Kurt Elster, co-founder of the Chicago-based digital agency Ethercycle, started out like many of you. He made websites for all kinds of different businesses and slowly built that into an agency.

As his network and portfolio grew, he partnered up with larger agencies and started doing work for big clients like Verizon. Kurt was making enough to cover all of his bills and then some, but it wasn’t enough to justify all the stress from the different (and demanding) clients.

Today, Kurt has multiplied his revenue more than 8 times and is working fewer hours with almost none of the headaches.

We packed a ton of actionable insights into this 30-minute episode to show you how to do the same by widening your margins with a narrow focus and simplifying your sales process through productized consulting.

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Key Takeaways

Simplifying the sales process with productized consulting [5:00 – 11:30]

If there is one thing agency owners hate, it’s writing proposals. To avoid that, Kurt set up a landing page for his website audit service, wrote a sales letter, gave it a set price, and outlined the exact scope.

By putting all of this upfront, the client knows the cost and inclusions, and neither side has to play any negotiation games because the price is clearly stated. By the time they talk to Kurt, they’ve already qualified themselves. Not only does this save Kurt the time of writing yet another proposal, but it also saves him from sales calls that don’t go anywhere.

While he may be leaving some money on the table by not capturing more value from the bigger clients, he is more than happy with the trade-off, because it means less stress and less time wasted.

Using a niche to generate a steady stream of leads [14:00 – 19:30]

We discuss the importance of serving a certain niche multiple times in this podcast, and one of the most prominent reasons is to make it easier to find new clients. When you have a narrow positioning statement, you know exactly who you serve, so you can find out where those people hang out and craft a message that speaks directly to them.

Kurt focused his services on the Shopify platform, and one of the added benefits to niching was that he was able to get listed as one of the first Shopify partners. This gave him a steady stream of leads. As he added and developed other channels for growth, he started getting more than 20 leads a week and has the freedom to be picky about the projects that he works on.

If there is a platform that you regularly work on and they offer a partnership program, reach out to them and see what it takes to get listed. An easy way to test the waters and see if pursuing this positioning is worth it is to simply set up a landing page for the platform instead of re-working your main site.

Always be niching [26:45 – 30:15]

Kurt has built an agency that generates great profits while preserving a desirable work/life balance, all within a single niche. Many agency owners try to widen focus so they can capture the addressable market, but Kurt’s plans for the future is the opposite.

Kurt wants to take the Pareto Principle to the next level. They already niched down from general website design to Shopify stores. Their next step is to find the most profitable 20 percent of this market and focus exclusively there. This could be as simple as a process of elimination (identifying the businesses Ethercycle won’t work with), but Kurt knows they can go deeper.

No matter how narrow your positioning is, there is always going to be a small subset of that market that you are able to deliver disproportionate value to. If you can continuously narrow in on that subset, then you are going to be able to become a greater expert and significantly increase your fees because of the increased value you create.

Kurt’s view is simple, “When you get comfortable, then it’s time to niche further.”

Want to learn more?

For a quick overview of what Kurt does, his newsletter (and access to his personal email address), head over to KurtElster.com. If you have any questions about how you can apply this to your own agency, just let him know what you’re working on and he’ll offer his advice.

Kurt was also generous enough to offer a 50% discount on his book, Email Templates for Freelancers, redeemable by using the code “advantage.”

Resources mentioned

Pareto Principle
Unofficial Shopify Podcast
Shopify Partner Program
Brennan Dunn

Thanks for listening!

How could you apply the Pareto Principle in your business? What 20 percent of your clients or projects produce 80 percent of the return? Share your results in the comments below.