Despite what you might believe, building a digital agency doesn’t mean there’s no leverage…
Because one of the fastest ways to replace your high-paying job is to own a digital agency.
And when you have a leveraged digital agency, you can get the best of both worlds — a business that makes you great money without feeling like you’re a slave to it.
That’s what Pete and Renee have achieved in just a few short years.
They’ve built a highly leveraged digital agency while raising 3 kids, and the best part is — they now work just 3 days a week.
If you want to hear some of the lessons they’ve learned along the way, including how they’ve been able to put family first while they build a digital agency that’s on track to hit 7-figures in the next 18-24 months — click below to watch their interview.
See how Pete & Renee are building an award-winning Digital Agency while still putting their family first…
Liz Raad: Today, we’re talking about local website builds. So, we wanted to invite some very special Champion graduates who are always inspirational and a lot of fun to talk to.
We wanted to get an update on where they’re up to and what they’re doing now. And I think it’s very relevant as we’ve recently been talking to our Champion students about sales.
Pete and Renee can tell us about their sales process and how they found it, especially when starting out.
Matt Raad: And also, where it can lead to in the digital agency. I don’t know whether the guys were on, and they saw the latest BRW Rich 200 with King Kong and especially Go One; now it’s a billion-dollar company. They started here in Brisbane as a digital agency.
It’s funny how life takes you. So, let’s get them on and reminisce about their journey and how they started.
Liz: Yes, so a big welcome to Pete and Renee.
Pete: Hello, how are you?
Liz: We’re doing great thanks!
Taking Your Digital Agency Sales to the Next Level
From Humble Beginnings, Pete & Renee’s Digital Agency now earns them a minimum of $7,000 per website build…
Liz: So, we were just talking to our Champion students about getting out there starting to make some sales. We’d love to hear about the beginning of your journey because you now own a very successful large digital agency.
Matt: What’s your minimum charge these days for both website build and SEO? Or what are the average amounts that you’re charging now?
Renee: Would you say $7,000, Pete?
Pete: Yes, the average website build would be $7,000. And that includes content because we just don’t do it without content.
Liz: I find that really inspirational. Thinking back to when you started out, do you remember that very first website build? Can we take you back to you that first little website?
Matt: We’re laughing, but think about where the current Champions are at. They’re all sitting here thinking, “Oh my goodness, $7,000!” And they’re listening to how confident you guys are speaking about it.
Liz: You don’t get out of bed for less than seven!
Being paid to learn how to build websites, Pete & Renee are STILL earning ongoing income from their original clients …
Liz: So, what was it like right back at the beginning?
Renee: The perfect example would be when we started off with a friend who owned a hair loss business in Brisbane. It was a legit business. We built her website quite a while ago now. But then, but maybe two years later, she came back said, “Oh, I’d like to do some SEO with you guys.”
When we looked back at the website, we thought, “Oh my God. Look at that website. It’s horrendous!” But it really did show us how far we have actually come.
So, we rebuilt it for free because we said, “Oh wow, we can’t work on that.” Since then, she’s been doing ongoing SEO with us for around 4 years.
We’re currently doing another website build because she’s since rebranded and changed the direction of her business. Because hair loss is obviously changing. So we’re now doing a newer version of that and still doing the SEO for her. And she ranks very highly against Ashley and Martin and all of those big companies.
Liz: Awesome. Wow.
Renee: So it’s been quite a journey. Even when we look back on it, and we think, “Oh, my gosh, how embarrassing,” it really does show how far we’ve come. Even now that we’re rebuilding another site for him, it’s great to see, “Wow, look at what we did four years ago to what we’re up to now.”
Does charging $3,000 a month per client change the way you think about business?
Renee: So, lots has changed. But I think your question, Matt, was also about SEO. Our minimum SEO package is $2,000 – $2,500, but the majority average we have is $3,000.
Liz: A month.
Renee: Yes, that’s the average SEO per month.
Matt: For all our readers out there, stop and think about that for a minute. $3,000 a month in ongoing recurring revenues. Is anyone setting some goals here? Getting a bit of a lighthouse moment?
How Building A Digital Agency Provides A Laptop Lifestyle
Liz: Let’s touch on that in terms of building your digital lifestyle. I remember you guys saying, after being in employment where you were very much under the control of someone else. You didn’t have control over when you worked, or how you worked, or where you had to be.
But now, even though you have a big agency and a big business, there’s still flexibility there, isn’t there?
Renee: Definitely. And with our kids’ requirements, there are more and more things going on all the time.
So, I don’t work Tuesday afternoons and Thursday afternoons. And then we both take Friday lunch off so that we can have lunch together. And then it’s Fun Friday once we pick the kids up in the afternoon.
Liz: All right!
Renee: I’m only working two full days a week. And then the two other days are kids’ commitments and everything. And Pete does Thursday afternoons, often takes Friday afternoons off as well.
And then as it’s coming up to Christmas now with school, I think we’ve got three performances for the school this week during school hours. So we’re very lucky we can just take that.
Liz: Yes, you can go!
Renee: So, this week’s actually jam-packed – it’s two Christmas performances, a specialist appointment and two parent help-outs. So I’m not actually going to work much this week!
The moment Renee realized family needs to come before a career…
Liz: That’s so wonderful, isn’t it? Compared to, I always remember what you said when you decided to take this path because you wanted to be part of your kids’ lives.
Renee: Well, I went straight back to work after our oldest was born, and Pete took time off to care for her. And when we had our second child, it was like hitting a brick wall where I didn’t even know who my three-year-old was.
All I did back then was work from five till nine. It wasn’t nine till five. So, it was just a big reality hit. But today, our Digital Agency allows us to spend that quality time with the kids.
Liz: I really admire that. And I want to point out to our readers the discipline that it takes to create that schedule.
You are both purposely setting aside that time and saying, “Okay, no, I’m finishing work and I’m not sacrificing that time. I’m going to make that time available. Because that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’ve done this.”
Renee: Yes, definitely.
Building A Digital Agency That’s Ready for Corporate Buy-Out
There’s big money coming into Australia for Digital Agencies – are you ready?
Matt: I’ll point out the other thing to our readers, especially when reading stories like in the BRW magazine. Digital agency King Kong is absolutely blitzing it against these big digital agencies. We’re starting to see that more here in Australia, and guess what? They’re looking for agencies just like Pete and Renee.
Renee: Yes, those smaller agencies.
Matt: They’re looking for leading digital agencies in Australia just like Digital Surfer.
I’m speaking to all of us here as a community – when you hit seven figures in your digital agency, that’s when you’re a buyout target for a much bigger company. It becomes a lot easier for them to make the purchase.
Pete and Renee are not only excited about SEO and their agency, and that’s really cool. But I look at it from the point of view that they might actually get the tap on the shoulder from some publicly listed company somewhere down the line.
So a big congratulations on what you’ve created here. The added bonus here is that buying agents out there will know that you guys exist. My guess is that you’re probably already on their radar.
What if you don’t have to have all the skills to build a big successful Digital Agency?
Liz: The other inspirational thing, which I love, is that you guys really divide your roles, don’t you? Because Pete, how are you on the technical stuff?
Pete: That’s not much better than it was when we first met nine years ago!
Liz: But you know what you’re talking about, though?
Pete: That’s exactly right. I can go out and talk the talk. Here’s what I’ve found (and everyone should read this), the people you’re out there talking to know less than you do.
Don’t be concerned that you have to know it all because you don’t. You just have to employ some people who are smarter than you. I’m fortunate that Renee’s a lot smarter than me, and we’ve employed people who are even smarter. So you don’t need to be a technical wiz.
2 Tips to Boost your Digital Agency with Smart Marketing
Tip #1 – Branding on LinkedIn
Renee: I think two things have really boosted our business. The first is the branding we’ve done on LinkedIn.
One of our staff members was 28 when she joined us. She’s been with us for 2 years now. We said to her, “Right, we need to market on LinkedIn.” And she goes, “What’s that?” That’s only for old people, isn’t it?” But she said, “Ok, I’ll go and learn how to do it.”
Liz: That’ll work out.
Renee: She’s a wiz on all the social and all of that sort of thing. But anyway, she’s mastered LinkedIn for us. So, we get a lot of branding through LinkedIn.
Tip #2 – Create Case Studies of your Client Success Stories
The other huge thing that just seals the deal for us is our case studies. We have a large number of case studies on our website. But we take the extra step and get the clients to do a video testimonial.
Our case study pages have graphs from SEM Rush or Google Analytics.
Liz: Yes, showing the actual results.
Renee: We show the strategy that we’ve used, the results that we’ve had, and then also video testimonials.
Liz: That’s powerful.
Renee: Yes, it’s a big winner strategy. Even if you’re thinking, “Well, I’ve only got one or two websites,” you’ve got to start somewhere. So, get one or two case studies on your website and be proud of them. And then, as you build up, ask every client for a video testimonial.
Matt: I want to point out to our readers that Pete and Renee didn’t do this strategy in the early days because they couldn’t. They’re just like you; they started out small.
Remember to just build this up as you build your agency. Don’t think you have to go out there and do video testimonials and case studies straight away. Pete and Renee have only just come up with this idea in the last year or so.
In saying that, it’s an awesome tip to help leapfrog those of you who are already intermediate at running your local digital agency.
How Pete & Renee have Shaped their Online Business for Success
Liz: Awesome. And Pete and Renee are so confident, and we can really feel it within you. You know what is going to work for a client. And that will come across when you talk to a client.
One of the things that Champions often say to us is, “Well, I don’t want to do a digital agency because it’s not leveraged at all.” Well, look at what these two have done. They’ve set their intentions so strongly; they have made it work. They’ve shaped this business into what they want it to be.
I think that’s a really big lesson for everyone – YOU are in control of your life and your business. You don’t have to please everyone all the time. You will attract the people that are right for you and your business.
If you’re confident enough to get out there and just say, “Well, this is what we want. This is how we do stuff.” And if you’re confident in your ability to help people, then those people will appear. They’re the ones that end up working with you.
What lessons can you learn from your past clients?
Renee: Just adding to that, we have been through a big journey and taken on a lot of clients. But we always learn from it and say, “Do we want another client like that? Or do we not want a client like that?” If it’s not the type of client we want, we just never engage with a person like that again. We have also let some clients go along the way just because they’re not the right fit.
And, there are sometimes moments when it hasn’t worked out with clients and they’ve left us. But just like you would with a staff member, we always have an exit meeting with them to really find out:
- What weren’t they happy with?
- Where it went wrong?
- What can we learn from it?
I honestly believe that being open to failing at something is the key to actually going to that next step forward. – Renee Curran, founder of Digital Surfer
Renee: Pete is so easy going with that. He just says, “Oh yeah, we failed. Let’s move on.” It’s been really hard for me. I like to say, “Okay, why did we fail?”
That’s why we brought that process in to make it easy for me to understand if there was anything we could have done differently. Sometimes there just isn’t. Especially around COVID, a lot just left because of that.
Liz: Yes, it wasn’t your fault.
Learning to fail quickly allows you to grow more…
Renee: So, that’s just how you grow. You’ve got to be prepared that things aren’t always going to work. They’re not going to go in the best manner you wanted them to.
But I think clients actually really appreciate you sitting down with them and asking, “Why didn’t it work?”
Liz: Yes, they do.
Renee: They feel as though we still care for them.
Liz: That’s awesome. And for our readers – that’s a really important lesson. I think the words were, “It’s okay to fail and learn from the failure.” We’ve been doing some of that in the Champions workshop, learning how to fail.
Pete: It brings us back around to what we said at the beginning about having a lot in the funnel because some will eventually leave for whatever reason. And most of the time, that reason is not relevant.
But what’s important is once it’s been identified, it comes down to the time it takes you to move on. You can’t just sit there and dwell on it, you have to move on. Either you sit around crying over spilt milk for two months, or you can have a chat about it for three minutes and just move on.
That’s what I’ve just forgotten about it before. We haven’t even had the exit conversation with half of them and I’ve moved on. Because it’s about getting the next one that’s in the funnel.
Liz: It’s all about looking forward.
Pete: Yes. Moving forward.
Matt: That’s like me. I just move on and never look back. I don’t want to know what happened – I’ve already moved on.
Liz: Oh, what a team.
Pete & Renee Have Now Built An Award-Winning Digital Agency
Matt: Yes, you are a great team. That’s also because you guys are in the running for a pretty cool award, right?
Renee: The Australian SEM Rush awards for the best local SEO campaign.
Liz: Woo hoo!
Matt: You deserve it, being a trustworthy multi-award-winning digital agency in Brisbane.
Liz: Well, congratulations guys. Thank you so much for being with us. You can see in the comments, everyone saying how many awesome gold nuggets they just got.
Matt: You’re our Ultimate Champions!
Liz: We really appreciate you coming and spending some time with our readers. Now you can go back to the kids and organize your Christmas festivities.
We can’t wait to see you again and see you grow even further and watch Digital Surfer evolve.