and is not able to take payments. That customer’s either gonna come back to you and ask you to please troubleshoot and fix the site, you’re then gonna have to go to the developer of that plugin. It’s just kind of a nightmare. So it’s much better if you’re able to go custom and kind of grow your own skillset and improve your own offerings.
Find ways to give back to the community.
Very early on I also attended another workshop where Matt Mullenweg himself said, I’m gonna need you to give back. It’s called The Five. Give back 5%. If you make a living with WordPress, how do you give back to the community?
- whether that’s over on the support forums trying to answer folks questions,
- whether that’s teaching a local workshop in the meetup groups for WordPress,
- whether that’s organizing a WordCamp,
- attending a WordCamp,
- speaking at a WordCamp,
- volunteering anywhere inside the world of WordPress.
How can you give back to the community? For me it was really difficult because I was a Mom of two little guys. I have a four year old and a two year old as of today. Plus I’m growing my firm. So I’m very, very busy. How do I actually take a moment to pause and give back to the community? What can I do? So for me it ended up being my YouTube channel. I thought, okay I can do a 10-minute video a week. It’s no big deal I’m just gonna kinda shoot from the hip and kinda wing it. And you can see, if you go back to my videos from 2014 or 2015 it is bad you guys.
I mean it’s me sitting there going hello, welcome to another WordPress Wednesday. I mean it’s me like up in the microphone. I look like a wonky bird. I’ve left those online because I think that’s humble beginnings. And plus, a lot of people find those videos resourceful. But the truth is, I wanted to give back to the community, and I wasn’t an expert at anything. I didn’t know how to produce videos, so I just started doing what I’m doing now. I’m talking to my webcam on my computer, recording them and throwing them on my YouTube channel, hopefully teaching somebody something that I struggled with to learn, right? When I was doing this back in 2012 it was very difficult to find great resources online to improve my own skillset.
So I’m Googling a lot and I’m struggling a lot and I’m having these aha moments. And those are the things that I started to make those simple videos on, based on, those aha moments. So give back. It’s so important. And I’m gonna challenge you to do it because not just for what you’ll get from it, because I promise you’ll get something, whether it’s gonna be you sitting at a, teaching a kids code camp and a parent is sitting there and the parent owns a company, and the parent goes, I’m gonna hire you, you obviously know what you’re doing.
Whether it’s you teaching at a WordCamp and people hire you. It’s gonna come full circle. But I wanna challenge you to do it because everything about WordPress is community driven. It only works as an open source solution, the powerful solution that it is, because we are such a giving back community. So I’m gonna challenge you to make that a staple in your services, to even give back.
One of the things that we did very early on at WebTegrity was we gave back a website a month to a local nonprofit. So if somebody signed up on our website and told us about their story, told us about their nonprofit, and showed that they needed help, we would build out a very simple five to 10 page website for them, totally for free and give it to them. And announce it of course with a little PR, do a press release, get it out there, to hopefully gain some momentum and some traction in our community to get our name out there. But it really was to help these nonprofits grow. What we found was, as soon as they had budgets they came back to us and they stayed very loyal. So there’s opportunity there all the way around.
Know Your Numbers
If you don’t know your numbers you’re gonna fail in business.
Next we wanna look at improving pricing as well as your profit, right? If you’re a Shark Tank fan like I am, you know you’ve got to know your numbers. They drill that in us. We have to know our numbers, because truthfully, if it’s something that you look at and you go oh, I don’t wanna know my numbers, you’re gonna fail in business. So they might be hard to look at. They might be hard to figure out.
But it’s super important that we understand what we’re charging for, how we’re charging, how we’re able to pay our team members, right? If they’re subcontractor or employees, as well as how we’re gonna grow this strategy, right? What are our sales goals for the quarter, for the year, right? What’s our three-year plan? How do we do this? For a lot of you out there, you’re probably a lot like me.
I’m not very good at math. I can do simple math. But algebra is a four-letter word to me. I also didn’t really spend a whole lotta time digging into business concepts in college. I was an artist. I was painting and drawing and doing all that fun artsy stuff. So you come over here and you ask me to kind of put my head in a box and figure out numbers and do structure, it’s a struggle for me. But it’s a light bulb opportunity to really understand how to improve your margins whenever you’re looking at your numbers.
This is the other area, of course, you have to have those residual fees, whatever that looks like. If you’re offering hosting and you’re going to provide and manage that platform, do it. If you’re gonna offer those support plans I was talking about, do it. If you’re gonna offer digital marketing where you’re helping them improve their search engine optimization organically and paid, helping them on Facebook, Instagram, do it.
Create those packages that allows a customer to turn from a $5,000 one time website into an ongoing, maybe by the end of the year this client has spent $15,000 with you because you were able to take that extra $10,000 over the next 12 months and that year and really put together a strong package for them that they found value in, you’ve created a great return on their investment, and they’re gonna just keep signing up every single year with you. It gets me really excited to think about different ways that you can structure a residual model inside your company.
Simplify Your Contracts
You need your client to truly understand what they’re paying for and you need your team to truly understand what it is we’re supposed to be doing.
The other thing I’m gonna challenge you to do is simplify your contracts. So you don’t wanna go too simple, right? It can’t just be a handshake anymore because you really do want to establish expectation on both sides of the table. You need your client to truly understand what they’re paying for and you need your team to truly understand what it is we’re supposed to be doing, right? So simplifying your contracts, though, will allow you to have that kind of transparency and that open communication with that client in hopes of not having that, well I don’t know what I’m paying for, or I thought that was in the scope, or can’t you just add this? I mean they always think it’s just a click of a button, right?
So simplifying contracts hopefully will allow you to improve that conversation and to keep the headaches away. I’m gonna show you a little bit of some contracts here, but I’m gonna put this out here as fine print or really big print, reach out to your legal team to finalize these documents. These are only examples, intended not for use, right? So these might be older examples. These might be some of my stepping stones as I was learning how to improve my conversation, but I just wanna show you some ideas here.
So this is a simple SOW, or Scope of Work. This is a single page that I give to clients if I’m doing just some maintenance on their site or a simple rebuild. They’re not looking to stay on with me. I will disclose to you right now that we are at probably at 20-page contract these days. So it’s definitely grown from a single page to about 20 pages about all the legal conversation, especially as I sold my company and corporate took over. They have a lot of legal language in there. But this is a very standard scope. So let’s just review this for a moment. Up at the top left I’m gonna give a date of when it was prepared and who it was prepared by. Even if I’m the only person working in my company I still want it to be clear that I did this document.
We’re gonna put our address or P.O. Box, however clients can communicate with you, and we’re gonna title it Scope of Work, which is actually a legal binding agreement. This is the scope of work for what we’re about to agree to. The scope of work will be performed for, you input the client name, to design and develop, if you wanna use that language, dub, dub, dub, dot, whatever URL you’re about to develop for them, right? Whatever website your gonna build. And then I’d like to have, obviously, correct numbers. You don’t want one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. But here’s what we’d wanna do.
Design a fully contemporary look that complements the existing brand, redesign the website, basically, is what you’re gonna do. You can say something like we’re gonna redesign the website, improving user experience and focusing more on your ideal audience, right? Rebuild the current site on a fully custom theme. So this language you might need to change if you’re using a third-party theme.
You might wanna say, rebuilding your current website and customizing a theme, right? So you’re gonna go out and purchase a license for Divi or got out and purchase a license for Avada, and you’re gonna customize it for the client. That language would work here. Provide custom fields for easier admin. And then here’s the things.
These following things are going to be kind of little bells that the client was concerned about that you just kinda wanna recap in the conversation, maybe some of these are the notes you took when you were first engaging with them. You noted that they said it’s hard for them to change things on the website, so you want to provide easier admin editing and maintenance.
You wanna include the ability to add videos into pages for embedding them and make sure they’re responsive. You’re gonna add the SSL. You’re gonna optimize as needed the header tags and the image tags for SEO. Just bullet point them out. Put as many details as you can remember even though this is just gonna be a single page scope. You can break it into columns if you wanted to here, and have these things listed down the page. Then I want you to put a timeframe because I think this is accountability for both the client’s expectations and your own timeline.
You really need to stick to things, allowing you to have milestones and deadlines within a project so that, one, you can manage your workflow, and two you can manage cashflow. So timeframe, this is 20 hours, and then I break it down typically. I believe I’m gonna use five hours in design I believe I’m going to use 10 hours in development, and I believe I’m gonna use five more hours to optimize for SEO and to load all your content. This should be completed no later than 5 p.m. Thursday, December 15th of 2019, or whatever that looks like, unless otherwise notified. So this little phrase right here kind of is your safety net in case you do have a whoops, in case the client doesn’t figure out how to update their about us information, they can’t get a headshot taken, or whatever their issue is, I want you to leave in some sort of language like this, basically stating if a client takes too long, then it’s kinda on them. Or unless, if I get sick and I notify you that hey this is unfortunately gonna delay our timeline, that’s some of the language there, right?
Payment terms as well, this is gonna be important for you. I want you to put the full dollar amount. Full payment for the 20-hour project. If further tasks beyond this scope are requested, the client will remain at the current rate of $85 an hour, or 125 and hour, or 160, whatever it is you wanna charge per hour. Here’s the reason why you need this type of language, whether your legal department can help you with a better phrasing, that’s fine, but have something in here that allows you to say to the client well unfortunately I believe that’s above and beyond our current scope. I’d love to do that for you. I believe it’s doable. I think I can do it for you for an additional three hours. Are you okay with that? We’ll keep you at the current rate of $85 an hour. That, to them, allows them to know, hey we can grow this scope, no problem. I have no problem doing more work for you.
My issue is, I need to get paid for that, right? We all need to get paid for anything above this list that I’ve already presented to you. This list then becomes the internal scope as well that you can start to divvy out tasks to your team members or that you can just look at your own timeline and say this is how I’m gonna tackle this punch list. Acceptance of payment schedule and terms. So the above price, specifications, and conditions are satisfactory and hereby accepted. Company is authorized to do the work as specified above. So this would be like WebTegrity is authorized or Kori Ashton is authorized.
Payment terms are approved and the deposit is fully non-refundable. So if you do require a deposit, I would absolutely try to put some sort of language in there about it being non-refundable. You want the client to sign this and date this. And then down below I have some language, and it reads like this. I wanna zoom in a little bit so you can kinda get the full take on it. Any alteration or deviation from the above specifications involving extra costs will only be executed upon written orders for client, and will become an extra charge over the sum mentioned in this proposal.
All agreements must be submitted in writing. Any content requested by WebTegrity that is delayed or not submitted by client will result in an extension of the above time frame and will not be the fault of WebTegrity or Kori Ashton, or your company name, right? This delay will incur an additional fee as well. The deposit is non-refundable. So now I’ve mentioned twice, you’re not getting your money back on the deposit, ’cause I’m off and running for you. I’m ready to go to work for you, and I’m gonna be spending time building out and getting a design and figuring out my theme and figuring out your content and figuring out the navigation. It’s go time for me, right? But I wanna have language in there that basically states if the client extends the scope. If the client drags their feet, there can be additional charges included. So be sure that’s in there. Mention that to the client.
Don’t try to hide that fact from them because I want you to always be able to fall back in conversation with them to say, hey, I am all about helping you. I believe, though, this was not intended, listed in our initial scope, but I get excited when you’re dreaming this up. Is this something that you feel like needs to be in phase one right now? Or can we look at a potential phase two? And just know I think we can get that done, but it would probably be an extra two to three hours, six to seven hours, whatever that looks like, and be certain that you get that in writing that they’ve approved that additional charge. So that would be an addendum or some sort of an additional contract to this scope and have them sign an additional conversation that says I agree to three, four, five, whatever amount of time at this amount of rate, and it extends my time frame an additional two weeks or whatever that looks like. Does that make sense ya’ll?
Be sure to have language like this in those contracts. And also, just remember, your contracts can evolve with you. If you have a wackadoo client, and I’ve had many wackadoo clients that have changed my contract. I even have a line in one of my contracts that states that I am not responsible for how much product you sell on your website. If I am not engaging you in an ongoing digital marketing campaign where I am trying to ring your register and get those sales in place, if all I have done is built your website and handed it to you, I am not responsible for marketing your product.
And I actually had a lady try to ask me for all of her money back because she couldn’t sell her homemade soap. It’s so weird. But those types of conversations can craft your language in your contracts. So I cannot stress how important it is to have a better cash flow term, not only for the client’s payments but also for your own cash flow problems. Very early on in our model we were asking for 50% down, which is a really nice check to get. But then we weren’t getting the other 50% until you were ready to go live.
The struggle with that, as you’ve probably experienced is, that’s a really nice check to get upfront and you’re off and running, yore working for the client, and then all the sudden the client disappears on you. It’s three, four months, you’re never gonna see that final payment. They don’t know how to write their about us information.
They’ve hired three new people, the scope has grown, whatever happens in that timelapse, right, causes that final 50% to be almost unattainable. You never know when it’s gonna come in and it’s very frustrating. Even if you get to the point that you hand the finished product to the client and you go please review this, and upon final payment I’ll release this to you or I’ll migrate it to your servers, the problem there is, they might still look at it and go, well, this really what I wasn’t expecting, and you’ll never see that final payment.
The other struggle that you have is, that initial payment that you get, you spend right away with your team members. You pay them and then all of a sudden you’re hurting for the next three, four months for cash. So this is a better cash flow model. I wanna see if you can incorporate this in what you’re doing. So here’s the timeframe. Obviously these hours would have been doubled. So we’re gonna go 40 hours. So it probably would have been 10 design, 20 development, 10 for content. To be completed no later than, same language there. But this is what we’re gonna do here now. Payment terms and billing schedule. Invoices are due upon receipt. Invoices that are not paid within 30 days are considered overdue. Late charges of 1.5% per month, equally to 18% annually, will be applied to past due balances. Again, reference your legal team on how you want to quote that. Because this isn’t even really how I do it now. I’ve tweaked and changed it just a little bit. But this’ll help you get those creative juices running on what type of language you should have.
Consider charging 20% down instead of 50%.
So the billing schedule, so any startup feeds are due upon the approval of this proposal. What we charge now is 20% down. So let’s say it’s gonna be a $10,000 website. So 20% down. They’re gonna need to pay $2,000 upon starting the contract with you, right? So they’re gonna sign this scope and say I agree to all these terms. You’re gonna ask for that 20% down. They’re gonna write you a check for $2,000. There you go, now you’re off and running. I want you to use that $2,000 kinda like a retainer against the first 30 days of work that you do. So I need you to get to work. You’ve got $2,000 worth of work to go accomplish in the first 30 days. And then month two, what I want you to do is now start calculating how much time you spent inside of this scope on the tasks that you’ve told them you would do for them and at the end of that 30 days, that first 30 days, you’ll send them an invoice for any of the work that you’ve already done.
The idea here is, wrap your head around this, the idea is you’ve said this is gonna be a $10,000 project. I’m gonna charge you every month for the work that I do. And by the time we all hit the finish line together you should have paid me $10,000 because I’ve stayed within scope, I’ve stayed within hours, you haven’t gone crazy or wonky on me and ask me to go above and beyond and create some new portal that we never talked about. So I’m staying right here in my lane, doing my scope, and by the time we get to that finish line you should be cutting me a check every month for the $1200 worth of work I did this month. And the next month, wow, I got on a roll. Now you owe me $2300. The following month, gosh we were really able to move into development and do all of your onsite SEO and add your content. Now you owe me $6,000. Do you understand?
By the time you get done you will have all your money in your pocket from the client. The client will have been able to see all the work accomplished every single month and they’ve stayed within budget. It gets exciting because here’s the fix. If you work for 30 days and you send an invoice to that client and that client goes, eh, and goes MIA on you and you never hear from that client again, then all you’ve done is spent 30 days. You haven’t spent three months, six months of your life building out this website waiting for the client to figure out their about us information, praying to God you get your final payment. Makes sense, huh? I know, I know, I can hear ya’ll already. First of all high fives for this light bulb moment together. I know there are so many of ya’ll out there going uuuuhhh, this is my problem. So this could be your fix.
Every 30 days at the end of the month you send them the bill for the work you’ve done as long as you’re staying within scope you’re able to have everybody meet at the finish line together. You’re done on time, they’ve paid on time, everybody is happy. If they go rogue on you and don’t make a payment, you pause the whole project and turn your attention to either landing new clients or turn your attention to working on other projects. That way you’re able to get paid for the time you’re spending every month. Makes a lot more sense, huh you guys? Gets me so excited. So that’s where we’re looking at clearer scopes so truly understanding what the client needs done. Just mentioning to them over and over again, this is what I believe is in the scope and putting it in writing for them, right? It’s so important that you do that.
The other thing I’ve done is allow us to have a what’s not in the scope, but an optional add on, if you will. So the client already owns the domain name. The client already has the logo. We’re not gonna be doing any video work for the client. Think about this in the sense that sometimes when your brainstorming with a client and they get really excited about the idea of having B roll running on their homepage, and you tell them, yeah, that’s totally doable. But then they say, well I only have $5,000.
You’ve probably heard a conversation like this where the client says halfway through the project, but you told me you could do that. Well, I actually put it in the contract that that wasn’t covered just because of our budget restrictions right now. We definitely can do it. It would be an additional X, Y, Z cost, right? We can do it for you, but I’m just telling you, reference back to our contract I clearly stated we are not gonna be able to do that for you in this set budget. So any sort of printed products, any sort of social media training, professional shots, whatever that might be, you create your own list of things that are not included in this scope just so that we can have clarity of what also is included in the scope. Makes a lot more sense, huh?
Improving The Process
So let’s talk about improving our process. Actually, have a process. This is one of those things, again, where I’m the artsy fartsy one, you know? I’ve got the guitar behind me, I’m the musician and the artist, and I do not necessarily think in systematic, regimented structure. Not my thing. As a matter of fact, I think I rebel against that. It’s one of the reasons why I started WebTegrity. I really wanted to have a very free-flowing, open, cool culture environment that I went to work every day. I could wear jeans and a T-shirt and just kinda do my own thing. If I felt like not wearing makeup I could not wear makeup. This was the type of environment I just wanted to build and grow. I wanted clients to be able to walk in and feel that same homegrown environment that we could do business on a handshake if they wanted to. That they could trust us, and we wanted to build that integrity.
Hire people who will fill the gaps that you can’t do.
But process was never really my thing. So here’s what I had to do. I had to hire somebody who thought that way. It’s a military guy, actually, that I hired. He came in. He had structure. Jason is his name. He’s done a few videos on my channel. Just a phenomenal guy overall. He has the integrity, he has the heart. He’s the unicorn who understands design, conversion, and he can develop. He’s a video personality over on YouTube. He has his own YouTube channel. He’s a jack of all trades, but what he brings to the table more so than anything is he’s my ying to my yang. He brings process and structure. I had never heard of what an SOP was. Here he is putting those together for our team. He helped us overall have a much better process in place. He helped me understand how to improve even my contracts.
So we moved from using Microsoft Word or something like that into the Google Suite allowing us to use dynamic documents, so that we’re able to have communication back and forth, whether that was building out our contracts or using spreadsheets or whatever that could possibly look like.
Track Everything You Do
Use the right tools to help you with your process.
The other thing he brought to the table was having us track everything we do, literally everything we do. So we were tracking conversations with clients. I had already kinda created that structure if you will. I don’t know if I can even call it that, by saying we had to use Basecamp, right? So that was one of the tools that we used for conversation. But he brought in Harvest.
Harvest is something where we can track our own time internally for all these projects. So as soon as we have a contract in place, and we know exactly what that scope is, we come over into Harvest and we create a new project and we say we’re gonna spend five hours on design. We’re gonna spend 10 hours on development. We’re gonna spend three hours on SEO. We’re gonna spend two hours on adding in some of your content. We structure it out like that so that the team members can then go in and say, well today I’m gonna work on design. Start my timer, I’m working on design. This way you know you only have five hours. Don’t go crazy where now I have to pay me team member 12 hours worth of work when I was only charging the client for five hours. That’s a serious problem, especially if you’re using subcontractors or employees for that matter. Or even if it’s just you and you’re hanging out and you’re thinking to yourself, well, it’s no big deal, it’s just me. I can spend 20 hours on this design when I only charged the client for five. No you cannot. I’m gonna hold you accountable to that. Stop doing that.
Start tracking your time and realize where you’re bleeding, bleeding money on all of these scopes that you’re selling. It’ll help you improve how you sell to the next client. So maybe you can’t go back to this current client and say, gosh, I spent an extra 15 hours on design, but what you can do is the next client coming in the door, you can look at them and say, for a project comparable to that I’m gonna have to charge you for about 15 hours of design work now. It’ll help you start to understand that.
This is Basecamp, one of the other tools that we use. This is mainly for communication with the client. So one of the other things we found very early on is a client’s gonna always say, I submitted that to you. I sent it to you, it’s in your inbox. Or they might have actually done it and it lands in my spam folder. Or maybe the file was too big and it gets kicked out. But they’re claiming, they’ve sent it, they’ve sent it, right?
What you need to do is have that accountability tool, and for us that’s Basecamp. It allows the client to communicate with us in a pretty user-friendly environment. I mean, I’ve had a couple clients over the years kick back and say I don’t know how to do that. Maybe a handful out of doing this for eight years now. But overall what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna have them be able to have a timestamp on everything that they upload, as well as your team.
So let’s say a subcontractor is working on your project or one of your other team members is working on a project, and they come to you and they say, listen, I already did that. I sent that to the client. Well, all you’re relying on at that point is their honesty, which is hopefully on point. But with Basecamp you can go into the conversation and see it and see, well gosh. Suzanne did send that to the client on this day, and that conversation was right here, very clearly laid out, and look at the timestamp. And then the client came back in and commented on the thread. So we know for a fact the client saw it.
Accountability tools are absolutely necessary in order to maintain clear communication through our process.
These types of accountability tools are absolutely necessary in order to maintain clear communication through our process. And if you’re growing your team and you have more people joining you in the workflow and in the project, you want them to be able to track their time. I highly recommend using Jibble. It’s an add on into Slack. Super easy to use and allows you to clock in, clock out from your Slack channel. So just really take a look at that as an option for any sort of tracking internally that you might wanna do.
Don’t Be Bullied
So here’s another thing I just wanna challenge you and be encouraged at the same time. Don’t be bullied. There are so many clients that I’ve had over the years that have just been kinda ornery. And here’s what I want you to think about. As you begin to do more and more projects, you’ll be able to recognize these people a mile away. You’ll know the wackadoo’s are coming.
You’ll know that they’re looking at you, going um, I’ve worked with, here’s the conversation. I have worked with six other web developers and nobody can get this right. That is a heads up you guys. Bail, do not sign up with that client. Walk away. Turn around and run the other direction because the common denominator out of all six of those people they’ve tried to work with is that client. That is a nightmare client. That is somebody who does not understand the process or is a manipulator and is trying to consistently get more than what they’re paying for. And that’s not fair to anybody. So be certain to not be bullied in conversations.
Having those clear expectations. Having tools in place like this will allow you to have a safety net for your own process. Harvest allows us, many times, to have a client call up and say, hey, I got this invoice for $3,000, what’s it for? While you’re on the phone with the client you can say, well hang on one second, let me pull the report right now. I’ll send it to you while we’re on the phone. Let’s just grab this right here. You’ll run over, open up a tab, hit Harvest, click print. You’ll be able to print that out as a PDF. Send it to the inbox and right there on the call go through line item by line item of what they’re getting billed for.
Here’s what this does. Immediately they know you didn’t go Photoshop something. You didn’t go make up some crazy new task that you just bloated into the project. They know that you, in real time, were able to respond to all the work that you’ve done. And that $3,000 invoice is legit, and they better pay it or you’re not working any further on their project.
Have clear expectations with good contracts and really great tools.
Don’t be bullied, but in that same tone, be sure to be responsible enough to have clear expectations with good contracts and really great tools in your own wheelhouse to be certain that you’re being accountable to that customer, that client.
Whenever you’re doing all of this, you guys are gonna have so much success. I’m just so incredibly proud of you sitting through this workshop with me. I know for a fact that if you’re able to implement any of these you’re gonna overall improve your freelance business.
You’re gonna be able to improve your small agency and grow to that level that you wanna be. So I hope this helps you. This is the type of conversation I wanna be having here every single month inside of our community.
Comment, come over to askkori.com. Send me a tweet, somehow reach out to me and let me know if you have further questions on any of this. I want you to succeed but I need you to realize that there are people who have gone before you. We know maybe just a little bit of extra things that we wish we had hindsight on, right? We wish we could go back and redo it. These are some of those things I’m sharing with you today.
I hope it helps. And I hope to see you all next month as I’m doing another webinar. See you then. Catch me on YouTube, between now and then, right? Subscribe, I’ll see ya’ll, bye bye.