Our Business Journey
How did we get here? Well, that’s a deep philosophical question. It is one that I won’t attempt to answer, especially as the philosophy module of my degree was my weakest by far. I will instead tell you our journey of how we got to the point of creating Ready Steady Websites®. Perhaps there will be similarities to your own business journeys. Perhaps you’ll think we’ve done it all wrong. Let’s see…
It all started in the spring of 2010. I was pregnant and Chris (my husband and the other co-founder of Ready Steady Websites®) was working silly hours for a medium sized design agency, managing projects for big corporate people who demanded his time virtually all the time. We decided that if Chris was ever going to spend any time with the small person growing inside my ever expanding stomach, then he needed to leave his job and the ultimate way to make sure he had full control over his time was to start his own business. So, that’s what he did and 2nd Floor Designs Ltd was born. That was the name of the business, not our first child, we went much more traditional with his name than that and he wasn’t born until the Autumn.
The name 2nd Floor came from the fact that we lived in a town house at the time and Chris worked out of one of the bedrooms on the second floor. In hindsight this perhaps wasn’t the best choice of name. We moved about a year after Chris started the business and also, people started to assume we were architects or house builders, confusion we only added to by now having an office in the same building as an architect! So, learning point number one, think through a business name fully and perhaps don’t choose one when you have baby brain! (It’s real!)
The first year of business went well for Chris. He had lots of contacts in the web world and the world of business who sent work his way and he managed to keep money coming in as my maternity pay dwindled to nothing. Some people may think that just before having your first child is a strange time to give up financial security but Chris is amazing at what he does and I don’t think we ever saw it as a risk. He also managed to meet work deadlines as well as support me with postnatal depression and help feed a very hungry baby who never slept! Something he wouldn’t have been able to do without the flexibility of working for himself.
About a year after Chris set up 2nd Floor I had to start showing my face at work again for “Keeping in Touch” days and meetings about going back. In those meetings it soon became clear I was going to have the same problem as Chris. I could work part time but those days would be long and there was no way I was going to drop my little boy off to someone at 7.30 in the morning and pick him up at 6pm. There are some who can do it but I just wasn’t emotionally strong enough to even contemplate it. So, I joined the business. 2nd Floor was no longer a one man band. It was a duo and we were going to rock.
For the next six years we worked with small and medium sized businesses, designing and building their websites, handing them over and moving on to the next project. Sometimes work flowed through the door and we were really busy, sometimes there was very little coming our way and at one point I was very close to getting a job so that we had some guaranteed money coming in each month. We had enough money in the bank to pay for one more month’s worth of business expenses and living and then that was it. There was nothing left but just when we thought it was the end of our business duo, the separation of the web world’s Sonny and Cher, the end of design’s Mulder and Scully and the parting of ways of business’ Robson and Jerome, the money started flowing in again. We had realised that the inconsistent one-off projects created a feast or famine cycle (which a lot of business owners can relate to) and it wasn’t a great business model, so Chris had started creating WordPress themes to sell on a popular theme market place. They had been selling with limited success but just as things got really tough financially, the latest theme we released was really popular and it was selling far better than any of our others. Spurred on by this Chris created another with a similar feel and that too was a great seller. Once they were out there the sales rolled in without us having to do too much more, apart from a bit of support and this generated a nice, relatively passive income alongside our project work. This was great for a while until every WordPress designer and developer wanted a piece of the theme market and the marketplace became over saturated. It was harder to get seen, sales dwindled, only the massive do-it-all themes were seeing big sales so before it completely went downhill we sold our theme business and moved on.
Some Ideas Just Don’t Work… But That’s OK Another Will Come Along
The money we made from that sale meant we could take a few months to re-evaluate where we were at. We knew that having a more passive income alongside our project work was the way to go but we weren’t sure what. We had seen a lot of people were moving in the direction of online courses and training and actually this seemed really natural to us. Using Chris’ amazing knowledge of design and the web and my background as a trainer (which is the job I didn’t go back to after having baby number one and I probably should have mentioned baby number two has also arrived by now) we created our “Success with WordPress” online courses. They were not really a success. Firstly, it was hard getting them out there. We were on Facebook trying to build an audience, telling everyone who would listen about what we had created. We made a handful of sales but we had to accept that there are so many places that dish out WordPress training for free, such as WP101 that not many people were going to buy it and also, as soon as we finished an edit on a course, WordPress would announce an update that meant our training was already out of date! So, we canned that project but it wasn’t a complete waste of time because in the process of getting ourselves out there we had set ourselves up as being the go to people for WordPress. People could see we knew our stuff. We got a big retainer for a year from an entrepreneur and business coach and also got a lot of design work referred to us by them.
Dabbling in the courses and working with this entrepreneur also helped us to identify a real gap in the market. There was a need for beautiful, reasonably priced, pre-built websites, that weren’t generic but designed with each business niche in mind, that came with support and training to guide people through how to use them and take control of them so they could update them easily and cheaply. It was like a coming together of our bespoke website projects, our theme business and our courses and Ready Steady Websites® was born.
Ready Steady Websites
Ready Steady Websites® has been thriving since we launched last year. Our customers are so happy with the service and their beautiful websites and we are happy too because we are starting to see our recurring income build. It’s also nice to be earning that income by supporting other people like us. Other people who are building their businesses up, working on their recurring income and using our websites and membership sites to do it. It might be a long road but together we will get there!!