Building a balanced agency life
18+ hour days and weekends can be common place in agency life. How do you create a business that promotes a healthy balanced life? Erin shares her story of how she’s been able to build a business that allows her to enjoy the natural beauty of her surroundings, whilst running two successful businesses.
She share lessons learned from systemising her processes and niching down to a certain type of client. Her agency has been location independent from the outset meaning she is free to live anywhere.
An inspiring episode.
Erin has been making websites since 1999, started her own web design and development company in 2012, and has taught over 10,000 students. She’s spent the past seven years figuring out the business part of running a freelance web design business so that you don’t have to.
- Systems can only help you so much. You need to also be charging enough so that it can be supporting your lifestyle.
- Don’t be afraid to niche down, once you figure your niche out it will only help you to grow further.
- Make your business support your lifestyle not the other way round.
Connect with Erin:
Lee Jackson: Welcome to The Agency Trailblazer Podcast. This is your host, Lee, and we’re talking today with Erin Flynn all about creating a business that does not stress you out and take over your life. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Lee Jackson: Welcome to a conversation with me, Mr. Lee Jackson, and today we have on the show it’s Erin Flynn. How are you?
Erin Flynn: I’m good. Thanks so much for having me, Lee.
Lee Jackson: Well thank you. Thank you for having me too. It’s very nice to be having you, I’m getting myself confused already. One of my best openers, everyone. Thank you very much. Best openers ever. Guys if you don’t know who Erin Flynn is then you can check out her website over on erinflynn.com that’s Erin, F, l, y, double n.com and you can learn all about her. Erin is a consultant for web designers and she helps you make more money without working more. And that’s exactly what I want to talk to her all about today in this episode. But without me butchering who you are and all about you, Erin, would you be okay with just saying hi to if one letting us know a little bit about you, perhaps where you’re from, your favourite colour and just a few things like that and then we’ll get into that time machine.
Erin Flynn: Sure. Hey everybody, thanks for tuning int this episode today. I am from, well I’m originally from Indiana but I live in Colorado, USA now, which is incredible. I feel so fortunate to be able to do it. My favourite colour is probably green and I have learned how to systematise my business, so that I work very little but make a decent income and now that is my goal to help all of you do the same as well.
Lee Jackson: That is so cool. That’s like the elevator pitch. That was like the perfect elevator pitch. In fact, you know, when you have to get in an elevator, you have 15 seconds to tell me all about you and what you do. And I do like the opening line as well of your website, because it’s very clear what you doing and you have my attention when I’m a web designer. So again, everyone, that’s erinflynn.com. Right, I would love to jump into a time machine. What we do, I’ve done if you’re into doctor who, or any sort of time travel show.
Erin Flynn: I love Dr Who.
New Speaker: Oh mate, right, okay. You’re on the right show. So massive doctor who fan. I think the latest doctor is amazing and I can’t wait for the next series, but they’ve put it off for another year, which is annoying. But anyway, I’d love to jump in the tardis with you then. And I’d love to go back right back into the very, very early days when you got into design or the agency space in whatever way that was. And I literally don’t know. So I’d love to know the story. How did you get into this industry?
Erin Flynn: Oh, we’re going to have to go back quite a few years to when over plucking your eyebrows was cool and when back street boys, nsync. Like we’re, we’re going back to 1999 when I was 13 and I built my first website. My Dad actually took me, he had to learn how to manage a website, something for his work. So he took my older brother and me to this like weekend class on how to use Microsoft front page, which was like the new cool thing. And I made, during that class I made a fan site for the Jabberwocky from Alice in wonderland and that was it. I mean after that it was just Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Gundam wing and you know, websites for all the cool things.
Lee Jackson: Oh my gosh, Larissa is going to love you. She loves all of the above. That’s incredible. I still, similar story I started, my first website was similar sort of time and mine was all about my favourite computer, which was the Amstrad PCW 16 that nobody has heard of. But I’m really glad that your roots are uber, uber geeky. So, all right, so 13 you go on a course with your dad about front page. Tell me all about that. You meet those websites. Where did you go from there?
Erin Flynn: Well it was, I mean back then and you know, 99, the early 2000’s we didn’t have things like Facebook or Twitter. So you created fan sites basically to connect with other people who were interested in the same thing. So you would have everybody like, you know, you’d try and promote your site and there were actually literally sites just for promotion. Like they were like online chats and you’d just like spam your site into them so that people would come visit because otherwise, how would they find you? I mean Google was like a thing but it wasn’t like, like it is now. And so then people would come visit your site and they would like comment on your guest book and then you could go to their site and comment on their guest book. And that was basically social media.
Lee Jackson: Did you have a counter as well? Like how many policies you’d had?
Erin Flynn: Of course. I mean, how, how else would I know how many people were visiting my site?
Lee Jackson: Please tell me you had an animated Gif on there as well. Of like an email, email me with a rotating @ sign.
Erin Flynn: I had all of the things.
Lee Jackson: God bless the late nineties.
Erin Flynn: So great. Anyhow, I just liked doing it for fun. I mean I was 13 so I wasn’t, you know, thinking of it as a career or anything at that point. But when I was 16 or 17, my parents’ neighbourhood association decided they needed a new website or yeah, they had one and they needed a new one. And so I just went to their, you know, like HOA meeting and I pitched them, I show them examples of like the websites that I had made, which you know, use tonnes of images that I stole off of Google and didn’t credit and use tonnes of iframes. And I out pitched an actual adult who ran a web design business and they hired me instead. And our pricing was actually very similar. So go figure. I thought maybe they were just being nice. 16 or 17, I think it was before I started college. So I think probably 16. Yeah and that was my first paid gig. It was originally quoted at 550 for the website and I got them up to 750 because they wanted changes. So even back then I knew we’re gonna have some boundaries and some changes are going to cost extra
Lee Jackson: That is smart. I love it. So you mentioned as well you then had university as well after that?
Erin Flynn: I did. I went to college. I actually majored in communication, which had some design parts to it, but it wasn’t like web or graphic design. I did not think it was a degree I would ever use, but it actually ended up being, I think one of the best things that I could have done for my web design business that I had no idea that I was going to start. Because you fast forward then several years where I worked, you know, in between I worked you know serving coffee and then I worked as a secretary and then I quit that job. It was awful. I had no plan. And I started my web design business in 2012 and I’m not the best designer. I’m still not the best designer. I’m not the best developer, probably people listening to this could code circles around me.
Erin Flynn: But my clients, you know, I was noticing that they were firing people who are much more skilled than I was and love to work with me because I actually communicated with them. I explained things to them. My systems were in place. Even early on in my business I had everything pretty organised so that it was a smooth process and they just enjoyed it compared to, you know, the disappearing act that they had been going through before or people honestly like designers and developers treating the clients like they were stupid because they didn’t understand our industry. And that really, kind of gave me a clue that the clients care less kind of about the tech and they care more about what the experience is and then what the end result is of course. And that really was kind of what I based my business on and that’s how I started getting referral after referral and built a pretty successful business. It wasn’t that quick, but it ended up working out pretty well despite not having you know, some of the incredible skills that I know other people have.
Lee Jackson: Sure. I think though, as design as any way, we always look at anything we do and we think it’s not good compared to anyone else that we like, we’ll look at everyone else’s like, holy moly, that’s amazing. And I’m, like it’s okay. It’s a bit average and nothing I’ve ever designed, I’ve ever been happy with.
Erin Flynn: Of course not we never are.
Lee Jackson: I think it’s the curse of a designer to be honest. I’m not happy with that. And then I’m definitely not happy when the client gets their hands on it cause they then they then butcher it. I’m interested cause you’ve said from the get go, like if we look at 16 year old you pitching against another company and winning and upselling changes because you knew there was, you know, you were setting those boundaries and then fast forward to 2012 in your twenties now, cause I can’t do math. So I presume you are in your twenties by now starting this business. What do you think led to you having those, you know, building in those systems. Have you always been an organised person or did you develop those systems in the first few months through kind of hit and miss? Or how did you get started with being so organised and attracting companies based on that?
Erin Flynn: I’m one of those annoying people that likes to organise everything. It’s just my nature. If I wasn’t running like a web design business and teaching, which is what I do now, I would probably be a professional organiser. And I love like those organising shows. If I can put everything in boxes and label it, I am a happy person.
Lee Jackson: So that’s been you then so I presume then at school you are the person who always did your homework as well.
Erin Flynn: Oh yeah. Homework yeah way ahead of time.
Lee Jackson: Oh my gosh man, me and you are so opposite. It is literally beyond belief. I’m the guy who always did the homework last minute or had really good excuses as to why I didn’t do the homework. And then I spent the first few years of my agency screwing up all the time because I was so freaking disorganised and then finally learned everything. So I kind of wish I’d started the way you’ve learned, you know, well you started, sorry with having some kind of defined systems and processes. So 2012 you start your agency and you said it became quite successful. What was the trajectory for that? Was that within a year you were already earning enough to pay all your bills, etc? Did it take longer than that? And how were you initially getting leads?
Erin Flynn: First of all, first year was not good, so I made I think what a lot of freelance web designers like the classic mistake where I’m like, oh what does it seem like other people are charging $1,000 you know, 500 a $1,000 dollars like that sounds like a good chunk of money. And then I ended up working like crazy and I think after all of my expenses and everything, which you know aren’t that much for a freelance web designer, but after my expenses I made like $12,000 the first year and I was just like sobbing, realising that I didn’t do the math.
Lee Jackson: Okay, so you did make at least one mistake. That’s good. I feel a bit better now by the way. Thank you.
Erin Flynn: Oh I made lots of mistakes and I had the systems organised fairly early on because I was juggling multiple clients like I had to, you know, to make $12,000 when your website is only cost 500 your doing a lot of work
Lee Jackson: That’s a very good point. I’d have had a breakdown.
Erin Flynn: But I was making huge mistakes in terms of not niching. Trying to do like too many crazy different projects. Like I was doing everything when I started, which I think a lot of us try to do. So, you know, I’m doing whatever design project I possibly could, you know, from branding, which I’m actually pretty terrible at you know, like social media graphics to web design to just doing coding fixes. And so I was just kind of very scattered in terms of like what I was doing and it, again, I didn’t do the basic math that would’ve helped me out a lot. And then, so it really actually took until, and, and I kind of doubled my income, the next year and kind of stuck around around $30,000 for the next couple of years, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but you do have to also realise that the job that I had quit without a plan only paid me $28,000 a year because I was living, you know, in the Midwest, in the US where, you know, $30,000 in a year is actually a decent income.
Erin Flynn: So I was, you know, fairly happy with that. But then, my husband and I, we wanted to move to Colorado. We actually met in the German Alps and we just loved the mountain life. So we’re like, we’re going to move to Colorado. So we did it. He didn’t have a job and the economy was so different. Like I was not expecting just how crazy different it was from where we had been living. And so my $30,000 in a year was like equivalent to maybe $15,000 a year because Denver was just, it’s, it’s even more expensive now. But it was an expensive city at the time. And so I had to step things up and, but what the big catalyst actually was into making my business profitable without working constantly cause I was working all the time. I was always scrambling for a job. But in 2014, we bought a house and in 2015 we renovated it and I only had about six months to work.
Erin Flynn: And I actually made more that year than I had made in any previous year. I pulled in about $50,000 that year working in half the time because I really got my systems just completely streamlined and I realised that my clients are happy, like I can probably charge more than I’m charging and they’ll still be happy to pay it. And they were, so I worked, you know, on probably only about probably fewer than 10 projects and I made about $50,000 that year. And then I was like, oh, this is probably what I should have been doing the whole time.
Lee Jackson: So you’ve got the systems in place and you’ve increased your prices so people are enjoying your process but equally they’re happy to pay the money and you’re having to do less projects that’s just 10 projects and you’re earning more in a new area, which is, it’s always a shock, isn’t it? I mean, even in the UK, we’re a tiny island and yet if I was to move up north, I could buy a house for half the price I can buy a house here for. And then if I was to go another hour down south to London, house prices are astronomical. If you were to move my house down into London, it would be worth a million pounds. And that is just insane.
Erin Flynn: Yeah, it’s, it’s crazy how different the economies can be. And if you’re not expecting it and you have planned for it, it can really hurt you.
Lee Jackson: Yeah. So, well you’ve hit on two key things. First of all, having those systems and processes so that you can manage multiple projects and then number two as well, increasing the price because of the value you have to offer, which is very important because systems can only help you so far can’t they with regards to you are managing to do loads of websites at low cost, but equally now that you are increasing your price, you’re able to work on that less and give them way more care and attention anyway because you weren’t scrambling around trying to do everything. Did you at any point then decide you also need to niche and how were you generating those initial leads as well when you’d moved? I think that is kind of two separate questions. I’m sure you can answer them at the same time, but you’ve moved. So this is a completely new area to generate those leads. And, with regards to, you mentioned earlier, did you end up niching as well?
Erin Flynn: So in terms of leads, it didn’t matter too much because I’ve always just worked online. I don’t really do local clients. Okay. I’m very introverted so the less, the less face to face time I can spend with somebody, the more I like them.
Lee Jackson: Yeah, you must love me this is our first conversation.
Erin Flynn: Yeah. Well this is fine cause we don’t have to actually see each other. So you know like it, it works. It works well Lee. So the leads were never a problem for me. But in terms of niching, I kind of, I had resisted it for so long which I think so many of us do because we’re like, I don’t want to, you know, say no to these people, but what happens when you niche is that you get more work that you actually enjoy with people that you actually like, but it doesn’t totally turn off people who fall outside of your niche.
Erin Flynn: So you can still get inquiries from people who, you know, kind of like your vibe or kind of like, you know, how you do things, who maybe their project is a bit outside the box of what you’d normally do and then you can decide if you want to take that on or not. So I was really, you know, concerned like if I, if I just do like this one type of website, will that, you know, then turn off anybody who has a slightly different type of website from ever wanting to contact me and no that it’s not the case at all. If you have good messaging and you have, you know, clients who are referring you, who you really enjoyed working with, they’ll send somebody your way who may be a slightly outside the box in terms of their project. But if you feel confident that you can handle it, that it will work into your systems and still be profitable, then it’s not like, oh it’s a five page website and that’s all I ever do.
Erin Flynn: It’s like, okay, I can do a five page website with, you know, a small ecommerce add on, you know, like I feel comfortable doing that. So it actually ended up helping me so much more because my past clients and people I knew were able to say, Erin works with female entrepreneurs, you know, who specifically sell info products. And so the way that they sell those info products could be totally different. You know, some could be courses, some could be ebooks and that’s fine, but now they can like refer other similar people to me. And really I think the personality pieces, one of the biggest, especially if you’re a freelancer for who you’re working with because you have to connect well with your clients to have the project go smoothly.
Lee Jackson: Exactly. We did an episode a little while back with I think Chantelle who did one day webs it was about two years ago, and one of the biggest changes was she actually put herself out there as well so people could see her and connect with her. But equally to illustrate the niching area, I was really worried about focusing on just agencies and yet if you go to our website, it’s very clear we just do WordPress development for design agencies and that’s it. However, we get tonnes of referrals from outside of our industry and we also seem to attract an awful lot of personal brands. So these are coaches, etc, around the world who already have designers on staff, etc. And they just want someone to do the wordpress development and these are all niches and areas that I’d never ever considered would ever come to us. And yet we’re working with all sorts of people, despite the fact our website is very clear that we only do, this one thing for, this one type of person. And yet people still want to align themselves without journey because they know who’s involved. They see our content, they see that we, you know, we understand who we are and our messaging, etc, and they’re attracted to work with us. It’s weird, isn’t it?
Erin Flynn: It is. It’s super strange and it’s, it’s, I think actually great because I think it’s actually, again, we’re always terrified of niching, but it’s, it just makes it easy for people to say what you do. And then for people who kind of like resonate with you and resonate with your messaging to say, hey, this isn’t exactly what you do, but would you consider this? And then you can consider it and you don’t feel bad if it is a bad fit for you because you’ve been very clear about what you do. But you know, it’s like, but if it turns out that it’s actually a great fit that you never considered, you didn’t close that door because they’re still connecting with you. So it’s, I think niching is actually one of the best things you can do. Although people do tend to sometimes do it maybe too early before they know what type of person or type of business you know, that they want to work with. But once you figure that out, it really has only helped me in, it’s only helped my students.
Lee Jackson: You’re absolutely right. You do need to go on a bit of a journey don’t you to work out who it is you want to serve and what it is you want to serve those people. Because, you know, I very much could have gone down say the real estate route and really not enjoyed that cause I’ve built real estate sites in the past with integrating really complicated, MLS systems, etc. It was always just such a nightmare. So I’m glad I didn’t choose it from the get go. I’m glad I spent some time working out what I couldn’t, didn’t want to do before I, before I committed. No, absolutely. Right now. All right, so let’s fast forward again. And this time machine, we’re back in the Tardis. So you’ve, you’ve done a few years now, you’ve moved, you’ve evolved your systems, you’ve increased your prices, etc. Can we, if we kind of come into the more modern times now, kind of the last year or so, a lot of things have changed. And from what I understand, you’re now running two different businesses in about four hours a day. So can you tell us more about what you’re up to now and then we’ll kind of ask you a few questions around that?
Erin Flynn: Yeah, so my husband got the opportunity to take a job in the mountains. So for geographical purposes, Denver is near the mountains. It’s about a two hour drive if you want to go skiing. And where we live now is about a five minute drive to four different mountains. So we got the opportunity to move here and we could not say no despite the fact that we had just renovated that house. And it didn’t actually get to live in it. But we ended up having this opportunity to move up here. And so with that came up also like another lifestyle change though, because when you live, you know, five minutes from skiing or five minutes from hiking, you want to make that part of your routine. So my gears started turning was like, how can I, you know, go skiing every morning if I want to go skiing, how can I take the afternoons off to go hiking?
Erin Flynn: How can I make this business or my businesses support my lifestyle? And so I had been kind of teaching kind of like one foot into the education area since about 2014 I released my email templates, my original version of my email templates that year, you know, to help other web designers just, you know, talk to their clients but it wasn’t until like late 2016 where I was finally like, I’m gonna, you know kinda like go all in with this education business and helping other web designers and service providers out. So, the end of 2016 you know, we’re living up in the mountains and I start kind of my education business and I kind of back burner web design for a little while cause I had all my systems in place. I have you know retainer clients for that.
Erin Flynn: And so I didn’t take on anymore work. And so I built up my education business, I made some courses, I got that going of course then I systematised everything from like the promotions to how it works. And so everything just kind of runs pretty much on its own except for open and close launching that I do, you know, a couple times a year. And so now I can, this year, so far I launched my course twice. I built three websites and I got 40 days of skiing in as well as several hikes, and a couple of conferences so far. So I would say it’s been going pretty well. It all just really comes down to systems so that you’re not working constantly and then of course, charging enough so that it can support your lifestyle. And that’s going to be different for everybody. I’m not going to say that anybody has to hit like a certain arbitrary number, but you know, whatever would support the kind of lifestyle that you want. So you can kind of price your services or what you’re selling in a way that makes sense for you, but also then delivers results to your clients or your students, you know, so that it’s worth paying whatever price tag you have put on your services. Did that make sense?
Lee Jackson: It made absolute sense. One of the biggest messages that I’ve been, I guess hammering home for the last couple of years in our community is creating an agency that you love. And it’s not necessarily about the agency, it’s actually creating a lifestyle that you live. So if we rewind for myself, maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I was very much trapped in agency life. I had to make money to keep the business going basically. So it meant that we were doing anything and everything. It was a very difficult time in our life and I felt very trapped. I wasn’t getting time with the family. And I often tell people at the time when I was crying at 3:00 AM in the morning because an app that I wasn’t even really that qualified to have built finally got approved by apple and back then it was like six weeks turnaround times on approvals, etc.
Lee Jackson: So this is 18 hour days not seeing the family, etc. And I love how what you did though was you move location and you’re thinking, how can I make this work so that not only can I service my clients and give them great valuable work, but equally how can I live a lifestyle that I can enjoy and it’s very clear as well. Folks, Remember Erinflynn.com is very clear from the photographs there as well that you are absolutely enjoying where you are. And I love the picture of you with your hot flask or what have you call it out there in the u s is it cold or Hot Flask? What do you guys call it there?
Erin Flynn: Its a thermos.
Lee Jackson: A thermos. Okay, there you go. So with the Thermos, then you can see the mountains in the background. It’s a phenomenal picture and you can clearly see that you, you are living the life that you’ve wanted to create for yourself and you’re on that journey.oAnd I encourage folks, if you are kind of trapped in agency life right now and you’re feeling stressed out or you want to make a change or you want more time with a family, then try and consume some sort of content. Maybe check out Erin Flynn’s website, maybe check out her courses, etc. And see if there’s anything in there that might help you to start to make those changes so that you can kind of get some more control back of a well back of your life and back with your agency as well. So that was just a little bit of a shout out to anyone who’s listening, who is recognising those kinds of feelings. So with regards to that shift, okay, I’ve moved to the mountains and I want to spend more time skiing. What was, how long was that process? Was that an overnight or for you, did that take a few months for you to establish, you know, the hiking prices or the, or the focus in on your niche? I mean, can you walk us through a little bit?
Erin Flynn: Yeah, so really the web design portion, I had, you know, kind of gotten pretty, pretty locked in, so that was smooth. But when I was starting, you know, my education business with my courses, that’s like a whole new territory for me. That was like starting from scratch. That was building up a new audience. And that took a while and I actually started, instead of doing courses, I originally started with a membership and I pretty quickly realised that that was not going to support the life that I wanted because I was then making new content every single month. And it was getting to be like this constant kind of hamster wheel of content just to promote it, but also like within the membership itself. So like that was a tonne of content creation. And so that didn’t work very well for me. And it also, I was noticing after the first year that it wasn’t even working that well for my students because they would, you know, take a workshop and not know how to piece it together with like other portions of the membership.
Erin Flynn: And so that’s why I restructured everything into a course which launched in January of this year. And that was just like a step by step process for basically being able to systematise your freelance web design business. I do have a actually a couple agency people, like project managers have gone through it and they’ve really enjoyed it as well, even though they have to tweak things a little bit, you know, to work with multiple people as opposed to just one. But that kind of struggle into like entering this new arena was difficult. And so that first year of my membership did not really do what I wanted it to do and ended up not working that well. So again another kind of mistake but a great learning experience.
Lee Jackson: Absolutely.
Erin Flynn: And it didn’t involve as much crying as when I only made $12,000 in a year.
Lee Jackson: An equally it sounds like you made an awful lot of great content as well as a result.
Erin Flynn: Well the content has been kind of a lot of it’s just been repurposed and restructured to fit into the course. The course is almost the same content as the membership but restructured in a way that makes more sense for my students and is step by step as opposed to a kind of just all over the place. So that’s worked much better for them as well. They’re actually, you know, finishing things, they’re seeing results, but that was kind of a really big learning experience and so it took until the end of last year, basically the start of ski season where I was like, all right, like I got my course finished right before ski season started and then I like lined up all of the promotions and stuff for January. And then I got started. I started getting my skiing in on some travel and stuff scheduled because I had all my promotions sorted out and then I took on some client work because I was like, well, the course is kind of launching itself now so, you know, I’ll see what happens with that. But now I can do some more websites. So I knocked out three websites actually in the first quarter of the year because again, systems make it possible. So it ended up working out really well. But it again, it’s, I approach everything in business as kind of an experiment to learn from. I’m now and I don’t consider things failures. I consider them experiments that show me what I don’t want to do and that’s been a really good philosophy for me going forward, cause then I can just analyse everything that didn’t work the way that I wanted it to or anticipated it to and see what changes I can make for the next time.
Lee Jackson: And in most cases as well, like you mentioned with the re-purposing and that most things or many things from what you have done isn’t wasted anyway. There’s the massive learning experience. But equally there’s a lot of places where you can repurpose content reuse or repackage in a way that works more effectively, not only for you but equally for the people who are consuming that content as well. With regards to systems that we’ve mentioned this a lot and I would just love to demystify systems a little bit. Can you just give us an example of how creating a system might be? Cause I get the impression a lot of people listening to this who don’t necessarily have systems might feel like it’s some sort of fine art and that you need to be highly skilled to create a system and that you need massive, massive lists and flowcharts and everything else like that. Could you maybe give us some top tips for helping us get down with a piece of paper or whatever it is you recommend and just starting to map a few things out to give us some sanity that’s the question.
Erin Flynn: Yeah, so I think one of the things that make systems tricky, first of all is if you have not niched yet, if you don’t know exactly what kind of projects you’re going to be working on, it’s going to be hard to have systems if every single project is different. There are some things that can work from project to project regardless, but things will be easier if you do find your niche and if you do know approximately what each project will entail, and what I teach a lot of my students for the types of websites that they’re creating, it makes sense to basically productize them and have it as like a signature offering. So that that signature offering is, you know, just a sales page that gets shared around and then your processes are super clear. You’re never reinventing the wheel.
Erin Flynn: Now I know that that doesn’t work for everybody. But if you can, if it makes sense, if you find you’re working on the same general type of, you know, website or project over and over and over again, then it makes sense to make that like your signature offering. That’s what your marketing efforts go into. That’s what you become known for. And then you can get your systems in place for that really simply and have everything just run smooth as silk every single time. Now if that doesn’t work for you, because you do have different types of projects, try and break them down into what types of projects you do. So maybe you do brochure sites, maybe you do eCommerce sites, and then maybe you do some type of an app. And then try and figure out what each of those types has in common every single time. So I honestly just recommend sitting down and mapping out the process as much as you can for each type of service that you’re offering. And if there are variations, you know, there will be some probably in each project, but try to sit down and say, okay what happens now? How does the client come to me? Do they come via referral? Do they do this? Do they do that? What’s their first point of contact? Do they fill out an inquiry form? Do they email me? Do they get introduced to via email from another client? Then what would the next step be? Can I send them a document or a page that outlines how we work together? If they like that, then do we hop on a call? So just go through what makes the most sense. So just map out what makes the most sense, but also at the same time try to put yourself into your client’s shoes as much as possible and recognise that they don’t know the process.
Erin Flynn: So we know, you know, it goes into a website built, they have no clue. If they did, they would probably be, you know, in our industry. So think about where it makes sense to touch base with your clients. And I typically recommend even just every week like including an email or a text update, whether you’re using a project management system, you can post it in there, but it just says something like, hey client, here’s what was accomplished this week and it’s just a bullet point list. Here’s what we’re working on next week, another bullet point list and here’s what we need from you’. If there’s anything that you need and it’s just a bullet point list that should refer back to things that they already should know that they’re going to have to give you so if it’s content for the website that needs to be addressed way in the beginning, like basically as soon as they first contact you.
Erin Flynn: If you don’t do content, they need to know that they’re going to have to have content ready to go by a certain date. So just think about what makes sense and go through it a couple times, thinking about the client and what they’re going to need to be doing on their end and where they might get lost or confused. And you can of course reference past projects for this as well. Like where was there a communication breakdown? Where did clients start to go, ‘hey, are you still working on my website?’ Just think about those things and make note of them as a much as you possibly can. Get that outlined and then just follow the outline as close as you possibly can for your projects.
Lee Jackson: The way I started that was I used an indented, bulleted list, so I would essentially start off with kind of, I would split it into kind of sprints or stages and I would start off and go, okay, well how’s the project going to start? And the first part of the project is, so assuming I’ve already had it all agreed, etc. I’m going to start off with making sure that my deposit invoice has been paid. I’m then going to go into the discovery call that’s been planned. And from that there’ll be certain actions like i’ll email them a writeup, they’ll sign off the writeup, I’ll have then create a specification guide or whatever it’s going to be. So I’m just creating these bullets and then where there is something that needs to happen, I’m indenting. So for the discovery call I might do another indent and just put a few extra actions that need to happen before I can then go back to the next area and just work my way through this very long list.
Lee Jackson: So that was just my initial start and then I was able to eventually build that into a workflow in our CRM and then our project management system that allows us to just follow that cookie cutter way of every time we do this type of web build. This is our exact process and we do a few different types. We’ll actually do say plugin builds, which are very different from web design builds but there are still sections that you can keep repeating. So for example, for a plugin, every plugin is completely different that we build. But the process of gathering the information, doing the code and giving them their weekly updates like you talked about, is actually something that we can just keep repeating and repeating and repeating until we’ve worked our way through the feature list. And then we can then do the rapid process as well. So you’ve got your onboarding, you’ve got the build, and then the wrap up as well. And it can start listeners with just a bullet point list and then you can evolve from there. Now I understand that you’ve got courses and information that will help people get all this together. And I believe the onboarding for this is closed at the moment. But could you tell us a little bit more about how people could get access to your course in the near future to learn some of these skills?
Erin Flynn: Yeah, so my signature programme is called streamlined design profit. And it does basically exactly what it says. It helps you streamline your systems so that the design, and it’s pretty specifically, right now for freelance web designers, but again, I’ve had project managers go through it as well. I’ve had developers go through it who also enjoy it even though that process is fairly different. But there’s a lot that can be used actually no matter what type of project you’re doing in terms of client and communication. And so that one has currently closed. It will be reopening this fall most likely in September. There is a wait list for it, which you can get to through my website or we can probably pop a link down below this episode, but that one is my signature programme that is like designed to get all of your stuff in order so that you can charge those premium prices and then do what I do and go skiing while running a web design business and making your clients very happy while charging pretty, I would say pretty decent prices. That’s my, that’s my big one. Currently I have available if you just want client onboarding. I’ve got that as like a little bundle of workshops that you can get. And then this summer, I am actually probably by the time this is airing, I am rereleasing my email templates, which are literally just email templates that help you know what to say at any point during the project or if you have a difficult client, how to politely respond because I know that that’s something that we sometimes agonise over for hours. How do I respond to this? And you no longer have to do that. You can copy and paste and send the email on its way.
Lee Jackson: Wow. Is that the ps write soon or is that a different course? Or is that say what?
Erin Flynn: That’s say what I forgot about ps write, so ps right soon is just a very short little course about how to follow up with your past clients and bring them back for more work because your past clients love working with you. So it’s much easier to bring them back and keep working with them than it is to hunt down new clients all the time.
Lee Jackson: So folks, if you want to get access to these, head on over to courses.erinflynn.com for the ps write soon client onboarding bundle and say what and also make sure you go to erinflynn.com and go ahead and click on that button. I’ll also make sure that there is links to all of these in the show notes, but if you’re already on erinflynn.com just scroll down to the little rocket ship flying through this guy, little einstein and click on skyrocket your profits. It’s streamline design profit and you can get there on the waiting list for when Erin reopens the doors for that one as well, which is very exciting. Awesome. Well Erin, this has been awesome. I’ve loved going in that time machine learning about the 16/17 year old entrepreneur who beat a local company. That’s so cool and did a local website, who then did all sorts of jobs and eventually launched her agency and you know, had a rough start but learned from that great amazing processes built up an amazing client base.
Lee Jackson: Then did it all over again. Essentially as in had to double everything by moving, not getting to live in the house that you were renovated and moved again, but then created an amazing lifestyle business that allows you to ski and build websites for people that you love building websites for. It’s a brilliant story. I’ve really, really enjoyed it and also thank you as well for putting out the content. So actually putting yourself out there, creating courses is quite a brave thing for anybody to do. I’m always scared every I do anything like this. Even this podcast I mentioned, didn’t I at the very beginning I was nervous. I’m 200 episodes in and I get nervous before the freaking podcast because we’re putting information out there to help other people but it’s because we care. But you know, thank you for putting it out there to help other people so that they don’t have to make the mistakes that we perhaps have made in the past and they can actually start from a position of strength. So thank you and have a wonderful day. Are you going skiing now or what are you doing for the rest of the day?
Erin Flynn: You know, this, we actually, the, the mountain was open until this past weekend. That was the last weekend. So I am probably going to go hiking. It is actually warm here. We just had a lot of snow so we were able to ski into June this year.
Lee Jackson: So yes, the best of both worlds isn’t that you get to do the skiing and when it’s off season you get to do the hiking as well. Are you into photography or anything or are you just into the like just hiking for exploring?
Erin Flynn: I’m really bad at photography, but I do like to take photos with my phone.
Lee Jackson: The good thing is though, is that when you’re out in the countryside, any photo is beautiful because the countryside is just amazing. So you could be the world’s worst photographer and it would still look incredible.
Erin Flynn: Yeah. No matter where you pointed the camera or you’re okay.
Lee Jackson: Yeah, you’re good. We’ll have a wonderful day. Whatever your plans are. And thank you so much for your time. Take care.
Erin Flynn: Thank you so much, Lee.
Lee Jackson: Cheerio.
Lee Jackson: And that wraps up today’s show. If you are not down for Agency Transformation Live, there are only a handful of tickets left that will save you £200. Yes, that’s £200. That’s profit in your pocket. So check that out over on agencytransformation.live. You can be hanging out with us next year, 2020 may seem like a long time away, but I assure you that’s gonna come around really, really fast. So that’s agencytransformation.live would be fantastic to see you there. If you’re not part of our free Facebook group, check that out on agency trailblazer.com/group and if you would like to be on a weekly call with myself or one of the team members in the premium community, then you can check that out on agency, trailblazer.com. Folks, if we do not see you at the event or in any of the communities, then we shall hopefully see you in the next episode.
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