The Manual #2

Why I stopped taking on client work

When I first got into doing web design and development at a young age I thought the only way to make good money was to take on client work.

And to be honest, when I first started taking on clients, it was great money. More money than I had ever made before. I even had serious imposter syndrome thinking how is someone paying me $2,000 USD for a great magazine/blog style website.

I was taking on any and every client that comes through my email inbox, social media inboxes, and word of mouth. I didn’t care who it was, I was making websites for $500 and $5000.

It was a great time of learning for me as I had to teach myself how to make contracts, how to manage multiple clients, how to deliver the work, and make sure the clients were happy.

I look back and think to myself I definitely would not be the designer and creator I am today if I hadn’t taken on client work. But I also look back and realise I seriously undercharged and undervalued my own time.

Just a year or two ago I was still working on projects that were north of $500,000 in budgets! I didn’t take home all of that money of course but I was definitely going away with a good chunk.

Even with projects like that, my time still had a value on it. I was charging day rates, week rates, and per-project, depending on the client and their requirements. Even with all of this, I knew this wasn’t scalable.

Also, all of this was quite a lot of work. You end up spending so much time planning, prepping, in meetings, and delivering after-delivery support — which most of the time you don’t get paid for.

Using my clients 👀

However I had a plan, a plan that had been in motion for a few years. I was going to use my client work money to support my side businesses and projects, to the point where I don’t need client work. That was always my ultimate goal.

I knew that the best way to increase the monetary output from my time was to have my own businesses that make money whilst I’m not working. I already had a taste of this from my Tumblr themes business.

It also meant I was working on my own stuff instead of helping others build theirs. My own stuff was naturally so much more fun, engaging, and satisfying for me.

Great success!

My plan had worked. Late last year, my side businesses and projects started generating enough profit for me that I could stop taking on client work. They’re actually doing so well now that it doesn’t make financial sense for me to take on client work anymore.

I’m achieving the goal that I had dreamed of — I make money whilst I sleep! The output of my time is not tied to my income as much anymore. Obviously, if I want to keep making money and increase my income, I need to spend time nurturing these businesses.

I saved myself from financial ruin

All of this helped me greatly when I was diagnosed with cancer. Because I had already set up my businesses to be automated in a lot of ways and I have two people who manage the day-to-day of running some of my projects, my income did not take a hit when I had to take time off to fight my cancer.

I took a good three months off work. I needed time to heal and beat this fucking thing.

Yet my income only took a very small dip. Nothing that would give me cause for concern at all. I’m also a super overly cautious person when it comes to emergency money. To the point where if all of my income stopped today I have enough savings to last me 3-5 years. It also helps that I keep my own personal expenses very low!

What I learned

  • Client work is a fantastic way to make quick cash

  • Client work is a great way to learn a lot of new skills

  • Client work is a great way to learn to manage multiple projects

  • I definitely wasn’t charging enough when I first started

  • Client work is not quickly scalable

  • Managing unhappy clients can make you unhappy too

  • Your time is tied to the income — no work means no money

  • Building your own businesses increases your time-to-money ratio exponentially

  • Businesses can blow up overnight when in the digital space


Check out my new class!

I have uploaded a new class showing you how you can build a website with no code. It’s targeted at beginners and is ideal for anyone interested in building websites but don’t enjoy coding.

Check it out here ->


I went on a podcast!

I was recently invited to go on the Yo! Podcast hosted by Rob Hope. We discuss things work-related, minimalism, and re-investing in yourself.

Check it out here ->


Link Lowdown

A collection of links to stuff I think worth sharing.

How I made $9000 in a week — A video by myself sharing how I made $9000 in a week from my icon pack. I’ve also started to regularly upload on YouTube, so subscribe if you’re interested.

Find related subreddits — A great tool to find related subreddits. Put in a subreddit that you like and it’ll find other closely linked subreddits. Great to way to discover new content.

Memberful — Want to turn your website into a membership site? This is one of the best ones I came across when I was trying to create a membership site. Really easy to integrate and get started.

ForkLift 3 — An awesome dual-pane file manager and file transfer client for macOS.

humanebydesign.com — Well designed website sharing some design principles.

letter.co — Super well-designed website for next-level banking.

Web Design in 4 minutes — A classic! Worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before. Keep clicking along and enjoy the ride.


Personal Update

For those who follow me on my other social media profiles will have heard that on the 23rd of October I was told that all of the cancerous lumps in my lungs have disappeared. A massive relief. I’m happy that all of the grueling chemotherapy has been worth it. I won’t be completely cured for another 5 years but hopefully, the cancer doesn’t return.


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