This week we have a first-of-its-kind podcast episode: Barbara and Mark, two members of our community and a married couple who runs their own design business, Wicky Design, share with us the challenges they face, success stories, and a few valuable lessons.
Barbara Dilisio and Mark Crowell are a husband and wife team of web designers in Philadelphia. They started their business, Wicky Design, four years ago. Both of them worked in web design jobs in the past, Barbara for various small businesses, and Mark worked for a large corporation for 15 years. Then, they decided to join forces.
Who was their first client? How do they differentiate themselves from their competitors? And what are the challenges they face as a growing small business?
Listen to the full interview, and read about the major takeaways.
Mark will leave his corporate position later this month, where he has been working for the same corporation for the past 15 years. This past year, he tells us, he and Barbara have had a lot more demand coming in, so Mark needed to focus on Wicky Design full time with Barbara.
To him, it was a huge transition leaving a major corporate gig to run his own business. Working for such a large corporation, there were a lot of limitations on creativity. But the biggest challenge has been figuring out how to do everything on their own. Barbara and Mark partnered with photographers, content writers, and marketing experts, to help with the whole website building process for their clients.
Barbara and Mark founded Wicky Design because they saw a need to change the relationship between web designers and small businesses. Too often, they say, they would hear horror stories from small business owners saying their web designers took forever to complete their projects, were hard to get a hold of, and ultimately didn’t give them what they were looking for. At Wicky, they promise their clients a streamlined process that will get them up and running in weeks.
Barbara thinks the biggest difference is the fact that they are a husband-and-wife team, and people seem to like that they are a small business. They don’t work for large agencies and don’t really have an interest in working for large corporations. They like handling people that run small businesses.
For Mark, communication with the client is key. “We actually respond via emails and pick up the phone … a huge thing for us is customer service”.
In a small business, the relationship with the client is much more intimate. Barbara says they like to build a relationship with their clients so that a year, two years down the road, they can work together again.
Mark says working with corporate clients for so long, he has learned that educating your clients on how stuff works goes a long way. A lot of people don’t want to educate the clients, they want the clients to just rely on them. Mark likes to help their clients understand stuff and, by doing that, he hopes to see them come back over the years.
One of the success metrics of building a website is how helpful your client is with regards to content. In order to make sure clients deliver in terms of sending the material – photos, content, and media – Barbara and Mike created an Intro Packet, that lays out how they work and their timelines, and package pricing.
The client has to read through the intro package so they already know they need to have their content ready, they need their photos and everything up front. The clients also have to sign it. Then Barbara and Mike send over another packet to welcome the client, set things up so they can provide everything they will need in transferring over the website.
For Barbara, Elementor really helps to speed up the design process: “I can do a lot of things a lot quicker. Before, using different tools, I didn’t have as much freedom to go in and make changes to the design on the fly, so it’s really helped to speed up the process for us.
I think definitely doing the mock-ups and the prototypes of the website. It saves so much time just because I have so much freedom to do really whatever I want. I don’t do Photoshop mock-ups anymore. That’s something that I used to do back in the day, but with responsive design and things like Elementor, you can really make an awesome design and give it to the client and say, “This is what your website will look like and this is how it will interact. It’s not just like a static visual,” and I think that helps them understand the flow and everything, so…
But Elementor helps, and not just to Barbara: “It’s helped our clients maintain and manage their sites on their own. It’s so easy for them to go in and visually see what they’re editing, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time training. They’re really interested in being able to update their sites themselves. If they want to go in and make text changes or image changes, they want to be able to do that, so using something like Elementor helps make that a lot easier for them.”
Barbara advises to set boundaries with your clients: “That’s something that we had to learn the hard way. When you’re first starting out, you want to make money and you take on clients that you probably shouldn’t have taken on in the first place just because you want to get paid, but, at the end of the day, if you have a good process and you set boundaries and you say, “This is the way I do things,” you’re going to get clients that really value your time and value what you bring to the table, versus people that are trying to maybe get things for a cheaper rate or take advantage of you. I would say that’s something that you definitely need to be upfront about. Set those boundaries from the beginning because it’s going to pay off in the end.”
And Mark recommends to document as much as you can when it comes to accounting and networking: “For example, if you’re going to WordCamp in January, document everything, all your expenses, and then you’ll be able to track, “Oh, I made six connections and two leads and I got one job out of it,” so, yeah, documenting that is going to help you. A year later, you’re going to forget that you went to that WordCamp or whatever, so you’re seeing a spike in leads coming in that month, so, yeah, document it and everything. We’re just now starting to really get into that a lot more, but that’s huge.”