“In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to take risks.”
I have heard some version of that advice many times and from many places. I believe it is true. However, I am an extremely risk-averse person!
It would be easy to look my way and speak of missed opportunities, chances I did not take, and the like. But the simple reality is that I’ve built a stable and growing recurring income base that supports my family, allows me to purchase things I need in the business, give charitably, etc.
And I have done this while embracing a risk-averse mentality!
If you want to jump into Subscription Web Design, but you’re not quite sure how to build the financial runway you need, this article will teach you exactly what to do.
Step 1. Find Your Point of No Return
Having been “around the block” of business, so to speak, everyone seems to have an opinion on the best way to make the leap into a full-time living.
The game-changer for my family has been moving full-time into subscription web design, whether you’re getting there from current employment (like I did!) or from the normal “feast and famine” web design routine you’re familiar with.
In either case, you might find a Point of No Return. This is a positive place. This Point is the number that, once you hit it, you never have to take another traditional project fee again.
I hate math; fortunately, subscription math is pretty simple.
You need to determine:
What you need to make
What you want to charge
How many clients you need to close that distance
So, if you need to make $8,000/month and want to charge $300/month, you need 27 clients to meet your goal.
Here’s a caveat, though: Make this number the lowest viable income.
In my own situation, had I waited until what I really wanted to make in order to support my family, I would have been waiting for a while. I am a person of faith, and I stepped out on faith—in a nevertheless calculated way—when I decided to make the jump.
I truly believe one factor in the success I’ve had is making the jump at a time when I wasn’t quite where I needed to be, but where I could also meet our basic expenses.
Step 2. Prune Your Excess
In that spirit, you must be willing to prune any excesses you currently have, in both your business and personal expenses.
My grandmother (yours too, probably) used to say, “A penny saved is a penny earned!” It took a very long time to understand that. And her sentiments are echoed in classics like The Richest Man in Babylon and The Art of Moneygetting.
This advice strikes at our human propensity to spend a dollar the moment we have it. If we find ourselves on the hook for less, less will be spent.
So ask yourself honestly: Are there habits, subscriptions, or tools getting in the way of my financial freedom?
If the answer is yes, prune them. Make the hard decision to cut out the “nice-to-have’s,” knowing with confidence that if you do this right, you will be able to afford them again.
Winners embrace delayed gratification. Winners know good things come to those who wait. Winners know that time is on their side. Winners know that patience is a virtue.
Step 3. Build and Promote Your Subscription Offering
Now, get to work. Start by designing your very own Subscription Web Design offering and promoting it to past, current, and future clients.
This is arguably the hardest step because you have to overcome a HUGE Catch-22: You need subscription clients, but if you’re on the Client Conveyor Belt, you also need traditional-paying clients in order to eat and survive.
While I cannot directly relate to this tension, I get it. It would be hypocritical to say I have a great solution because I simply have not been there.
Here’s one thing I know for CERTAIN, though: If you don’t promote your subscription offering, you won’t get subscription clients.
So however creative you have to get, however much you need to save up in order to feel comfortable doing it, you need to start offering subscription packages. The sooner you do, the sooner you start the Client Value Escalator and start building a more stable, sustainable business.
Step 4. Onboard Foundation Clients
Even though I can’t relate to the Catch-22 mentioned above, I can relate to the feeling that “more money, faster” helps to close the gap between what you need to make and want to charge.
Rant: Ever get the feeling that when people try to hype you up and sell you their programs, they’re not being entirely honest about their own path to success? Yeah, I hate that. So one of my commitments is to be completely transparent with you.
When I made the jump to full-time, roughly half of my income came from one client—a white label client. They are still my client today and have been part of the subscription model from day 1 of working with me (the numbers have grown, of course).
I used to view this as a disadvantage. It might be a cooler story if I had 30-50 clients out of the gate, all paying the same amount. However, my tune has changed.
You see, 30-50 clients has the potential to be an administrative burden. And thanks to the roster I had, I was able to go full-time with just 12 clients on my subscription plans.
So I have reframed my thinking. I no longer think it was a “bad thing” that one of my clients made up that much revenue. Sure, it’s great to spread the risk more, but when I was employed somewhere I only had ONE client! How’s that for risk!?
The point: To accelerate the leap into full-time subscription web design, you need Foundation Clients. At least one, but 2-3 is preferable.
Here’s my definition:
A Foundation Client is a client that makes up a significant portion of your revenue and provides you with consistent opportunities for work.
There are different “types” of Foundation Clients. The two most common that I’ve seen are:
White Label Clients: Clients whose brand you work under to produce results for their clients
Big Fish Clients: Clients who have the time or result requirements of an in-house employee, but are willing to pay and interact with you as a contractor
I think you should embrace Foundation Clients. When you’re in a service business, there’s only so much you can do to level the playing field across your client base (though I’m a fan of that where possible).
Foundation Clients can “jumpstart” the growth and stability of your business, so I think you should be on the lookout for them. Of course, beware that losing a Foundation Client stinks and can, obviously, cause a big hit to your revenue if they leave.
You should plan for that, yes—but don’t be afraid to take advantage of those relationships when you’re fortunate to have them. Go forward confidently knowing they are helping to pay the bills, and roll with the punches when they come.
Step 5. HustleMode: Create Your Temporary Schedule
You can do anything you want. You just can’t do everything you want. — Michael Hyatt
I have a love/hate relationship with “Hustle Culture.” I will expand below, but my basic philosophy is this: “There is a time to hustle; those times are necessary but should be rare.”
Anytime you are making a seismic shift in your business, you should anticipate and will be willing to dedicate time to hustle. Although the example may feel a bit grandiose, consider Elon Musk’s recent acquisition of Twitter.
He “joked” that his 80 hr work weeks have, for a season, turned into 120-hour work weeks. To be clear, I never advocate that a person work that long. But his point is pertinent even at a smaller scale.
When change comes, it is neither unusual nor unreasonable to allow for a period of hustle.
Practically, you should create a temporary schedule for yourself that acknowledges the needed hustle. You should get other “stakeholders” (spouses, business associates, etc) involved as well, making sure they are aware of the changes you are making and the commitment it will require.
Then you must—and I cannot stress this enough—make sure you plan a time or a metric that signals the END of HustleMode. It cannot last forever. This is a huge temptation for people like me (and presumably you) who find working on or in the business akin to eating a delicious steak.
Just because you could work forever does not mean you should work forever. Treat these times with seasonality and give them the respect they deserve; but no more than that.
If you play your cards right, you can work HustleMode until your curve flattens out and you don’t have to do quite as much prospecting, have as many conversations, or manage as many projects at once.
Step 6. Move Your Dollars Wisely
When I say “last but not least,” I really, really mean it. This point could have easily been first.
You must be militaristic about the movement of your money. While I am not a financial advisor (nor do I play one on TV), it is important that you be very intentional about your business and personal finances.
I care so much about this that I created a module for budgeting inside of my Getting Started with Subscription Web Design course.
Consider implementing Mike Michalowicz’s Profit First system. It teaches you the importance of profitability from day 1 and keeps everything in perspective.
You will learn how to set aside the right amount for taxes, how you should pay for contractors, how to start and stay profitable, and much more. Once you have this system down, every single dollar that comes in will be spoken for by way of what Mike calls Target Allocation Percentages.
Hear me: This is crucial to making sure your efforts to switch to Subscription Web Design do not fail. I think budgeting is perhaps the most important part of the process. Don’t skip it.
Ultimately, you have to start. No more excuses. It’s time to put yourself out there. Start offering this to clients and change the game for your life and business.
I would be honored to help you along the way. Join my mentorship program today to get personalized help on our bi-weekly group calls.