It should come as no surprise to regular listeners that I take a very strategy-driven approach with my work. A little while back I connected with today’s guest, and as we chatted it soon became apparent that the “strategy first” approach is something we share, and that we both implement in our respective professions. Today, you’ll hear us chat about how strategy and branding come before a website — and how most people think of the website as a thing that leads those, but it’s truly just one piece of implementation.
I’m thrilled to be welcoming today’s guest: Kelsey Gilbert-Kreiling, the cofounder of Week of the Website. With over 700 successful site launches to date, Week of the Website aims to be the most creative, trusted and loved Squarespace agency for industry innovators. Week of the Website has worked with groundbreaking artists, industry innovators, game-changing political advisors, creative leaders and just all around awesome people.
Kelsey drives business development and sales for Week of the Website, and loves working with clients to help them synthesise their ideas and make them real. She’s all about breaking down barriers between her clients and their websites, and gets super excited to work on projects featuring authors, travel, hospitality and design, but also likes digging into innovation in professional services. As the Fearless Leader of the Week of the Website design team, Kelsey loves coaching and supporting developers as they help make their client’s website dreams come true.
When she’s not working, Kelsey loves spending time with her son and her husband in Chicago. Lately, she’s making her way through a cosy knitting project and reading The School for Good Mothers by Jessamin Ward.
TL;DR — episode links:
- Week of the Website
- Connect with Kelsey on Instagram
- Website planning toolkit — handy steps you can take to prepare to build your website either on your own or with a designer
Disclaimer: The following transcript has been auto-generated and then cleaned up – and while the general flow of the conversation is there, it’s probably not 100% accurate.
Petchy: Kelsey. Welcome to Brand it!
Kelsey: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Petchy: When we connected a little while back, it kind of instantly became apparent that we both root the work we do in strategy and that we then take that strategy and implement it. You through web design and myself through designing visual Brand identities. And so after that initial conversation, I think it took me all of about 3 seconds to think, hey, you know what? I should invite her on this new podcast. And here you are.
Kelsey: Yeah. I’m so happy to be here. When we connected, it was so fun to be so aligned in this understanding that there needs to be work that comes before the outcome. Right. And how we both have had kind of, like, shared challenges with explaining that to clients that we want to give you this really well formed deliverable, and we can’t do that without the foundational work of strategy that comes before it. So when you asked, I was like, we should obviously talk about how you have to kind of prep for these things so that you can have the best possible outcomes.
Petchy: Yeah, we did have a bit of a giggle about that, didn’t we? About how we did it. Our professional journeys have kind of been identical, just opposite, moving from a more generalist approach. And with you leaning into the web design thing and me ditching web design in favour of focusing more on the brand identity design. And it’s kind of same, same, but different, I guess.
Kelsey: Totally. And I think it’s fun because I don’t know about you, but I feel a combination of both. Sometimes a little bit of imposter syndrome is not the right word, but when people come to us, this sense of like, you want me to be able to do everything for you. But I have developed an understanding of how important these different pieces of one company or one person’s brand story are, that I just want clients to work with people who are really good at that part so we can shine at the thing we do. And so it’s always like an interesting dynamic where when clients come in and they’re ready to work with brand strategist, brand designer, and then have their website built by us because that’s what we specialise in, you just feel so good about it because you’re like, yes, you have everything you need to be successful. And in the inverse, it’s difficult when clients come to you and want you to be everything because you’re like, I want to be that, but I’m not.
Petchy: I think we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here. So before we dive in, I actually wanted to invite you to say hello and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Kelsey: Yes. So obviously you can tell Kanchi already that I’m, like, a dive in kind of person. Let’s just start talking. Let’s just have the conversation.
Petchy: I love it.
Kelsey: Yeah. A little background, as you said. I’m Kelsey. I am from Chicago in the US. In the great state of Illinois, and I am the co-founder of an eight and a half year old. I feel like a small child being like, eight and a half, eight and three quarters, but an eight year old web design agency called Week of the Website. And we build websites for creatives, for folks who have some real ambition and have things that they’re hoping to accomplish. We work with authors, we work with public figures. We do great work for professional services groups who want to feel like they’re getting the website of a creative or well known person. And we do it with this very specific process that is, I will say, very efficient. So we focus on having our clients really get on, boarded beautifully by our concierge PM team, project management team, so they can come into their website, build, ready to rock and roll. And we’re able to do that in two to four week web design sprints, depending on what the technical needs of the websites are. So we’ve been doing this process for closer to six and a half, seven years because it took us a little bit of time to find our way to how we like to work. But since we’ve been doing it, we’ve built over 700 websites. We use Squarespace as our foundation for those. And I can confidently say that we love what we do. Right. We have an amazing team, about 20 of us, right across the US. But myself, my business partner and our operations manager work out of an office here in Chicago.
Petchy: Awesome. That’s really inspiring to hear. And I think we’ve been in business for roughly the same amount of time as well. So I feel like we can relate to each other’s businesses in a way, and I definitely can relate to this whole sort of okay, working on your process and then landing it and then how easy everything feels when that happens.
Kelsey: Yeah, I mean, it just gives you a North Star, right? I think one of the things I found very difficult coming into the design industry was I think most people don’t really have a super nuanced understanding of the different facets of design. I don’t think people necessarily think if they’re going to start a business, they’re going to immediately think about like, well, what will people see if my business, right? I think it used to be very like, okay, I need a business card. That’s the first thing I need. Now, I think because everything is so online, a website comes to mind and people are like, okay, I need a website, so I need to hire a website designer. And kind of like we started talking about the beginning. I think there’s this expectation that if you hire a website designer for folks who are new to the space, they’re going to design your identity, they’re going to help you determine your brand, or you’ll have done all that stuff on your own in advance. And I think it’s really this, like, multilayered process. But at the beginning, we kind of wanted to be everything to everyone. And we experimented with a couple of different types of offerings, but mostly we were following this very kind of traditional process where we would meet with the client. We would have a discovery meeting, we would have a pitch. Then we would go through a kickoff and we would create a static rendering and we would take them through these processes that were how we had known that this industry worked instead of doing it in a way that made sense for our clients and for my co-founder’s and my personality. And so we did it that way, right where we were like, okay, we’re going to do wireframes, then we’re going to do static mock ups, then we’re going to do this. And we hated it because it was just like so many rounds of iteration before you even got to the part where people saw this living, breathing website. Most of our clients at the time were in hospitality, so they were in restaurants. These are people who do not have a lot of time to sit around looking at PDFs. They are trying to open a restaurant. They’re trying to get things moving really fast. And that process didn’t work. So we really took a step back and kind of listened to ourselves and really tried to come up with a process that used our chosen CMS to its best ability to kind of move into that more iterative design process that also let us work in two to four weeks. I think it’s been an interesting process of getting there, but beyond now, we have the rules in place. And the way I describe it to folks is, look, we don’t put structure around this to diminish creativity. The purpose of the structure is to take it so that you can use your creativity in the places that matter. No one needs to be creative about creating a content outline. It is an outline. You can use a’s, B’s, C’s, ones, twos, threes, or bullet points, but that’s it. There’s not a lot of creativity in outlining, right? There does not need to be any creativity in booking meetings. There doesn’t need to be any creativity in answering questions like, where is your site hosted? And so the goal and the idea is to focus folks’ creative energy and attention into the things that really matter.
Petchy: You can actually spend your time, your creative time doing exactly the creative tasks that actually matter.
Kelsey: Exactly. I don’t want anyone’s brain power being used on nonessential tasks. And so yeah, that’s kind of how we ended up in that more rigid structure. And part of that is that we ask our clients to come ready with logo brand, image images, and a lot of those are assets that they probably don’t expect to need. But when they look at our portfolio and say, I want a website like this, I want a website like that, it all starts with having done that strategy and that preparation in advance of what we’re going to create together.
Petchy: I think you’ve actually started to answer a question that I had for you already, which is when I first started fully embracing that whole sort of strategic approach in my work, that obviously meant that I wasn’t going to take on the, oh, can you just do me a quick logo of projects anymore? Which in turn, kind of meant more client involvement. And that meant I often used to get that, oh, I don’t have time for this. I just want to pay someone to do it for me. And that was the kind of response that I would get, definitely. I’m guessing that you’ve experienced some pushback around that too. And like, I was going to ask you how you handled it, but it sounds like you’ve already kind of answered it partially anyways.
Kelsey: Well, I think, yeah, it’s funny that you ask that because we just had that situation come up with someone like the end of last week, and we try to think a lot about how to do right by our clients, like, truly right by them. And I think the hard part of this and you’re a parent as well, so you know that sometimes doing right by someone does not mean giving them what they want. Unfortunately for us, we have people come to us and say, hey, I don’t think I need your full week of the website package. I just need a landing page.
Petchy: Our listeners cannot see this, but I’m nodding here.
Kelsey: Could we do that? Do we have the technical skill and ability to do that? Definitely. But time and time again, every time we’ve broken that process to just accommodate that smaller project. What we found is that it’s a worse experience for the client because we’re set up to work in a certain way. And when we work that way, we’re amazing at it. Right. We’re really good at doing that. When we don’t work in that way, we don’t have processes, procedures, check ins. Like we don’t have the structure to keep things on track. And so it means we cannot do what we promised people that we do, which is to give them a very transparent, positive, uplifting, refreshing web design experience. It becomes rushed, it becomes last minute, it becomes lowest on the priority list. And I just don’t want to give that to people. So, yeah, it’s hard to sometimes say no because you’re like, I know, you know, I could do this. But the truth is we have a standard for the product that we want to put out there, and we’re not able to meet that standard with that raw material or with that time. And I think for us it is funny because we’re Week of the Website. So I’ll get on sales calls with people and then be like I’ll say, when do you want the website to be live in the world? And they’ll be like, yesterday. And I’ll say, okay, I have a lot of calls with people where people literally mean yesterday because they Googled like, website in a week and they want to start on Wednesday and have a site on Friday. And they’re always a little surprised when I talk them through the fact that there is some foundational work that they do and there is some prep that needs to happen, but it’s for their benefit. I don’t know. It’s vegetables, no one likes to eat their vegetables. But unfortunately I’m like, you have to have the broccoli before I can give you cake. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is.
Petchy: I mean, I’m a bit of a rebel and I’m all for breaking a few rules, but if you start at the wrong end of things, it’s just not going to lead to a good end result is what I’ve learnt. And I think it’s taken me quite a few years to find the confidence to actually say that and to be like, do you know what? I would love to help you, but I can’t. Kind of thing came across a situation like this just a few weeks ago where I’d sent a proposal to someone quite a while back and all of a sudden they were like, okay, so now we’re ready to start. Could you come by? We’ll have a startup meeting. And I’m like, okay, well, it’s been a while since I sent the proposal. Don’t you think I should drop by? We can have a chat about your current needs and see if that offer is still what you actually need. And as it turns out, they just wanted me to not do any of the strategic work, not do any of the foundational identity design work. They just wanted me to do PowerPoint presentations and a few templates for their adverts. And here’s me trying to politely but firmly explain that, you know what, the prices that equated you for the general design work, they can’t happen unless we do this thing first. I can go away and I can put together a proposal for you for just these things. But you will see that the price is going to be the same. Because I will be working on this without my toolbox. And it will take me a long time to gather something together. And it probably won’t be very good either. And so at the end of the day, I said to them, look, I don’t do standalone design work for people, I haven’t worked on more foundational pieces with them. Just getting to the point where I could confidently say that you have no idea how many years it took to get there.
Kelsey: But yes, I think as an emerging entrepreneur or a designer or strategist at anyone, I think it’s very hard to sometimes listen to talks like this with people who are at the eight, five plus years of business. Because there is a period of time in your business where, I mean, being realistic about it. You don’t want to turn down work because you need to get experience. But I think you and I are both in the phase of business where you know what you do well, you know what it takes to be really good at what you do. And it requires that you sometimes make those hard choices to say no to things because you know it won’t be able to be what it can be. What I tell people all the time because when you have these conversations, they say like, well, why wouldn’t you just do it? Why won’t you just take the work? Money is good. I think what it comes down to is that selectivity means that you are actually growing in the direction you want to grow rather than remaining static in the place you are. And so it’s very much sometimes a matter of making those difficult calls. And sure, you can bend the process. You can always be in charge of your own decisions, right? If a client comes along that you love and you feel inspired by them and you know that you can rock it out for them, you’re your own boss, right, in theory. So you can do whatever you want. But our process and petty, I don’t know if you’re this way at all, but I feel like our process has sort of been developed to guide my business partner and I away from our own worst instincts, right? Like, worst is not the right word, but I tend to be a bit of a people pleaser, right? I love for people to be happy. I want everyone to feel fulfilled and they got everything they needed. My business partner is a total rule breaker. She’s the kind of person who looks at life and takes the list of things that you’re supposed to do, throws it out the window and really connects with what she feels like is going to make her best life experience. So she’s like a world traveller and she’s amazing. But we both have created this very rigid process that guards against our own instincts that would make us not as good of providers for our clients, which I think is very funny right here. We’ve built our own little world, our own little bubble in our own little universe to keep us from leaning into the things that would make it harder to do our own jobs. And now, of course, we pass that on to our team where it’s like, hey, I need you to use restraint. I know that you’re creative, I know that you just want to dive into this, but what I need you to do is take a step back and make sure that we’re accomplishing what we set out to accomplish rather than following your own whims as a designer. And I think that’s where strategy comes into play, right? You know this. I know this. It’s very easy to just take whatever path looks the most interesting and the most attractive when you’re working on a project. But when you have established a strategy, that means you’re going in the right direction, you’re not taking the scenic route. That’s going to take you a roundabout way to where you want to go. It’s the foundation that you put in place to make sure you end up where you need to be. And I think that that’s what is so important about having our clients go through brand, strategy, position, all of these other steps before they even get to having graphic design, web design, any of that external stuff. Because at the end of the day, I love what we do, but I think of what we do as a deliverable and as an outcome of strategy and branding, not nothing in and of itself. And I know you feel that way too, but I’m kind of curious for you, like, what is that process like for your clients when you talk to them about establishing that strategy?
Petchy: Well, I think well, like you, I have a very sort of streamlined process now that I take people through, and it’s very repeatable. So, yes, my clients are all very different. They’re from different industries. Some are big companies, some are like solo companies, but the process is the same for all of them. And I think the thing with setting boundaries, like, I love the sort of parenting analogy that you made earlier, it’s brilliant, really, because you know what’s best for the client. They don’t necessarily know it themselves. And so having that confidence, and that definitely helps in setting those boundaries for me.
Kelsey: Yeah. Well, I think you’ve done so many times, right? They’ve done it, let’s be generous, maybe five times. Let’s assume they’ve done this a lot in their career. They’ve done it five times. You have so much more experience doing it, and this, for many people, will be the only time they do it. So it’s like, I want to help you.
Petchy: Yeah. And also, I’m kind of curious to know if you’ve experienced the same thing that I have here. But obviously you have some clients who are going to go elsewhere. When you try and order well, when you tell them: look, this is how I work. And you’re just going to have to deal with it because this is my process and I know it works. That has sent some clients into the welcoming arms of other designers for me, I’m sure it has for you as well. But I think that’s okay because I just wasn’t I wasn’t the right fit for them at that point in time. But the good thing about this is the ones who chose to trust me and to trust the process and to actually invest their time as well as their money, they are the clients who have ended up having those real eye opening moments, those defining moments. Do you find that as well ?
Kelsey: 100%. I have often said that if we’re looking at, like, an arc of clients or like, you know, a selection of them, if on one side you have people who care a lot and have a lot of opinions and have a very specific vision of what they want, that is very good for us and we can roll with that. On the other hand, if we have people who are really ready to give themselves over to the process, to just trust their team to really buy into being led by their provider, also very good. It’s the people in the middle who either think they don’t have strong opinions but find out that they do, or people who have strong opinions but can’t articulate them that are the most difficult to make happy. And I’m not saying they’re the most difficult clients. I’m saying they’re the most difficult clients for us to help feel really secure. Because unless you’re either really in control or really willing to give yourself over, I think in that middle wedge, it becomes really difficult to feel like the engagement is successful. Because if you don’t know what you want, we can’t know what you want. And I think that I’m always fine with people going to other providers because at the end of the day, our goal with marketing and sales is not to talk people into our process because what we do is very specific. It is not for everyone. We have a whole section on our website that’s like are we for you? Because if you can’t make iterative decisions, if you’re not open minded, if you’re not willing to go along with the process, if you’re not able to really commit to it, we’re not going to make you feel successful because we’re really not for everyone. And I think over the years when clients say, hey, I’m going to go in a different direction, there was another provider that was just a better fit for me. I think: good for you, like good for you for knowing what you need. And we say no to a lot of clients like not because we’re trying to be exclusive, not because we’re trying to build ourselves up, but I think it’s because we don’t want to promise something we can’t deliver. If someone comes to us and they have expectations that we’re going to take care of their brand strategy, that we’re going to be able to build them a branding suite as a part of their two week web design engagement, I can’t say yes to that because it’s not going to be what they want. And so we regularly tell people, like, hey, I think this project would be a better fit. And I love referring people, I love sending people to the right person, because if I can make that match, that feels almost as rewarding as doing the project ourselves. Because I know too, this is well, touchy, but that person is going to probably come across someone in the future who’s like, I need a website in two weeks. I have everything ready, but I just need someone to build it, make it awesome and make it live. And they’re going to go, I know exactly who you should talk to. Right? Because it’s just all about finding that match for people.
Petchy: Yeah, that’s the great thing about referrals and having people in your network that you can send people to — you don’t have to disappoint people. I hate disappointing people.
Kelsey: I hate letting people down.
Petchy: So if they come to me and they’re like, oh, and I want you to do my website and I want you to do this and I want you to do my PowerPoint presentation. I hate PowerPoint. I’m not touching PowerPoint. I won’t do it. But like if I can then say, look, I personally don’t do this because it’s not my zone of genius, but I know someone who would be the perfect fit then setting that boundary and kind of sticking to it, it’s easier as well and the client is going to get a better result.
Kelsey: You’re the first person that has ever said the phrase zone of genius to me. I think it’s so accurate because it’s like everyone is good at different things and I love describing, I love actually the idea of using that with a client of like, hey, you know what, this is just not our zone of genius. You should talk to so and so because I think that that is way better than we don’t want to take your project because you’re not a fit for us. It’s like what we do.
Petchy: And also, I think we all have the potential to be reasonably good at quite a few things if we put our minds to it. But if we just stick with that one thing that we have a gift for and really hone in on it, then we’re going to get so much better at it and our clients are going to get better results and it’s just yes. Don’t have a little side note here?
Kelsey: Now I know that no, I’ll go on that side note with you ever, always. Because I also think, like, that takes a lot of courage as a small business. So we had this other engagement type up until this summer. It was called our week of the website Light and it was like updates to an existing Squarespace site over the course of three calls and people loved it. Petchy like we booked so many of these when we had it, but because of the price point, what we could charge for that engagement and the time that it took from our team, there was just like this fundamental mismatch that we were essentially losing money on every one of those. I will be the first to say I really struggled with the decision to let go of that engagement type. And my business partner and our advisors took a look at the numbers and took a look at everyone’s experience with it and said, hey, this is costing you. Not even just financially, but like in a sale from top down, these are harder to sell. They take longer to close. The clients tend to be a little bit higher maintenance. It’s harder to adapt to existing sites rather than building them fresh. It was something that was very good for us, but very bad for us, and it was hard to let go of that, and then it was very hard to tell clients no when we know we’ve offered this in the past. But I think after committing to letting that go, everyone around us was right that we had to be brave enough to focus on the things we did really well. On the flip side, we’ve doubled down this year on really asking clients to come prepared. And if they don’t have strategy, if they don’t have logos, if they don’t have brands, unless it’s a really specific scenario, we ask them to partner with one of our amazing people in our referral network to do that work first and then come back to us so that we can give them the websites they’re telling us that they want. And I have found that to be so fulfilling and so rewarding, because not only do we have better raw materials to work with when they do come to us to execute their website, but we’re able to work with some of these incredible providers to then bring their vision to life, which is double fun, right? You get a happy client, and then you also have someone who built a really cool brand that gets to see it come to life with people that they trust. And I think it’s made our work so much more fulfilling. It’s just been awesome. It’s been good, but it was very hard to do that. And I’m, you know, I’m very, like, cautious and delicate, and I want to, like and I want to rock the boat, and I’m scared that the business will fail and then what will I do? And making those hard choices has gotten us to a more sustainable place.
Petchy: Yeah. And that’s Week of the Website, then, I take it. Talk to me a little bit about that. How does your process work? You know, obviously your clients need to come prepared. Then you work through strategy with them before you even start designing the actual website. How do you work with your clients? What’s the process like?
Kelsey: Yeah, so kind of the lifecycle of our work is: a client will come to us, we have them fill out some intake questions, and then we do what would technically be seen as a sales call, but I think it’s more of a matching conversation. I leave those with my operations manager, Katie, where we really talk to the client about, what do you need, what are you looking for, what’s your timeline, what are your expectations, what are some sites that you love? What are some things that you don’t like so that we can really get a picture for what that looks like? And then we scope out our approach to their process. So we use our core week, the website structure, to guide everything in terms of what’s included. But we kind of get into the details in our proposals about specific features that they’ve asked for. If they decide that we’re a fit for them, we start getting them onboarded and we ask that they provide us with a content outline. We give them a template that they’ll go ahead and fill in if they need support with copy. We have someone internally who can do some hourly work with them to help polish and bring things together a little bit more. We ask them to provide us with brand guidelines if they have them. If not, we have them fill out a little bit of a brand strategy worksheet. But I’ll be honest with you, that is a very rare scenario. More clients than not, we’re telling them like you really should have this with someone else who’s really good at this. So at that point we’ll kind of guide them in that direction. We have them provide us with images, assets. If they need help pulling some of those things together, we’ll have more of a conversation with them about what they’re looking for. Because of the nature of our work, a lot of our clients are looking for some assistance when it comes to selecting stock photography and we can do that but really try to guide them through the things that they will want to have in advance. Our team then goes through and preps. We do a pre-project briefing with everything the client has put together. We do some inspiration research to make sure that we all come to the table. And then I think the most important part of the process is our kickoff call, where we go through all of that, we review what we have and we ask a lot of questions. What about this is important to you, what do you want to see in this section? What do you absolutely need clients to know in this part of the site? And then we get started in building so it moves really fast. They do get a link to the site in progress starting on Tuesday morning. So we start on Monday with that kickoff call. Our team starts building Tuesday. They see the link to the site in progress and they have access to a copy and change notes document where they can add their feedback. And then we do design review calls each day of that week, driving towards having the website completed by Friday. So when we say we need people to be ready, it’s because we’re going to work really fast and we’re going to work really deep, really quickly. So Friday we aim to have the website done. They have until Tuesday of the next week to give us the last round of changes. And then the following Friday we train and launch the site, train them on the site and launch it. So it’s rigid in the structure during the week. But ideally, if everyone shows up with everything they need to have, great, let’s bring it to life. Let’s not waste time. Let’s not let days and weeks go between rounds of iteration. Let’s do it now. I think it’s very fun. It can be kind of intense, but our goal is to be incredibly transparent throughout the entire process, to be very caring with our clients in a true way. Like not just nice, but caring and asking them to be prepared with that strategy and those elements. And I think the outcome can be exciting for them.
Petchy: Obviously, this is a co-creation. I guess while you’re working on it, you are the ones who are doing the technical implementation and the actual design work. But at the end of the day, it has to be co creation with the client. It has to be how it works for me as well. And I think that’s something that’s worth being aware of. For people who are looking to invest in either having a brand identity designed or a website set up, you’re going to have to expect to do some work yourself and you’re probably going to be asked some questions that you might not have the answers to, and digging deep to find the answers to give them to your service provider could be a bit challenging, and you could feel some resistance around it as well. So I think a lot of the frustrations in the design industry, whether it’s web design or identity design or other design, stems from clients coming to us without those realistic expectations because they don’t know they haven’t done this. And so I kind of see it as our role to guide them and tell them, look, this is what we need from you, this is why we need it, and then just take it from there. I love what you said about how you care about your clients throughout the process as well because that tells me that you’re in it for more than just the quick cash exchange.
Kelsey: Definitely. I think for web especially, people will come to us. And one thing we haven’t really dug into is I’m obsessed with building websites people can actually use once they leave us. I cannot stand when people go through all the time and trouble to build something that they then cannot update themselves. That is half of why we use Squarespace as a platform because I think it fits beautifully at the intersection of custom design, but regular person usability, like nontechnical usability. One of the hardest conversations that we have with clients every week is they will ask for a feature that they’ve seen somewhere on the Internet that they think is cool or will help them accomplish their goals or whatever. And we know that we can do it, but that it will mean it’s harder for them to update or it won’t really get what they want their user to do, get the user to do what they want them to do or is going to be otherwise disruptive to the longevity and the life cycle of the website. And I think those are the most challenging moments, and I try really hard to get our team to use that as kind of that guideline is tell me what you’re actually asking. What do you want to have happen here? Because there’s a lot of ways we can accomplish those goals without just giving the client what they ask for and just giving them what they want without taking any of that future experience into consideration. We build websites for people who are in business. It is very rare that we build a website for someone that’s just like a fun project. And that means that these websites need to be tools, and if you can’t use a tool, it’s not useful. So I think that’s one of the hardest moments of being caring instead of nice is sometimes having to push back on that and say, I don’t think that that’s going to be what you want in the long run, which is sometimes, yes.
Petchy: I feel this so hard because people are like, well, I just want it to look pretty. And so and so has this kind of feature. And I like that. And I’m like, well, I don’t care what you like. I care about you, and I care about what you want and the goals that you want to achieve, but I really don’t care about your personal taste. That’s not my concern. We need to leave my personal taste and your personal taste at the door because we’re going to figure out how we are going to actually get the job done with the work that we’re going to do together. And so I think there’s a lot of overlap in the way that we work with our partners.
Kelsey: Yeah. And I think, too, it kind of depends on how far people are into the lifecycle of their business. So if you’re working with someone who’s a solo entrepreneur, the line between who I am and who my business is, is blurry. And I think the deeper that people get into the life of their business, the more it’s easier to see your business as a separate entity from yourself, your concept of your own identity. Like, to me, I’m Kelsey, and Week of the Website is Week of the Website. The aesthetic of the business is not mine. And the brand, it’s influenced by me and it’s a part of me, but it’s not me. Like what we could say or do or the way it would exist as an entity isn’t what Kelsey would do. And I think it’s very hard to help people understand that until they’ve lived through it and gotten to the point where they feel comfortable with that separation. Because when you start a business, you put so much of yourself into it. You pour your time, your energy, your mental capacity, your resources. And so when you’re deciding what it should look like and sound like and how it exists in the world, those questions are very hard to answer. We just did a positioning engagement, and there were hard days where I was just like, I don’t want to do this because I don’t want to answer these questions. I’m a relatively new mom. Where do I see myself in five years? Ideally at a spa. Like, I want to go on vacation. I mean, I joined it, and I think it took some really hard personal work to put a wedge in between me and Week of the Website. And so I think that’s why, Petchy, what you say about your personal preferences are not really necessarily at play for us, I think, to bring this full circle. That’s why when we have clients who have done that deep, slower, more intentional, harder work of identifying who is their business, what does it sound like? What does it look like? What does it feel like when we have those materials to work with? We can go so much further, so much faster. Because the truth is, you cannot do that kind of work in a ten day engagement. You can’t. I own that. I’m comfortable with that as a concept that we don’t do that kind of work for clients. Gosh, is it hard to explain that to them in a sales call? It’s so hard to be like, how much time have you spent with the existential question of who you are versus your business? People like, I don’t understand. I want a website on squarespace.
Petchy: So what would you say are the biggest differences, though, between the people who come to you and have spent a lot of time thinking about the underlying strategy and who they are and what they want to stand for and the kind of image they want to put out in the world through the website? And the people who haven’t done that.
Kelsey: Thought work, I will tell you that when you haven’t done that thought work, when you haven’t really dug into those deeper questions about what you are trying to accomplish, decisions are much harder to make. And I think that is really what it comes down to, is when you don’t know what your goals are, when you don’t know what you’re trying to say, when you don’t know how you want your brand to be reflected. When we ask you about colour palette or we ask you about type styles and choices, you are picking from the whole world. You are picking from every thought you’ve ever had about your business. You’re picking at random, essentially. Whereas if you come in and you’ve done the work with someone like yourself, Petchy, you know, what voice does your brand speak in? What are the colours? What is the imagery style? Do you use illustration? All of those little tiny things that go into determining how our brand looks and feels in the world. When we ask you those questions, you’re not picking at random. You’re going back to the work that you’ve already done and saying, oh, yeah, our brand voice is to steal a little bit from our own. Right. Like, we’re the coolant, but we also want people to feel joyful and encouraged. We want them to feel excited and interested, but also like, we’re taking them seriously. You can give those to our team, and we can go, great, perfect. Thank you so much. And we can help you make those choices. We cannot do that deep work with them. But the clients who’ve made those inroads already, it’s so much easier for them to say, yes, no, that needs to be different. This is how I want to see that. And then it’s also really cool to see them be amazed by what our team can extrapolate from all that hard work that they’ve done. Because seeing someone else take your vision and take all the hard work you’ve put into that strategy and make it real and make it something they can see beyond, like, so fun.
Petchy: Yeah. I like to say that I quite frequently make my clients cry, but it’s not for bad reasons. I think it just gets overwhelming. Like, they put all this hard work in, and then maybe they’ve felt the resistance, and I still made them ask themselves the hard questions so that I could take that and translate it into a brand identity. And when they see that and they feel like, oh, wow, it’s like she was in my head, it becomes a little bit overwhelming. And some of them actually get a bit tearful. When they get tearful, that’s when I know I’ve done a good job.
Kelsey: And I think if we think about the life cycle of our businesses and how they kind of align right. I feel like the process that you take your clients through, you’re helping them bring all of that outside of their brains. You’re helping them put that down on paper and articulate in there.
Petchy: They already have all these answers. They just want to help them to extract it and articulate it, and then that way, they can then hand it over to me or to someone like you to make it come alive.
Kelsey: And that’s just cake. That’s the best part. But you can’t get to that without. Or you could have a Pop Tart. You could have, like, a less fulfilling dessert. It’s probably going to be fine. But do you want fine?
Petchy: Some people are okay with fine. Some people want excellence. What could we say?
Kelsey: Fine is fine. There’s plenty of fine things.
Petchy: Yeah. But it’s also about where you are in your business at that point in time. Not everybody needs to have a very sort of strategic thing. Maybe you just want to put something out to them just to test it. And that’s not the kind of scenario that we’re talking about. We’re now talking more about people who are ready to take that next step and they really want to be serious about what they put out into the world.
Kelsey: Can I be really honest with you about that as someone who even in their own business telling people to do this work? Like, we were three years into our business before we worked with an actual branding agency because we just couldn’t afford the level of investment that it needed. And we were eight years into our business before we really dug into our positioning and how we talk about what we do. I really wish we did it earlier.
Petchy: Yeah. But the reality for most businesses is that, well, I don’t have a rich uncle ready to just pour money into my company. So I was the same and I’m still the same. Like, there are things I want to invest in for my business that I know would help me no end, but I just can’t afford it right now. I have to prioritise differently and I mean that’s okay. And also, I think even like just three years ago or five years ago, I don’t think I was in that place in my business where it would make sense to make such a huge investment in things. So that could also come into play, I think.
Kelsey: Yeah, well, and I think that’s true. Like, you and I are talking about our ideal clients, right, our ideal situation. The truth of the matter is for as often as we have clients who come to us, hear about what it takes to build a website and then say, oh, okay, I got to go back to do that with my brand and strategy and alignment. We have just as many clients who say, you know what, I’m going to do it myself. I’m going to build out your outline and I’m going to pull some images and I’m going to tell you some colours that I like. And we are able to build beautiful websites that are reflective of what they give us during the time that we have. I’m going to put together for folks who listen to this kind of like, a website toolkit that is going to guide them through a little bit of the prep that we would want our clients to be ready with even if they were doing it on their own. And I think that’s something that I don’t want this to feel inaccessible to people, because I think at the end of the day, we love helping people have their I say, like their second website, right? They maybe threw the first one up on their own, but then they’re ready to go for the second iteration with some professional. But I think everyone has to start from somewhere and some of the things that we use tools and just like, approaches, it’s not like rocket science. So I’m going to put together a little guide that’s just like, here are some places to find images that are free and can help you find things. Here are some places where you can look at type styles. Here are some things that you can do if you aren’t in a place yet to be able to afford going through this incredible process with someone like Petchy, here’s how you can still prepare and do a little bit of that work on your own that you can do to get to that kind of minimum viable product. And I think that that’s always good for people to know. This is a process to aspire to, right? Anyone who doesn’t have a funded business. It’s a dream to be able to be like, all right, I’m going to spend this time doing strategy, and then I’m going to do all this design, and then I’m going to invest all this time in a website, and then I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that. You and I both know the reality is often different.
Petchy: It’s not a linear process. Even for me, I work with branding. I still needed that time in my head for things to mature, for my own idea of what I want my business to be to mature. I think as this episode airs, I would probably have just launched a couple of weeks ago, the third iteration of my own brand. So it’s like you’re never immune to it. It’s an evolution, it’s not a revolution. It’s like I needed to be clear in my mind, like, what do I want? And then things happen and things change a little. And so even for someone who works with branding on a daily basis, that needs to happen. That process needs to happen. And that’s why I think you can do it overnight. I think it’s good that you don’t do this sort of deep strategy work within the ten days, because I think the people you work with, they need more than ten days to brew on things.
Kelsey: Absolutely. And I think sometimes our team has gotten very good about taking very small pieces of information and synthesising them into something bigger. I love that about each and every one of our designers, and it’s something that we really hire for, is the ability to really start with a kernel of an idea and grow it. But it’s so constant, the change in businesses. It doesn’t surprise me to hear you’re on round three, because your business is always changing. This is what we tell people. Like, it’s not a solid state. It is a living, breathing thing. And I think that you have to find your footing. Absolutely. You got to figure out what’s right for you.
Petchy: Yeah, you just need to find confidence to actually say, hey, this is who I am, and not to kind of doubt yourself about it. And when you get to that point, that’s when you kind of know you’re ready to maybe start looking into working with someone like yourself.
Kelsey: Yes, exactly. You should just have the one two punch. You work with Petchy first and do all of that good, deep, gorgeous work, and then when you’re done, you can come back over to team Week of the Website and you could just get the whole Brand it! with Petchy experience and I know who to send people on to now.
Petchy: We could stay on and chat probably for a hundred years or two, but I think all good things also must come to an end. And so I always ask my guests before we round off if they have like one tip. So if there was one thing that you want our listeners to remember from.
Kelsey: Today, I think the big tip is that you and your brand are worth taking the time. I think wherever you are, whatever stage of the process that you’re in, it is always easy to feel that sense of urgency. As someone who runs a time based business, I understand that. But every time we have a client who’s taken the time to find out who they really are, who their business is and what they want to share with the world, it is always, always going to be a better outcome and a better process. It’s hard to sometimes feel like you deserve that time where you can take that time, but it’s worth it when you do it.
Petchy: It’s definitely worth it. So tell us where people can find you if they want to connect with you or maybe even have you work on their website.
Kelsey: Yeah, so week of the websitesite.com is the best way to find out about us. We didn’t really touch on this, but we do totally transparent pricing, so you can go online and see everything about what’s included in our processes and how they work. You can reach out to us there and you will probably end up on a call with me or Katie. I am going to be putting together a website prep toolkit for your listeners. So go to weekofthewebsite.com/petchy and we’ll have that file there for you and then we’re on Instagram too. My cofounder does it. It’s really fun. We have some good stories and show a little bit of the behind the scenes of the office, so that’s probably the best place to find us.
Petchy: Got a love a good behind the scenes. Thank you so much for joining me today. I really enjoyed our conversation and I hope now that people have a deeper understanding of what it actually takes to be ready to take that next step and put themselves out there on the interwebs.
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Until next time,
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