You’re probably wrong

Ever met a know-it-all?

I’ll bet some of you, over the holidays, got to interact with one or two family members who just seem to have a tremendous amount of wisdom and knowledge.

I mean no matter what the topic of conversation, they not only have an opinion, but they have studied and informed answers to everything. And they believe their manifold answers are a gift to your conversation.

When I interact with people like this, my first reaction is to get frustrated.

But I almost always have a secondary reaction of gratefulness. Why? Because I’ve been given the gift of being wrong so many times that I am always willing to be teachable and listen to a different perspective. I may ultimately end up disagreeing after hearing the case, but many times I’ll be grateful for having learned something new.

The know-it-alls, though, live a miserable life. No one can teach them anything.

They’ll dig in their heels and embarrass themselves if necessary to prove a point.

There’s power in saying “I was wrong.” (And if you’re never wrong, well, you’re probably the know-it-all :D)

One of the GREAT things about operating a community like Subscription Web Design is that it is not a firehose of information. Sure, as my students will tell you, sometimes I get a bit long-winded. But I’m always so intrigued to learn from YOU all as well. Everyone brings different life experiences to the table, and I like to think that my students get just as much value learning from their peers as they do learning from me.

You must beware of one thing, though:

Some of you may not think you are falling prey to this mindset, but you actually are. For example:

  • If you read or watch a lot of stuff, but don’t take action, you’ve succumbed to the idea that you know better
  • If you find yourself saying “yeah, but…” quite often, you’ve closed yourself off to new thinking
  • If your social media algorithms are only feeding you the information you like to hear, you might need to rethink and get some new perspectives

The businesses that don’t grow and change over time eventually die.

Guard yourself from thinking that you can’t learn something new. When you’ve learned something new, try it. Take action.

On that note: The BEST learning comes by doing.

Don’t just be open to taking in new information.

Do something with the information. I will beat this drum until you either do it or unsubscribe (lol).

By far, the #1 issue I am seeing is people who have lots of information but aren’t doing anything with it. Don’t let that be you.

Btw, if you know you should join the Insiders program to get help with your business, and you’re not taking action, allow me to give you the opportunity:


Marketing Advice from One Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Happy New Year!

I’m becoming convinced that NCIS’s beloved Leroy Jethro Gibbs is one of the most savvy business and negotiation experts in all of modern television.

Yes—I know he hasn’t been on the show for many seasons. It’s a travesty. But Tiffany and I are currently rewatching (in season 6) and loving every minute of it.

In a riveting episode, Gibbs’ beloved lab rat — Abby Sciuto — is summoned to a mysterious location, ostensibly by the FBI, to continue work on a classified project that is in danger of being halted by the mysterious disappearance of its previous owner.

Gibbs is very protective of Abby. And he’s not happy about this.

He confronts the mysterious leader of the project, Mr. Jones, about Abby’s involvement, suggesting — ahem, demanding — that Abby be released at once.

Mr. Jones has a different idea.

Agent Gibbs, I appreciate your concern for my missing colleague, but that’s exactly why Miss Scuito has to stay here right now. You have to trust me on that.

To which Gibbs (rightly) replies:

“I don’t trust you—I don’t KNOW you!”

It was a passionate moment.

But also a pertinent reminder.

There’s lots of talk in marketing about “know, like, and trust.” Some distill that down to “know and trust,” suggesting that one does not need to LIKE you to do business with you. They simply have to have a sense of who you are and feel like they’re not going to be screwed in the deal.

Gibbs shaves off a layer and creates a logical connection: How can one TRUST someone they do not KNOW?

And here lies one of the ways we tremendously overcomplicate business.

People can’t find out how to do business with you if they don’t know that you exist.

So it’s a simple question as we kick off 2024: Have you told people you exist to serve them in the marketplace?

Came a related thought from one of my students in our Student Center:

This leads me to the last thing, I want to put things out quicker. I was listening to this episode of Steve’s podcast last week, and it really got me thinking. I’m a perfectionist. It takes me a minute to put things out. I left my job over a month ago and I have yet to look for clients. I’m so busy trying to get my business straight and get processes in order. I need to just do it. I already have a website. I already have my prices. I’ve been in business since 2019, and I’ve been doing the subscription model since 2022. I really don’t be putting myself out there because I’m so focused on getting everything right. Mistakes are going to be made and I just need to DO things instead of constantly getting things in order.

Yesseriebob. That’s the secret.

DO things.

TELL people you exist.

CELEBRATE your current customers, and watch them bring more.

People will do business with you if they trust you. And people can’t trust you until they know you.

Make yourself known in 2024. That’s my challenge to you.

If you’re not sure how to make yourself known in the marketplace, or you’re struggling to think through that process, I’ve got good news: The VERY FIRST member call of the New Year happens today at 4:00pm EST — and I would love to see ya there and help you through it.

Here’s the link to join up before then:


Writing is the Skill

If someone were to ask me, “What is the number one thing I can learn to do in business to move the needle?” I would answer, with zero hesitation, writing.

To be a business leader today, you must know how to write well.

You will improve communication with your clients and your team, will be able to influence people at scale, will have the ability to persuade people in deals and negotiations, and more.

Writers move the future forward.

By the way, this is even true of fiction writers.

Some of the most innovative business leaders today were influenced by grandiose thinkers enshrouded in worlds of science fiction and fantasy.

Writing is the most time-tested form of communication there is, besides one-on-one interaction, of course.

YouTube videos are a fantastic marketing tool. Podcasts are a great discussion tool.

But they are commoditized. One person’s ideas are as good as the next.

Not so with writers. You can tell who has the goods pretty quickly and whose ideas are worth following.

Also, contrary to popular belief, writing is a thinking tool. People have the idea that you think, then you write. That’s backward. You write, and that’s the thinking. It clarifies your views and feelings on a topic, allowing you to express ideas with clarity and completion.

What on earth does this have to do with Subscription Web Design, you might ask?

Everything my friend.

You must learn how to think and write clearly when you go down this road.

Since this is a unique business model, you’ll need to know how to express its benefits to potential clients. That happens through writing.

Depending on your niche, you might also try one-to-many selling. Could you so productize your service that you end up selling web design through a sales page instead of individual sales calls? That’s a pipe dream for most web designers, but I think it’s possible for a subscription web designer who knows how to write well.

You might be thinking, “But I’m not a writer.”

Maybe you’re not. But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t or shouldn’t be!

Right now is a great time to start honing that skill. I recommend a small habit of 100 words/day if you’re new to writing. Aim for 500 to 1,000/day if you are more seasoned and want to build the habit.

If you want to get a sense of the possibilities, watch the below interview with Nathan Barry, the creator of ConvertKit. It’s a few hours long but is one of the best interviews I’ve engaged with in a long time:


Sagely Wisdom from a Cabinet-Maker-Turned-Web-Designer

Many of you know my mentor, Josh Hall.

If you don’t, get familiar with his work. You will learn a lot and enjoy yourself at the same time.

Josh recently shared a post on his Facebook page highlighting the commonalities in his students who “never hurt for clients.”

Not a bad position, right?

I wholeheartedly agree with what he shared.

I want to warn you, though, some of it may be a little spicy. Perhaps even a little triggering, because it bucks up against the traditional wisdom.

So each of these points are his, but any commentary is mine.

1. They aren’t the “best” designers – they focus on what they’re really good at and have team or partners for the rest

That’s facts right there.

Any way you slice it, the VAST majority of those I meet who are hurting for clients have a solo shop. Do with that information what you will.

Maybe it’s a time thing. Maybe a fear thing. Maybe something else entirely.

But the ones who are not hurting for clients know their strengths, execute on them, and leave the rest to others who have those strengths.

Speaking personally, I’m motivated to do the work to bring in new business so that my team has work. That in itself is a strong motivator.

2. They prioritize great communication

Oh yes.

In fact, in our agency, “radical overcommunication” is a core operating principle.

We want everyone on the project to know where things stand—especially the client.

In our industry, ghosting clients is a huge problem. And it’s probably because web designers aren’t charging enough. But I digress.

Surpass the client’s expectation in the communication department, and watch your business grow.

3. They focus on client retention over constant client acquisition

Josh, you’re singin’ my tune, friend.

Absolutely. And you know what kind of business allows you to focus on retention instead of acquisition…? 🙂

Ding, ding, ding! Subscription Web Design!

Without a recurring revenue solution, focusing on retention feels moot. Honestly there’s not much to retaining someone on a maintenance plan. Sure, there are value adds and other things you can do. But it’s not the same as building a system where the client pays you every month, forever, as a primary mode of working together. That’s a different kind of focus.

Of course, you need to acquire clients.

But you’ll be on the hamster wheel of client acquisition until you form a foundation of recurring revenue for your business.

4. They have a strong community support system for when they get stuck


I STILL go to Josh’s community often to share wins, help people, and just engage.

I’ve made lifelong friendships there. It’s totally worth looking into.

Whether a paid program like Josh’s Web Designer Pro or my Subscription Web Designer Insiders, or even a free community like The Admin Bar—find where your people are online and do life with them.

Otherwise, it’s lonely out there.

5. They’re constantly branching outside their comfort zone (in all areas)

This is a HUGE point.

Stay reserved, and lose. Get after it, and win.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the book Entreleadership:

Increases in activity should be based on a certain boldness. Timidity and passivity don’t work in capitalism, so you must make the bold proclamation that you and your company have arrived and the market should stand up and take notice.

Now I have to admit, this is not easy for some to do. Including me. I get annoyed at people who only post about their business all the time.

But the fact is, the people seeing success are not afraid to share far and wide that they’ve arrived and are here to serve.

You should break past those fears and let people know.

Seriously, if you’re not following Josh’s work check him out on YouTube. You will enjoy his podcast and it will help you grow as a web designer.

You might even hear from Yours Truly on there every once in a while 🙂

Here’s the Gorgeous link:

Do You Have to Start a Marketing Agency?

If you read yesterday’s email, you learned of Marketing Marvin and his attempts to get all web designers bought into the idea that becoming a marketing agency is the only way to survive in the future.

I called shenanigans on this.

But my point in that email was a little different.

My point there was that your offer should be determined by the WHO your business serves. You WHO builds your offer.

But now I’d like to tackle the question head-on because it comes up so often: Do you have to start a marketing agency to be successful? Can you make it as “just” a web designer?

Let me give you three thoughts.

First — yes, it is possible to be “just a web designer,” but that does come with a few caveats.

Web design is more and more becoming a commodity service. Susie Jane starting up a side business out of her garage to help her family buy groceries is not gonna pay premium coin for a website. Just ain’t gonna happen.

If she wants to hire, she is going to Google something like “inexpensive website designer” and land on Fiverr or Upwork. If she wants to tackle the job herself, she is going to look at Wix and Squarespace (because they spend millions on advertising that speaks her language).

And if she’s in her late teens or early 20s, she may even look for an AI-based solution. Of which there are now a few.

So this person is not your customer.

If you want to be “just a web designer,” I suggest you approach it from two angles:

  1. Be ultra-expensive and look for companies doing 5M-100M/year. Much bigger than this and you are going to have a difficult time getting the right person on the phone, and there will be lots of bureaucracy. Much cheaper than this and they are still looking for a deal. I’ve charged companies in this sweet spot between $850 and $1275/mo for “just a website” so I know it’s possible.
  2. Have an inexpensive, no-brainer, laser-focused offer for a specific niche. This is the approach Adam McLaughlin takes (see my interview with him if you haven’t already — it’s dynamite). These websites can practically sell themselves once you’ve got a couple of clients built up and the marketing is hyper-targeted as well. These add up nicely over time.

So if “just a web designer” for you means hanging out a shingle and saying “Look at me, I build sites for everyone!” it’s probably going to be a tough road to hoe.

Just trying to be straightforward with you.

Second — It’s a good idea to build results-based thinking into your offers, but again, the context will determine what those results should look like.

Marketing Marvin is on the right track. Results-based thinking is key, because if you can sell a specific result to clients instead of “a website,” it’s a lot more attractive.

Business owners want results.

More clients, more calls, more leads, etc. These are all results.

The mistake is thinking that everyone needs the same results. This was the subject of yesterday’s email.

Before you go trying to learn 30 things to offer your clients, think about learning the two or three that would be MOST impactful to your audience.

Put together a few “good, better, best” packages and bind those offerings to the packages. Each one comes with a website.

Then, to go the extra mile, consider a “free initial offer” you could give your target customer that makes sense.

If you’re doing local business, it could be a Google profile setup. If you’re working with a specific niche, it could be a high-value (but minimal time investment) activity that they should do, perhaps something as simple as setting up a LinkedIn profile or Facebook Business Page.

There are all kinds of options for this.

But this is what the funnel looks like:

Lead Magnet (email address opt-in) >>> Frequent Emails that entertain and educate your list >>> The CTA for those emails is your (no strings attached) free service >>> The upsell from that free service is your first package >>> The upsell from that package is your more advanced packages.

I’m not saying it’s easy or that it won’t take time and lots of trial and error.

I am saying that it needn’t be any more complicated than that.

Third — You must factor in your lifestyle.

I’m quite bullish on this, I admit.

I didn’t get into business to have another job. If a job is what I want, arguably, there’s a lot less stress in working for someone else.

Being a business owner is hard enough as it is.

So I’m at least going to try to design a business that fits with the lifestyle I want and not the other way around. This is a huge point. If you don’t want the stress of running a results-based marketing agency, you don’t have to have it. The choice is entirely up to you.

You should make the decision that is right for you and your family.

Not what Marketing Marvin — or any other guru, including me, for that matter — tells you to do.

So if you’re in the beginning of your journey, you need to think about this. You make the rules. You need to design the business that works best for YOU.

But also — don’t let wishful thinking rule the day.

You must deal with the reality of the world right now.

And that can be uncomfortable.

But you’re not alone! At least, you don’t have to be.

Me and my students — your peers — want to be there for you and help you in the journey.

Imagine building a business that came with the same predictable monthly income as your job. Most web designers are not focused on building that.

But you’re not like most web designers, are you?

Not if you’re here.

You already know there’s a better way.

Here’s where to find the help and support you need to make it a reality: