Was My Website Relaunch Worth It?

A solo entrepreneur reflects on her decision to pay for help

This is the fourth article in an ongoing series. Check out the previous installments, “What it Costs to DIY a Book Tour,” “DIYing My 1st Book Tour Could Have Been a Disaster; Instead, It Launched My Career,” and “When Is It Time to Ask For an Entrepreneur to Pay for Help?”

My new website has launched and the restructured business model is in place. The goals were to work less and earn more, to do what I love most with even more focus and professionalism, and to attract a diverse client base. Was the effort worth it?

There are two ways to answer that question: financially and creatively.

The entire project cost $5,000 and took, at least on paper, 16 weeks. In reality, the website took 18 weeks to launch and is still going on behind the scenes in terms of mobile readability and IT fine-tuning. That brings the project to 20 weeks, but the price never increased and the Smartsy design team continues to go above and beyond. This company is not about to create a website and then leave entrepreneurs hanging, forcing them to pay for assistance with updates year after year. The contract actually includes IT training sessions.

I’m not particularly tech-savvy and I have one more training session to go. So far? Good. Really good. I can update my own pages and do basic management of the site behind the scenes, deal with PayPal buttons and even create forms for registrants to fill out. That saves me secretarial work in the long run. In our next session, we’ll cover creating a new page (design included), understanding site stats, and “widget and compatibility updates” the team says I’ll want to be informed about.

All that’s well and good, but is the website paying for itself? Better yet, is it securing my future and helping me meet my goals?

Six weeks after the site soft-launched, my new offerings, including a marketing and stewardship e-course for creative types called Katey’s Notes, and a 5-week online class called Into the Flash, have brought in $6373. That’s before taxes, before PayPal and webinar hosting fees, and without considering my business overhead (wi-fi and website hosting fees, for instance, which are minimal but real).

That means yes, the website has already paid for itself, and I’ve only just begun.

The contracts for my old business model wrap up by the end if August. In my mind, this makes September the true re-launch of my business, because it’s not until then that I’ll actually start to feel the freedom of working less and earning more. What else happens in September? My former main source of month-to-month income, a service I called Monthly Critiques, will be replaced by Monthly Mentorship. At its peak, Monthly Critiques had me working with 16 private writing students who submitted 10–20 pages per month for review, and whose collective payments yielded about $1800 before taxes and overhead. I had a waiting list and loved what I was doing, but it was a challenging pace and workload to maintain.

The big leap in re-launching my business was to increase the price of this program nearly four-fold, limit it to 4–8 writers, chop it from 12 months down to six, and up the number of pages to 25. I also added a monthly live webinar, a private Facebook group, and a few other perks. So far, six participants have enrolled in this program, which will yield $14,364. That’s $2394 per month for working with just six writers, compared to $1800 working with 16 writers.

Work less and earn more? Yes, indeed.

The other service, my full or partial Manuscript Reviews, has four bookings for Fall 2016 already, and while I only raised my price on this service by about 15%, those bookings will bring about $5000 more in projected income before the holiday season.

But here’s the thing: “Work less and earn more” can sound really selfish. If the artists I know have anything in common, it’s that selfishness is the last thing they want to be accused of. As an artist who has continually over-committed herself for ten years, and as a self-employed business owner whose income is (was?) subject to large fluctuations throughout the year, the desire to work less and earn more has everything to do with sustainability and being at my best, and nothing to do with being selfish.

In short: if I’m getting paid what I deserve, I can insure myself, save money, take vacations, support my family in diverse ways, and live within my means, all while providing my clients with the best service possible and completing my own creative projects. Working less to earn more is a necessary ingredient of that recipe, and hiring help has brought me leaps and bounds closer to that kind of balance and success.

Based on the number of hours I know that my e-course Katey’s Notes, my online course Into the Flash, my critique offering Monthly Mentorship, and my pro-offering Manuscript Review will take to implement through one season, I’ll be working nearly half as many hours per week for the same amount of money. Another way to put that? I just doubled my income and doubled my time to pursue my own creative projects.

What’s more: I can design additional e-courses with lower price points to continue attracting a more diverse client base and I can do this using content that I’ve been sitting on for years but never had the time to organize. I can also consider paid advertising for the first time in my career in order to keep reaching that diverse client base. I can host free webinars for fun and community-building because I have time to do so (join the next one on marketing and stewardship). And I can start researching my next book — the literature of bourbon, anyone?

Both financially and creatively, then, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.

Katey Schultz is the author of Flashes of War, an award-winning short story collection featuring characters in and around the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. Check out her new site!

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