1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Jared Gold, and I’m the founder of WebsiteByTonight: we build + launch Squarespace websites in real-time over screenshare (for individual clients and as an execution partner for agencies). The combination of the following makes us super unique:
- A talented remote design team (fluent English speakers working in US time zones)
- An efficient process supercharged by screenshare collaboration
- The plug-and-play Squarespace CMS platform
For quite some time, I’ve hated school (and was a marginal student). And I was very unhappy in my job right after college. I just didn’t do a good job of fitting into these boxes. I randomly picked up the audiobook of The Four Hour Workweek for my daily commute to work and it changed all of my worldview. From there, I wanted to create a blog to write about how everything I had been taught was a lie. I built the site on Squarespace, realized I enjoyed it, taught myself web design, and went for it.
I had been creating custom Squarespace sites for ~5 years or so. Though a few years into it, I came to the conclusion that my passion was really business rather than design work.
WebsiteByTonight came to be because I had a friend who needed a super simple website as a solo practitioner – and I didn’t want to turn him down, despite it being “beneath” my usual sophistication of website I liked to make. I whipped up some questions for him to answer on a GoogleDoc, then went over to his home and we built + launched the website in a matter of a few hours. I thought it was super easy and didn’t think much of it, but he was ecstatic. As I continued to think about this, I realized this was an offshoot business idea worth testing.
Our packages are currently $899 / $1299 (3 hours of time with designer / 5.5 hours of time with designer), and our margins are currently 50-55%. We have two designers and a sales + marketing manager. Now that all of our processes and positioning is pretty solidified and we’re happy with it, I’m fully ramping up marketing!
The current monthly revenue is usually $5k – $8k/mo; last year I did $52.3k.
The reason it didn’t grow quicker was that it was a side hustle for about a year on my original one-man Squarespace shop. Then I had some very tough family issues going on the past 1.5 years that really slowed down me scaling the business and had me questioning a lot of things, though fortunately, I’m doing very well now. And as of this month, I finally began investing in tons of marketing initiatives and spending more time on the business. Up to this point, sales have been basically all through referrals, and I was working about 5-10 hours per week.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
*More info about this is written in this blog post of mine.
After the successful first project with my friend, I went back and looked through my leads, and realized that for years I had been turning away solo practitioners/independent consultants/brand new businesses just like him. They usually had a budget of $750 – $1500 and were ready to move quickly and would be easy/low-maintenance clients. Clearly there was a gap in the market for websites that were cost-effective (though not super cheap), looked simple + professional, and were done with relatively little effort/fairly quickly.
As these types of inbound leads came in, I told them they weren’t a fit for the more customized sites, but that I was piloting this websites-via-screenshare process that I think would work well for them. They loved the idea and the outcome. I decided to create a standalone website that I only sent people to if they weren’t a fit for my other business. And then about a year ago, I decided to just go all-in on WebsiteByTonight, as it was a far more unique business that was more scalable.
I’m still trying to figure out marketing techniques, to be honest – especially now that I’m fully-focused on making WebsiteByTonight a whitelabel agency that agencies can have in their toolkit when they need simple client websites done on-demand quickly and predictably.
I’ve been on multiple podcasts with an audience of solo practitioners/consultants and agencies – one or two podcasts led to some business. I tried out Upwork (which didn’t work well). I’ve landed in some marketplaces/directories; most haven’t panned out, but I’m holding out for a few others.I started a new marketing initiative recently when I’m excited about: TurnkeyAgencies.com: a curated directory of productized services for agencies to plug-and-play/whitelabel. It’s been getting some interest, so I will be investing in this over the next few months. If you run a productized service that agencies could use, please contact us and we’ll add you if you’re a fit.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
The first main challenge was systematizing everything (not I didn’t say automate everything). WebsiteByTonight is pretty simple; others have it a lot harder. Fortunately I haven’t had too much to document, and I was able to find a great tool – Monday.com – to guide my team into using this process with minimal manual/admin effort on their part. But it took getting super clear on my process, finding the right software tool (there’s a million project management systems), and customizing things to work just right. There is still some manual effort, but I’ve found that it’s usually best to automate 80-90% and not try to squeeze that final bit into being automated, as it’s usually more trouble than it’s worth!
My initial business was focused solely on simple + professional websites for one-off clients (solo practitioners, independent consultants, new businesses). We’re still happy to work with these clients, but it’s been super hard to build a consistent business off of them. We haven’t found the right channel to attract and close these leads predictably, and it is exhausting to explain our process from scratch every single time (usually over a short phone call with me personally) and then work a lightweight sales process – and they do have different levels of savvy in terms of marketing and tech.
So that’s why I’m going all-in on pivoting WebsiteByTonight to a white label business for agencies. They have some baseline level of marketing knowledge, tech expertise (know GoogleDocs + screen sharing), and once they understand the basics of how we work, they hopefully will send us projects on an ongoing basis. Their lifetime value should be far higher. So now I’m trying to figure out how to grow a Whitelabel productized service for agencies instead of a client-facing productized agency. Different marketing tactics needed for sure.
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
The most helpful resource has been Brian Casel’s Productize Course (affiliate link). The course was solid, but unequivocally the most value has been from him matching me into a Mastermind group with three others who took the course. We’ve been meeting every week for an hour (now 1.5 hours) for over a year! No idea if that’s been the case for his other Mastermind pairings. I don’t know if I’d still be running the business without them. I’ve learned that the most valuable online courses are paired with a community.
I read Robin’s first how-to productized eBook and thought it was awesome, and he’s built a great online community – so he’s lining up the pieces nicely!
In terms of running my business, the main tool I love is Monday.com for project management across a distributed team. I use G Suite for email, Streak as a lightweight CRM for Gmail, Loom for the occasional video tutorial, and Squarespace (no surprise) to power my website + payments with a simple eCommerce checkout feel.
My overall tips:
- Extreme focus in terms of service. We don’t do custom projects outside of our usual scope. Clients should fit perfectly into your nice cozy box of a service offering. Otherwise, politely refer them elsewhere.
- Transparency + simplicity are your key sales tactic. While I haven’t mastered top-of-the-funnel lead generation, when these leads come in, they are warm and easy to close – often after a single call (though our price point isn’t too massive / it’s not a recurring monthly service). I rely on the output of my work, testimonials, and transparent process + pricing to sell. A productized service is so much easier to get to a quick yes/no than a custom service.
- The way you become a business owner is to master leverage. Figure out what you do best and focus on that – and find others to do the rest. That means at some point to take the leap and find other good people to do the work. Once you cross that threshold, you’ll not want to go back.
- Favorite business books for this topic are Built to Sell and The E-Myth Revisited.
- Join a Mastermind/accountability group with others that are also in the trenches with you (e.g. Robin’s FB group)
5. What is your advice for those who are starting productized services?
To sum it up, here’s what I’d ask myself to start a productized service:
- “What valuable agency is nobody building?” Or more specifically – “What customer segment/need is nobody serving?”
- “What warm leads have I turned away in the past – and why?” or “What prospects could I help – but feel a little beneath me?”
- “When prospective clients don’t end up buying – did they say the reason, such as cost or time investment?”
- “Is there a way I can simplify my offerings in a more turnkey ‘done-for-you’ way that I can predictably deliver on?”
- “Can I create a ‘lite’ offering for clients that still delivers a high-quality result?”
- “Do I have any current or prospective clients that would value a more ‘done-for-you’ service for reasons like cost, speed, and simplicity rather than the customized services I’ve told them about?”
- “Is there a related service that customers have been asking me for that I could deliver on – that I just haven’t tried yet?”
- “How easy would it be for me to draft this service and lightly test it alongside my current agency’s services to see what the feedback is?
And then the final thing is that I would define what success means/looks like. For example, is your goal to scale a business and sell it in three years for a few million dollars? Or are you looking to build a lifestyle business that pays you a nice salary for a limited amount of work on your own time so that you can pursue other things? Or are you starting a business just because it seems like the thing to do so you can travel around and post cool pictures on Instagram? There’s no right answer, but it’s very important to set that vision and build around it.
More info about this is written in this blog post of mine.
6. What are your plans for the future?
My primary goal for WebsiteByTonight is to generate a great income for me with minimal effort on my part (say 5-10 hours/week) and where I’m working on just what I do best and gives me energy (my ‘zone of genius’) – and doing that all for my team too (while delighting clients obviously). In a perfect world, I’d love to sell the business in 3 years for $5m, but I will see how that goes and see if that’s something I truly want to invest in doing. I plan to grow the business by focusing on top-of-the-funnel lead generation and making the agency whitelabel model work. I know agencies have this need, we just need to to further identify them and ways to get in front of them in a non-interruptive way (as they’re definitely contacted all the time for whitelabel website work).
The other main thing I’m working on is that I’m launching a Kickstarter for PurposeCards: daily micro-journaling cards (video here; pass = PC2019). Complete the front side (sun icon) in the morning to set your focus and the back side (moon icon) in the evening to review your progress. When the day is over, store your card in the box for easy reference and tracking.
I thought of PurposeCards because I wanted a minimalist and nearly-effortless way to set myself up for success every day. I didn’t want another app because they’re annoying/distracting, and the current guided journals were too big to carry around, too type-A, and didn’t match my desired aesthetic. I think of PurposeCards as “daily journaling for the rest of us.”
The Kickstarter should go live by the end of March, and I’m proud to say we have some awesome influencers that we’re shipping VIP preliminary boxes to! Fingers crossed they like the product enough to share it with their audiences right as the campaign starts. Our goal is around $20k…but something in my gut is telling me this could hit $200k+.
Simply go to MyPurposeCards.com and enter your email to be informed when Kickstarter is live!PurposeCards were an offshoot of a Chrome extension I bootstrapped last year called PurposeTab – a free Chrome extension that that shows images of your goals on every new tab (along with some other nice “personal dashboard features”).
7. Where can we learn more about you?
Twitter handle is @jgold242 – I love following smart people on Twitter, but will make it a habit to post more. Also @purposecards.
Questions for the community would be along the lines of:
- Any recommendations on how I could generate more leads / awareness for WebsiteByTonight – e.g. getting in front of agencies or even other types of businesses that could use numerous simple ongoing websites?
- Any initial feedback on PurposeCards – design / use cases / how to promote them?