Ultimately your success as a web developer or designer will depend on this one thing: Your ability to make sufficient returns on your investments. In other words, whether or not you are able to make enough money to support yourself, pay your bills, feed your family, etc. with the amount of time you put into your work. This is also known as ROI, Return On Investment.
You should regularly evaluate your ROI and take steps to increase it. Below are 3 ways that you can increase your Return On Investment and effectively give yourself a raise. These methods can allow you to spend less time on your work AND make more money at the same time.
1. Follow the same set process every time
Let’s face it, one thing that makes great developers is that we are lazy — we are always looking for shortcuts or ways to automate things! Unfortunately, a project can easily take twice as long because of all the extra research, experimenting and troubleshooting that we put into it by unnecessarily changing our process with each job.
Don’t get me wrong. Growing our skills and increasing our abilities is a good thing. But it isn’t everything. Without checks and balances, it can put us out of business!
Instead of always pushing the limits, try finding a nice groove. Set a process for each site you create, and instead of trying to grow it, just fine tune it, perfect it. Not every website you create has to be a learning experience. Make your process easily reproducible. Through doing this you can dramatically decrease your turnover time and increase the amount of projects you can finish in a month.
Don’t make the mistake of charging less, though! As you get faster, you should either raise your hourly rate (which is only fair since your greater expertise makes you worth more per hour), or abandon charging by the hour and charge by the project, instead. As you get faster but continue to charge the same rate for any given project, you will be making more per hour. You have essentially given yourself a raise!
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel, recycle!
First of all, if you aren’t using a CMS yet, why not? Please join us in the new millennium, and stop wasting time! Stop wasting time manually creating each and every HTML page, stop wasting time manually creating the site structure, keywords, XML etc. Even if you are using includes for common elements, it is still like trying to cut your steak with a butter knife. Pull out a steak knife, and make your life easier.
I don’t know that I will ever create another website without WordPress. I have tried other content management system and have even created my own (talk about reinventing the wheel), but nothing has compared to WordPress, in my humble opinion.
Let’s take this idea even further. Not only can you save yourself a lot of time and hassle when developing a site, but you can do the same when designing a site. Try using a premium theme from someone like Elegant Themes*, Woothemes, or Theme Forest. Use these as a baseline theme, and then tweak them to your client’s liking.
Once you get into the swing of things, find reliable plugins that you can reuse for each client. It is very likely that you can cut more than a dozen hours off your website creation time if you implement all of these strategies.
Another advantage of this approach is that you can fill in gaps in your own skills. If coding isn’t your strong point, then WordPress and WordPress plugins can help you out. If design isn’t your strong point, then one of the premium themes can take care of that need for you, instead of you struggling through something that isn’t your forte.
Now, take it even one step further still by using a site like istockphoto.com* to get not only all the stock pictures that you need, but illustrations and icons as well.
Put this all together in a base package that you can turnover in a few hours and sell it at a set premium price to your clients. Remember the price should be based on what the value is to the client, not how much time you spend on it. Then, you can raise the price depending on the level of customization.
In this way, you can turnover more websites in less time while still charging the same price. Again, you have given yourself a raise.
3. Target a Niche
Finally, you can fine tune your process further by targeting a certain niche and narrowing the types of websites that you create. Open up the business pages in your local telephone directory and look at all the different categories. You can target any one of these categories in order to specialize in a certain field. After some research and creating a couple of sites, you will know intimately what that niche needs. This can help you get into a groove and make your website creation process easily reproducible.
By specializing in a niche, you can become an expert in what they need, what solutions work best for them, what plugins to use, what their site structure should look like, what kind of pages they need, and how to target them for marketing, as well.
Targeting your marketing for a specific niche market will make it more effective, engaging and potent. You can read more about how to define your target market in this recent article.
By refining and setting an easily reproducible process, using what others have already made to cut down on your development time, and targeting a specific niche, you can drastically increase your Return On Investment and give yourself a big fat raise!
Increase your ROI by downloading my free Quality Control Checklist, which will help you develop a set process for testing your sites. You can get the Quality Control Checklist plus my free step-by-step Social Networking Guide by signing up at the top right hand side of this page!
*Full disclosure: these are my affiliate links. If you purchase anything through these links I will earn a commission. I only refer them because I use them myself.