Building a Web development agency is not a cakewalk. It is a roller coaster ride that we take every single day. Our excitement when the organization is nascent pushes us to take up every single piece of advice and try to make every move to get clients. But as the enthusiasm wanes, we are reminded of our mistakes and the harsh realities of standing up in the market. It doesn't mean that what we did earlier was a big NO; instead, our mistakes teach us to be mindful and take appropriate steps to avoid repeating them in the future. Here are our learnings from our web development agency's mistakes and some formulas we applied to overcome them.
When we started, we accepted the work that came our way. However, there needed to be more thought given to the term of accepting the work. There were no contracts and terms documented. Instead, we trusted and relied on verbal agreements. This was one of the grave naiveties we showed, which hit us hard. Having no official contracts gave scope for inconsistencies in expectations from both sides. There needed to be more clarity on the projects, and many times this led to client dissatisfaction in terms of project scope and the agency's loss in terms of payment.
How we fixed it: We started writing down and documenting each and every outcome of the meeting that we held with the clients. We logged their needs, wants, and the price decided. We even logged the time required and the deadline for completing the project. This helped us handle client expectations and get paid according to the deal.
When you are a web development agency, you got to have a well-maintained website. This is THE THUMB RULE. We initially didn't ponder over this and neglected it. However, as we started to grow and when the client requested to look into our designs and work, it struck us that having an updated website of your own is very crucial in positioning yourself. It's a common practice now to look into the website of any prospective agency from which we wish to get our work done. The same goes for the client wishing to use our service. If our own website is not updated, it won't leave a good impression.
How we fixed it: We assigned a marketing professional to constantly take care of what goes on the website and other social media platforms and design and implement the right strategy to position ourselves for the target audience. This helped a ton in marketing and getting more clients.
When our company only had two or three employees, we continued to give in to client pressure and chose to give the client who was "most pressuring" priority. This resulted in dangerous handling and job scheduling. There was no organized routine or timetable to follow and deliver the work. In the process of satisfying the most demanding client, we lost some of the promising projects and prospects.
How we fixed it: We stopped this process at once. We started keeping our communication with clients clear and firm, especially regarding project delivery. The meeting discussed the deadline and the stage-wise delivery dates thoroughly and fixed it so both sides understood and noted it. This improved our working conditions, made us more organized, and helped us handle clients more efficiently.
There is a practice of hiring fast and then suffering to fire them. There are instances when you hire an employee with good credentials and skills, but they turn out to be a misfit to your company. Their work culture, ethics, and vision differ from the agency's work culture, ethics, and ideas. This brings many problems not only to them but also to the agency. You can't fire them, and the vicious cycle of incompatibility goes on and on, project after project.
How we fixed it: We developed a hiring process to screen the candidates who were a cultural match to the agency's core values. As a result, people with the same views started taking positions in the company, and the agency prospered. About the misfits, we let them go. It was tough, but it was necessary to break the vicious cycle. They were better off, and so was the agency.
In the past, we hosted many customer web pages and had countless invoices due throughout the course of any given year. To put it mildly, our method for issuing invoices was chaotic, and our follow-up on delinquent invoices was even more awful. This lack of billing discipline seriously harmed our cash flow.
How we fixed this: We employed someone (first part-time, then full-time) whose primary responsibility was to handle our billing and accounts receivable. They excelled at their position and had the power to shut down websites for failure to pay if necessary. In addition, they sent invoices as soon as they were due and pursued them assiduously when they were past due. As a result, we had fantastic cash flow and could focus on our business. We suggest readers adopt this.
As the title cites, this did happen to us and hurt a lot. It might occur inadvertently during an informal dialogue between an ardent customer and an agency owner eager to go the extra mile to satisfy them. We met all the requests to add small features (additional) or functions but were not charged. This drained our energy for no profit. We figured out our organization needs the plan to stop scope creep before it starts to stall other projects as requests for extra features or functions begin to come in.
How we fixed it: Effective scope creep management requires open communication and openness. We established additional fees for performing things outside the project's initial scope and ensured that clients knew these fees upfront. In addition, we improved process transparency by tracking each request, tracking the time it took to complete the task, and creating consistent bills for each client. Clients had no trouble making payments because we had all of our efforts documented. We also established a regulation stating that any "rush work" would be charged twice the usual rate.
It took us a while to realize that we needed to charge more, even though we had more business than we could manage and a terrific reputation. Finally, the light bulb went out when we realized that we were giving our clients access to one of the most effective tools for expanding their businesses and that we needed to change our pricing to reflect the value we were generating.
How we fixed it: Most agencies base their fees on their costs plus an additional amount for potential profit and operating expenditures. While that's a fantastic place to start, the situation could be more sustainable. We concluded that you receive what you want when you know how much your client values your services and then set your prices accordingly. When using the conventional costs-plus pricing strategy, there will always be a winner and a loser. The client only wants to pay what is necessary, and you do not want to incur losses. On the other hand, the customer will contest every charge if he doesn't feel like he's won. Furthermore, you'll start to hate the client if you don't believe you've prevailed. See? No-win situation. Value-based Pricing always wins.
Web designing and web development are different tasks, and every agency must price the work accordingly. Not only the pricing but positioning must be in accordance with the specialization. Regardless of the size of the customer, we have done all types of web-based design and programming work for years. After a few projects, we discovered that not only did we enjoy working on applications, but it was also very financially rewarding. It took us a while to realize that you can charge more when your agency focuses on a particular line of business where you excel.
How we fixed it: First and foremost, we positioned ourselves as "Web app developers," which brought us clients who solely required web application development. The projects that we received were in line with our interests and specialization. The charges we put were undisputedly accepted by the clients, given the superiority of the outcome. It was one of the most significant learnings and the modification that helped us increase our cash flow and brought in exciting work.
We need to remember that every web application we make must be mobile-compatible. A massive chunk of the population accesses everything on a smartphone. If your website is not mobile-compatible, then it's of no use. We realized our mistakes when we received complaints regarding it, especially when the boom of smartphones and cheap internet had just begun. So we knew we had to adapt, make package changes, and hire mobile app developers.
How we fixed it: We revised our pricing packages, including the cost of making websites mobile-compatible. We hired the required engineers and developers. Although it was a minor overhaul, the aftermath was fruit-bearing. When other agencies struggled to make changes, we had already settled, and our reputation was maintained.
We initially put little effort into getting the SEO right. Although we were aware of the impacts, we focused more on building a seamless website with impeccable designs and user interface. Unfortunately, the digital marketing angle and the importance of SEO implementation struck us late. We did lose a few clients due to this but alas! Finally, we figured out what changes were necessary to be made and started working on it.
How we fixed it: Writing text content is only one aspect of search engine optimization that can improve organic reach. Optimizing technical SEO involves various best practices, such as enhancing HTML tags, page loading times, and website traversing. It also includes creating a mobile-friendly website, using structured data markup, and implementing HTTPS for enhanced security. But one of the most frequent errors web development companies make when creating a website is failing to incorporate search engine optimization from the start. As a result, we focused more on a web development agency's SEO practice to ensure effective SEO implementation for the website.
We often get clients who are way too adamant about working on the terms they set. We did face a bunch of few in the beginning. But unfortunately, we didn't have much scope or projects, so we succumbed to their whims. This mistake burnt us out. We hated that our energy and time were not appreciated or paid for. It was a horrible phase.
How we fixed it: During the initial stage, we made sure our sales team clearly communicated our agency's work ethic and values to prospects. We also carefully selected clients who were enthusiastic about working with us to ensure a successful partnership. This saved us from a lot of mental struggle and gloomy work hours. As a result, our staff was happier and more motivated to work with this policy decision. Finally, we drew a line and knew to stop when it was Catch-22!
Every agency is grasping at straws and making a name for itself. In this process, it faces many ups and downs. The only spirit that keeps it going is- "We either win, or we learn." We all make mistakes, and one must not shy away from accepting it. Instead, one must learn from it and avoid repeating it. Every project teaches us, and we must incorporate them. As mentioned, business is a roller coaster ride; you better enjoy its ups and downs when you can!