Like many, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the coming year, but before I could even begin to look forward, I had to spend the past few weeks looking back.
2018 was my first full year in business with Entwine Web Design, and it was a year that took my business to places that I hadn’t anticipated but that taught me a ton about how I like to work with people, my strengths, my weaknesses, and the direction I want to head with my business in 2019.
Let’s break this down…
Custom Web Design
During 2018, I completed six full-custom web design projects, one of which was my biggest project to date. I actually hadn’t set a goal on the number of custom sites I wanted to do at the beginning of the year. I ended up doing one every two months. Not all of them are in my portfolio, as my portfolio has sites that highlight work that I’d like more of. I did two sites for construction companies and one e-commerce site, and since those aren’t markets I’m targeting, they’re not in my portfolio though I did enjoy them.
This year solidified my love of the entire branding and web design/development process. I’ve continued to refine how I work with clients, and it’s very collaborative which I love. I don’t always love every element on the sites I create because it’s not my site. It’s my client’s site.
I do, however, truly enjoy the process of listening to them and getting to help them clarify their messaging and put their whole vision into a visual format. It’s seriously so much fun.
During 2018, I also did quite a bit of support work for former and current clients. While I enjoyed the ongoing work, I learned that while I like to create new pages or set up new systems, I do not enjoy basic virtual assistant stuff. I got bored with it, and when I get bored, I go too fast and miss stuff and have to re-check things a gazillion times.
So, when one of my clients asked if I’d please be her VA, I had to be honest and decline, but I told her I’d be happy to help her find a VA. This was hard because I tend to be a bit of a people-pleaser and telling someone I admire that I couldn’t work for her in that capacity was a challenge for me.
It’s funny – when I was teaching I didn’t have a problem telling students “No, you can’t turn that paper in late.” Or, I could easily give my admin a solid, “Hell No” to chaperoning every dance or event.
But, when clients are paying me or are willing to pay me, saying “No” and setting boundaries for myself is much harder. That’s been one of the biggest lessons for me in this business, and it’s one I’m still learning.
I started 2018 having just launched Create Your Dream Website, a 1:1 coaching program to get people custom websites. I quickly discovered that some clients needed much more tech support than I had originally anticipated.
Some flew through the program, launched their sites in a matter of weeks, and were happy as pie.
Others needed quite a bit of clarity coaching to refine their messaging, their ideal client, and their offerings before getting launched.
Others felt overwhelmed with all of it, not having realized what goes into creating a website that converts for their business, and they got stuck.
I, then, felt responsible for their “stuckness” (even if I wasn’t responsible) and that was a terrible feeling. So, even though the majority of clients had success, I never really marketed this program because I wasn’t super confident in my ability to get everyone through it.
So, over the summer, I went back to the drawing board, simplified my whole program and decided to launch it as a group program in the late summer and fall, WamBam Website. I thought maybe having the energy of a group along with a tighter timeline would encourage everyone to participate and get their websites done. This program was geared toward those who wanted a custom site, wanted creative control over their sites, but weren’t quite ready for a full custom web design.
I also had a goal in 2018 to launch a group program. I did a beta program first, got some great feedback, and made some refinements to the program before actually launching it into the world.
I had a grand total of ten people go through the beta and the actual launch, and I was super happy with that.
But, here’s what I discovered…launching sucks!
I know that not every part of business needs to be fun, but I found launching stressful, a ton of work , and it even felt inauthentic to who I am somehow. I’ve never written so much copy in my life, and I felt “salesy.” That’s probably my own issue, but if I ever launch a group program again, I’ll definitely be dramatically revising the launch process that I followed.
I also struggled with that fact that some people in the program didn’t complete their websites. I know that’s not entirely my responsibility, but if somebody is paying me their hard-earned moolah in order to get a specific outcome, I want them to actually achieve that outcome and to know that I did everything I could to support them.
When I do a custom web design, I’m in charge of the end result. I know I’ll deliver a completed, solid product that the client is happy with, or I’ll keep working on it until they are happy.
But, I learned in both my 1:1 and my group website coaching programs, I’m not 100% in charge of the outcome when I’m in a support role. Maybe that’s the control freak in me, but it was hard not to have them achieve their goal of a website.
I loved the clarity coaching, working with them on their branding and copy. Getting them through some of the more intricate tech pieces was a bit more challenging, so I ended the year really evaluating my programs.
I feel so strongly in helping women get their websites and their missions/visions out into the world, and I struggle when it doesn’t happen for them, like it’s my fault, or I let them down, whether that’s right or not.
Again, back to teaching…I taught AP Psychology for years and if students didn’t do the work, I had no problem shrugging it off and saying, “Ya know, you’re not going to pass the AP test or get the college credits if you don’t do the work, but that’s totally your call.”
It’s SO hard to say something similar to an adult who’s paid me, though I know in my heart it’s the same thing. If they don’t write their copy and send it to me, schedule or participate in any of the coaching calls, or dive into their figuring out their branding with me, I can’t do it for them…unless of course, they want to pay for a custom web design.
Which brings me to 2019…
I’ve spent the past few weeks, interviewing clients who both did and did not complete their websites in my coaching programs as well as evaluating what I enjoy and what I’d rather clear off my plate. This last year, all I did was add, add, add, and I added too much.
I didn’t make one quilt (my favorite hobby), and I didn’t write any new words for my novels (my other passion) though I did finally finish editing one (see the bottom of this post).
So, December 2018 and January 2019 have been all about evaluating my offerings and pruning what I didn’t feel was as successful for my clients and also allows me some time for writing and quilting.
Custom Web Design – I love, love, love branding and web design and development for my clients. I’ve got my processes refined and working. So, my custom web design is going to be a bigger focus for 2019. My goal is to complete a minimum of eight full custom web design and branding projects while continuing to increase my prices to standard market value.
I’ve come a long way in terms of confidence in my pricing – that was a huge hurdle in 2017 that I continued to work on in 2018. As an educator, I’ve been trained to give all my knowledge to my students, to answer every question. In business, I’ve had to learn that I can give the “what” away for free, but I need to charge for the “how.”
Website Coaching Programs – At the beginning of this week, I pulled both of my coaching programs from my site and have come up with a “middle-ground” offering that I think is a meeting ground between my coaching and custom design programs.
My coaching clients all loved the branding modules and the clarity coaching we did on their branding and copy. They felt super supported and clear after our work together. So, that’s staying.
The tech and design pieces, across the board, were where they got overwhelmed or stuck. So….drumroll here….I’m adding Semi-Custom Web Design to my offerings.
Semi-Custom Web Design – This will combine the best of my coaching programs with me taking over the tech completely and actually creating the website. I’ll also have a little more control over the outcome.
I love to teach. Ironically, I had to leave the classroom to discover that I’m a teacher at heart, so I definitely want to keep the initial pieces of my programs in place which are also the pieces that my clients liked the best: clarity coaching on their goals, working through their branding together, and providing support on their copy.
But, I’m removing the tech part. Instead of me walking them through that process, I’ll be installing and customizing sites their sites, which they’ll be able to customize further.
This offering is brand spanking new, but I’ve already had two of my program clients who got overwhelmed with the tech take me up on it, and it feels so good to be able to get their sites launched over the next few weeks.
My goal for 2019 for this program is 2-3 semi-custom websites a month for the first half of the year, and then I’ll re-evaluate.
Website Strategy Sessions – I’ll still be keeping these as well as some hourly work I do for clients each month. These sessions provide an opportunity for me to teach and to stay on top of any changes in the WordPress world. They’re also a time-saver for clients who are struggling with their websites as I can just get on their sites and show them how to do whatever it is they want to do.
I’ve covered all kinds of things in these sessions this year: e-commerce product setup, conversion strategies, messaging, site maintenance, setting up site security, SEO lessons and on and on. My goal for strategy sessions is to do a few per month.
I swear, if you want to go through a self-development gauntlet, start a business. I’ve learned more about myself, my boundaries, and life over the past two years than in the prior ten. It’s kind of crazy.
One of my biggest lessons over this past year is that I need to feel confident in the results my clients are getting or marketing that service just doesn’t happen, especially since marketing is something that doesn’t come totally easily to me.
I’ve also gotten much more confident in my services and skills. I’ve been building websites as a hobby for years, but other than one pretty extensive online class, I’m self-taught.
Getting past the “imposter syndrome” hurdle has been big for me, and I still sometimes go there, to the “Who am I to be doing this?!?”
I have a master’s degree in literature of all things, not computer anything, but I’ve actually found that my education provided me with mad analytical skills that I use daily, a love of research and problem solving, and an ability to help clarify client’s messaging, all of which have been incredibly helpful in my new career.
I’ve never spent so much time looking back over a work year as I did this month, and it’s been incredibly helpful. I’m excited to put the craziness of 2018 behind me and to really focus on synthesizing my strengths and what I enjoy with how I serve my clients a little bit better.
If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with it.
In the comments below, I’d love to hear what your big 2018 lessons were and how you’re planning on moving forward with your business in 2019.
P.S. One more thing…I did manage to publish my second novel this month! It’s called The Tarot Cipher, and I’d love for you to check it out.