I had a problem. Two problems, actually. The first problem was that my wife and I needed to come up with just over $26,000 to meet our goal of getting out of debt in the next 3 1/2 months.
That was a problem because I was making just enough at my day job to get by. Which leads to my second problem, time, or rather - the lack thereof. Between a full-time job and a family, the time I had left to work towards our goal was limited.
We did it though. In the beginning of December, 2011, we paid off our last debt and, for the first time in our marriage, we were debt free.
How? On weeknights and on Sundays I built websites for clients. My time was limited and the amount of money I needed to make was high, so it was important to maximize the time that I spent on task. It meant a lot of late nights and sleep deprivation, to be sure, but we made it through and, looking back, I only regret that I didn’t do it sooner.
As I recently reflected back on that experience, I realized that the lessons I learned and the strategies I used to get my family out of debt were applicable beyond my situation. You can use them too.
If you need money and you’re short on time, I can’t think of anything better than building websites part time. Let's look at how to do that efficiently with maximizing profit a top priority.
Make Yourself Available
Your clients need to know that you exist. If potential clients don't know you exist, your work is going to be a bit harder. Odds are, though, you are connected to more people than you think. It's important to start with those people and let them know that you are now available to build websites.
I made my availability known on my personal website (if you intend to build websites for others, you do need to have your own). I emailed folks I'd done work for in the past and let them know I was available again. I maximized my existing networking connections and, out of that, I began to line up the first few projects.
If you haven't had any past experience building websites, that's okay. We all have to start somewhere and I can't think of a better time than right now. Learn how to get your first web development client.
Get Gazelle Intense
My wife and I started our journey towards debt freedom with Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. Early in the program, Dave talks about the importance of what he calls "gazelle intensity." When a cheetah takes off after a gazelle, that gazelle runs and it runs because it's life is on the line.
When a cheetah takes off after a gazelle, that gazelle runs and it runs because it’s life is on the line.
I realized that I couldn't be any less serious if we were going to achieve our goals. I cut out anything and everything I could in life, I sacrificed, and I made the small amount of time that I had available to me as productive as I possibly could. It meant late nights. It meant working on Sunday (Saturday was my one day a week off). It meant giving it everything that I had.
That sacrifice and the intensity with which I worked paid off. If you're going to make money building websites part-time you need to be intense about it and maximize the limited time you do have available.
Use A Platform
To make $5000+ a month part-time, you're going to need to be fast. If you don't already know how to build websites from scratch, now isn't the time to learn. If you do know how to build websites from scratch, I highly recommend that you set that knowledge aside for now. You need to use a platform.
WordPress is my favorite and I recommend it highly. It has a proven track record, open source development team behind it, community support, diverse theme options, and momentum.
Don't go out and buy any books on web development (yet), don't enroll in any classes at your local college (unless it's a fast class and someone passionate is teaching it). You need to focus on getting results as efficiently and as effectively as possible. There has never been a better time than right now to make use of a platform that's already been built, and is well past the tipping point of quality and popularity.
Use Pre-Built Themes
The WordPress default theme is probably not going to cut it for your clients and learning how to customize it isn't the best use of your time (right now). Envato, FreelanceSwitch's parent company, has ThemeForest, a fantastic theme marketplace for WordPress. I use ThemeForest for the majority of my smaller, $1500-$2500 projects.
Should you ever build your own themes? Sure, if you want to. But not while you're working part-time. If I'd written this article 2 years ago, my advice wouldn't have been so strong, but the options these days are amazing. For someone starting out -- especially someone with a limited amount of time -- using pre-built themes is the best way to go.
Charge The Right Price
If you're going to make $5000+ a month, you can't be building websites for only a few hundred dollars. You're doing yourself and your clients a disservice. You need to charge a fair price. Consider the value that you're able to provide by leveraging a platform and by helping them put that platform to use.
If you’re going to make $5000+ a month, you can’t be building websites for only a few hundred dollars.
Wrap your mind around the value and focus on what building a website can do for your client's business. I recommend that you charge $2500 per project. Don't go for less than $1000 per project and make sure that you can finish the project with an average of over $75/hour (that's what it takes to make $5000+ a month working part-time).
Create a "Wow" Experience
In Michael Hyatt's new book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, (great book) he talks about the importance of creating a "Wow" experience for the people you serve.
I can't stress this enough. From the first point of contact, whether by phone, in-person, or via email, all the way to after the website is launched, focus on creating an experience that exceeds your client's expectations. As the adage goes, under promise and over deliver.
It takes time and energy to create a "Wow" experience and, on a part-time basis, your time is limited. Focus on the energy. Go the extra distance, maintain a positive attitude, and be intentional about looking for ways to create a great experience.
Think about it when you're in the car, laying in bed, or taking a shower. Ask yourself, "How can I create a great experience for my client?" Take a few minutes after each project to reflect on what you've learned and write down ideas that you can apply to the new project to cultivate a "wow."
Ask For Endorsements and Referrals
When the work is done, ask for an endorsement. Keep it simple. Ask your client to write 2-3 sentences about their experience working with you. Take their endorsement and put it up on your website. Then, ask them for referrals!
Ask if they know of anyone else who needs a website, then take the initiative to follow-up on any and all recommendations they give you. Referrals are the best way to grow a business and it's important for you to ask your clients and give them an opportunity to contribute to your success by referring you to others.
Master Your Craft
As you begin to develop traction and experience, it's important to invest in your education and focus on mastering your craft. Now is the time to start reading books and blogs on web development. Enroll in some online courses. Pick an area to specialize and begin to focus on developing your skill set further.
Attend events in your area of interest and network with others. Ask questions and learn from the experience of those who've gone before you. As the demand for websites grows, so will the number of people trying to meet that demand. If you're going to stand out, you need to constantly work towards a mastery of what you do.
As your success allows you time to sit back, go ahead and enjoy a short rest, then get right back to it and work continually towards mastery.