All about dem basics

Happy Monday!

Today, I’ll be beating a drum you’ve heard me beat before.

But I hope you listen – it’s a particularly important drumbeat.

Last week, a friend of mine who is unfortunately really struggling in his business came to me with yet another grand idea he was going to try to drum up some business.

Another hack.

Another “thing I heard from a guy somewhere.”

Another “what’s working now for someone else.”

It is my contention that your chances of winning with a mindset like that is about the same as winning the lottery. Just ain’t gonna happen.

If you are not executing on the basics well, you will not grow.

The math is simple, really. In any domain, there is a baseline level of discipline and expertise it takes. I’m a drummer, and long before I was learning complex drum fills and kick patterns, I was learning basic rudiments like singles and doubles.

I learned a basic “rock beat” – bass, snare, bass, snare, with eighth notes on the hi-hats – before I ever attempted “the cool stuff.”

Music is a great example of this in action, btw.

Listen closely to some of your favorite musicians and notice how even the most basic stuff sounds so clean, precise, and skillful.

You can always revert to basics.


On Saturday I watched UFC Austin. Clay Guida—one of the greats—was fighting. He is 41 years old and looked incredible out there.

Now—he lost the fight. But it was a clean fight. And he didn’t stop moving forward til the end. He is a voracious executor of the basics. Nothing flashy. A slow ride to the top. But he’s in the Hall of Fame, has a raving fanbase, and is still consistent even at his age in the fight game, consistently fighting opponents a decade (or sometimes almost TWO decades) younger than him.

So, I present to you the basics:

  • If local, join Chamber and networking groups (yes it’s uncomfortable, but you have to be where the business is being done – in the marketplace)
  • If doing business primarily online and/or in a niche, create content, build an email list, and email the list with offers as often as possible
  • Build a habit of maintaining regular contact with your current clients, asking them for referrals, and continually updating them with new offers

Get the basics rolling to start generating business.

THEN – and only then – you should start looking at tactics to grow.

Still more:

I want to clear one thing up. Subscription Web Design is neither a basic or a hack. If you are looking for SWD to be your savior and be the thing that finally gets you all the clients you’d ever hoped for, this is the wrong thing. You need another program that teaches you how to build lead-generating systems, convert clients, etc.

Sure – we touch on those things. And we cover them in great specificity on our member calls when it makes sense.

But SWD is primarily about building a business model that breaks you free from the feast or famine.

It’s about looking at your business as a tool for long-term sustainability for your family and/or to meet whatever goals you have.

You still have to execute on the basics of building a web design business, even with this model.

But if building a sustainable long-term business with predictable income is the thing you wanna do, you’re in the right place.

Here’s the link:


Dump It Into Your Process

Ever get distracted and feel like you need to do something right now or you’ll forget about it?

I can be the same way.

This morning, as I was working through my notifications on Basecamp, I was reminded that I need to get a client their Build Sign Off form in the next few days.

Yes, Basecamp creates a task for this.

However, there’s a difference between a project management system like Basecamp and a personal task list like Things 3. They are different in the information they give you as well as the way you interact with them. For example, there’s not a way to just quickly add something to Basecamp.

There is, however, a way to quickly add something to Things 3. And not only that, but I have a process I go through to make sure tasks don’t fall through the cracks.

So, in that moment, without going down a rabbit hole, I hit a quick keyboard shortcut and typed “(Client Name) Build Sign Off” and hit enter.

Boom. Done.

Won’t even think about it again … until Monday morning.

This is when I do my weekly preview. And during that time, I check my Things 3 inbox and process tasks where they need to go.

This is classic GTD productivity methodology in the specific, but I’m also trying to teach you a general principle.

Rather than responding to every whim throughout the day, build processes, and “dump” new thoughts, ideas, tasks, activities, etc., into them.

Below are a few other ways I’ve done the same thing. (Note: Some of them may not seem as obvious, but look for the similarities.)

  • Check email every day at 4pm (only, if I can help it) — this is me “dumping” the mental bandwidth of needing to check email every 5 minutes; instead, there’s a predetermined time
  • Write a project overview/kickoff and assign the task of assigning the rest of the tasks to my project manager, Brian
  • Schedule recurring todo’s to free my brain from having to remember when things are supposed to be done
  • Send a daily email to my SWD list (it’s easier to market every day as a habit and keep a pulse on what’s happening than to spread things out, at least for me)
  • Have my assistant do a task that I had been doing; this means rather than doing the task myself, the process gets it done, and I’m brought in automatically when help is needed
  • Pinned idea capture note in Bear notes app — easy to append to, then once a week process the ideas into Notion during weekly preview

What you’re basically doing here is outsourcing, whether to tools or to people.

You’re allowing yourself the brain space to get your most important work done, while keeping a system in check so that the things that come up from time to time, or need to happen regularly, happen “on their own.” It’s personal automation and it’s a glorious thing.

Ok, enough for now. Hope this is a helpful tip for ya.

Here’s where to go for more helpful tips and personalized guidance in your amazing journey:


A Complete Marketing Plan You Can Start Using Today

Yesterday’s member call with my Insiders was on fire 🔥

Seriously, so much gold that I am planning to rewatch and take notes myself!

We discussed a lot, but one of the things we did was take a look at a landing page for a member’s website.

In looking at the page, the issue came up of whether to offer a 30-minute free consultation or some kind of a masterclass.

As often happens, the juices started flowing and I diatribed for probably 10 minutes or more about the marketing plan I thought she should use.

Because I’m a nice guy, I thought, ya know I bet all my people would really like to hear about this marketing plan.

So I’m gonna share the basic sketch with you.

Sound good?

But for more details, some recommendations on where and how to learn more, etc., you’ll have to listen to the member call replay as soon as it becomes available (usually a day or two later). Join up now you can check it out ASAP.

OK — on to the plan.

A few caveats:

  1. You’ll have to test this in your market. In fact, you’ll need to test a lot of things about this.
  2. You need to be comfortable on video or at least with a slide presentation.
  3. You must make sure to focus on sales, not education and teaching, in this process. There’s a time for education and a time for selling. This is selling time.
  4. You’ll probably need to be in a niche is that used to watching webinars and masterclasses online. This member is working with coaches, counselors, etc — people who are used to online marketing and business.

In a recent email, I wrote about how I would market my business if I were starting over today. The cliff notes “schedule” I landed on was:

  1. Ideally, 1-3 YouTube videos per week
  2. Daily emails promoting discovery calls, special offers, etc.
  3. Create new free offers every 3 months or so to keep things fresh
  4. Optionally, consider a sales webinar each month to push leads over the edge

With that in mind… this is basically “part 2” of what that plan would look like, with a specific focus on a masterclass/webinar.

Step 1: Start a YouTube Channel

Again, and I will continue to hammer this home for the foreseeable future, YouTube is a FORCE when it comes to marketing.

Its discoverability algorithms are incredible.

And not only that, once you have 1,000 subscribers (and a couple other small/easily achievable criteria), they allow you to monetize.

This platform is going to PAY YOU to generate leads for yourself. Let that sink in.

If you have a clearly defined niche, YouTube is arguably the best platform on the Internet available today for you.

If you don’t have a niche and/or highly personality-based channel for which YouTube can find an audience, don’t do this.

You’re better off using local networking and more traditional marketing channels.

But there’s never been a better time to get started on YouTube. It will drive results with consistent effort, commitment to quality content, and being highly relatable.

Step 2: Build Your Email List with a Masterclass

Ok, in “Part 1” I talked about creating free offers/lead magnets to get people on your email list.

(Side note/spoiler alert: I am planning to release a course next year on email marketing for web designers. 😬 Let me know if that’s something you’re looking forward to.)

The ultimate free offer is a webclass/masterclass/webinar whatever you want to call it. And yes, it kind of matters, because your niche will respond to a certain wording more than others. This is why we test.

So what you’re going to do is offer a free masterclass, which is essentially a sales-focused webinar ranging anywhere from 30-90 minutes (test, test, test — sometimes shorter works better, sometimes longer).

Depending on how fast traffic is pouring in, you can decide whether to offer these every two weeks or every month. If you have lots of traffic, every week would even be good.

I would not go longer than a month if you are going to do this. You just can’t schedule webinars out that far away, it doesn’t work. Even a month is pushing it, TBH.

Step 2B: Offer a Bonus Freebie

Since it may take a while before the webinar starts, you will need to give them something to placate them in the meantime. You want them to experience an immediate dopamine rush if possible.

Give them something very valuable they can use right away.

A checklist, a free audio or video training, something related to the upcoming training that helps them prepare for it, maximize it, etc.

Step 3: Email Them to Get Them Excited

Again, you want to build excitement for being a part of the masterclass.

Consider even recording a few video messages and placing them on landing pages for them to receive on the 2-3 days leading up to the masterclass.

Once someone signs up, they need to be getting emails almost every day until it starts, and potentially a few days after it ends.

You will make sales in the followup emails from people who didn’t convert during the masterclass itself and/or didn’t attend.

Once this campaign is over, put them on your regular broadcast email list, email them at least every week, and preferably get as close to every day as possible.

If you’re doing this right, your email list will become your “lake” in which you go fishing for new clients. You’re feeding them every day with a helpful diet of infotainment that will indoctrinate them into your ways, build a relationship with you personally, and give them immense value.

When they’re ready for the services you offer, who do you think they’re gonna call? 🙂

A decision you’ll need to make is whether you do a slightly different webinar every month or keep the same webinar.

A related decision is whether you will invite your entire prospect list to each webinar or whether you will only invite new list members to it.

There’s no wrong way to do this.

If you’re gonna invite the whole list, you probably want to consider using different hooks and teaching points with each webinar to mix it up a bit, even if the content is relatively the same.

The reason is twofold:

  1. Different hooks for different folks. You never know what hook is going to resonate with any given person on your email list. Someone may not watch the webinar the first 18 times you promote it, but watch it on the 19th time because your marketing hook drew them into seeing why it was valuable.
  2. Repetition is crucial for success. I was flattered on the call yesterday when a new member was repeating back to me things I’ve taught. He’s spent time with my content, it was obvious. And the fact is that I repeat myself a lot. That is intentional. So it’s okay if a person attends “basically” the same webinar multiple times. They need the information and, if done right, it will eventually cause them to buy.

I’m almost 1,200 words into this email (a long one, sorry!) and this doesn’t even cover everything we talked about relating to this particular strategy.

And on yesterday’s call, we talked about a lot more than this—trust me.

Please, please consider joining us.

The things you will glean from these conversations could absolutely transform your business if you apply them.

And if you wanna be on the call to ask questions, you’re welcome to, or if you’re a “lurker” and would rather just listen to or watch them afterward, that’s fine too!

But I don’t want you to miss out.

Here’s the link:

Can’t wait to meet you!

Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ Mad “Talking” Skills

Any NCIS fans out there?

Me and Tiffany are rewatching in hopes of making it past season 13 this time around.

On a recent episode, Abby was not her usual sparkly self. She was visibly depressed, in a bad mood, and didn’t wanna talk to anyone. I’ve been there a few times too, not a fun place.


Gibbs, not one to miss an opportunity, came to see Abby for some info related to a case.

She did her usual spiel, after which Gibbs hung around awkwardly.

Abby said she wasn’t spilling the beans, no matter what he said.

So he said nothing.

And the beans got spilt.

She proceeds to talk for about two minutes straight. Gibbs can’t get a word in edgewise—doesn’t even try.

Once the problem’s off of her chest (which, btw, is that a short fellow she’s dating wants to break it off because she’s too tall and wears platform boots on top of that LOL), she gives Gibbs a huge hug.

“Ahh Gibbs, thank you. You always know what to say,” she declares.

Which was met, of course, with a smile from the silver fox.

When it comes to sales (and frankly, customer service too) we have a tendency to think more words are needed. We talk, and talk, and talk, sharing our life stories with no seeming end in sight. Here’s what you don’t realize, though: The more you do that, the more you’ve made the story about you. And heroes don’t like their plotlines being hijacked.

The more you listen, the more someone feels heard.

The more heard they feel, the more endeared they become.

The more endeared they become, the more they trust you.

And the more they trust you, the more likely they are to do business with you.

BTW — that formula is true in many areas of your life. It will work with your spouse or significant other, parents, children, employers, other business associates, and more.

Consider the opposite:

The more you talk, the more someone feels intimated.

The more intimidated they feel, the more insecure they get.

The more insecure they are around you, the less they trust you.

And the less they trust you, the less likely they are to do business with you.

See that?

Now, that doesn’t mean there are no times to talk.

After all, I am the one talking right now. There’s a time for exhortation, encouragement, even diatribes.

But certainly not when doing sales or customer service.

That is when less is more. The less you say, the more effective you are. Try it out.

And hey, speaking of trying it out, I’d love for you to join me in my mentorship program, SWD Insiders.

I’ll listen to your concerns or current struggles, help you plot a path forward, and then keep you accountable every single month.

Let’s do it: 

How I’d Market My Business if I Was Starting Today

The online business landscape is incredible today.

In 2023, we have so many options.

Whether you love to write, speak, or make videos, there’s a way for you to get your message out to market your business.

For some reason, I have not seen web designers take full advantage of the opportunities available here. As a whole, we are still stuck in the early 2000s ideas of marketing where networking groups and unplanned word of mouth reign supreme.

Now, hear me — there’s nothing wrong with either of those.

Networking groups can be a fantastic source of income.

So can word of mouth.

And of course, there’s no arguing with the cost of such marketing avenues, especially the latter, which is essentially free as long as you do a good job.

But online platforms are free, too!

And they offer a wealth of opportunities if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty learning how they work.

So if I was starting my business today, how would I market online? I’m about to tell you.

Fair warning, though: It’s probably all stuff you’ve heard before. Maybe you just need to hear it from me, explained in the way I’m explaining it.

Bottom line: If you’re reading this thinking “Yeah, yeah, I know should do that”…then ask yourself, “Why haven’t I?”

Here goes:

First, I would decide on some form of free offer.

In today’s age of marketing, it’s all about upfront value.

People are interested in what they can get from you. They want a taste. They need to feel secure in their decision even before spending money. You can push against this, or you can realize it’s the name of the game and be a star player.

Whatever niche you’re in, create something you can give them for free that speaks exactly to their needs.

This is not the time to be generic. Be specific. Very specific.

Once you have this free offer, it forms the foundation of everything you do.

You’re going to use this free offer to build your distribution channel — aka, your email list.

Second, I would nurture an email list.

It doesn’t matter how many coats of lipstick one puts on the advice. And trust me, I’ve heard it put many ways and coated with every sugary delight in the book.

You. Must. Have. An. Email. List.

Read it again. And again. And again.

Your list is your distribution channel.

Your list is chock full of people who’ve raised their hands to let you know that they have the problem you solve.

Without this, every marketing message is like spraying and praying on Call of Duty. You just frantically hit buttons praying that you’re going to hit a target and you miss every time.

When you have a free offer that solves a specific problem for a specific kind of customer, and email them every single day in relation to that problem, you are “doing marketing” in its purest form.

Oh, you read that right. Every day. At least most days.

If you’re offering value and solving specific problems for people, they will want to hear from you.

And when they’re done hearing from you, they will leave.

It’s that simple, really. And you shouldn’t ever be offended. To everything there is a season.

Ok – so you’ve got a free offer to get them on the list, and you’re emailing them every day, ideally telling stories, giving value, and building the relationship.

Next — and this is going to sound like it should have been at the front of the list, but trust me, this is the right order – you’re going to start a broadcast.

And go with me here, I’m going to be very specific about this.

Third and finally, you should start a YouTube channel.

I know, I know.

This advice might be difficult to swallow.

Yes it’s true, there are a lot of options. You don’t have to start a YouTube channel.

If you like to write, YouTube is probably not the place for you. I understand all of that.

But the fact remains: There is arguably no greater or more powerful discovery tool in existence today than YouTube.

When it comes to getting in front of the perfect audience for you, frankly, YouTube is an absolute juggernaut.

You can be a legit nobody today and have hundreds of subscribers on YouTube within weeks of consistent effort. And the better you get, the more the platform rewards you.

You should carve out a niche for yourself on YouTube and become a sought after expert. Then use that expertise to build an email list. Then use that email list to fish for new projects.

Here’s what the schedule would look like:

  1. Ideally, 1-3 YouTube videos per week
  2. Daily emails promoting discovery calls, special offers, etc.
  3. Create new free offers every 3 months or so to keep things fresh
  4. Optionally, consider a sales webinar each month to push leads over the edge

That could be the entire marketing plan for the next decade or more of your business. Seriously.

Now you might ask a very logical question here: “Steve, is this what you’re doing?”

Great question! Yes and no.

Yes, it’s what I’m doing in Subscription Web Design. And it’s working.

No, it’s not what I’m doing in my agency — yet.

But it is exactly what I plan to do as soon as my rebranding project is complete. And I plan to show my work and keep you updated on how it’s going, what I’m learning, and how you can use it in your own business, too.

So it’s what I would do if I was starting today AND it’s what I am going to do in the coming weeks.

You can use these tools in your business and create repeatable, predictable revenue without having to wonder where the next chunk of money is going to come from.

And if you’d like to talk about this kind of stuff live with us, these are exactly the kind of conversations we have in our member calls.

We can design the specific plan for your business and hold you accountable to make sure you’re executing.

Here’s where to join us: