I’m really good at some things, ok at some things, and terrible at some things. I’m really good at development in Webflow. I’m really good at sales. I’m ok at design. I’m not terrible at design, but I’m not really good.
I’ll never be really good at design.
I know that from the bottom of my soul. I am not a designer, I never was, I never will be. I can put together a solid website, but I am not a digital artist. I’ve accepted this. As bigger leads came in, design demands were higher. I felt my design skills being maxed out.
In the first year, every client was a small local business. My design skill was always good enough to improve their previous website. Now the leads coming in have nice websites already. Every other lead that came in said, “I want a website like HelloSign.” I know that I will never be good enough to design a website like HelloSign. I accepted that as a fact. If the projects I want are asking for a level of design I can’t deliver, that means one thing - hire someone.
I hired a designer that only knew design. He didn’t know a thing about development or Webflow. It was a perfect match - I project managed, he designed, I developed. Poof - just like that my biggest weakness was fixed. I was able to spend more time doing what I wanted to do - developing websites in Webflow and selling. This was a great relationship. I was charging so much more money for these bigger clients. The design quality was high and people wanted to pay for it. The portfolio was growing with high quality sites. The small local business sites were coming off the Finsweet website. The professional designed websites were being added. I needed help in my weakest skill for Finsweet to grow.
A better portfolio brings you better leads, which gives you bigger projects, which improves your portfolio, which brings you better leads. This is an endless cycle of progress on loop. This is a loop that can continue for as long as you want it to. Finsweet has been pushing this loop since day 1. We push this loop actively now. We will always push this loop.
As the portfolio grew, more projects came in. More projects than I could handle myself. That year 1 mentality of ‘get any project no matter what’ was now becoming very selective. I only needed to offer this to the biggest and best projects. There was enough business coming in on a regular basis and people honestly wanted to pay Finsweet. Leads were coming in with zero marketing. Just a big sexy portfolio.
Everything started to heat up in year 2.
I saw a forum post from HelloSign asking for a Webflow developer to build their new website in Webflow. I was locked on it. I decided that I 100% needed this project. I decided for myself that this was my turning point. HelloSign told me that they received over 100 messages about their forum post.
I was chosen.
I poured my heart into that sale. I spent hours typing up emails to them. Careful with every word and every explanation. I think one time I spent over 2 hours on one single email. I analyzed their current site, analyzed the new designs, suggested best structure, suggested global spacing classes, giving them honest answers to all questions Webflow. I was communicating with them as if I already had the project and they were amazed by that. They were amazed at how much valuable information I was giving them before they agreed to anything. And out of those 100 messages from the forum, I was chosen.
They asked me for a quote for the project. It was between me and someone else. Guess what I said - “Tell me what you want to pay and the answer is ‘yes’”. I also told them that I wanted to put a ridiculous term in the contract. I demanded it. This term allowed them to refuse to pay me if they weren’t happy with the work. If anything was unsatisfactory, I will return the money. It showed confidence and guaranteed my quality. They were surprised but agreed and came back with their number. The project cost number they wanted. Of course, I accepted instantly. I got it. I got my first big project.
Over 4+ years later, HelloSign is still a happy active client.
Looking back on it, I would have paid to do HelloSign’s website. I could have taken out a business loan to pay HelloSign to allow me to build their website. It would have paid for itself many times over by now. I used the HelloSign project in every sales pitch. It was my leading message in my pitch. Do you see this website? I made this, hire me. I used that project as my golden ticket to grow my portfolio - and now get paid for it. More people said “yes” with HelloSign in the Finsweet portfolio.
Aside from the big client, big project, big portfolio item, I learned a lot during that project.
It was time to build an awesome website for us, for Finsweet. We have a designer who can do creative work. We have a developer who knew how to build any layout inside Webflow. This is a formula for an awesome website.These were my directions to the designer: “Design something that you’ve never seen before. Something crazy with a huge color palette.” Our website needed todifferent and unique - not just say "we are unique" with text on the website. I wanted something that caught everybody’s attention visually and showed how good we are with Webflow. The layout needed to be complex. The animations needed to be advanced. It needed to prove our quality as a team. I told the designer to give me his best work during his most creative time - and I would pay a premium for his guaranteed best work. It was important that our website was the best that we could build as a team. I said that to everybody who touched that website. Give me your best work, I will pay a premium.
It was bright, it was loud, it was ridiculous.
The designer sent back a hero with a big lion head with a blue purple gradient filter over the lion. It was bright, it was loud, it was ridiculous. He sent the lion as a joke, but I loved it immediately. It was crazy and very visual. I couldn’t stop looking at it and it was surely something that has never been done before. I said “yes” and our designer said, “are you sure?” I saw it and I knew it had to be the direction we needed to go in. We needed to be wildly different.
The big investment I made voluntarily overpaying for everything ended up paying off. More leads came in, people wanted to spend more money, and I could feel Finsweet growing. Within 2 or 3 months, the site investment was paid off from completed new projects that came in because of the hot new website projects coming in.
HelloSign became a featured customer of Webflow. Webflow did a case study on HelloSign. As the person that implemented that big powerful site, Finsweet was admitted to the Webflow Experts program. This was awesome. It was a huge honor and I was very happy about it. I also felt like I should be a part of it. At this point, I was a wiz in Webflow. I wasn’t in the forum daily looking for solutions anymore. I knew enough to figure out solutions myself. I was starting to make my own solutions. I had no question about how html and css worked. I knew it.
The Experts program was a new source of leads. We had our new flashy website live. That combination led to higher quality leads that wanted to pay more money. We were continuing to loop. Continuing the loop is so important for fast growth. I was working more and more. But now I was working less on tests and experiments and more on client websites. This transition to spending most of my time on paid projects was very motivating. I continued learning and getting solid experience with clients - all while getting paid, finally. Half way through year 2, I started to feel some financial payback.