Did you take a vacation this summer? Did you step away from the screen to spend time with family or friends? Hopefully, you did. While summer can mean a much-needed break from work, freelancers and small business owners know it can also mean months of slower sales or that existing projects come to a sudden halt.

finishing strong

Coming back from the summer can pose a challenge, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still finish the year strong. If you’re still feeling the summer hangover, we have a few tips to get you fired up and ready to take on the last three months of 2017.

Finishing Projects Strong

While it may be difficult to predict the ebb and flow of business, we all know it: there’s usually a dip for web design project work during the summer. During the summer, ongoing projects can be delayed because clients are also vacationing, too.

Why do web design projects get stuck? It’s helpful to look at the two main reasons projects can be delayed:

  • Clients have higher priorities – As a small business owner yourself, you know the challenges of managing multiple projects or dealing with all the demands of business at once. It’s the same for clients.
  • You’re still waiting on copy or assets from the client  Projects can come to a standstill as you wait on the client to deliver the necessary information you need to finish a website.

If a project gets stuck, it may be the client’s fault, but it’s our responsibility to get that project moving again. And you probably already have a good incentive to finish a project–to get paid.

Here are a few ways to get projects “unstuck” so you can start making progress again:

Incentivize the completion of stalled projects.

Get back on your client’s radar and gain priority. What can you do to gain your client’s attention? Offer incentives to get the project rolling again.

  • Free month of website maintenance – Offer clients a month of free WordPress website maintenance. This is also a great way to let clients preview the value of this service.
  • Free upgrade to HTTPs – If the client’s website doesn’t have a valid SSL certificate, offer this as a free service in exchange copy or other assets that are holding a project up.
  • Get creative with other offers. What else could you offer as an incentive that costs you little but has value to your client?
Just remember: Never discount the project, but provide an incentive with the purpose of gaining the client’s attention and focus to complete the project.

Clients Stuck on Content?

Many clients freeze up when it comes to writing or creating their own content. They may not be sure where to begin. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Create a content guide for clients. A content guide could simply walk through different portions of a website with examples. The guide can also include questions such as: What is it that you do or provide? Why should clients choose you? What separates you from your competition? These questions should be designed to extract content from clients and get them guided in the right direction.
  • Offer a free 3-hour “content sprint” (or make it paid) – Set up a time to work through the content guide 1-on-1 with the client. During the meeting, jot down their answers as you work to record the conversation and take notes.

Ultimately, getting stuck on content is a process issue. Start building the content production process into your web design project process.

  • “No Code before Content” is a great motto for anyone building websites for clients. Make sure clients know the importance of content upfront and how it can delay a project. Clients need a plan for writing content or producing photographs, and if they need help, have a plan to help them with an upcharge fee that covers content production as an additional service. You can then contract out the work with a freelance writer or photographer, or do the work yourself.
  • Add project delay penalties into your contracts. Does your web design contract currently cover delayed projects? Is there any penalty built into your contract if a client suddenly goes missing or stops answering emails? If not, update your contracts now. Adding language concerning stalled projects can significantly reduce the likelihood of a delay, especially if there’s a penalty involved. For example, if a project is delayed more than 30 days for missing content from a client, for work to resume again, two conditions must be met: 1) Everything to finish the project must be in hand and 2) the remaining project balance must be paid in full.

Finishing Sales Strong

The last quarter of the year is often a time when many businesses are looking to spend money before the end of the year. This makes the final few months of the year a great time to sell a new website project.

You may not be a natural salesperson, and the thought of selling may be terrifying. It helps to simply reframe sales as being helpful. See sales as “consultative”–which means you’re being helpful, providing information, and meeting a need.

  • Cold calling is terrifying. Yep, you’re right! And it’s not terribly effective either (for most of us, anyway).
  • Start with your current clients. If you’ve been freelancing for a while, your existing client base is a potential goldmine of opportunity for both upsells and referrals.

Contact Existing Clients To Check In (And Upsell!)

The easiest client to sell is the client you’ve already sold. So how long has it been since you reached out to your current clients? Talk to former clients at least once a quarter, and for some better clients, at least once a month.

Ask: How’s it going? Are you having struggles or difficulties with your website? How is your website working for you? Are there things we can tweak to make it better? How can I help you?

You probably aren’t going to sell them a new website, but you have services you could offer. What do they need that you offer now?

Additional Website Services You Can Offer Existing Clients:

  • HTTPS – In October of 2017, Google Chrome will begin marking pages with forms on non-HTTPS websites as insecure. That makes this an excellent opportunity to explain to clients the value of having an SSL certificate installed on their website. Offer to move their website to HTTPS as a paid service. Check out our WordPress HTTPS Training so you’ll have all the knowledge you need to provide this service.
  • Site Speed Audit + Improvements – Another service you could offer is a Site Speed Audit. Site speed impacts your client’s search engine rankings, so it should be important to them too. Check out next month’s free Speeding up your WordPress website , a free webinar to help you with tips for speeding up a WordPress website.
  • Mobile-Friendly – If a client’s website still isn’t mobile-friendly, it needs to be. Offer to make it mobile-responsive with a one-time fee.
  • Security Audit + Services – Having an online security strategy is non-negotiable these days. As a paid service, you can do a security audit of their existing website, then install a WordPress security plugin such as iThemes Security. You could also set up WordPress two-factor authentication and train them to use it, as well as walk them through general online security measures such as using a password manager. Here’s more on why you should be using a password manager.
  • General WordPress Maintenance – Are clients keeping their websites updated? Are themes, plugins and WordPress core up to date? Are your clients tired of managing their own websites? Have a WordPress maintenance plan ready to offer as a way to help. Not sure how that looks? Here are 12 ideas to offer WordPress maintenance services to your clients.

Ask For Referrals

Be intentional about asking for referrals from your existing clients. Simply ask: Do you know any colleagues or friends that are needing a new website? You may be shocked how many referrals you’ll get just by asking.

Incentivize referrals!

The key to building your referral network is by incentivizing referrals. Here are a few ideas you could offer in exchange for a referral:

  • Free website maintenance – Offer 1-3 months of free website maintenance.
  • Gift card (Amazon, local restaurant, etc.) – Who doesn’t love a gift card?
  • Nice gift (Tablet, Apple Watch, etc.) – For bigger referrals that land you a new project, consider an even nicer gift.

Raise Your Rates!

How long has it been since you last raised your rates? Most freelancers should raise rates by 10% or more today. Yep–you read that correctly. 10%.

Raising your rates can be as simple as opening your proposal template, erasing the old rate and putting in the new rate.

  • Raise rates on January 1. Tell clients now. 
  • Sell a block of time at your current rate. Along with the notice, provide an offer to lock in a block of your time at your current rate. For example, you could see a 5-hour block of time. The block of time must be used within the next 12 months.

Finishing Personally Strong

On a personal level, how can you finish strong in 2017? Get yourself motivated TODAY to start strong and finish 2017 well. 

What is your WHY?

Why are you in business? Why are you a freelancer? Why do you do what you do? Spend some time revisiting your ultimate Why question. “Why?” may be a hard question to answer, but if you’ve never done it before, articulate your why.

Do you want more freedom? To be in control of your own destiny? Forge your own future? Have an improved quality of life? Be your own boss? Have no salary cap?

Speaking and writing down your personal Why is powerful. Print it off, and put your answer someplace where you can look at it every day. It can really be a strong motivator when you get stuck or unmotivated.

The 3 Most Important Things

What are the 3 most important things you need to do in your business by year end? Make a list.

Do you need to redesign your personal website? Finish writing that ebook? Book that conference to help you learn, grow or network? Finally invest in new tools such as software or a new computer? Raise your rates?

Set SMART Goals

If you don’t define the target, you’ll miss it every time. That’s where setting SMART goals come into play.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound
SMART goals are another powerful tool to help you get focused and finish the year strong. During the recent Freelance Summit, we cover setting SMART Goals in more detail.

Write your goals down. Make them a declaration.

Here’s a simple goals “declaration” template:

  • I will (specific + measurable)
  • by time (time-bound)
  • because/so that (relevant)

Here’s an example:

I will create a social media management service for my clients using Facebook by December 30 because it is a key to building recurring revenue in my business.

Put your goal declaration on your desk so you’ll see it every day.

The 3-Hour Challenge

Most freelancers spend most of their time working in their business, but not on their business. Commit to spending 3 hours a week working on your business until the end of the year.

Simply set aside three 1-hour sessions or block off an entire Friday afternoon. Think of this as “CEO” time to strategize and review goals.

You’ll find that these are the 3 most important hours of the week. If you aren’t actively growing your business, you’re not going to be able to serve your clients well.

Watch the Webinar: Finishing 2017 Strong

Hopefully, now you have a few ideas and some inspiration to get motivated and finish 2017 strong. Do you have a new set of goals? What will you do next? How will you finish the year strong?

This post is based on Nathan Ingram’s Finishing 2017 Strong webinar for iThemes Training.

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