Dreaming of taking your web design side hustle and making it your official hustle?
In this video/post, I’ll be sharing my best tips for preparing your business to go full-time!
But before we dive in, if you feel like not being able to land enough clients (or the right clients) has been one of the biggest things holding you back in business, then I want to share a free training I pre-recorded just for you!
It’s called Finding clients as a new designer and in it I go through the 7 mistakes you could be making that are keeping you small and struggling as a web designer.
When you are trying to get your new business off the ground, the last thing you want to be stressing over is money.
When we are panicked for funds, we tend to make short-sighted decisions, trading long-term success strategies for things that we think will equal quick cash flow.
This leads to saying ‘yes’ to projects we honestly hate and ‘yes’ to making peanuts on the dollar because we need funds STAT.
So how do we start our full-time business off on the right foot financially?
Bankrolling your own business startup takes very careful planning.
But by being proactive, you are giving yourself the ultimate leg up, and room to focus on setting up your business the right way, the first time!
When you first started your side-hustle, you were probably still testing the waters on this whole web designer idea…
So you weren’t in any rush to run out and sign any official documents, or set up some fancy business bank account.
Rent, groceries, business expenses, client payments…it was all going in and out of the same bathtub.
But not anymore!
Separating your business and personal finances not only means having an easy way to track profits and expenses (meaning you won’t accidentally end up with an expensive hobby that you didn’t realize was actually costing you money)…
But it’s actually also an important part of protecting yourself personally should you-know-what ever hit the fan in business!
Oh, and while you’re splitting business and personal stuff, make sure to get your business set up with its own Tax ID or EIN (Employment Identification Number) so you don’t have to go handing out your personal SSN everywhere.
So that’s step #1 to getting your legal in a row!
Step #2 is deciding how you want to structure your business legally, which will affect how you pay taxes, as well as who is held liable for any damages if a lawsuit pops up!
Whether you choose to remain a sole proprietor, become an LLC, or form an S-Corp…whatever structures there are for registering your business in your country, it’s time to do the homework on which one is right for you, and make it official!
Oh, and if you haven’t already, it’s also time to get some solid client contracts in place!
You may be thinking:
But I promise you, this is not something you want to find out the hard way!
Now, I’m no lawyer…which is why when I was creating my Square Secrets Business™️ course, I made sure to bring in special guest expert and creative business lawyer Paige Hulse of the Creative Law Shop to cover all the things you need to know to legally set up and protect your business.
If you’ve been hustling on the side for a while now, chances are you’ve already got a few websites under your belt.
So it’s time to take what you’ve learned, and turn them into some kick- repeatable processes for your business!
The easiest way to grow your business and be able to take on more clients without having to work increasingly insane hours is to streamline the work you are already doing!
Every single client you ever take on will need to go through the inquiry process, onboarding, the design process, and the final hand-off, right?
So rather than having to re-invent the wheel at every stage with every new client, take the time now to set up some solid systems!
They can always be tweaked and refined as you learn more about the way you like to work, and what fits with the type of client you love to serve…
But having a template, checklist, or process you can easily duplicate for everything you do on repeat in your business will drastically cut back on how much time you are spending working ‘in’ your business…
And that’s a whole lot more time you’ll be able to devote to working ‘on’ your business, or even taking on extra paid projects!
By doing things the same way, and in the exact same order every time, you’ll have wayyyyy fewer face-palm moments when working with clients and managing the BTS of your business.
The #1 reason that I see new web designers struggle when trying to take their business full-time is that they skip right over the foundations of design and business and head straight for the sexy stuff like finding clients and making money.
But in doing this, they’ve severely limited their ability to ever grow.
It’s those same designers who years later are still scratching their heads wondering where all the legit paying clients with dreamy projects and real budgets are? ♀️
Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until you feel completely frustrated and out of ideas before finally investing in your business.
Investing in your business early on, and even before you feel ready, will help you skip literal YEARS worth of trial and error, allowing you to grow your business (and therefore your income) at a much quicker rate.
If you caught my recent chat with uber-successful designer and past Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business™️ Student Mariana Durst, she shared that when it comes to how much you can charge as a designer, the best measure of value is actually how much you’ve invested in your own professional development…
And that she would never dream of asking a client to pay more than she had been willing to invest in herself.
“If I’m asking somebody to invest in me, it’s because I’m also investing in my expertise, and becoming faster, better, and more well-rounded!
Ok, so there’s one other investment that can make or break your attempt to go full-time in your business…and that is in having the right tools for the job!
When you were first winging it with your side hustle, you may not have wanted to pay for yet another monthly subscription for something that you were probably barely using, and so you became a master at Googling all the free workarounds for doing that thing.
But now that you are full-time, you don’t have time for taped-together business solutions, or trying to force a piece of software to be something it’s not.
Time is money!
And every minute you spend fighting with the wrong tool is time you could have spent on actual income-earning activities.
If you want to look and feel the part of pro-designer and have clients take you seriously, you are going to need to invest in a proper CRM (or Customer Relationship Management software) that will allow you to:
Respond to inquiries
Schedule consult calls
Send contracts & invoices
Your clients will brag about just how easy and seamless you made it to work with you, and you will have everything you need to manage that client’s project all in one easy-to-manage software.
Having the right tools and investing in the right education for yourself allows you to quickly improve your offering and overall client experience, which means more word-of-mouth referrals, more clients, and more confidence for charging the premium designer rates you’ve been dreaming of charging!
Back when you were still working the 9-5, you had someone telling you exactly how and when to work for 8 hours a day.
Then whatever time was left over you probably devoted to slowly building your web design business on the side.
But now that you are your own boss, it’s going to take being super intentional about how you are spending your time, and what exactly you are doing each day you sit down to work.
Otherwise it’s possible for entire weeks to go by where even though you feel run-off your feet, you really don’t have anything to show for your time, and you haven’t actually served more clients or brought in more income than you would have when you were hustling on the side.
Without a plan for how you’ll work, you’ll find yourself spending wayyyy too long on things that simply don’t move the needle…
(Like spending 30+ minutes trying to come up with an Instagram caption, or pushing the same 3 content blocks around the page for hours. Guilty!) ♀️
Time blocking and batch working are two of my favorite ways to get it all done and still feel like I have a life outside my business.
That, and relentless prioritization of what really matters.
So basically, I look at my design process, as well as all the other BTS things I need to do in my business, and decide which tasks are non-negotiable and move those to the top of the list.
Then I create a plan to batch certain types of tasks on certain days, as well as how much time I will allot for each task before calling it good and done!
So Mondays are the day I tackle all the admin type tasks like responding to emails, stat tracking, and checking in on the business budget.
Tuesdays I set aside for calls, since I know that hopping on a bunch of calls randomly throughout the week tends to disrupt whatever project I’m working on, so it’s best to get them all over with in a single day.
Then the rest of the days of the week are divided into specific projects like content creation, client work, or updating my courses.
This way, I never have to guess at what I should be working on when I crack open my laptop each day.
I have my clear marching orders that I know align with my goals for that season of my business!
And instead of trying to force myself to adopt the glamorous daily routines of others that I’m seeing online, I have intentionally designed my week around my own lifestyle, and the way I know I like to work.
When you run your web design business as a side hustle, it’s easy to justify charging less, doing extra work for free, or accepting texts or calls from clients all hours of the day and night.
But if you are serious about building a sustainable business where you won’t be constantly operating in burnout mode, then it’s time to establish some firm boundaries right now, from the get-go!
Those client contracts we talked about earlier will go a long way in helping with this, since all the boundaries will be plainly outlined for all parties to see, and nothing will come as a surprise to your client mid-project.
It’s important to establish:
When and how your clients can reach you (A.K.A office hours)
Deadlines for each phase of the design process and any client homework they must submit
How many rounds of revisions are allowed and how you’d like that feedback submitted
Exactly what’s included in their package and how much extra any last-minute add-ons will cost
But clients are not the only ones in need of boundaries…sometimes we need to set them for ourselves too!
You were used to working some pretty long days while juggling a day job and trying to build your business on the side…
But I promise you, your business is not going to fall apart if you take a break.
In fact, you’ll be doing clients a favor by showing up rested and ready to tackle their projects with actual gusto and motivation.
So make sure that while you’re coming up with a list of all the boundaries you want to set for your clients, come up with a few healthy boundaries to set for yourself too!
Even if you are not the type to stand around the water cooler and chat all day, chances you were used to some basic level of human interaction at your day job.
But when you work for yourself, from your couch, in a job that legit never requires you to go outside or to see actual people, it’s super easy to find yourself completely isolated.
Even the world’s biggest introverts need community & support in some form, so don’t make the mistake of trying to do it all alone.
Not only that, but the decision to take your web design business full-time can be extremely polarizing to friends and family.
It’s important to find other people who can relate to what you are going through, and will cheer you on on the days you feel like you want to throw in the towel.
I love watching the lifelong connections that are being made inside the student Facebook Communities for both my Square Secrets™️ & Square Secrets Business courses™️.
Designers of all experience levels are in there giving valuable feedback, sharing super timely resources I had never even heard of, and generally just being very rah-rah about helping their fellow designer.
I can’t tell you how much I wish I had access to something like that myself when I was first starting out as a designer, and living in a new country where I didn’t speak the language and knew exactly 0 people besides my (then) boyfriend.
So when preparing to take your business to the next level, look for ways to connect with other creatives and business owners who have been-there-done-that, and can bring all the constructive, positive vibes!