Webflow helped us grow
Let’s talk about growing and scaling an agency.
I’ll use the word “agency” a lot. This will also refer to "freelancer." In the context of this article, agencies and freelancers are the same.
Webflow created an amazing opportunity for many of us. People of all different experience levels are able to start, build, and grow agencies because of the Webflow product.
Regardless of whether you had years of experience in web development prior to Webflow or you learned how to create websites through Webflow, it has significantly impacted us all.
Webflow helped many of us:
- Learn an industry (web, design, or no-code)
- Do our job fast and effectively
- Get new clients through the B2B success of the product
- Consistently improve our margins through our own self-driven experience
I believe Webflow agencies will continue to scale naturally through the growth of Webflow’s popularity.
With more companies adopting the platform, there will be a greater demand for agencies to take on projects.
I believe the number of available projects will surpass the number of reputable agencies (also freelancers) who are able to develop them.
The desire for “more”
Some people have a desire for "more" in their agency.
"More" can be tangible things like additional projects, clients, employees, or revenue. "More" can also be something intangible, such as more happiness, time, pride, or passion. Each person has their own idea of what "more" means for their agency.
The ultimate goal of wanting "more" is to achieve greater success for your company. However, the definition of success is subjective and varies from person to person.
It's natural for entrepreneurs to strive for a successful company and want "more" for it.
In this article, I discuss a fast track to achieve your "more."
It's important to note that it's perfectly fine to not want "more" and to be content with minimal or no growth. This article is not intended for those individuals.
Getting started with Wized as an agency service
Let’s get right to the point—Wized allows you to build web apps on top of any Webflow project, without writing code or setting up servers.
Learning how to build web apps will give a Webflow agency a powerful new service that demands big project scopes and higher profit margins.
This is not theory—Finsweet is doing this
I'm not just theorizing how Wized as a service can lead to growth. I'm sharing with you exactly how we're implementing it at Finsweet. This article shares our entire thought process around the service.
As an entrepreneur, I'm always striving for "more" for Finsweet, and this drive is deeply ingrained in me. I want more for Finsweet Agency - more Webflow development projects, larger clients, improved margins, web apps, and most importantly, success and happiness for the Finsweet team.
By introducing Wized as an official agency service, we are taking our agency to the next level.
Wized is like Webflow—it’s not a quick learn. But totally worth it.
Learning Webflow is a challenge, and creating high-quality projects on this platform can take several months of focused dedication.
The speed at which one can learn Webflow depends on their prior experience, as those who have a solid foundation in HTML and CSS will have an easier time than those who are starting from scratch.
Regardless of past experience, anyone can become proficient in Webflow with hard work and dedication.
The same applies for Wized.
While people with prior knowledge of web app development will likely have an easier time learning Wized, anyone can learn how web apps work and apply that knowledge through no-code.
Wized is not a tool that can be learned in a few days. It may take several weeks or months of dedicated education to become a proficient Wized developer.
Webflow was totally worth the learning curve.
I will prove that Wized is also well worth the learning curve.
Conquering the challenge of scoping
Scoping a web app project accurately is a skill that requires practice.
Questions such as, “How large is this project?”, “Am I missing a crucial implementation step?”, “Will there be unexpected surprises during scoping?”, “Is the budget adequate?”, and “Am I estimating the time required correctly?” are difficult to answer, especially when you’re new to using Wized.
With increased experience, the answers to these questions will become more clear, just as it is with scoping Webflow projects.
Example of beginner scoping mistake with Webflow
Remember your early Webflow days, when scoping one of your first client projects. The client says this:
- I would like to have a blog with sliders in the blog content and previous/next articles at the end of the blog content.
You say “Yes” because you know how to use Webflow Slider, and you know that we can bind CMS data on CMS Template pages.
Although this sounded simple, as a novice, you most likely underscoped this task and did not raise any issues during scoping.
This seemingly straightforward request had a significant level of complexity in its implementation, causing you to spend more time than anticipated.
Without an understanding of the limitations and capabilities of Webflow, scoping projects can be difficult for beginners.
Know the limitations and capabilities
Know limitations to protect yourself from dangerous scopes
Knowing the limitations of a platform allows you to spot roadblocks and understand difficult implementations.
Understanding every limitation of Webflow is x-ray vision into a project implementation. The same is true for Wized projects.
Understanding the limitations of Wized, and your database of choice, will protect you from potentially dangerous scopes.
Know capabilities to be confident with accurately creating scopes
Understanding the capabilities of a platform provides confidence on calls and helps with accurate resource scoping.
When a potential client requests a feature, being able to confidently respond with "Yes, we can definitely do this" is crucial for building trust.
Knowing the platform's capabilities also helps in determining if a feature is possible and how it would be implemented, which provides a more clear view of the amount of time required for implementation. With this knowledge, it is easier to provide an accurate estimate of the amount of hours and experience needed to complete the project.
Scoping a Wized project
Scoping a Wized project involves navigating the complexities of web development. It's goes step further than scoping a marketing site. Scoping web applications requires additional knowledge and expertise.
To simplify the scoping process, we can focus on three key aspects:
- Make sure it's worth your time and effort
- Create a list of all features to be implemented
- Understand the design database
First, make sure it's worth your time and effort
Creating an accurate project scope that is ready for contract signatures is neither quick nor easy. It requires time, effort, and expertise.
Confirm the project you're scoping for can be a potential project
- Confirm they are willing to pay your minimum for web app development.
- Confirm there are no red flags or weird feelings towards the client.
If you don't have a set minimum fee, set one for this specific project. For example, you might set the minimum at $15,000 based on initial project specifications. Communicate this to the client and observe their reaction. If they express concerns or attempt to negotiate, it's a red flag. If they accept your minimum and are ready to proceed, it's a positive sign that continuing the scope may be worth it.
Other red flags in web development can be unclear specs, constantly changing requirements, and poor communication. The same red flags that exist in Webflow development exist in Wized development. We review these in more detail in the next section.
If you have any serious concerns or uneasy feelings about working on the app for this client, it may be best to decline the project and explore other opportunities.
If everything seems promising—a great client, an interesting project, and an appropriate budget—then go for it.
Create a list of all features to be implemented
In order to properly scope the project, it is essential to create a comprehensive list of all the features to be implemented.
Our client should provide most of this information to us.
Ideally, the client sends a complete list of all features, user flows, and information we need to start scoping. Although it is rare to receive a perfect requirements document from the client, the closer we are to having clear and thorough requirements, the better we can understand the scope of the project.
It is important not to rely on guesswork when determining the features to include in the app. While the lead may not have all the answers or the most organized initial requirements list, they should have the majority of it. Typically, after one or two discovery calls, we should be able to compile a comprehensive list of the project's requirements.
If we leave the initial discovery call completely confused about the application, consider if the project is worth it.
Red flags while scoping app features 🚩
- The client is not prepared with any detailed information about the app.
- The client can't clearly explain the entire user flow clearly.
- The client completely overlooked and underestimated key parts of the application.
- The client can't answer simple questions about the app, like "What information can users update on this page?"
Having a final list of application requirements before we proceed with scoping, quoting, and contracting is crucial. This step is very important for accurately estimating the time and effort required for project development.
The addition of a single feature can have a substantial impact on the complexity of the project. What was initially estimated as a one-month project may extend to two months with the inclusion of just one feature. Failure identify this feature during the scoping phase can result in difficult conversations with the client during development.
Additionally, understanding the application features will help us understand the scope of the database design.
Understand and design the database
- What data is needed in the project?
- How should this data be organized?
- How can this data be scalable as the app grows and changes?
Understanding and designing the database is a crucial step. Similar to designing Webflow CMS Collections, designing databases in Wized requires an understanding of the data that needs to be stored and displayed on the website.
Through a list of features and initial specs provided by the client, we should be able to start planning the database design.
It's our responsibility as the web developer to organize and optimize the datasets into a scalable database. Understanding the data before send a quote is crucial for accurate scoping.
Let's use an example of an application that involves users. In order to understand the full scope of the "Users" functionality, it's important to understand all of the data that users interact with. We need to understand the actions users can perform within the application, as well as the information the client wants to store for each user. Are there any permissions associated with different user roles? Do users have the ability to share data with other users? What may initially appear as a single, simple "Users" table could potentially require multiple tables that reference each other—perhaps three, four, or even more tables to organize users in the app.
This data organization logic is similar to deciding how to build in Webflow CMS. For example, we may decide to create three Collections for a Webflow CMS blog—Posts, Categories, and Authors. Rather than one "Blog" Collection with one CMS Template to manage all blog posts, it may be best to build three.
The Webflow CMS example is simple. Referenced data may become significantly more complex as we move from blog posts to web application data.
Draw the database and confirm it
It's crucial to communicate clearly with the client about all the data involved in the application.
Designing the database using pen and paper or an online database design tool will help confirm your understanding of the application's database structure.
Have the client review and confirm that your drawing accurately represents the data that needs to be viewed and stored in the application.
This drawing, and client confirmation, will be included in the project scope documents and contract.
Choose the database application
With Wized, we have the freedom to choose any database such as Xano, Firebase, Airtable, or other applications with a REST API that can function as a database.
As part of the database design, we must confirm the client's preferred database is applicable for the project. If the client doesn't have a database preference, it's our responsibility as the Wized developer to recommend a backend platform that will be effective for the project.
If the client has no preference, we usually go with Xano.
Recommended first project
Securing the first high-quality project for an agency is a significant achievement, particularly when there is no Wized work experience or a portfolio of web apps.
However, there is a way to overcome this challenge and attract new Wized clients while gaining valuable experience in application workflow: building our very first app for ourselves.
Build something internal
Identify a specific challenge that your agency faces internally. How can a custom web application assist in overcoming this obstacle?
- A dashboard for your clients to manage [something].
- A dashboard for your internal team to manage [something].
- Improvements for invoicing, project management, collecting payments, etc.
- A cool marketing piece for your agency.
By undertaking a test project that addresses real challenges within your agency, you familiarize yourself with Wized in an authentic project setting and also improve the inner workings of your agency.
Building an internal application will:
- Help you improve [something] internally.
- Give you a Wized project you can make mistakes with.
- Help you understand how a project is built and how you should build your next project.
- Help you scope your next project.
By optimizing your agency's workflow with an internal application, you not only address internal challenges but also learn to a build web app that you can feature during your next sales call.
Building “Billable” for Finsweet Agency team
Throughout the history of Finsweet Agency, our focus was primarily on building new projects, often fixed-cost projects spanning several months. Maybe there was post-project maintenance, but we didn’t offer it as a service.
As we started building bigger projects, we realized that most of these projects needed support post-launch. This ask was sometimes part of their original project requirements.
With the leadership of Jay, we started offering an “FSA,” or Finsweet Service Agreement, to all of our clients. We started explicitly selling our clients on post-launch project management. This proved to be a big move for Finsweet Agency, as this is now a big part of our Agency revenue.
The challenge was that we had no process for the Finsweet team to report hours on FSAs. Depending on if a project was fixed cost or hourly, Finsweet developers were being paid by different models. No past processes we followed supported this big billing change from mostly fixed to a mix of fixed and hourly.
Our billing, invoicing, and employee payments temporarily "broke" with this new model.
To address this challenge, we developed "Billable" using Wized.
Billable is a web app that allows Finsweet developers to enter their working hours into a private dashboard. This web app really helped us in a time of change and billing confusion.
The team's working hours are sent to Airtable where we managed clients, invoicing, and employee payments. Our client invoicing and employee payments team receive a full report of how which clients to send invoices to and how much to pay each Finsweet dev.
Finding a tool that met our specific requirements was challenging, especially since our entire invoicing system was built on Airtable. However, the development of a custom web app proved to be the perfect solution for our unique needs.
Billable allowed Finsweet dev team to:
- Log into their account.
- See the projects they were actively working, along with the billing amount for the client.
- Apply working hours to any client project, as well as add descriptions for each entry.
- Edit and remove working hours and descriptions applied to a client project.
At the end of the month, each Finsweet dev recorded hours in Billable, and they were paid based on their submissions.
Billable served us well for approximately one year, effectively supporting Finsweet operations during a significant Agency billing transformation. However, as our financial reporting requirements evolved, it was time to migrate away from Airtable and find a new technology stack. With that change, Billable became unnecessary within our billing system.
Billable's one-year lifespan proved to be invaluable, providing us with a tool needed to overcome a significant change in our operations.
Offering Wized will make you money, which will help you scale
Make money, choose your “more”
Financial gains are incredibly valuable for a scaling bootstrapped business. While monetary gains don't have to be the sole focus, they offer powerful flexibility that can greatly help a scaling company.
Money brings flexibility.
Money gives you the power to choose your “more.”
Do you want more money? Put the money in your personal bank account.
Do you want to grow a team? Hire someone.
Do you want bigger and better projects? Improve marketing and sales.
You have the flexibility to decide where that money goes and how it will be used to grow the business. Wized is great at helping you earn the money to choose your “more.”
Justify big price tags
Wized projects command a high cost because of what they can achieve.
For any business, a web application can:
- Be a primary source of revenue
- Be a secondary source of revenue
- Improve company processes
- Replace more expensive alternatives
The impact of an application on a company's financials can result in substantial monthly savings or earnings. Regardless of the business's size, a single well-crafted web application can bring about a significant transformation.
We can build web apps that accomplish this level of success with Wized.
$10,000 projects— $20,000 projects— $50,000 projects— $100,000+ projects.
We’ve seen it all. Wized projects come in all budget levels.
These quotes go beyond the simple estimation of time required for development.
With web app development, you should quote based on both your time and the value you provide. Quote the resources needed to complete the project, then consider doubling or tripling that for the project cost. There's a lot that goes into web app development and it's recommended you work big costs into your prices.
You’re in web app world now. Front-end is well paid and it has great margins. But when you build apps—you can charge more for your time. This leads to increased margins.
Companies will pay because alternatives are more expensive
** Highly speculative examples. Their purpose is to show concepts and ways of thinking. **
Is $100,000 for a web app a lot of money? Well, it depends who you ask.
$100,000 for a few months of work may seen a lot for you, but it may not be for the company that wants to pay it.
When compared to the alternatives available, the cost of Wized development proves to be a much more cost-effective choice, even when we double and triple our normal costs.
The traditional app alternative
For this example, we will build a hotel booking site. A hotel group owns 30 hotels and wants to build their own custom booking system that integrates with all of their systems.
They go to a traditional development agency for a full-stack web app that manages the booking for all 30 hotels.
Stack — React, Node.JS, etc., etc., etc.
Estimated resources and timeline — 4 technical software developers over 6 months. Coding takes more time. If you imagine manually coding a 20-page website versus using a platform like Webflow, the time difference is dramatic. The same comparison applies to Wized versus traditional web app development.
Estimated cost to client — $300,000. This is a highly speculative random value, but it’s not wildly inaccurate. It’s common to receive a quote of this size for large-scale, full-stack web application.
The cost of quality software developers is high. The estimated 4 technical software developers over months of time comes with a big cost.
Wized app development
With Wized and Xano we can build the booking app with less resources in a fraction of the time.
Stack — Webflow, Wized, Xano
Estimated resources and timeline — 1 Webflow developer, 1 Wized developer, 1 Xano developer over 3 months.
Estimated cost to client — $100,000.
When compared to the $300,000 options using traditional development techniques, $100,000 doesn’t seem high at all. It sounds low.
This is a highly speculative example, but the underlying message is what's important. Don’t focus too much on the specific numbers. Just know that there’s a huge cost savings when compared to traditional development.
Wized development takes less time, less effort, less resources, and the people who can build on it cost less money than traditional software developers.
Significant profit margins
The profit margins can be impressive for Wized as an agency service. We see Wized margins exceeding the already great margins of Webflow development.
As a Webflow agency, we've been thrilled with the profit growth for agencies in our industry. Many agencies see huge financial growth after only a few years of experience.
We believe Wized can bring an additional layer of financial growth and increased profit margins for any agency.
Let’s look at a example to understand this concept:
Imagine you have a client called "International Vacation Rentals" who approaches you with two separate projects—a marketing website and a web app for their cleaning staff to manage hotel room cleaning.
- The 20 page marketing website is contracted at $10,000, which is 1 month of work for 1 person.
- The 4 page web app, which helps hundreds of employees do their job better, is contracted at $40,000, which is 1 month of work for 2 people. One Webflow developer and one Wized developer.
In this speculative example, assuming all developers receive equal compensation, the web app has a better margin by 2x.
This is scenario serves as an example of how a Wized app can return higher margins for the same amount of work (1 month in this example).
It's important to note that actual results may vary significantly. These results can be dramatically higher or lower depending on many factors.
We’re seeing Wized projects deliver 4-5 times better margins when compared to Webflow-only projects.
Why are the margins so much better? As we talked about before, web apps justify big price tags and companies will pay because alternatives are more expensive. Companies need apps and they have money to develop them.
When we can sell value of the end product, we can ask for more money.
Make scaling less challenging
One of the most challenging aspects of scaling a bootstrapped business is having money to facilitate the growth.
This is why many companies seek external investment. Investors provide the necessary funds in order to scale operations.
When we choose not to go the investor route, we must generate the scaling funds ourselves.
Scaling a bootstrap business introduces a circular challenge.
- We need to make more money to hire people and attract more customers.
- We need to hire people and attract more customers to make more money.
With the resources (people) we have today, we want to increase revenue and improve profit margins. This results in additional scaling money that we can use to hire more people, attract more customers, and make even more money.
We believe Wized is a clear path to that outcome.
Scaling is always challenging. But it’s less challenging with the increased flexibility that is created with money.
Looking at success: BlackPeak
This article is not only theory. It's fact and it's happening. Not only do we see this scaling success with Finsweet, but with third-party Wized agencies too.
Let's look at Black Peak, the #1 Wized agency at the time of article. At the rate Black Peak is winning, it's hard to imagine another company will take over as #1.
Black Peak, led by Bailey Fisher, has been using Wized since it was released. Bailey was one of the first 100 users on the waitlist.
Before Finsweet acquired Wized, Bailey saw an opportunity in product support during the tool’s early days. Bailey saw the value in Wized and the importance of a strong support community around it. At the time, Wized was not able to provide the level of support that users needed. So Bailey taught himself Wized over the course of a month, became a pro at it, and started supporting the community. Badass move.
Because of Bailey’s knowledge in Wized, Black Peak is now growing very fast and healthy through offering Wized as a service. They're also community leaders, providing invaluable office hours to assist users with Wized, Xano, and Webflow web applications.
With Wized, Black Peak has scaled and transformed from a “mostly design and 3d agency” to a “full-stack web app development agency.” Black Peak now works with large and enterprise clients in adopting Wized for their web applications.
In the last 4 months, Black Peak has
- Hired 4 new team members
- Increased revenue by 300%
“Wized has been an instrumental application in Black Peak’s growth. Without it, we would still be building standard Webflow websites. But with it, we’re able to build wildly complex, feature-rich web applications in the fraction of time it would take with code.”
Black Peak’s next steps
- Continue building enterprise web apps with Wized, Xano, and Webflow.
- Expand Black Peak office hours support service.
- Grow Black Market and turn it into a revenue source for Black Peak.
Black Peak’s advice for people starting Wized
- Watch the videos in the Intelligence Center.
- Join Black Peak’s office hours.
- Get in the trenches and build a project from scratch! Trial and error is how we learn from our mistakes.