How I Started A $20K/Month Web Design Agency

$20,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
product
Up And Social
from Boston
started May 2014
$20,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
3.63M
alexa rank
386
followers
449
followers
1
subs

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I'm Scott and I am the founder of Up And Social, a Boston web design and SEO company that specializes in helping small businesses.

Web design and local search engine optimization are the main services we offer. Combined these services account for more than 80% of our monthly revenue.

Our website prices start at around $7,000 and our SEO packages start at $650/month. These prices allow us to be very selective with our clientele. In the beginning, it was a much different story, I would take on anything remotely related to web design.

Currently, we’re doing over $20,000 in sales each month and continue to grow at a comfortable pace.

how-i-started-a-20k-month-web-design-agency

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I began my business career with the family in-store sampling business, C.A. Courtesy, in the 1990s, while at the same time attending college at Johnson and Wales University, where I pursued a degree in Web Management & Internet Commerce.

I’ve always had a knack for marketing and technology, and when I left C.A. Courtesy, I was the Vice President of Marketing and Technology.

People don’t remember what you say as much as they remember how they felt when you said it.

Being immersed in the family business atmosphere which I absorbed through the early years, imbued in me a special affinity for small businesses, and particularly for the family owner/operator model.

This provided me with the inspiration to reach out to those same kinds of small business operators when I later became strongly entrenched in the business world myself.

In fact, it was this attitude that ultimately led me to create Up And Social, which specializes in serving that same market. The most difficult decision was the choice to leave the security of my full-time job and jump, head first, into something new.

I really wanted something I could call my own. I had a desire to create my own legacy, to have autonomy and control over life and my career. Generally, investing time into another’s business can only get you so far.

There’s a ceiling to how much you can grow before you ultimately branch out and do something for yourself. The best investment you can make is in yourself. I knew this, even then, and that’s what inspired me to take the leap.

Take us through the process of starting and launching the business.

Because Up And Social is primarily a web-based business my start-up costs were pretty small. In total, it took about $10,000 in capital to get everything started.

I built a website, established organizational systems, hired a few freelancers to create some content, ran digital ads, and invested in getting to know my community. I took people out to lunch, joined organizations, and attended events.

I purchased software programs such as a CRM database and invested in premium productivity tools like Hootsuite and Zapier to automate my workflow. I also invested in project management systems such as Asana to get my business started quickly and efficiently. I’m grateful for these tools because they allow me to focus on the interpersonal aspect of my business instead of spending too much time doing administrative tasks. Building the necessary relationships is where my business really took off.

Attending networking events and the chamber of commerce meetings was a huge factor in meeting potential clients. It didn’t all happen at once though. It took some time to cultivate these relationships with prospects I met at networking events. We’re talking anywhere from six months to a year.

What I learned from that experience is that the people you meet at networking events aren’t really prospects. They are associates who can become friends and eventually will play a key role in winning high-quality clients for your business. Some of them became clients, but mostly my relationships with them afforded me professional introductions and business referrals.

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In the beginning, it was hard to find clients who were willing to pay for quality services. I worked really hard to position Up And Social as a standout firm but yet affordable for the small business clientele I was looking for. I was able to demonstrate an edge, by highlighting my own background and utilizing concepts from the understanding I gained from small businesses during my own development.

Early on, I made some valuable connections in the medical industry specifically with companies focused on providing services like medical billing and diagnostics tech equipment for doctors and hospitals. While these companies catered to the healthcare industry, they lacked the online presence and modern edge they needed to attract their ideal clients. It also helped that these particular companies are small businesses, which aligns with my niche perfectly. Being able to offer an affordable solution that would help them achieve their goals is what gave me the edge I needed to win their business.

how-i-started-a-20k-month-web-design-agency Here is an example website I did for Vantix Diagnostics early on in my start-up phase

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Since the launch, we’ve learned so much about our clients and prospects! For example, we’ve realized that small businesses who simply don’t have the resources to pursue expensive, overblown marketing strategies, see this as a huge hurdle. They need to be reassured that we can help them achieve their goals within their budget. So we’ve created campaigns that position Up And Social as simply an extension of the client’s own business by helping to achieve their marketing objectives in an affordable manner.

In the meantime, we’ve been able to build a collaborative and trusting relationship with our clients and prospects that are helped to establish longevity. We started off small, one client at a time. Now, through name recognition, we are able to be selective with prospective clients and still meet our business goals.

My biggest lesson learned from the launch and establishing the business overall was to take things slowly and focus on one thing at a time. When I focused on too many things at the same time, I wasn’t as efficient nor was I productive. Large amounts of time got lost and I ended up doing a lot of procrastinating. However, learning to focus my energy on achieving one goal at a time helped me to better prioritize my efforts and get the task done.

Since launching Up And Social, we’ve seen the most success in B2B networking. That includes attending local networking events, personally reaching out to businesses that look like they might need to upgrade their websites, and providing valuable content and education to entrepreneurs and small business executives.

We’ve seen great results in online initiatives as well. One of the major projects we’ve worked on to generate more exposure is getting positive reviews on Google, Social Media, and our website.

Social proof is a huge factor when it comes to making purchase decisions, so we knew we had to make it as easy as possible to access positive reviews. We’ve spent a lot of time creating content for our Google My Business profile and driving reviews to that page. We also connect those reviews to our website to showcase a positive reputation for prospects who visit there.

Another thing we do is actively participate in online blogs, panels, and forums such as HARO and Fit Small Business, to provide our expertise in the area of digital marketing. We’ve positioned ourselves to be a resource for entrepreneurs to power their goals forward. We give free resources and advice to demonstrate our knowledge in digital marketing and provide value. Whether it’s through working with us or not, our goal is to be a value in some way. This kind of prospecting has won us, clients, again and again.

We’ve also seen significant success in SEO strategies such as content marketing, keyword positioning, and digital marketing initiatives. These are the very tactics we use to get our clients similar results. We also do significant advertising on Facebook targeting specific demographics in our niches like fitness trainers, gym box owners, dentists, construction companies, and other key small business decision-makers. In total, we spend anywhere from $500-$1000 a month on digital marketing initiatives.

As we move into the coming years, we’ll be allocating even more funds to these initiatives in growing anticipation. One of our most successful clients to date is Letters From Santa within 1 year of hiring Up And Social they’ve had a sales increase of over 1,000%! We did this by getting them ranked for super competitive keywords such as a Letter From Santa and Santa Letters, implementing an email marketing strategy and then emailing the customers during the busy months of November and December.

Our process with clients

After making initial contact with potential web design or SEO client we take the time to learn about their business and goals. We’re straight up and honest, if we really know we can help them we will if not, we tell them.

Most of the time if the client has realistic goals and is open to realistic goals we move to the discovery phase where we do a deep dive into the business. After we both come to an agreement we get to the fun stuff, writing content and design! We start with hand-sketched wireframes which is just an outline of the page layout.

Once the wireframe is approved and we have content for the homepage we’ll come up with 3 high res web design mockups. The client usually loves one of them and from there we go right into designing an inner page and then its development. The whole process takes about 6 to 8 weeks depending on how responsive the client is.

how-i-started-a-20k-month-web-design-agency

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I’m grateful to be in an industry that moves other businesses forward at the cutting edge of civilization - the internet. There’s always an opportunity for growth and new business in this industry.

For example, just one web design client can generate revenue in the thousands. In addition, web design as a service typically provides a monthly revenue source from each client even after the initial project is done. Due to ongoing website maintenance needs as well as add on digital services such as search engine optimization, content creation, social media management, and digital advertising we typically earn upwards of $10k per year with each client intake. Because most of our business is conducted online, acquisition and overhead costs are just a small percentage giving us a larger profit margin than other industries.

I’ve learned that being a boss, is not so much in getting to lead people. It’s more about serving my team and accommodating their needs so we all can win.

Currently, we’ve been working to niche into the legal industry helping lawyers stand out online. In the next few months, we’ll be launching an agency focused on family lawyer web design and seo for family lawyers. able to create a niche in the legal, construction, and fitness industries. But in the future, I hope to expand our offerings to other industries such as real estate, banking, and hospitality. The great thing about internet-based services like digital marketing is that we can provide services to any industry. The sky's the limit!).

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Starting a business has educated me about people in many ways. I’ve learned how to work with different personalities. I’ve learned how to communicate more efficiently.

A lot of these things I’m still in the process of learning, of course, such as how to be assertive and diplomatic. There’s beauty in being able to win people over organically. I remember when I first started my business, it was a challenge for me to be a leader. I had misconceptions about what it meant to lead a team and made major mistakes accordingly.

As I’ve gotten more experience, I’ve learned that being a boss, is not so much in getting to lead people. It’s more about serving my team and accommodating their needs so we all can win. That’s a lesson I cherish when it comes to working with my own team and in working with clients and prospects.

People don’t remember what you say as much as they remember how they felt when you said it. I’ve learned to think more along the lines of how I can help someone achieve something they want or need rather than what they can do for me. My needs usually end up getting addressed in the process.

Additionally, being a part of a network of professionals in my industry has been very advantageous to the health of my business. Having a network of like-minded professionals to tap into provides camaraderie, resources, learning opportunities, and new business. I’m of the mindset that two heads are better than one. Being a part of professional organizations, networking with experts, and learning from mentors has helped me keep a pulse on trends and best practices in more ways than one.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Wordpress is an absolute must, in my opinion. I use the platform for my own website and I work with my clients to do the same. Because the platform is an open-source initiative, it provides more security, accessibility, and better performance than practically any alternative.

We also rely heavily on productivity tools such as Asana, Zapier, and Canva to streamline, coordinate and automate tasks so that we can focus more on building business for ourselves and our clients.

I also can’t talk about productivity without mentioning Hootsuite. Services like Hootsuite and Buffer offer the ability to schedule social media posts so that we can engage our online community 24/7. It makes planning social media campaigns a lot easier and more productive.

When it comes to building a team I find a lot of quality freelancers on Upwork. The platform is super easy to use and they help you find the best fit for your needs and budget. Google Drive has been an absolute lifesaver when it comes to coordinating with different team members, keeping track of shared documents, and collaborating on projects.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I’ve really enjoyed the TED Talks for entrepreneurs. It’s always an inspiration to hear others' stories as well as how thinking out of the box can lead to cutting edge innovation.

If anyone is looking to grow a business and build wealth, I highly recommend You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero. The message Sincero drives home in this book is that wealth starts with a mindset. This concept can be applied to anything you’d like to manifest in your life. It all starts with how you think.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

I believe that if we all are doing what we’re passionate about, the world can be a better place because we’re each operating in our element. It makes for happier people and needs are met in a universal sense. Each of us has a responsibility to fulfill what we’re here to do. Whatever your particular passion is, that’s more than likely what you should be doing. Pursue that relentlessly. It may be difficult and challenging because not everything is always in place. That’s where commitment and focus come in.

Find out what your unfair advantage is. Everybody has one. A misconception is that entrepreneurs who make it big either have a rich uncle or some other thing going for them that others don’t. That’s not true. You may not have a rich uncle, but everyone has an advantage. You may be a very persuasive speaker and can raise money easily. You may be an amazing writer and can easily get grant funding. You may be an excellent salesperson and could sell the Golden Gate Bridge to anyone. We all have that one thing that sets us apart. That’s what makes us unique. Your job is to find it and use it to your advantage.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always looking for team members to join our growing company. We are currently looking for graphic designers, writers, SEO experts, and website developers. These positions vary from part-time to full time.

Our company focuses primarily on providing digital solutions, therefore you don’t need to be in Boston to apply. Even though most of our staff members work remotely, we have a close-knit team that works together to address the ongoing needs of our clients.

Where can we go to learn more?

(You can find me by visiting my website at Up and Social. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter (@UpAndSocial), and Instagram (@bostonwebdesign). Feel free to email me.)

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Scott Bishop,   Founder of Up And Social

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