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Starting a new online business during the pandemic: Two COVID-era tales of renewal in Miami

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The pandemic forced more than three-quarters of small businesses across the U.S. to temporarily close up shop in the spring of 2020, and thousands have since shut down for good.

But the COVID-19 pandemic also led to a record number of people trying to start their own businesses: 4.5 million filed new business applications in 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Economic Innovation Group.

That’s the highest number ever and a 24% increase from 2019.

 

And the momentum isn’t slowing. The Census Bureau says 492,000 new business applications were received in January 2021, a 43% jump over the previous month. Many more informal businesses are believed to have been created, often as side hustles, but never registered.

Few cities saw more aspiring entrepreneurs than Miami. Although new business creation was not distributed evenly across racial and socio-economic lines, green shoots of entrepreneurship popped up across the metro area, helping to bring a dose of resilience to the local economy.

[At the same time, untold numbers of existing small businesses — restaurants, neighborhood shops, salons — decided to establish a digital presence, allowing them to find new customers and take orders from beyond their immediate area.

In all, the number of digitally connected microbusinesses in Miami-Dade County rose 6.7% from 2019 to 2020, according to data from GoDaddy’s Venture Forward project, which studies the economic impact of these small online businesses. The Miami metro area, which includes the neighboring cities of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, has more microbusinesses per 100 people than any other large metro area in the country.

These everyday entrepreneurs make a big impact on their communities, with each new one leading to the creation of two additional jobs, Venture Forward data shows. Additionally, each new microbusiness per 100 people can reduce the unemployment rate by .05 percentage points.

And between 2016 and 2019, every microbusiness per 100 people that’s active online was associated with a $485 increase in a community’s household median income.

Here are the stories of two inspiring women entrepreneurs who took the initiative when the pandemic upended their lives.

Natasha Nails: Rethinking the press-on

It took a painful case of contact dermatitis, a type of allergy, following a visit to a nail salon for Natasha Williams to come up with an online business idea for the future of press-on nails.

The Miami native, who lives in Little Havana, has had her nails done since her teens.

But after her allergic reaction in March 2020, she was forced to switch to press-on nails that used hypoallergenic adhesive pads.

Unhappy with the appearance of what was available — they felt cheap and plasticky — Williams started buying clear nails and hand painting them with her favorite colors and designs.

Around the same time, the pandemic shut down the local economy. A well-known tap dance performer and teacher around Miami, Williams suddenly had a lot of time as lessons and gigs dried up.

By July, buoyed by the admiring comments she got from friends and strangers on the street, she realized there was a market for her creations, so she quickly built an online store and Natasha Nails opened for business.

At first, it was as much a hobby as a career plan. But soon she started asking questions and understanding the opportunity was real.

Why did women tend to apply press-on nails and leave them on and then throw them out? Given how easy they are to remove and reapply, particularly the adhesive-pad type, wouldn’t it be more fun and affordable to have collections of nails so they could match outfits or daily moods, the way they choose which shoes to wear or purse to carry?

“I want people to be able to mix and match, like ‘let’s see what I have in my closet to wear today,’” she says.

If she can popularize this approach, women may one day not feel obliged to suffer the daily inconveniences of wearing long nails.

“Just try typing all day with these things on,” she laughs, showing off long, olive nails. “You really can’t do much. And anyone who tells you differently is lying!”

While her new business doesn’t make enough money for her to quit her teaching, she spends about the same number of hours on both.

That includes 30 minutes each morning tending to her growing Instagram account — where she has amassed more than 5,000 followers who account for most of the orders on her website — and a few hours in the evening painting nails, including custom orders, and packaging up boxes for customers who opt for her monthly subscriptions.

Many challenges remain ­— particularly how to scale production beyond her ability to hand-paint nails while maintaining the artistic quality. But Williams is definitely a long-term thinker who hopes that, some day, her creations will be featured at major retailers.

“I don’t see obstacles as problems, but as challenges,” she says of the process of building a company. “You just have to follow the steps.”

Read more about Natasha’s story here.

Starting an online charcuterie-to-go

Like so many healthcare workers around the world, Maryam Kheirabi faced new demands when the pandemic hit. An oncology pharmacist with a Miami-area hospital, she suddenly had more hours, more stress and more fears of the unknown.

To deal with the growing pressure, Kheirabi decided she needed a new activity, something that would take her mind off her stressful job and give her a newfound source of fulfillment.

That’s when Fig & Brie, a charcuterie-to-go business, was born.

 

“I’m happiest when I’m extremely busy, and I wanted to create something beautiful for people to share,” she says. “In a way, I think the business got me through the worst days of the pandemic. It gives me hope, and hopefully it gives other people hope, as well.”

The idea came to her soon after the pandemic began, when she saw groups of friends eating from plastic containers full of snacks at a park across the street from her home for socially distanced get-togethers.

“How cool would it be to have a charcuterie box to go,” she remembers thinking. It would give people the option to pre-order a food board that could be delivered just when it was needed.

A native of Queens, N.Y., who moved to Miami with her speech pathologist husband in 2016, Kheirabi grew up being responsible for creating food platters for family gatherings.

“We Persians are very big on hospitality, and I never lost my love for creating beautiful, delicious things,” she says.

Once the first spike in COVID-19 cases began to ease in August, she started doing research, which included the creation of a variety of charcuterie platters for colleagues at the hospital.

A cousin in New Jersey agreed to help her secure a domain name and choose website-building tools.

“The rest was left up to me, but it was mostly dealing with aesthetics, which I love, anyway,” she says.

In early November, Fig & Brie officially launched, with a range of offerings, from a $20 “solo” platter to an $85 “soiree” box.

The seed capital was $2,000 that her husband, Francisco, urged her to take from their savings, with the understanding that they wouldn’t spend any more if the business wasn’t profitable after a month. She ended up spending $1,900 of it in that time, but by early December the business was making money.

Kheirabi’s digital marketing strategy initially was solely based on Instagram, in part because she wanted to grow slowly at first. But sales jumped more quickly than expected over the holidays, as friends and fans spread the word. One local real estate broker ordered platters as gifts to her clients.

It wasn’t easy, but she and her husband managed to keep up with demand while maintaining their jobs in healthcare. It helps that most orders come on Thursdays or Fridays, for delivery on Saturday.

Francisco does everything from taking photos to taste-testing to driving their only car around the city making deliveries. When he once asked what he would be paid for all his work, she quipped, “Sorry, but we pay in cheese.”

Her near-term goal is to have enough demand to hire a driver or two, and then to find a way to ship around the U.S. (That will require some innovation, to either find a way to keep fruits and veggies crunchy and fresh, or to come up with boards that meet her standards without those foods.)

Ultimately, she’d like to open a storefront in Miami and share her business model so women in other places could follow suit.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if it was only for the money,” she says. “That’s just icing on the cake.” The primary reward, other than enriching customers’ lives, is to empower women, including herself.

“We’re living in a time when women are standing up and taking charge of themselves,” she says. She even welcomes the competition from other female-owned online charcuteries in the city. “There’s enough demand to go around,” she says. “Women shouldn’t compete with each other. We should lift each other up.”

Related: Research shows that women have what it takes to make great CEOs

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How to start a web design business

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Starting a web design business relies heavily on the right knowledge and resources. To help you get started, we’ve developed this ebook. It’s free to download and includes more than 100 pages packed with tips and tricks for getting your venture off the ground.

From setting up your workspace, to drafting a business plan, to crafting your brand — it’s all in there. These insights come from real-life pros who’ve been there and done that. It’s a roadmap that guides you toward a booming web design business.

And if you want even more of a head start, sign up for The Hub by GoDaddy Pro. It’s free to sign up and you’ll save tons of time thanks to this platform for managing all the clients you’re about to land.

Ready to do this? Let’s go!

Download Ebook

How to start a web design business

  1. Set up your work environment
  2. Build your support squad
  3. Decide on your products, services and their pricing model
  4. Name your web design company
  5. Write your business plan
  6. Address legal and administrative requirements
  7. Create your proposals and contract templates
  8. Formalize project management and communication
  9. Create your client site launch process
  10. Craft your brand
  11. Build your online presence
  12. Find your web design clients in 3 ways

1. Set up your work environment

Get ready to start your own web design business by setting up your work environment.

Create your very own workspace that enables work/life balance

Entrepreneurs know the work/life balance struggle is real.

To minimize that struggle, create a dividing line between work and the rest of your life, starting with a dedicated space that allows you to get work done, uninterrupted. Set and enforce boundaries, including rules ensuring your space is left untouched, and that you are given time to work.

  • Carve out space for your at-home office — whether it’s a full room, or just a desk in the corner, and set boundaries around others using it.
  • Work with other residents, such as your family or roommates, to establish guidelines around work time including working hours, and how to handle or avoid interruptions.
  • Stock your office supply station so you’re never caught without printer paper, labels, folders or any other supplies you regularly depend on to get your work done.
  • Identify just a few stores where you can consolidate business purchasing, and set up accounts that earn rewards or rebates.

Understand how many hours you can reasonably work, while maintaining your productivity, protecting time with friends and family, and continuing to pursue your own hobbies, sports, or other outdoor activities.

Consider how best to pace yourself, and be more productive each day.

Related: Separating personal and professional

Know your contingency plan

Power or internet service outages are a crisis for those who work at home.

Know where you can park for a few hours, with an available wireless network and table space.

Locate:

  • Two to three local coffee shops at varying distances, as a power failure might extend further than your neighborhood
  • The closest library (confirm open days/hours)
  • Coworking locations (confirm open days/hours and fees)

Invest in solid and capable hardware and software

You’re a web professional, so it’s critical to consider the right tools for creating graphics, modifying photos, and documenting your work:

  • Buy the best computer you can afford. Get an external monitor, a printer and scanner.
  • If you’ll be taking photos to use on client websites, consider buying a dedicated camera.
  • Know how you’ll continue working in the event of a computer catastrophe, such as keeping a second computer for backup.
  • Figure out which software you’ll need. If you’re not sure, many offer 30-day free trials. The first candidate on your list should be Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • For subscription services, figure out what plan level you need. For example, GoDaddy Pro Sites offers bundles of specific features for managing larger groups of sites.
  • Don’t forget ongoing costs for other cloud apps like accounting software, video calls, and remote computer access.

Related: 90 essential tools for WordPress designers and developers

Have a bullet-proof backup strategy

Don’t compromise on reliable security and backup strategies for your computers and office. Having these systems in place will let you sleep at night.

Select a remote file backup to OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or another provider.

Determine if you will want a complete computer backup to an external server, and if so, add that to your hardware budget..

Keep simplicity and scale in mind when choosing your tech

Look for tech solutions that offer the features and capabilities you’ll need later on. Keep in mind:

Simplified workflows. Look for tools that minimize steps per task.

Product trials. Spend time working with the tech before you commit.

Scaling with success. The more successful you are, the more projects you’ll need to manage.

Transferring ownership. For example, you may cover web hosting costs or other fees on behalf of your clients. Know how you’ll transfer ownership if costs need to move to the client.

Be financially accountable

Be diligent with your business bookkeeping and client billing information right from the start.

Use an accounting/bookkeeping tool. Make sure your chosen solution easily creates professional invoices, automatically tracks expenses, and allows for recurring invoices and expenses.

You don’t just want this information to make sure you get paid. You’ll also want to have that data for future projects, plus income/expense estimates and forecasting.

If this isn’t your wheelhouse, don’t be afraid to get help with small business expense planning.

Even if you feel comfortable doing the work, consider investing in a few hours of consulting time with a financial expert to establish your chart of accounts and bookkeeping structure.

As for taxes? Consider a long-term relationship with a tax professional, who can handle taxes as well as answer financial system questions.

Set up a separate business credit card. Purchase what you need through your business (and save money by using pre-tax dollars), including hardware, software, internet service, cell phone, and office supplies. The points add up. Plus it can help you deal with the unexpected costs that throw a wrench into your budgeting.

Related: Best invoicing software options for small businesses

Know exactly how you’ll get paid

Nail down the details about requesting and receiving money before any billable work is done.

Define your invoicing processes and policies including invoice creation, delivery and due dates relative to invoicing dates.

Clarify how you will accept payment, including checks, credit cards, and online systems such as PayPal or Stripe.

Set expectations around deposits, penalties for late payments, and consequences when invoices go unpaid.

Know how you will pay yourself. Will you receive a set salary on a regular schedule, or asynchronous payments based on income?

Consider using a payroll service, where the small monthly cost lets someone else worry about money transfer between accounts, ever-changing tax laws, and correctly filing government forms.

Pro tip: Put processes and policies in place to make sure invoices are paid on a timely basis.

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2. Build your support squad

Now that you’ve got your initial space, processes and tools in place, it’s time to surround yourself with a community for support.

Find your peeps

Even when working alone in your own little office, be on the lookout for ways to interact and engage with others in the web and business community.

Look for local meetups or other networking groups of freelancers and web professionals, e.g. meetups for WordPress users, designers and developers.

Join online communities focused on web design and development, through Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media channels.

Actively participate in both online and in-person discussions, so that people know you’re interested in what they have to say, or in solving problems.

Join community groups such as the local Chamber of Commerce, service organizations such as Rotary, or a small business owners networking group.

Pro tip: Join online or in-person communities of your fellow neighbors, alumni or participants in your current hobbies or outside interests. People you meet in those communities may need your services, or know someone who does.

Work with a mentor

Taking the leap into a new tech-based career can be simultaneously exhilarating and intimidating, whether you’re a new college grad or making a mid-life career transition.

Mentoring works for everyone as a means to build confidence, enhance skills, and set achievable goals.

When moving from employee to freelancer, a mentor who’s already made that transition can impart wisdom only gained through experience.

Related: The importance of female mentorship in the tech industry

Assemble your all-star extended team

Build a circle of known and trusted “power partners” who provide complementary services that work in sync with yours. You’ll all benefit without cannibalizing work or clients.

For example, you can collaborate with local partners who specialize in Information Technology (IT), search engine optimization (SEO), online advertising, social media, photography, video or any other service area that’s beyond your comfort zone.

You can also assemble a go-to list of virtual partners, including hosting providers, domain registrars, stock photo libraries, or third-party software solutions to integrate into the websites that you build for your clients.

Related: Forging strategic partnerships to grow your business

Consider how and when you might outsource

As the leader of your business — even if it’s a business of one — you need to continue to prioritize and delegate.

You’ll never be able to do everything on your own if you also want to learn, grow, and scale up your business.

Outsource tasks that don’t require your technical or creative skills — including taxes, bookkeeping, data entry, and anything else you don’t enjoy doing.

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3. Decide on your products, services, and their pricing model

Define your services, productize them, and set a price point for monthly recurring revenue.

Clarify your service offerings

For example, you might offer any or all of the following:

You might also offer complementary services, such as:

  • Managed web hosting
  • Content creation
  • SEO
  • Social media management
  • Online advertising
  • Email marketing

Related: How to sell a content creation service to earn recurring revenue

“Productize” your services to create recurring revenue

Recurring revenue should be part of every web designer’s monthly income.

Recurring revenue succeeds when you’re providing recurring value. Turning your services into a product that works on a short-term-but-renewable basis is key.

You can earn recurring revenue by selling your services as a value product that people subscribe to.

You define exactly what you do, what the value is, and how much it costs each month.

This removes a lot of the waste from the traditional service business model, such as design revisions, project management, account management, invoicing, and chasing payments.

It’s automatic money coming in every month, without requiring you to constantly be in the mode of selling.

Related: Recurring revenue model for web designers and developers

How to set a price to be profitable

It’s preferable to charge for value instead of time, so you’ll want to figure out which pricing model (e.g., hourly or project-based billing) is best for your web design business.

Defining a per-project price avoids conversations about how every last minute is spent, and price negotiations based on specific features or items clients may feel are not important.

Keep in mind:

Review pricing models of other web designers. Your goal is to be competitive without giving away the store — but don’t scare off clients based on price. Beware of underpricing your services.

Feel free to use hourly rates to estimate the project cost, but don’t feel obligated to share that information.

Remember that you have to cover your own vacation time, sick days, benefits, retirement, taxes, and the other expenses of running a business.

Consider the fees associated with taking online payment.

Add in project costs such as plugins, software licenses, copywriting, stock images, etc.

You need to cover the cost of business development, or finding more work.

What you charge is not just about meeting your expenses: you need to make a profit as well.

Analyze the market demand and what the competition is providing at what costs. Price competitively, in a way that provides value but would also be fair to you and your goals.

Here’s the punchline: not all of the activity that goes on in your business is directly related to any specific client, but all of the activity that goes on in your business must be built into the price that clients pay you.

If clients are not paying for all of this activity, it means you are.

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4. Name your web design company

“I had to choose a business name and decided to use my initials with the two industries I felt most of my services would arise from — KR Media & Designs.”
~ Kristina Romero, web developer and business owner

Your name plays an important role in attracting customers and clients, submitting legal documents to form your business, and selecting a domain for your business website. Therefore, naming your web design company takes thoughtful consideration and planning.

Consider your long-term business goals when deciding whether to use a “business” name (Web Awesome Agency of Washington) or your personal name (John Doe Design).

Do you see yourself transitioning to an agency, or staying a freelancer and growing your personal brand? Will potential clients view you as “just a freelancer” and expect lower rates, vs. the professionalism that an agency name/structure implies?

Do you see web services as the end goal, or do you want to use them to elevate a personal brand into another field, such as public speaking, teaching or writing books?

Is this a temporary solution in order to gain experience for a full-time gig? If you enjoy working with a company but need to be on your own at the moment, using your own name continues to promote your availability as a freelancer.

Are you 100% certain about the services you will offer? If not, avoid putting specifics in your business name.

In summary, here’s when to use a business name:

  • You see yourself transitioning from a single freelancer to an agency.
  • You’re switching careers and need to establish a brand name different from your personal name.
  • You’re forming a legal entity such as an LLC or an S-Corp (if in the U.S.) and want to protect and distance your personal identity.

And when to use your personal name:

  • You’re leveraging your name for SEO.
  • You see yourself as a sole freelancer and would accept a full-time position in your skillset if offered.
  • You intend to grow a personal brand to build credibility (speaking engagements, books, online courses).

Related: 10 tips for naming a business

Take action and register your domain

Once you’ve identified your perfect name, be sure to register your domain right away.

Try to get a .com, but also consider variations and other extensions.

Related: How to buy a domain name

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5. Write your business plan

Your business plan should:

  • Define your business vision and identity.
  • Set financial goals and targets.
  • Include your products pricing options.
  • Set long-term goals around new products/services.
  • Estimate your expected expenses and income.
  • Define your ideal clients.

You don’t need to start from scratch. Here are five great business plan templates.

Pro tip: Try using a one-page Lean Canvas template to create your business plan.

Treat building your business as a project

It doesn’t have to be complex, but the project needs to be managed correctly to ensure that it sets clear goals, keeps focus, and stays within budget.

This means having a basic idea of how you’ll tackle project management.

Many use a diagram called a business model canvas to show how the company will create value for itself and its customers. The canvas visually lays out your business model, your key features, the size of the market, etc.

How big is your potential market? Use tools such as Google Trends and Facebook ads to evaluate market potential. If you’re targeting geographic areas, check public data sources like local chambers of commerce and economic development corporations.

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Here’s where you get your paperwork in order. Decide how you’ll structure your business, check with local governments for any licensing requirements, arrange insurance and benefits, and manage your time so you set yourself up to succeed.

Establish your business identity

Decide if you’ll operate as a sole proprietor, LLC, or corporation. Consider engaging a lawyer to help you with the necessary paperwork and/or using an online service such as LegalZoom.

Get licensed

Check your city government website to determine local requirements for business licensing, permits and fictitious name or DBA (“Doing Business As”) registration.

Acquire insurance

Liability insurance is a good idea in general, and some clients may require proof of it. In addition, determine extra insurance you might need, such as disability insurance.

Solicit several quotes to make sure you’re getting the right package for your needs.

If you have car insurance and home or renter’s insurance, get one of those quotes from your personal insurance agent.

Plan benefits

If your previous job included medical, retirement or other benefits, you’ll need a plan to get the equivalent items in place.

Can you be covered on a spouse or partner’s medical insurance? What about setting up a retirement account?

While you won’t earn paid holidays or vacation, you’ll want policies in place to set client expectations and to provide for a backup resource if necessary.

  • Identify if you will acquire medical/dental benefits through another family member’s work benefit, a group affiliation (such as membership in a professional organization), or independent procurement.
  • Plan retirement contributions through your business or other means.
  • Determine your vacation/holiday policy.
  • Know how you will communicate time off to clients.
  • Formulate a contingency plan if your services will be needed during scheduled time off.

Ace the day-to-day tasks

Set and enforce boundaries, adopt time management best practices, and maximize your productivity by setting up tools and systems.

  • Choose a to-do list application such as Teux Deux or Todoist.
  • Set up a system to track time and tasks for each client.
  • Have a process to migrate daily tracking information into an invoice or reporting format.

Identify the key tasks that would benefit from consistent execution. Set up processes, checklists and organizing strategies for:

  • Designing a new site
  • Pre-launch cleanup
  • Post-launch testing and approval
  • Any daily, weekly, or monthly tasks around tracking, reporting, or bookkeeping

Create templates for:

  • Proposals
  • Contracts
  • Let’s get started” emails that outline initial needs from clients when starting new projects
  • Commonly sent emails, such as those announcing a planned vacation

Related: How to create a client management system

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7. Create your proposal and contract templates

Do the pre-work to confirm client fit

Before proposing work for a prospective client, additional pre-work can help you minimize re-work, avoid gifting clients with “free” work and steer clear of projects that are not a good fit for you.

That pre-work includes recon on your part: Is there an existing site? Where is it hosted? Is their business model ethical?

You’ll also want to ensure prospective clients have a solid grasp of key factors involved in developing a successful web design for them, including purpose, measurable objectives, realistic budget/cost/schedule expectations, and the site’s intended audiences.

Start the negotiation with preliminary costing

Most projects start with speculative preliminary documentation that initiates the project costing conversation — ideally leading to a more formal contract.

Estimates provide a general idea of whether services can be delivered within budget in the client’s required timeframe — and are offered with the understanding that details could change as more is learned about requirements.

Quotes are more formal, with a fixed price constrained by a limited valid timeframe.

Bids provide documented responses to a set of well-defined specifications, often submitted in competition with other bids.

Proposals deliver a comprehensive, detailed document, and are perfect for letting you outshine the competition.

Once you’ve negotiated an agreement with your client based on one of the above methods, it’s time to seal the deal with a comprehensive contract.

Related: 14 project estimate mistakes that freelancers make and how to fix them

Create a contract that protects both you and your clients

A web design contract protects you, your time, your bottom line, and your sanity.

As with any contract, a web design contract defines the business and legal relationship between you and your client, as well as the personal relationship concerning business practices, communication and interactions.

Legally, it’s a mutually binding agreement, where each party makes commitments around deliverables and compensation for the work to create them. If either party fails to meet its commitments, the contract becomes the basis for possible legal action.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and the web development agreement that’s right for you won’t be right for others. Contracts are critical in:

  • Specifying a clear scope of promised deliverables.
  • Making sure you get paid.
  • Describing each party’s role in the process, including actions, confidentiality, and consequences of not fulfilling that role.
  • Clarifying who owns the work after delivery.
  • Explaining post-delivery activities, in terms of changes, warranties and liabilities.
  • Mitigating common “what if this happens” scenarios.
  • Protecting yourself in the event of exceptions.
  • Creating a helpful reference document for later.
  • Setting the stage for a successful relationship.

Developing your own contract from scratch can be time-consuming, and you may forget something important. Then again, paying someone else to create your custom contract can get expensive. The compromise solution starts with finding a free, customizable web design contract template.

Related: How to create a web design contract that converts new clients into long-term customers

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8. Formalize project management and communication

Tracking time and communication, establishing an onboarding process and effectively managing scope changes are all part of a web designer’s job, and it’s critical to have the right tools and processes to help you stay on top of everything. Here are a few proven tips:

Formalize project management

Find an online tool that makes it easy to keep track of communication. Managing projects through email is impossible once you get bigger.

There are plenty of tools

When you bring someone in, or the client brings in a new employee to handle the project, you will need a way to go through what has been done.

Establish a new client intake/onboarding process

Once you’ve found and landed those ideal clients, and have the signed contract, plan the process you’ll use, including:

There are many different types of clients you will likely encounter as you get your web design business off the ground — so plan to adjust your communication style to suit each type of client’s unique needs.

Track time obsessively

Track your time on everything. Time adds up, with a phone call here, and email there. Time is one of the only things you can’t get more of.

Control change requests

You will always want to keep a client happy, but if you start off making simple unplanned changes to the project you’ll be opening the door for your client to expect big free changes.

Have a way to document a change request and make sure they know that it costs something.

One of the quickest ways to lose profit in a web design project is to mismanage client expectations when it comes to scope changes.

A good way to avoid this situation is to get your client interacting with the website as quickly as possible.

Even a prototype with limited design elements gets them viewing the site as if they were an end user, so questions will come up sooner.

This is where the concept of interactive prototypes comes into play.

There are many ways you can use WordPress to quickly build website prototypes. The idea is to keep it as plain as possible and get your client to sign off on functionality.

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9. Establish a comprehensive client site launch process

When it’s go-time, your job is to make sure the website is absolutely ready to launch. First, the content and technical check, including these topics (although you’ll want to customize):

  • SEO and analytics
  • Connection to social media channels
  • Validation of HTML and CSS
  • Accessibility
  • Cross-browser and device testing
  • Testing of all functionality
  • Testing of form submissions
  • Image/JavaScript/CSS optimization
  • Security
  • Fonts
  • 301 redirects
  • Google verification
  • CDN
  • 404 pages
  • CMS up-to-date
  • Themes and plugins are up-to-date
  • Daily and weekly backup schedule in place

Then you need to prepare your client for their website launch, including the following considerations:

  • Are we satisfied that the website is going to help us achieve our SMART goals?
  • Does the website clearly state what we do and who we do it for?
  • Does the website contain clear calls-to-action?
  • Are we ready to receive and read Google Analytics reports?
  • Do we have a content calendar in place for the next 12 months?
  • Do we have the resources to promote our website through social media channels?
  • Are we ready to take incoming inquiries from the website forms?
  • Are we using live chat, and if so, is someone ready to monitor it?
  • If running advertising campaigns, are our tracking code in place?
  • Is our email marketing service provider plugged in and ready to capture email addresses?
  • Are our email marketing automation campaigns ready to fire?
  • Are we trained in how to use the content management system?
  • Have we subscribed to a care plan, and if not, who will support the website in the future?

Here is a fantastic resource to make sure you cross your t’s and dot your i’s before you launch a website.

Related: How to perform a website launch and handover

Solicit social proof

When it comes to attracting new clients, few things are more powerful than social proof.

Getting good testimonials is about delivering value before you ask, and then timing your request.

If you have over-delivered on value, offered a service that really solves their problem, provided exceptional customer service, and made customers feel like you’re there for them, then they’re usually happy to give you a good testimonial. Best to ask immediately after the project is done, as soon as they have begun getting value from your work.

Related: How to ask for testimonials and reviews from your clients

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10. Craft your brand to tell your compelling story

Your brand starts with a logo and color scheme, but beyond that, it’s about the messaging connecting you to your target audience, and it affects buying behavior.

Let your “voice” represent your values, your strengths, your style.

Young and trendy, or mature and experienced? Serious or whimsical? Luxury service or economical alternative?

Your brand is unique, so tell a compelling story that makes clients want to hire you instead of your competitors. Identify your unique selling proposition (USP) to have ready answers to these questions:

  • Why should I hire you instead of your competitor?
  • What makes you a better solution?
  • Why should I hire a solo freelancer instead of an agency?

Related: Create It — Building your presence, brand and product

Create marketing collateral

Start with business cards, flyers or brochures, and any giveaways that get — and keep — your name in front of potential clients.

Related: 9 things to use in a swag bag for your business

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11. Build your online presence

You’re proud of your work — time to showcase it to the world with a website and social media presence that attract your ideal clients!

Take time to connect with your audience on social and build a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Create a website for your new business

Create the vehicle that showcases your work, shows your product/service offering, demonstrates the value you provide and covers your policies.

Nothing tells your story better than your portfolio of completed work.

If you don’t have much completed work to highlight, consider building a few volunteer sites to beef up your portfolio.

It’s OK to start small, but continue building out and improving your site in the background. As you finish with pages or sections, publish and test the site with your potential customers: feedback is key.

As a minimum, your site should include:

Include details around any certifications or specialized training, and make sure readers know you are indeed trained, with experience and skills they can use. Show how you stand out from the hobbyist crowd, with a reliable background and formalized education.

Related: 5 tips for a killer WordPress portfolio

Establish social media connections

Set up social media accounts, and consider whether you want business profiles separated from your personal profiles.

Focus your efforts on the few best platforms for reaching your target audience, and work them effectively. Confirm which platforms your audience is most likely to spend time on, based on demographics such as age, gender, geographic location.

Related: How to claim social media handles

Get customers to your website

Getting potential customers to your site requires a marketing strategy.

Use tools such as Google AdWords, Facebook ads, and GoDaddy Email Marketing to raise awareness about your business and products.

Related: Lead generation for web design businesses

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12. How to find web design clients in 3 ways

Focus on a niche

You don’t want to be known as just a generic “web designer.”

In order to showcase your expertise, consider specializing, whether based on the types of clients you take, or the types of projects you do.

Specializations could focus on market space, geographic area, or a particular type of site, such as eCommerce or membership management. Communicate your niche throughout your materials.

Your sweet spot is the intersection of both your skills and your passions.

That’s where you want to spend most of your time, so if an activity is not in that sweet spot, consider delegating, automating, or deleting it from your task list.

The benefit of spending all your time doing your best work is that the work quality tends to be higher, the outcome for your clients tends to be better, and you’re happier — which is good for avoiding burnout.

Know your audience

Once you’ve identified your sweet spot, ask yourself, “Who stands to benefit the most from working with me when I’m doing my best work?”

Customer satisfaction is critical to the success of a web design business.

Even more critical is your own satisfaction. Engaging with web design clients who are the right fit for you is one way to facilitate that.

  • Describe your ideal client, including attributes such as geography, cultural, entity size/type, products/services offered, or audience served.
  • Know your evaluation criteria, including financial expectations, technical considerations, location, size, length of engagement, the potential for ongoing work, partnership potential, strategic positioning within your portfolio, and even personality fit.
  • Have an evaluation strategy that allows you to quickly rule out mismatches, make exceptions, suggest alternatives, and if it’s not a good fit, execute a speedy-yet-graceful exit plan.

Related: What to include in a customer profile

Strategize finding clients to grow your web design business

You may ask “How do I find new clients?” as if they are hiding. In fact, clients are not hiding from us; they are waiting to be served. The trick is finding them.

Business development is an ongoing process to ensure there’s always work coming in the door. It’s not just something you do when you need new clients, but an always-there task.

Tips that can help you find clients:

  • Consistently do your best work and collaborate on projects where there is a shared vision.
  • Leverage your existing network: let everyone know what you’re up to, post on your personal social media profiles, ask friends and family to share and send referrals.
  • Create a lead magnet, an item of value that you can offer your target audience, in exchange for their email address (e.g., a free download, checklist, or form). Building your email list results is a way to provide ongoing communication and outreach.
  • Use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management Tool) to keep track of who you contact, the results of that contact, and potential future follow-up opportunities.

Strategize ways to find, meet, and land those folks.

Having your talking points at the ready means you’re prepared when you meet potential clients in unlikely venues, including the gym, Starbucks, or at a concert.

  • Identify how and where you’ll find and meet prospective clients.
  • Carry business cards with you at all times.
  • Develop an advertising strategy.
  • Craft your elevator pitch.
  • Have a ready response to requests for discounts, such as from nonprofit organizations or friends and family.
  • Determine whether referrals deserve compensation, such as a token thank-you gift or credit toward future work.
  • Brainstorm ways to promote and market your web design business.

Related: A comprehensive guide to finding your perfect clients

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Are you ready to start & grow a web design business?

Considering the pros and cons to starting a web design company is the right move for you.

Upsides

  • There will always be demand for websites, as new businesses get started, and established organizations want to up their game.
  • The work is fun, creative, and you’ll learn from working with many types of clients and businesses.
  • The work can be done from anywhere, and allows you to flexibly balance family or personal needs.
  • You can get started without a formal degree, and use specialty certifications and training to raise your expertise level and be better prepared.
  • You can expand your business over time, by offering complementary services as you gain expertise.

Related: The 17 types of clients that every web designer deals with

Challenges

  • In a rapidly evolving field, you can’t rest on your laurels. You’ll need to stay current on new trends and technologies.
  • Precisely for the reasons listed above, there’s a lot of competition, as many are anxious to get into the field.
  • You may be working alone at your computer for long stretches of time, so will need to change your lifestyle to increase outside interaction.

Related: 11 web design trends to watch in 2019

Don’t quit your day job yet!

No one becomes a successful web designer overnight.

Plan to spend a few years improving your technical skills, then start charging for your services, and continue to develop a stable revenue stream.

Remember that you won’t just be doing production work. You’ll also be the salesperson, bookkeeper, project manager and account coordinator. GoDaddy Pro can help you manage multiple websites to boost project efficiency for clients.

These skills don’t come from online courses or from attending a fast-track coding school; they’re learned through hands-on experience over time.

How can you start gaining that experience now — even if you’re just starting your freelance web design business?

Use what you learn from these activities as a foundation to build on as you’re starting a web design agency.

Related: 14 tips for successful web design projects

Initially, most new clients will probably come from word-of-mouth referrals. But what if you have no existing clients? Consider activities that boost your visibility while demonstrating your expertise:

  • Volunteering your services to an organization
  • Building sites for friends and family
  • Creating side projects of your own
  • Participating in both online and offline communities

Related: Finding your first client as a freelance web professional

The journey of a freelance website designer is often like a turbulent, yet exciting, roller coaster ride.

From a state of confusion to a sense of accomplishment, from exhaustion to exhilaration, with detours along the way for sanity checks, strategy resets and supporter shoutouts.

But if you do it right, all those banked turns and barrel rolls can lead to a successful career as a freelance web designer.

Even with all of this information to get you moving in the right direction for starting a web design business, you may be wondering … what’s the secret to making it happen?

Mark Twain said “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

Take the time to absorb all that’s covered here, dig into the linked articles for more information, make your plan, choose a starting point — and then go for it!

To summarize the main steps in the process:

  1. If you’ve determined you’re ready to start a web design business, set up your work environment and build your support squad.
  2. Focus on business planning by writing your business plan, addressing legal and administrative issues, defining your brand, identifying your perfect clients and how you’ll connect with them, and clarifying your product and service offerings at a profitable price.
  3. Create infrastructure and processes for working with clients, including proposals, contracts, project management, communication, and launching their beautiful new website — designed by you!
  4. And finally, establish your online presence and let the world know you’re ready to work.

No matter what, the best thing you can do is just get started.

Editor’s note: Starting a web design business? Join GoDaddy Pro to securely manage all your client sites and GoDaddy accounts from a single dashboard. Learn more and sign up for free.

***

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Lisa Stambaugh, Kristina Romero, Randy A. Brown, Aaron Reimann, Troy Dean and Andy McIlwain.


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When you use The Hub from GoDaddy Pro, suddenly there’s more time in your day to focus on what matters most. Forget about juggling admin tasks. Reclaim your time and use it to make clients feel like the center of your universe.

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Business Ideas

See the pitch decks that fast-growing advertising and media startups used to raise millions from top VCs

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Restream cofounders Andrew Surzynskyi and Alex Khuda.

  • Investors are pouring money into advertising, media, and marketing startups.
  • They're trying to capitalize on changing consumer habits and marketers' need to ensure their ads are working.
  • Check out these pitch decks to see how these startups pitched their visions to VCs and other investors.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Investors are pouring money into startups that are trying to disrupt advertising, media, and marketing.

Insider has been tracking these startups that are using tech to capitalize on changing consumer media habits and marketers' desire to reach new audiences and ensure their ads are working.

Check out these pitch decks that they've used to sell their vision and raise millions from PE and VC investors.

They range from tools that measure digital ad performance to platforms for people seeking out online entertainment.


Consumer data-collection

Jeffrey Nicholson
Jeffrey Nicholson.

Tracer started in 2015 as a unit of Gary Vaynerchuk's ad agency VaynerMedia that automatically collects and organize data that isn't personally identifiable. Led by Tracer co-founder and CEO Jeffrey Nicholson, it also offers free consulting services. It started by helping VaynerMedia oversee hundreds of millions in ad buys for clients like Oreo maker Mondelez; today, clients include other ad agencies like Labelium; Condé Nast; and pharma giant Sanofi.

Tracer recently raised $9.9 million in seed funding led by big names like former Walmart and Amazon exec Marc Lore and NBA star Kevin Durant's firm Thirty Five Ventures.

Read the pitch deck a Gary Vaynerchuk-backed data startup used to raise $10 million from investors like Walmart's ex-ecommerce CEO


Data-buying tools

Nick Jordan founded 5-year-old Narrative to let advertisers buy data without the need for data brokers like Epsilon and Acxiom that can be known for not disclosing their data sources or what cut they take.

The marketing-tech firm makes money by taking a cut of data sales and through larger software as a Service (or SaaS) contracts where marketers pay monthly fees for data.

Narrative in September raised $8.5 million in a Series A funding round led by G20 Ventures and which included Glasswing Ventures and MathCapital, bringing its total funding to $14 million.

Here's the investor deck that helped startup Narrative raise $8.5 million to help marketers buy data safely


Support for online sellers

Adtech vet Paul Palmieri joined Tradeswell as CEO based on his experience as a VC investor, where he saw dozens of DTC companies whose businesses weren't scalable.

Tradeswell is a SaaS platform that consolidates brands' marketing, retail, inventory, logistics, forecasting, lifetime value and financial information. Its pitch is that it gives brands insights so they know what to sell to whom, where, and at what price.

US e-commerce is set to be worth $1 trillion by 2023, according to a recent report by Insider Intelligence's eMarketer, and Tradeswell says it can help traditional and DTC brands save millions of dollars in outsourced contracts and boost their sales.

Tradeswell recently raised $3.3 million in seed round funding from Signalfire and Construct Capital.

This investor deck helped an entrepreneur raise $3.3 million to build 'the Bloomberg terminal' for online sellers


Ad performance tools

BrandTotal

BrandTotal is a marketing analytics company that pitches advertisers on the premise that most digital and social media ads are now "dark," or visible only to the people they're targeting.

It joins other businesses that promise greater visibility into digital advertising such as Pathmatics, which measures how much brands spend on Facebook and other platforms.

BrandTotal co-founder Alon Leibovich said the company uses AI to track ads and help advertisers understand their competitors' strategies.

This pitch has helped BrandTotal win business from big brands like L'Oréal and raise $12 million in a Series B funding round, bringing its total funding to $20 million.

Canada's INcapital Ventures led the latest round along with Maor Investments, Glilot Capital Partners, Flint Capital, KDC Media Fund, and FJ Labs.

This investor deck helped startup BrandTotal raise $20 million to date to help advertisers like L'Oréal see how their digital ads are working


E-commerce advertising services

Brands are increasingly becoming advertising platforms, giving rise to a cottage industry of adtech companies that help marketers build their own ad businesses.

One such firm is 9-year-old adtech firm Adzerk, which is rebranding as Kevel.

EMarketer reports that e-commerce advertising will be a $17 billion market this year. Retailers like Walgreens, Walmart, and Instacart have led the charge, but Kevel sees an opportunity for other types of brands to build ad businesses of their own.

In December, Kevel raised $11 million in a Series A round led by Fulcrum Equity with Commerce Ventures, MathCapital and Food Retail Ventures also participating.

A digital ad firm just raised $11 million to help brands like United Airlines and Ticketmaster build their own ad businesses


Targeted ad tools

Mathieu Roche, CEO of ID5

Google's and Apple's moves to clamp down on privacy and digital-ad targeting have been a boon for startups trying to find workarounds like identity solutions.

One such firm is ID5, a European startup that helps advertisers find audiences to target and make sure people don't repeatedly see the same ads. It makes money from licensing its ID to adtech companies for a monthly fee that ranges from $5,000 to $30,000, CEO Mathieu Roche said. The company gives away its technology to publishers to grow adoption of the ID.

ID5 closed a $6 million Series A funding round in March from Alliance Entreprendre, Progress Ventures, and 360 Capital Partners. The 4-year-old company has raised a total of $7.5 million.

Read the pitch deck that a startup used to raise $6 million to save targeted advertising


Privacy compliance help

New privacy regulations are springing up around the globe, and publishers and marketers are turning to technology companies to stay on the right side of these laws and avoid huge fines.

One of the companies capitalizing on the increased focus on data privacy is Sourcepoint. Founded by adtech vets Ben Barokas and Brian Kane, the US-based technology company has a platform that lets publishers and advertisers get legal consent from people to use their data.

Sourcepoint recently raised $17 million in additional funding, led by new investor Arrowroot Capital, bringing its total funding to $47.8 million since it launched in 2015.

The pitch deck used to raise $17 million for a startup that helps advertisers and publishers comply with privacy laws


Real-time market research

Former CEO of Publicis agency MRY and Suzy CEO Matt Britton

Agency veteran Matt Britton pitches his consumer intelligence startup Suzy as an always-on digital assistant like Siri or Alexa for marketers. It has a panel of 1 million US consumers that lets marketers conduct surveys and research on subjects like product development and ad effectiveness testing.

He closed a $34 million Series C round last year, bringing its total raised to $46 million.

Rho Ventures, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Triangle Peak Partners, and Foundry Group participated in the Series C round in March ($18 million) and September ($16 million).

An agency vet used this pitch deck to sell what he called the 'Siri for marketers,' landing clients including Johnson & Johnson and Chipotle


Livestreaming tools for creators

Livestreaming startup Restream was founded in 2015 to help gaming content creators grow their reach by livestreaming to Twitch and YouTube at the same time.

It's since expanded to serve musicians, politicians, influencers, publishers, non-profit organizations, and other businesses and says its goal is to democratize broadcasting. Restream said half its 2.5 million users are now non-gamers. Most of its users are nonpaying, but it sells subscriptions from $19 to $299 per month that come with features like the ability to record streams and access to more customer support.

Restream announced in August that it had raised $50 million in fresh funding from investors including Sapphire Ventures and Insight Partners.

Read the 14-slide pitch deck that helped livestreaming startup Restream raise $50 million amid the pandemic


Video streaming subscriptions

CuriosityStream is a 5-year-old streaming service founded by former Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks. It went public in fall 2020 through a reverse merger with Software Acquisition Group, a SPAC led by Jonathan Huberman, who formerly led video adtech firm Ooyala.

CuriosityStream is differentiated from other streaming services in that it focuses on factual content like documentaries and features, with more than 3,100 titles available. It reported 13 million paying subscribers buying monthly and yearly subscriptions ranging from $3 a month to $70 a year.

The deal with Software Acquisition Group gave CuriosityStream $180 million in cash.

The investor deck that CuriosityStream used to secure $180 million to take on rival video streaming services


Reaching online sports fans

overtime founder

Overtime wants to be the next ESPN, but for social media.

It started 2016 by Endeavor vets Dan Porter and Zack Weiner with a focus on high-school sports and athletes and has expanded into areas including esports.

Overtime captures game highlights through people it pays to film events and also creates original programming and events. It distributes content mainly on social platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Its core business is making money from ads, sponsorships, and merchandise, and projects making $200 million in annual revenue by 2024.

It recently raised $80 million from investors including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, rapper Drake, and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, The Wall Street Journal recently reported.

Leaked pitch deck shows how sports-media startup Overtime plans to reach $200 million in revenue by 2024

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Business Ideas

A 25-year-old who earns $4,700 a month in passive income from real estate says he took 5 steps to buy his first property

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Cody Berman owns a total of 11 rental units.

  • Cody Berman learned about real estate investing at 19. After college, he bought his first property.
  • He saved and invested in index funds to grow his money, and lived frugally to keep expenses down.
  • He also picked up many side hustles, and bought his properties strategically.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

When Cody Berman was a college senior, he got the idea that he wouldn't have to work for anyone if he could find a passive income stream. His golden ticket to financial freedom came by way of real estate investing.

Berman, who is now 25, brings in $4,700 a month in passive income from his four rental properties. He took six steps to reach financial independence.

1. He learned what he could about real estate investing

When Berman was 19, he was introduced to real estate investing through the corporate world. He took an internship with a private equity company that specialized in buy-and-hold commercial real estate investing. The year after, he interned at a bank doing commercial real estate lending.

While these two internships weren't directly related to residential real estate investing, they helped build a foundation of financial and investing basics. "At that point, real estate was more of an abstraction than something I could actually use in my own personal finance journey," says Berman, who is based in Massachusetts and is the co-host of The FI Show.

It wasn't until his senior year of college that Berman dove headfirst into learning about financial independence; after that, the idea that he too could become a real estate investor seemed feasible. He consumed everything he could on creating passive income – podcasts, personal blogs, YouTube videos – and investing in rental properties kept coming up again and again.

2. He spent a lot of time researching properties

When Berman started looking at rental properties, the first thing he did was work with his real estate agent to set up auto alerts. To narrow his search, he set specific criteria. For instance, the properties had to have at least two units, be under $300,00, and be located in certain counties. Berman would get email notifications every time new properties popped up that met his criteria.

Berman spent dozens of hours analyzing different towns, looking at the price versus rent ratios, and doing a bunch of number-crunching and analysis to pin down exactly where he wanted to start investing. "Rather than randomly scouring Zillow or Realtor.com, it was a fantastic way of finding new potential properties," says Berman.

3. He saved aggressively

Berman saved as much as he could for a down payment on his four rental properties. Within three years, he saved and invested the majority of what he needed – a grand sum of $170,000. He invested the majority in Vanguard index funds, and tucked away about $10,000 in an Ally high-yield savings account. As he was investing primarily in index funds, he benefited from market appreciation, and the money he saved grew.

During those three years, Berman worked in commercial real estate lending, which earned him an average of $80,000 to $85,000 a year. Seven months into his first job, though, he quit to go full throttle with his entrepreneurial pursuits. The first year on his own, Berman raked in $70,000, and eventually got his yearly earnings up to $130,000.



Berman didn't set specific savings goals. He just shoveled away as much money as he possibly could in case an opportunity presented itself. "I honestly didn't have real estate in mind specifically when I was saving all that money," says Berman. "It just seemed like a fantastic vehicle for passive income, so I capitalized on the opportunity."

4. He side hustled

Besides saving his earnings from his day job, Berman did everything he could to make an extra dollar. He started side hustling during college and continued about a year after graduation. He averaged about $1,200 a month in side-hustle income.

He built websites, did some freelance writing, podcast and video editing, organized a book tour, and tried his hand at affiliate marketing. During the summer, he worked odd jobs, like buffing boats, sampling alcohol, and some yard work.

Now, as a serial entrepreneur, Berman has dipped his toes in everything from helping found a platform that teaches others to successfully side hustle, selling his own designs and templates on Etsy, and co-founding a disc golf manufacturing company, all of which bring in additional passive income.

5. He cut back on expenses

To save for his rental properties, he made the gap between his income and expenses as wide a possible. "This gap is everything," says Berman. "It will allow you to invest in assets that will pay you without having to trade your time for money."

To save for his four rental properties, which add up to 11 rental units total (not including the one he currently lives in), he lived modestly and didn't care for a flashy new car. He cooked at home most of the time, and was extremely careful about his spending.

This helped him free up more cash to put toward his savings. In turn, he bought all four properties, which are located in Massachusetts and Connecticut, within a year. "Although I bought them all within the same year, those savings had been accruing since college," says Berman.

For those who would like to achieve financial independence, Berman recommends saving aggressively so that you can keep the "income-expenses gap" wide. "While you're young and flexible, do everything you can possibly do to keep this gap as wide as possible. By no means am I saying lock yourself in a room, never go on vacation, and never see your friends, but there's always a craftier and cheaper option," he says.

The more of a gap that you can create, the more money you'll have to invest, and the earlier you'll have the option to "retire" on your passive income. Or at least just do whatever you want to do with your life.

Related Content Module: More Investing Coverage

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