How I Built a Six-Figure Web Development Agency in 18 Months

Like any good business owner, I get excited about the success of my company. The hyper-growth mode. The blooming client base. The expansion into new services.

And if you know me, you know it’s not about the buzz-worthy numbers. (Even I’m cringing a little at this flashy title.) It’s about the processes learned, the relationships gained, and the actionable recommendations I can pass on. 

It’s about the never-stop-learning, never-stop-growing attitude that drives me and how I run hmpsn. 

So I’m following my own advice (read on, we’ll get to that) and sharing what I’ve learned along the way. 

Let’s dig in.


Think Big. And Small.

The Lead Generator - Agency Diversification

When I started hmpsn., I was a one-person sales team. I had to learn pretty fast how to change that, and I did it by thinking big.

I made the effort to attract attention and work with solid agencies. Job Portraits. Goodshuffle. Quercus. I put everything I could into an incredible first impression with our first jobs together.

But I didn’t stop there. I knew my success meant thinking big. And by big I mean agency diversity.

The key to maximizing your sales while minimizing the time you spend filling your pipeline is increasing the number of agencies that send you consistent, high-quality leads. These agencies become an extension of your sales efforts. Stay consistent in your work quality, and they’ll feed you leads time and time again. 

These leads will have inherent trust in you because they trust the company that referred you. 

You may have a great relationship with a certain agency, and that’s fantastic. But it’s impossible to know when their own leads are going to rise and fall. Don’t sacrifice your own business by putting all your eggs in one basket. 

Look for variety as well. Large companies can feed you multiple leads, but you can be the number one, go-to resource for small and mid-sized agencies. Vary the target industries they serve to diversify your knowledge and experience.


The Multiplier - Partnership & Affiliate Programs

Work with me once and you’ll see I get nerd-level excited when I talk about our partners. 

It’s true.

And why not? Every time I look for a solution, I find the platform, software, company or vendor that can meet my client’s needs. And we work with these partners on a regular basis.

To maximize your revenue, monetize that relationship through affiliate programs.

Let me explain.

We have a certain style at hmpsn. We’re agile, intuitive and creative, so we look for partners that mirror our style. Solution-based, no-code platforms that work gracefully and consistently. Platforms like Calendly, Typeform, Webflow and Elfsight that are easy to work with and fill a need. 

And while filling that need for our clients, we get a cut of the pay each time we connect our client with their solution. It’s what I call a win-win-win.

This is what I mean by thinking small. Revenue is revenue. Every bit counts. Every dollar adds to your bottom line. And if that revenue can be added by doing what you’re already doing, like recommending certain products and platforms, even better. 

On top of that, these companies legitimize your business. Big names trust you? Ok, so will the little guys. 

Remember, there is sometimes more value to a job than the revenue. Especially in the infancy of your business. Your payoff could be a shout-out from a large, established company. Or a referral to another business you’ve been trying to get an in with. 

Am I saying to under-sell your worth? Absolutely not. But if you are truly getting something out of taking on that project, I say go for it.

And stay with me, we’ll talk about holding your ground in a minute.


Solving a Problem vs Selling a Product

This happens at hmpsn. all the time. We get hired for one thing, and we find solutions for much more. Problems our clients had they didn’t know we could solve.  Problems they didn’t even know they had. 

Take the tech company in Austin we recently worked with. They hired us to update their website. The website had been built years ago in Webflow.

Cool, we're Webflow experts. We’ve got this.

But as we dug in, we quickly saw their original web build needed some work. The site was built by six different people in a tangled mess of code. The result was slow load times and clunky, disjointed design language. 

As soon as we mentioned this to the client, we offered the solution to fix it. Let’s clean everything up and get all of our pieces talking to each other properly.  Sure, we had to charge a little more, but if you can solve a $10,000 problem with a $1,000 solution, the extra cost will be worth it to your client. 

Our work with Job Portraits took the same path. We created a career micro-site template that took their business to the next level. We’re now onto phase 2 of that platform by incorporating GDPR compliance add-ons, multi-language tools, and upselling clients on sites that we’ve already built.

And that’s hmpsn. We don’t just build websites. We solve problems.


There’s Safety in Contracts

Let me make this clear: your contract is not your enemy. 

And, it’s not your client's enemy either.

Your contract is your safety net. It’s the document that confirms the scope of the project. A good contract will have clear deliverables and deadlines that will protect your profitability and assure your client has a solid timeline.

The timeline should include micro-deadlines. Meaning you’ll be setting up a timeline with each deliverable along the way. This gives you built-in touchpoints to circle back with your client, let them know how hard you’ve been working for them, and provide time to ask and answer questions.

If your client is wanting additional work, revisions, etc, ensure that your contract addresses this in advance. Add an hourly rate or mention additional project fees up front. Give wiggle room when it makes sense, but don’t give your clients unlimited access to your time and skills.

I get it. When you book your first few clients, you’re excited. It’s easy to agree to add on this or upgrade that, without updating the scope of the project.

But you have to hold your integrity to move your business forward.

It takes guts. Which leads me to...


Get Used to Being Uncomfortable

There’s no other way to say it. If you’re going to run your own business, you’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable. 

Having tough conversations with your vendors, partners and clients. Holding firm on your pricing. Even collecting deposits and money owed. 

The other tough conversation you need to have? Feedback. Routinely ask your clients for feedback on how they liked (or didn’t) working with you. 

If it helps, have some go-to questions when you wrap up a project. What part of the process was the easiest? What was the hardest? What did you need more of? Or less?

Get used to hearing the truth. And act on it. 


I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

If you haven’t caught on yet, we really value our business relationships at hmpsn. And those relationships include subcontracting work to expand your company.

Let’s say you get a piece of business sent your way that is on the lower end of your pay scale. It may not be worth your time to tackle the project on your own, but subcontracting that project out while you manage the overall scope may be worth it.

Again, think small. Yes, your profit margin will be lower. But it’s still profit. 

And another job in the books and client under your belt.

Before you jump into taking on that piece of business, you’ll need to have those subcontractors on hand and ready to move. Which means vetting people early and building up cash reserves.

Cash reserves mean you can go ahead and book that client, hire your subcontractors and move quickly. You’ve found people who can do what they do best and produce solid work.

Now, you think big. Manage the client, the overall project and the execution. And you’re on your way to that first $100,000.


Shout It Out

Remember earlier when I talked about taking my own advice? 

This is it. 

Share, share, share the work you’re doing, the partnerships you’re creating, and the success you’ve achieved. No matter how big or small. Share it on LinkedIn, write it up in a blog, post it on social media, get excited and talk all about it like a schoolgirl in love. 

We’ve talked about legitimizing your business, and this is an easy way to do just that. People will cheer you on, your work will get exposure, and you’ll generate momentum. 


No One Cares About You

Alright, that may be a tad dramatic. Especially since I just told you to share your story.

But also, it’s kind of true.

The reality is, you’re the one running your business. No one else is going to protect your bottom line, value and manage your time, or choose which projects to bid on. Running a business is the ultimate act of self-preservation. 

The most important thing I’ve learned? Your time is finite. And only you know the value. 

An easy exercise is to think through what an hour of your time is worth. Or a day. Write down that number as a guideline in your early days to know what is worth your time, what needs to be outsourced, and what you simply need to say no to.

In the end, it’s really quite simple, I provide value to my clients because I know my own value. 

Want to learn more about how we can work together? Drop some time on my calendar for a 30 minute strategy session. We can discuss all things development, design, and profitability in your business.

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