DMP 006: Starting a Web Design Business with John Romaine

Here is my 6th show in the Design and Marketing Podcast where I speak to Aussie web designer and passive income fiend, John Romaine from BringTheDonuts.

john romaine

We talk a bit about John’s background in the east coast of Australia as well as contributory factors that led up to his decision to quit his stable government job to run a web design business on his own.

John is at pains to mention two books that led to this decision and they need to be read in order! Both books are by Robert Kiyosaki.

rich dad poor dadcashflow quadrant

The first book (which I’d read but I didn’t have the heart to tell John I’d not gotten much out of it! :) ) is Rich Dad Poor Dad. The second is the Cashflow Quadrant. Both books explain how to acquire income generating assets to make money work for you rather than the other way around. I have just ordered the Cashflow Quadrant from Play.com (I’m boycotting Amazon). John made a point of mentioning these two books so I’m definitely going to give Robert Kiyosaki a second chance.

The big switch

Once you have decided to leave your job, the big conundrum is – when? John and I have different experiences of this but we both agreed on one thing: there’s never going to be a perfect time to do it, so “now” is always a good time!

John recalls the horror of leaving a $80,000pa job for life by saying he “crapped his dacks”, which translated from Australian into English means he pooped his pants! Here is some sage advice for those thinking of making the big switch:

  • Only leave your full time job when you already have some great clients under your belt
  • Only leave your full time job when you’ve cleared your debts and have a substantial amount of money in the bank (maybe 3-5 months of your current salary)
  • Only leave your full time job after you have your brand, website, business cards, etc., sorted out
  • Try to sort out some part-time work to give yourself a smooth transition

The sudden realisation of having bills and rent to pay with no money coming in drove John to get out there and bang down doors. John didn’t have the luxury I had of a two year smooth transition. While I was able to have clients find me over a period of time, John had to go round local businesses to find work straightaway. But, when something has to get done, it usually gets done.

Now John runs a thriving web design and development business – but that’s not the full story.

Passive income

As with every other interviewee so far in my Design and Marketing Podcast, John is a designer who is earning passive income. He is forever looking at how he can provide value in a product for which there is demand.

A lot of John’s products came from his “active income” or client work. For example, John created a CMS for an estate agency (realtor) and then sold it as a product to other estate agencies online.

With passive income, it is so important to create a product that there is demand for. If you have been asked to do something by a client, there is a chance that other people in the same industry will want the same thing.

Running a web design business

I couldn’t let John go without grabbing a few assorted tips and tricks from his books. John has some really great ideas for managing projects like:

  • priority surcharges
  • late payment charges
  • and adding additional features to projects properly

John emphasises that putting these extra clauses in a contract can save you from a heap of problems in projects and earn you more money!

What you can do

This really has been one of my favorite interviews so far. I urge you to listen to as much of it as possible if you’re running a design business or thinking of doing so. In fact, there’s great advice here for small business owners generally.

Please if you have any questions for John or myself, leave them in the comments below.

Comments

    • says

      John and I both had very different experiences. John left his job with an almost non-existant client base and had to go out there and bang on doors.

      Whereas I was freelancing in London where I could work two weeks here and three weeks there and work on my own website in the evenings and weekends. When I started getting jobs to do through my website I was able to do the work in my spare time. And then I was able to work freelance for other people less and less and work on my own clients from home more and more.

      The whole process for me took two years and my site had been going for four years before I went full time.

      But all my clients came from my website and being found on Google. I’ll mention more about that further on in these comments.

      Glad you liked the interview, Mark!

  1. says

    Fantastic article Rob !!!
    I am not a web designer, I am a India based graphic designer, working since last 10 years, dealing with Logo design, Print media, Digital illustration (With the help of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop). Now I am procuring jobs from the above said field by taking part in bidding conducted by the different freelancing sites. My goal is to serve international companies with best of my ability and skills at a very reasonable price.
    Please let me know how I can get such companies or clients.

    • says

      Thank you Digish. I wouldn’t recommend you work through bidding sites for very long as that won’t be very financially rewarding in the long term. What you need to do is to find international clients through your website if you can.

      As Vinodh say below. I have my free e-books, one of which is called How to Market Yourself Online and a premium e-book called How To Get Clients – they might help you.

      They detail how you use simple SEO, blogging and social media techniques over a period of time to get noticed on Google and rank for long tail searches about your specialities. Here is an article which explains a bit more about it.

      Good luck.

  2. vinodh says

    @Digish,
    Rob has already written a great guide on your requirement as in last line .
    ie getting clients. Its really working.
    Its a time taking process but you will get results in few months.
    regards
    vinodh

  3. Edward Robison says

    John referred my here so I’m check it out soon. I have Graphic Design skills and some Web design skills but I don’t know how to market myself, or find a nice price range to charge my clients.

  4. Gaurav says

    Hi Rob, Really great article, you are doing such a great work… your both free ebooks helped me a lot. books shows your passion and knowledge about designing.

    Big thanks to you Rob Cubbon.

  5. vinodh says

    Hi,
    The business kit url is not working. throwing error “The target URL was invalid. Please contact the vendor.” this error is rendered by clickbank.
    regards
    vinodh

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