If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for ways to make some extra money. And if you know how to build websites, then there’s no better way to make some extra cash than by starting your own web design agency. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through step-by-step instructions on how to start and run a successful WordPress web design agency as a side hustle.
Do you love designing websites or working on your own websites? Do you have experience with WordPress or other CMS systems? Then why not offer your skills to other people who are looking for exactly those skills?
It’s actually quite simple, you have certain skills and other people are looking for people like you who can do a certain task. All you have to do is put the two together and start making some money!
If you’re thinking about starting a web design side hustle, then here are some things that you’ll need to do in order to get started:
That’s it! Now let’s dive into each of these steps a little bit more so that you can get started on your web design side hustle today.
The first thing that you’ll need to do is choose a name for your agency. This is actually quite important because it will be the first thing that potential clients see. You want to choose a name that is professional and reflects the services that you offer.
Once you have a name, the next step is to set up a website for your agency. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it should include some basic information about your services and how to contact you. You can use a platform like WordPress or Squarespace to easily create a professional-looking website.
Now that you have a name and a website, it’s time to start getting some clients! There are a few ways that you can do this:
Once you’ve found some clients, it’s time to start building some websites! This is the fun part where you get to put your skills to use and create something that looks great. Remember to communicate with your client throughout the process so that they’re happy with the final product.
And finally, once you’ve built the website, it’s time to get paid! This is usually done via an invoice system, such as PayPal or FreshBooks. Once you’ve invoiced your client and they’ve paid, you’re all set!
Of course it is possible to open your own freelance agency or offer your services online. The demand for web designers has never been greater than it is today. Everyone needs a website these days.
If you know WordPress, you can easily monetize your services. You also have the opportunity to scale your services and turn your freelance services into a real web design agency.
Now we would like to show you the exact steps how you can start your own freelance agency or expand your freelance activities into a real agency.
“It has never been easier to make money as a freelancer with web design!”
There’s a big difference between running a freelancer’s business and running a WordPress or Web Design agency as a side hustle. Hell, there’s even a difference between a small freelance web design business and a full-service agency.
Here are just a few ways the three differ:
|Freelancer||Small Business||Web Design Agency|
|Team Dynamics||1 person||< 10 people||10 people|
|Offered Services||You = are responsible for everything||You + small team = close family in which everyone plays along||You + Team Leader + Team Members = Everyone has a clear role to play|
|Offered Services||Services: WordPress websites||Services: WordPress websites|
Products: Monthly maintenance
|Services + Products: WordPress Websites + Monthly Maintenance + Digital Marketing Services + Coaching + Other Specialized Services|
|Number Of Customers||Based on your individual capacity||Based on your team’s capacity||A returning base of big budget clients + steady influx of new clients|
|Revenue Potential||Depends on the number of hours you work||Depends on the number of hours your team can work||open at the top|
|Customers Come From…||Cold calling, responding to job offers, word of mouth||Word of mouth, lead magnets, content marketing||Word of mouth, lead magnets, sales funnels, content marketing, PPC ads, remarketing, affiliate partners, guest blogging and other high profile press promotions|
Here’s what to take away from it:
WordPress agencies have the potential to generate far more revenue than a freelancer or small team could ever generate. However, this is not always a matter of course.
There is a lot of work that goes into building a WordPress agency if you want to profit from it, so don’t equate the mere act of hiring a team with increased output. There’s more to it than that.
If you’re up for the challenge (and reward) of starting your own agency, start here:
According to a recent FlexJobs survey, these are the top challenges freelancers focus on:
When you’re focused on where to get your next client or how to balance managing a business with building websites, it’s difficult to focus on a mission that’s anything but:
“Do a great job designing websites so great clients want to work with me and pay me on time.”
That all changes once your WordPress business has become more established and you have established some stability in your work. At this point, you must have a rock-solid mission around which every decision revolves—and one that will keep your struggles focused on the people you wish to help.
“Who will we serve?”
In other words, what should your niche be?
“Why should I offer these WordPress services?”
Do you feel there is a gap in the market for these types of services? Or do you feel like your target audience has been largely overlooked?
Think about the difference you will make with your market entry. Then create a short description that summarizes the why of your intention.
You don’t need to be able to predict the future, but you do need a clear roadmap to help move your agency in the right direction.
The part of this exercise that sets the goals and charts the path does not need to be made public now. However, your internal team should be aware of this so their goals and roadmap for growth can align with your agency’s goals.
Once you’ve committed your mission, create an official mission statement, save it somewhere your team has access to, and return to it when it’s time to make a big decision for your company.
Now that you know who you’re going to help and why, it’s time to clarify what exactly you’re going to do for them and how. Yes, you are a WordPress agency… but what exactly?
Your niche will help somewhat with this.
By defining who exactly you want to help, you can better choose what services to offer. In the cases of Itineris this means:
Datacrypt is a web design agency that serves all niches in web design. But you can also specialize in certain niches and make a name for yourself there. Also, specialization can sometimes make it easier for you to get customers.
For example, you can specialize in eLearning platforms: eLearning companies are a special type of company with the features needed to support membership and online course integration. Therefore WP-Tonic has developed services for this special customer group:
Bottom line? Don’t fall into the trap that a WordPress agency should offer the same services as all its peers out there.
Instead, think about what your customers really need. Then think about how that affects your strengths.
And don’t worry if your vision for the agency isn’t necessarily something you can support with the current team you have. Put these additional services or products on the shelf and slowly but surely move up to them.
For now, focus on providing immense value in the services you offer.
Focus on the essentials: the ones you can offer and the ones your customers absolutely need. Write them down with a short description and go to the next step.
If you run a small business or want to work as a freelancer, you may be reluctant to post your prices online. You want prospects to focus on the value of their business, not how much it will cost them to build a WordPress website. However, we recommend that you do not set your prices too low. If you offer your services too cheaply, it sometimes makes a rather junk impression…
Premium pricing and value are inherently built into a Freelance-WordPress-Agency identity. So there is no reason to keep this information from the public.
Also, by posting development costs and monthly retention rates on the website, you can quickly weed out any prospects who don’t have the budget for your work.
As you can imagine, this makes your conversations with prospects much more meaningful. You don’t have to step around the question of price. That’s already set. Instead, you can just focus on what they need and how you want to solve it.
As for how much you’re going to charge your customers, it’s going to take a little work to figure that out.
To get started, go to the list of services from the previous step.
Next, review your top competitors in the market – those in a similar niche and with a similar offering. This gives you a good indication of how high the price is and what the target customer can afford.
Then you have to do some internal calculations.
List each expense and how much you owe each month. This includes things like:
Of course, you have to do more than just cover your costs. But you have to run through those numbers first to make sure you’re on the right track.
What kind of margin do you need to be profitable?
In other words:
If overheads are like $20,000 a month, how much money does it take to make a healthy profit? Would a premium of 30% ($6,000) be sufficient?
Remember, if you want to be able to provide top-notch deals to clients and mentor the team running the show, you’ll need money to invest back into your business.
Find the ideal markup, then set that as your monthly sales target. We recommend that you rather ask for a little more money for your services than too little!
Divide your target income by the number of projects you could reasonably take on in a month.
As long as you make enough money to be profitable and the customer walks away with something of great value, you can commit to that price.
Create your price sheet when you’re done and publish the prices on your website when it’s done.
Don’t forget to reassess your costs and prices every year. As your services become stronger and your offerings more complex, these numbers should change.
I know this seems like something to do sooner, but I think it’s important to find out what your business will be offering and how much the offering will be before settling on a name.
Once you’ve decided on a few options, let others carry them out: your co-workers, past clients, and even your social media followers.
Get a yardstick for how they feel about it. They’re more likely to notice when something is “off” because they’re not as close to it as you are.
Once you’ve nailed down the name, get down to creating your logo and other branding elements.
An agency website has to show your skills. In other words, before potential clients look at your portfolio of work, your website should be proof of what you can do.
Your website needs to do more than just inform. It’s about her doing as much work for you as possible, that she almost becomes like another team member.
Here are some ways you can achieve that:
You know how time consuming managing web hosting can be, especially with increasing traffic.
That’s why you should outsource your own web hosting. The last thing you want is a slow-loading website that distracts from the paid client work that needs to be done.
Your site will have everything a smaller WordPress site has. However, your portfolio really needs to knock your prospects’ socks off.
Consider using a WordPress portfolio plugin that will make your most recent and relevant examples shine.
And don’t be afraid to create a portfolio that deviates from what is expected.
Running a smaller business makes it easy for clients to see the faces of team members and get to know each of you on a personal level.
As you build an agency, the team will grow and it will be difficult to create those personal relationships with so many people involved. Introducing the team through the website is one way to tone down this potential sense of disconnection that customers may be feeling.
Each team member has a natural-looking photo, contact information, and a position. This way, the team can be showcased in two ways. You can introduce the customers to the people behind the scenes. But it’s also like modesty:
“Look at how many people work for you with us!”
Because you are no longer the only one sitting at the other end of the phone or email, you can give prospects as many ways to get in touch as you like:
Just because you can offer all of these contact points does not mean that you have to include them all on your website.
There’s always a chance that you’re consuming yourself and your team too much, so only choose the outreach channels that make the most sense.
There are many platforms where you can get the best contact plugins for your website. Choose the most important plugins for your website. Codecanyon is the most popular platform for premium plugins.
Even if you have more people doing the sales for you, let your website handle some of the more mundane tasks.
For example, if you offer a custom development service but want to get prospects on the phone for a discovery call first, use a WordPress booking plugin and let them book appointments themselves.
When you start selling recurring services, your prospects may feel confident enough to sign up for them without having to speak to anyone first.
In these cases, you can cut out the middleman (i.e., the sales pitch) by adding “buy now” buttons and your own checkout to your website.
Check out Datacrypt’s SEO service packages. There, customers have the opportunity to easily buy their search engine optimization packages online with just one click.
After branding is in place and before you start dealing with clients, get the legal stuff out of the way.
I realize this is the least fun part of starting a WordPress agency, but it is the most important part. You never know when a legal issue might arise or where it’s coming from, so it’s best to get all the pieces done now so you’re prepared.
Here are some things that need to be done asap:
It’s also a good idea to think about where to get help with tax administration, human resources and legal assistance.
Your business may not need this help today, but things will change quickly once you get the ball rolling and you shouldn’t lose sight of these vital support systems designed to protect you and your business.
To run a successful web design agency, the first thing you have to do is stop doing everything yourself, or do everything at once. So, one by one:
Write down every task you complete. what it includes. Why you do them. How it fits into the overall picture.
Write all the tasks you enjoy and what you can do better than anyone else in a “Keep” column.
Put any tasks that you don’t enjoy or that take up too much time in a “delegate” column.
Then make an outline of who you want to delegate the delegate’s duties to. For example:
When you come across a job that doesn’t fit perfectly, you know there’s a new role to fill. It may not happen right away, but when those relevant responsibilities add up and weigh on you and your team, you know it’s time.
When you look at the list of services or products you offer, it becomes clear which roles are the focus. Usually these are the web designer, the web developer, the copywriter and the project manager.
Make sure you have employees and contractors filling in the essentials if you haven’t already.
Also, make sure you have the budget to pay your team members a competitive wage. If you’re struggling with that, then something is wrong. Either your achievements are not rated highly enough or you are trying to increase your team too quickly. Take a step back and find out where the break is before you continue.
Once your agency has gotten super lean and has the capacity and budget to do more, start rolling out new services and opportunities like
Just don’t start adding roles for their own sake. If there’s a demand for it and the numbers show it’s good for profit, only then should you start making more adjustments.
This may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll need to spend money on a better toolbox if you want to make more money.
Therefore you must do the following:
If you currently use any business tools or software, make a list of all the tools you use and their purpose.
Next, look at the capabilities of these tools and honestly answer the following questions:
“Can this tool scale with your business?”
If not, mark it for deletion.
You need tools that enable you and your team to move faster and more efficiently than ever before. This is the only way you can offer services on a large scale and multiply your income.
Look at your list and see if you’re missing anything. Maybe it’s a tool you haven’t decided on yet or something you didn’t think you were ready for.
Don’t just look at what you need. Consider your team’s needs. What will enable them to perform at their best at their level and in return provide a better deal for your customers?
Once you have a list of all the tools you need to add, update, or delete, you can get to work. You shouldn’t worry about this and not transition your team at a time when your agency is on the move.
You’re going to need a lot of structure for your agency. This is beneficial for several reasons.
First of all, a well-developed and documented process makes it easier to get consistent results for clients. Second, it makes it easier for new employees to get started.
Again, the aim is to increase the speed, agility and accuracy of the company. And the established systems will do the trick.
It’s no secret how the team creates websites for clients – and that’s just what people see on the outside.
Internally, this agency likely has documentation detailing each step of the process. In addition, the processes are likely to be complemented by a variety of software automations, checklists, and templates.
That’s exactly what you have to do.
As you did with your toolbox, make a list of the processes you currently use in your organization.
Are there any that are outdated or inefficient? Update them before doing anything else.
Then take a step back and consider what else you should have processes for.
When you add new services (or even recurring subscriptions or products), you add related processes to your main list.
What about lead tracking and lead follow-up? Do you issue invoices to customers? Moving projects from one team member to another?
There are so many different things to think about right now. That’s why it’s so important to get away from the hands-on work of web development so you can see the big picture that will help your agency run like a well-oiled machine.
Create a separate document for each process and store it in a safe and central place. It could be something like a team dropbox, Google Drive, or a project management platform.
Don’t forget the search, onboarding, and customer management processes.
The more clients you serve, the more difficult it becomes to keep track of everything if you don’t have the systems in place.
Do you have a CRM? How about a customer-friendly project management and communication tool? How about a method of creating a custom WordPress dashboard to make it easier for website clients to access the CMS?
It’s also important to have ready-made templates for proposals, contracts, and onboarding steps so you can get prospects out of the sales pipeline and into your active project queue as quickly as possible.
The same applies to the hiring, testing and onboarding of employees.
In the earlier days of your business, you probably asked people you knew for recommendations or job postings on online boards just to get some relief. When it comes to your agency, however, you need to think about more than this:
“Do this person’s skills match what I’m looking for?”
Now you need to think about how to find people:
There really is no room for compromise as a weak link could throw things off course.
Build your interviews and hiring processes to find people who are a good fit for you. Once they’re on your team, you need processes to help them grow in your agency.
Another thing to think about is employee involvement in process development and documentation.
Once you’ve found a few rock-solid people, empower them to take ownership of their processes and documentation. If you can involve them more in shaping your agency, they will become more committed to your mission in the long run.
Keeping track of things will be difficult as your business, client list, and team grow in size. But you need access to this data so you can make smarter business decisions for your agency.
While you should set aside time to review your data, you can automate the actual work of creating the reports. Here are some places where you can do this:
Automating these reports allows more time to be spent on action—whether it’s bringing your team together to celebrate a big win, working with a team manager to fix a leaky process, or deciding to service an unpopular service to remove.
Finding clients is one of the hardest things about freelancing. Make sure to optimize your own website for the right keywords. This way you will drive targeted traffic to your website.
To find online web design clients you can use:
You can also participate in Facebook or LinkedIn groups, for example, and draw attention to your skills and services there.
You can also take part in physical conferences and make contacts there.
The important thing is to get your name and face out there as much as possible.
And finally, don’t forget the power of word-of-mouth marketing—one of the most effective forms of marketing there is. If you do a great job for a client, they’re likely to tell their friends and colleagues about you, and that can lead to more work.
There is a lot to do to start a small, one man agency. But once you’ve got your well-oiled machine up and running, it’s time to really ramp things up.
When you’re ready, here are some ways to start scaling:
Many freelancers or agencies make their base selling web development services. The only problem is that this is a one-time service. This can make sales forecasting difficult and also result in a lot of energy being wasted trying to constantly acquire new customers.
With recurring sources of income, on the other hand, a high degree of stability and scalability of the cash flow can be achieved.
Here are some common ways freelancers add recurring revenue to their businesses:
The beauty of some of these is that you don’t have to manage the processes if you don’t want to (e.g. if you outsource maintenance services and charge your customers a premium).
As for the others, one reaps the benefits of building something that is done one-on-one. While you still have to support your products and keep them up to date, most of the work is done upfront.
The agencies shouldn’t be out there trying to get clients. At this point in the game, clients should be clamoring for you to work with.
What is the best way to achieve this? Increase your online visibility and authority with quality, actionable, evergreen content.
When you make an impact with your content, you’ll find you’ll never have to hunt for clients (or business partners!) ever again.
Of course we know that it can be difficult to write blogs and articles regularly. Blogging can be very time consuming! Do you already know our article about AI content tools to help you create high-quality content for your blog? Be sure to check out our article on this topic!
Between Facebook groups, online forums, WordCamps, Slack communities, and web design conferences, there’s no reason to isolate yourself when you’ve built a business around WordPress.
There are so many opportunities to connect and bond with others in this space! So, don’t be afraid to go out there.
Maybe you can find someone to host a webinar or class with. You might meet your favorite developers and decide to team up with them. Or you could meet another agency owner who would like to share the recommendations since your niches don’t overlap.
You never know who you may meet, how you may help each other, or what you may learn from spending more time in the WordPress community.
With WordPress continuing to hold the largest market share in website building, now is a fantastic time to start a freelance WordPress agency.
However, it’s important to remember that a WordPress freelance business is quite different from an agency, which offers a full range of services and recurring products.
You can’t just flip a switch and suddenly announce to the world that you’re now running an agency. There is a lot of work that needs to go into the backend before you can start reaping the rewards of owning an agency.
You have to:
If you’re overwhelmed by all of this, then maybe starting a WordPress agency isn’t on the cards (which is totally fine).
There are certain clients who will be drawn to agencies, but where is the rest? There will always be a need for WordPress freelancers and boutique businesses to provide affordable and more personalized services that these clients want.
Still, keep this guide handy when you’re ready to grow. Even if starting a large agency isn’t your goal, here are a lot of business-boosting strategies you can use for a smaller WordPress business.
Starting a freelance WordPress agency can be a great way to scale your freelance business. But it’s not for everyone.
As a WordPress freelancer, you might be wondering if starting an agency is the right move for your business. After all, there are a lot of advantages to owning an agency. You can offer a wider range of services, hire a team of experts to support you, and scale your business more easily.
However, it’s important to remember that a WordPress freelance business is quite different from an agency, which offers a full range of services and recurring products. You can’t just flip a switch and suddenly announce to the world that you’re now running an agency. There is a lot of work that needs to go into the backend before you can start reaping the rewards of owning an agency.
If you’re overwhelmed by all of this, then maybe starting a WordPress agency isn’t on the cards (which is totally fine). There are certain clients who will be drawn to agencies, but where is the rest? There will always be a need for WordPress freelancers and boutique businesses to provide affordable and more personalized services that these clients want.
Still, keep this guide handy when you’re ready to grow. Even if starting a large agency isn’t your goal, here are a lot of business-boosting strategies you can use for a smaller WordPress business.
Now it’s your turn 😉