Want to know the surest way to make my day?
Step 1: Join me in my Square Secrets or Square Secrets Business courses (or both!)
Step 2: Follow up with me a few months later to share all your amazing progress!!
Nothing brings out my inner cheer mom tendencies more than having past students pop into my inbox with nothing but good news!
Becca was also recently featured in our Web Designers Speak Out series where 30+ designers shared their best biz-building tips and advice, and what they wished someone had told them when they were first getting started!
Anyhoo, after reading Becca’s tips about her unique client process, I just knew we had to get her back on the blog to share more!
I actually teach my complete start > finish web design client process in my Square Secrets Business course.
(As well as everything you need to know to market your biz, land clients, manage your taxes & finances, and cover your legally).
I’m basically handing you a customizable business in a box and giving you the tools to shape that process to seamlessly slot in with your current lifestyle, and the lifestyle you hope to build. #goals
And Becca did just that!
She’s managed to take what she learned and build a successful design business (with a hella unique design process that fits her goals and lifestyle) all while killing it at her 9-5!
I love to share all my secrets and hard learned lessons, but since I’ve never found myself in the boat of juggling a 9-5 and trying to build my biz at the same time, this is not a perspective I can speak to.
So Becca has graciously offered to share her precious insights with y’all instead!
Written by Becca Wood
So you’ve got your first (or your 10th) client.
I’m so excited for you – that’s a huge deal, congratulations!
Are you wondering … now what?
What the heck are you supposed to do after they sign to take them from nothing to website bliss?
Don’t worry, new bff. I’m spilling my secrets.
Now, I have to admit before I share all the goods that this process, my process, is what works perfectly for me.
You are a totally different person with a totally different life and different responsibilities or time allotments.
So I’ll share how I got here and how you can get to your best process too.
Okay, now that we’re through with that little disclaimer – let me tell you a little bit about me.
(Yawn, I know, but I promise I’ll only stick to the important things).
I am a Squarespace website designer (woo hoo, you too?? Connect with me on the ‘gram friend!)
My business is one year old and I have a full-time job.
Not only that but I have a live-in BF that I like to spend a little time with now and then, a pup named Huxley, and my sister just recently gave me the best gift (a nephew!) and they live in the same city as us!
I love to stay busy and I love to create – I constantly have an art project or a hobby going on.
What I’m trying to say is…
I love creating websites; the big reveal when my client sees their site for the first time; the process of honing in on exactly what they want; and I love helping them figure out a few things in their biz along the way.
Here’s the catch: all of that requires an awful lot of effort and time that would be hard to consistently repeat with all of those other demands on my time.
(I refuse to call it a side hustle because it’s not a side anything to me!)
Here’s the kicker:
Yep. It’s possible.
And my clients (so far!) have all given me rave reviews on my work, on their experience, and the process.
But I didn’t start there. Here are the steps I took to create my perfect (for me) process.
Okay – I could’ve been more environmentally friendly here, but I’m highly visual and sometimes I work better off the screen.
I started by writing out everything I knew I needed to:
1) Get from my clients
2) Send to my clients
3) Cover myself legally
So at a high level that looked like:
Get from Clients
Send to Clients
Then I started thinking about how I’d get all of those things from them, and in what order.
I use Dubsado.
I know Paige is a fan of Honeybook though which sounds great as well! (50% off your first year! That’s an affiliate link!)
So I started creating “sub stickies” of the specific pieces of information I needed from them – these eventually turned into my forms.
(I use two main forms – one to collect branding/photos/websites clients like and the other to collect copy in a very structured way).
After that I thought about delivery.
What would the timing be of each of these forms?
What would I need to include in each email so that my clients understood and saw the big picture?
Each time you think of a new email, a new item to collect, or a new form to create – add a sticky.
Then re-arrange until you’re completely satisfied.
Once my stickies looked great I built out my workflow in Dubsado.
At the time it looked something like this: it started with a lead intake form, a meeting with me, after which I’d send the proposal/contract/invoice.
Once that was secured then clients get the two pre-website forms to work on.
Then we have a pre-website meeting before their start date.
Then I’d send forms to collect copy/images/branding.
Finally I sent a form so they can give me feedback I can actually implement.
And it ended with an email asking for their feedback as well as giving them final access to their site, final images, and a lesson!
Keeping it real is so important to me.
I write like I talk, I’m an open book, and I want my clients to feel comfortable knowing my why.
Most of my clients are service-based businesses and they’re trying to figure out their process and workflows too!
So I was really open- I told my first client that I’d love her feedback on my process that I was testing out.
It was a HUGE help to see it through her eyes. That may not be for everyone, but it worked for me.
Well, I just said I was an open book so I’ll tell you that it was a HUGE fail.
You see, I had designed a process as if I was the only person involved in it and I had complete control over it.
We all know that is so far from the truth.
Sure, there were some tech glitches (mostly my error) but I’m not going to focus on those – those are easy to fix.
I know from talking to other designers that this is a huge struggle point for them as well.
Some people chalk it up to a “sunk cost” of their time and just figure it’ll keep happening.
But I couldn’t do that.
Remember all those responsibilities and that full time job listed above?
What ended up happening was a constant cycle of nothing to do, nothing to do, nothing to do followed by AHHHH I got everything from three people in the same week.
Which meant I could never predict when I’d need to work and I kept having to rain check out of plans with my family and friends.
The biggest thing that I can say about having a perfect (to me) process is that it creates a wall, and not in a bad way.
But it allows you to create the framework or the structure of how and when you’d like to work.
And then, as long as you’re clear up front, the process helps you enforce those boundaries as well.
As much as I’d like to say this was linear – it was not.
Please keep in mind that I rewrote my website 3-4 times in the first 6 months of business because my process was constantly changing as I learned.
I’m not going to keep focusing on what didn’t work – that’s not what you’re here for.
Here’s what worked.
I got real with myself:
Whenever I sat down to work I noticed that I’d work for hours without looking up.
I loved to power through.
I also knew that I have an obligation to my 9-5.
I needed to stay fresh and focused throughout the day and powering through emails or client requests until midnight a few days a week wasn’t great there.
I got real with the BF:
(I know this isn’t his business, but we live together and it wasn’t fair to keep bailing on our plans because a client suddenly emailed!)
It was obvious that what would work best for us was to have set times when I was working on my business.
That way he knew what to expect when I was preoccupied and when I was “off the clock”
I got real with my clients:
Again, open book here, so I thought I’d talk to clients to get feedback about why it was so tough to write copy.
How I could make that process easier on them.
How I could walk them through taking their own pictures even if they didn’t have time for that professional shoot they might want.
And… I used a little monetary reinforcement. More on that in a minute
Lead intake form
30 minute meeting with me to see if we jive (if yes, pick a design date)
A deposit holds their date on my calendar
Pre-work (my forms and resources walk the client through this part but I’m available via email)
Pre-meeting the week of (about an hour to go through forms, make sure nothing is missing, answer client questions)
Design day! (website delivery, final payment, lesson delivery)
Ask for feedback
Of course each of those steps (and some of the smaller steps in between) come with documents, forms, and/or email explanations that help eliminate a lot of confusion for my clients.
Each time I wrap up a project I reflect:
What worked well?
Where did my client get stuck?
If they did get confused I try to figure out how I can strengthen my process to avoid that in the future.
Now, what happens if a client isn’t ready for their design day?
If copy isn’t quite done and images aren’t sourced?
Well here’s where the consequences come into play.
Clients know that up front and they know why. I tell them that it keeps both of us honest 🙂
They make sure I have the resources I need to work and I make sure I can deliver their website on the timeline we agreed to.
Being really up front and honest about the why in this case has paid off 100%.
Since implementing this process I haven’t had a single client miss a deadline.
We talk about what it will take for them to write their site and even what else is going on in their lives.
Then we agree on a realistic date that I have open and that they can complete their pre-work to meet.
Because of this process I have seen a massive reduction in my level of stress while managing a 9-5 and a business.
Now I know that I will not be doing any design work during the work week because I schedule my design days on the weekends.
This frees up my mornings, lunches, and evenings to designate as I see fit.
Sure, often I fill them with that first call with a potentially new client, but I can choose when I’d like to schedule those based on what else is going on in my personal life.
We all have responsibilities in our life outside of our businesses, so the question is: how do we want to designate our time?