Why Small Web Design Firms Should Think Big

This is a dedicated thread for discussing the SitePoint article ‘Why Small Web Design Firms Should Think Big

Hey! I recognise myself as a small organisation wondering why it’s staying small. Your article spells out what sounds like common sense but if it’s just common sense why haven’t I been thinking like this? You’ve prompted me to lift my sights – very good article!

Andrew hit the nail on the head with this article. I too am one of these freelancers experiencing feast or famon cycles as I intimately become involved with each project, as a professional service provider like he mentioned, treating each small project as cash flow… Not offering complete solutions because of the commitment involved and honestly because while a “big firm” solution provider business model sounds good in theory for the designer, in reality the vast majority of my small business clients either cannot budget that big, or have already been burned by using a firm like that. I sound like Eore or Gulliver, but I’m still searching for a decent blend of profitable consistent work flow. I would be interested in Andrew’s step by step advice for this topic…

Fantastic article Andrew !

Thank you for writing this article.

I just recently started giving up control of some of the functions in my business - namely design and coding - and outsourcing these responsibilities. It’s been the best decision I ever made. I now have designers and programmers who design and code better and faster than I did. Now spend my time on marketing and getting more business.

It’s true…focus ON the business, not IN the business and you’ll grow.

I guess this is helpful, but it sort of seems that all of your articles really deal with the same style of marketing. It’s good, but seems a little redundant. Is your blog going to be ‘marketing only’, too? If so, it should be called that…

Excelent Article, perfectly put to clear the mind and help you focus on what is important.

Many thanks,
Keep up the good work.

pretty generic stuff don’t you think. Surely you could come up with something new if you are going to write advisory articles

Great article. Well done!

Well, this thread was worth searching for. My deep-seated feeling for the need to branch out in a current one-person web dev biz has now been reinforced.

does anyone have any details to share in terms of the step by step that is involved in seeing a lot of this through, especially for the rookie running a low cap biz with few contacts?

Actually, I think this would be a good topic to expand on in general. Anyone game?

A great motivational article. Just the kick on the behind that I needed to go forward with my small freelance web design business!

Nice and nifty.

really nice article. I agree with paperlion… some follow up would be nice.

It leads to all the right directions though.

Spot on, good tips… web company bible.


This is the first article of yours I’ve read, so I don’t have a clue whether it’s redundant (as others have stated in their reviews). On its own, however, I thought you did a good job of helping those who want to build a company, meaning a business as described in E-Myth by Gerber – one with employees doing the work and an owner who focuses on building the company itself. And thinking within that specific group, I thought your get-started process was great for anyone who has good communication skills (meaning someone who can write well and speak in public well).

If your target market is the small group of people whose desires and strengths fit the mold you described, you did a phenomenal job of speaking directly to them and offering advice they could use.

If your intent was to help everyone, however, then I couldn’t disagree more with your approach, because you’re making the same basic mistake that 99 percent of all sales and marketing experts make – you’re basically telling everyone, “Do it my way and you’ll be successful.”

To everyone who reads this reply, my bottom-line piece of advice is this. Listen to every expert you can. Read every book on business development you can. Take every course on marketing, sales and running a business you can. In other words, don’t ever stop educating yourself. But, and this is the really important part, never brainlessly follow the advice of anyone who says “Do it my way and you’ll be successful,” because you are not him. You don’t have his strengths. He doesn’t have your weaknesses.

Because nothing is 100 percent, I’ll put it this way. Virtually every self-proclaimed sales and marketing expert did the same thing:

  1. He learned and tried everything he could about selling and marketing from the available resources at the time.
  2. He kept what fit his strengths, discarded the rest and created his own system for success.
  3. He started telling everyone “do it my way and you’ll be as successful as I am.”

My problem with this advice is that experts tell you to do what they say, not what they did. So to be as successful as these experts are, you must do as they did – create your own system for selling – not as they tell you to do – use theirs. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a top sales and marketing expert point to another expert and say the words, “I became successful by learning and using his system.”)

I became successful by creating my own system for selling, and I’m telling you now that if you want to be successful you must do the same. So if you truly want to be successful at marketing and selling, your goal should be to build “The [Your Name Here] Sales System,” not to use some expert’s canned system for selling.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. So if you read Andrew’s article and it sounded like EXACTLY what you wanted – meaning it felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket – then his way probably is your way. You probably have the same strengths and similar weaknesses, so give it a shot and see what happens.

However, if you don’t write well, don’t want to speak in public or don’t want to ever have employees, then don’t give up, because you too can be highly successful, you simply need to take a different path to that success.

One of Alan Weiss’ primary pieces of advice is to never hire anyone if you can help it, because in most cases you’ll simply be giving away your own income. Most of his books are actually written for the entrepreneur who wants to forever be a one-horse outfit but continually move up the food chain on money not only earned, but kept. He too, however, stresses the importance of public speaking and writing, because those are his strengths, so if you buy his books, toss that advice in the trash if you don’t share those strengths.

Gerber’s primary message is to create processes for everything, so that everything can be measured and successes can be replicated. Even though his book focuses on building a franchise, the concepts also apply to companies where no franchising will be done, and to one-horse outfits where no one will ever be hired. So it’s also a good book to read even if you don’t want to grow a large company.

And before you tackle the task of setting your big, hairy, audacious goal, Collins tells you to first answer three very important questions:

  1. About what are you most passionate?
  2. At what can you be the best in the world? (With your “world” being whatever area you define.)
  3. What’s your economic engine. (How can doing what you described in #1 produce money?)

The fact is, most technical entrepreneurs don’t have the requisite skills or passion to grow a large company, and if they try they’ll fail. But that doesn’t mean that every one of them can’t make seven figures a year as a sole proprietor, if they’re willing to do the work.

So for those of you who don’t fit the mold that Andrew defined, keep reading, keep educating yourself and keep your horns down. You can do it too, you simply must do it your own way instead of Andrew’s way – or even mine, for that matter.

By the way, I’m a lot like Andrew – I love to write and love public speaking, so those two skills are applied in virtually every phase of my marketing strategy. However, I really have no interest in ever having employees – the hassles and costs are simply too high. So if I were to grade Andrew’s article on how it spoke to me alone, I’d give it an 8 on a 10-point scale.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. So many people think small and know that they want to go big but somehow stop themselves short of it. A great motivational piece with sound advice and practical suggestions.

This one is pure gold. I don’t know how it could have been explained better…

You make some top points.

Its also suitable for other industries as well.

This is an excellent article. At the end of the day, everything is a doulble edged sword. Use the sword well and you will not injure yourself while trying to get the enemy.

Very challenging article. Also the message is very positive.