Design Domination Podcast Episode #34: Crafting a Custom Package Solution

Amy Celona and I talk about how she came up with the idea to craft a custom web design package for her audience, how it solves her audience’s problems and how she made it profitable. She also talks about how she gets little pushback with design changes and saves time on proposals.

Amy CelonaAmy Celona has been the owner/founder of Webs By Amy, LLC since 2005. She is a self-taught graphic designer and WordPress whisperer. Her business grew out of wanting to stay at home and raise her own kids, coupled with needing a web presence/blog for her own direct sales business (which is how she originally thought she would make money). Her success building her own website and brand grew into designing, setting up and maintaining WordPress sites for her fellow paper crafters and then doing websites for direct sales coaches and small businesses.

These days, Amy offers custom WordPress site design, setup and marketing services for solopreneurs; fully managed WordPress hosting for business bloggers; and template-based WordPress packages for bloggers who want to do what they love—and not get drowned in the tech.

Colleen Gratzer: Welcome to the podcast, Amy. I’m so glad to have you here.

Amy Celona: Hey, Colleen. Thank you for having me.

Colleen: So I think of you like the “package princess.” I want to get all this information out of you today.

Amy: Well, that’s scary.

Colleen: So first I want to know how you ended up even deciding to offer packages.

Amy: So the idea came out of, I guess, my own experience setting up my own site. Back before I did the WordPress setup/design/hosting back in 2005, I was a direct seller in this niche, and I wanted my own blog. I wanted to show off my designs. I wanted to take registrations, I wanted to build a following. I did so well for me, my friends wanted me to do it for them.

It kind of started as a joke. I built the reseller hosting in it because I wanted to take control over the whole thing. You know, hosting is half of the battle of having a good WordPress site. I found that people with, you know… I’d say, “Sign up for the hosting,” and I would do the design work. Well, if they had crappy hosting, it just made it that much harder for me.

So, on one end, WordPress is not as easy as it claims to be. You know, installing a beautiful theme that ends up looking nothing like the sample, and each theme—forget about it—has its own quirks. You can mess with it for months and plugins. What plugins do you use? The plugins that you need. Who’s saying what you need to do or what you need to use? The plugins are all working well and then you have to upgrade WordPress and suddenly there’s conflicts.

So, I did this at first—I set up and I customized themes. They’d pick a theme out. I’d customize it, do the graphics, but it took a lot of hours. Each site took a lot of hours and the finished product maybe wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. So I found that it was not—at this price point in this niche, which is all they could afford— for me to make them happy, it wasn’t cost effective to me and ultimately not sustainable. But didn’t want to stop.

But I did. I stopped designing in that niche for a while. I was still coasting. I had about a hundred clients, but I wasn’t taking on design work—or I didn’t for about six years. I branched out. I had some regular clients. I was doing graphic work, marketing and working, managing their WordPress sites, working almost exclusively for them.

But, you know, in this niche, I still had hosting clients. They wanted makeovers. And, quite frankly, I had to send them elsewhere. But I wanted to come up with a solution. And I did, about two years ago, and I perfected it over the last year. I dug deep into how I can deliver faster and giving them a package that included, overall, everything that they would need to be successful.

Colleen: Now, do you find that having these packages for a particular audience makes it easier for them to say yes, like when you’re selling them?

Amy: Absolutely. Well, it is an entire package. It’s more of an à la carte. So, I have a package, but you could break it down. Depending upon what somebody is willing to spend, I show you, “This is what you need. You need this, you need this, you need this.” Generally, they agree with me and so this is what it’s going to cost. You could have this or you could have that.

So while it is a package, it’s setup and hosting maintenance and all that, but there are things that they can add on to it. So it’s not like it’s this package or this package or this package. It’s “I have a package, and you can add or remove what you’d like from it,” and that’ll affect the price or if this is something you want to do down the line.

Colleen: Now, how did you decide how to price your packages, you know, to make sure that they were going to be profitable and also attractive to your niche?

Amy: I chose the price based on the amount of time it would take me to customize one of those templates and still have it be profitable for me. So what that made me do was to take the template out to the degree of “it satisfies your need for this, it satisfies your need for this, for this, for this, this points to this, this encourages opt-ins.”

So I break it all out for them and then they can decide. For some people, I think that the price point is really, really easy, especially for those people who have tried to do it themselves and they have wasted, in some times, a better part of a year trying to get something online. There’s nothing workable online, or it’s online and it does not meet their needs and it doesn’t represent what they want to put forward to the public.

I think that it will discourage somebody looking to, “Oh, I want to set up a blog.” So the pricing is high enough for me to make it worth my while to do it. But I think that it’s a comfortable enough number that—I don’t know how to explain this. It’s not like I have so many people I have to fend them off—high enough that it does discourage looky-loos and people who are not serious, who are the people who are going to end up being a pain in the neck.

Colleen: Those darn tire kickers.

Amy: Yeah. The tire kickers. In fact, I think my whole process discourages tire kickers. It’s kind of a joke, but not a joke. But the people that look at it and say, “Yes, I want to invest in this,” they take it very seriously.

I have to say, I love the women that I work with. I really do. I feel like I’m truly their partner. The sale part of it is I’m your partner in tech because I’m their host. I’m not going to hit you and run. I’m not going to set your site up and run. You’re on my hosting. We’re stuck together for better or for worse, kinda of like family, right? You can’t live with them. You can’t kill him.

Well, you can take your hosting anywhere when I’m done. But I only design on my hosting. I really don’t ever have anybody leave.

Colleen: That’s great!

Amy: But, yeah, I started reseller hosting and now I have a dedicated server I have way more control over, and I only resell to who I design for. I have recently put together packages for people who are in the business of blogging. I have looked at what they want, what they need and what I can offer them.

Colleen: Now you’re still doing proposals even though you have packages. I think some people would probably say, well, maybe you don’t even have to do proposals if you have packages because they could just, you know, pick and choose. So how do you integrate that? I guess the proposal process is a lot simpler because you don’t have to customize it like all the time.

Amy: Yes, it is a lot simpler. Yes. In this case, for this niche, with these templates, I have a templated proposal. However, it will cover exactly what they can expect from me. No matter how simple you make that process, Colleen, you know, it’s, “Well, I thought I was getting…” You know what, it’s right there.

I don’t know if it’s that I didn’t need it or that it was so clear. I’m not positive what about it makes it a non-issue. But I do cover things in there that are important about my hosting and what I will and will not, you know, kind of allow. Because when I do host… This is America and you could do whatever you want, but not on my hosting. So it’s like my house. It’s not a democracy here. It’s a friendly matriarchy.

Colleen: Okay. So what is your process when a client wants one of these packages?

Amy: I’ve broken down the process to two steps that qualify somebody before I even work with them. So I can go back further from what you’re saying.

I think the process makes it easier and everybody happier. I have a landing page and it has some visuals and it spells out everything that I do for you and my ongoing support. So this leads to an inquiry, and the inquiry helps me know what they’re looking for before I even get them on a Zoom [call].

Then that leads them, they fill out the inquiry, they get on my calendar. That’s the only way they’re going to get on my calendar. That triggers an autoresponder, reminding them to get on my calendar if they don’t immediately. We do a one-on-one Zoom interview, where I go through the questionnaire. Part of it is, I want to know what you like, show me some sites that you like and why do you like them.

That helps me get an idea of what they are looking for. Then I take them through each one of the templates and they’re actually fully functional with template dummy content. So they look like they’re real blogs with real content. They look through that and generally one of them will meet their eye. They like, “Well, the layout of this, but I like the style of that.”

The way you can style a site… I could say, “Well, you want this, this layout of this, but the header on that.” And so that’s what we do. I write it all down. We talk about what it’s approximately going to cost so that there’s no shocker. I put together a proposal that has more details in it for when they want to maybe talk to a friend or a spouse about what it is they’re investing in.

Very, very clear breakdown of what they can expect. They either come back to questioning it or they accept the online proposal, and then I give them access, set them up with the client portal, which has their homework in it.

Very, very clear [that] how to get on my calendar is you finish your homework. There’s five or six points of homework. When those are set, I then give you a date that you’re going to be done. At the most it’s two weeks out.

I can even deliver an under a week because the homework is generally set so that I have everything I need to knock it out. Of course, because I’m beginning with a template, I have all the notes on what I need to do to customize it just for them. Then that’s it.

Then we do off-boarding. I have step-by-step tutorials on how they can actually blog—blogging for SEO while working with Yoast—editing their photos for faster viewing on the web. All of these are instructions that I give to them, how to do further customization of some of the add-in functionalities that I have on the site.

I do request that they go through it and they do at least one or two blog posts and then we meet online, do a one-on-one. I answer their questions. I’ve had people never do it and just are up and running from what I’ve given them. I’ve had people do one and then they’re on their own. (Not on their own. I don’t hear from them.) Or I have people, I’ve had to take them through it three times.

I think that it comes down to how people learn. I understand that there are visual learners that if I’m on a Zoom one-on-one and we go through how to do it, they can do it. They can’t read it. The video maybe confuses them, or I don’t know. So, for some reason, holding somebody’s hand is what they need. Sometimes the information I’ve given them is golden and they’re good to go, but I keep them informed. Obviously, they’re on my hosting. I am managed care. So I keep it all upgraded and clean.

Last year, I created a Facebook group that I thought would just be for my customers and it ended up being, I guess, people that use WordPress have joined it and people in my niche who are not on my hosting, who are on WordPress. Honestly, I’ve always been “the more, the merrier” kind of person. You don’t have to be my customer to be in my community.

I love it when people just ask me questions or if they open a trouble ticket because they want to know how to do something. Or they’ll email me, I’ll say, “Hey, you know what? Share it with the crowd,” you know, “Share with the class and I’ll do a video on how to.” I like to teach people what they need to know without, again, drowning them in tech.

Colleen: Speaking of your Facebook group, I’m sure that helps you connect with your potential clients and current clients. Do you think it’s helped to grow your business too?

Amy: I don’t think it’s actually helped me grow with this, but people that are in it are happy.

Colleen: Oh, I’m sure it will.

Amy: I figure at some point karma, you know, comes back to you. I think everything that you do comes back to you. I do offer a lot of free technology and want to build out more free tutorials, on Youtube, how to use WordPress and some marketing. But broken down for people who don’t want to know all the tech behind it. They want to know that they need to know it and that they can do it themselves. Then, of course, I’m there to do it for you in case you can’t.

Colleen: Yeah, that’s great. And I’m sure the Facebook group probably keeps you front of mind with them. So how do you deal with design revisions with these packages?

Amy: That’s actually a pretty easy answer because the templates show you the functionality and layout in advance. We need to agree on the onset what it is you’re looking for. I put it in a proposal so it’s understood this is what we’ve agreed to, this is what it will look like and you’ve seen it. So I don’t have a lot of design changes. If somebody says, “You know, it’s up and running,” and they say, “You know what, I really would like this over there and this over there.” I actually almost never have that happen. But I absolutely do it. It’s generally not difficult. It’s the template that I set up, so I generally know how to hack it nine ways from Sunday. So not a big deal.

Colleen: Do you ever get requests for ongoing types of work, like are any of your packages, reoccurring types of work, like perhaps social media images here and there, or blog images here and there? Do you have any recurring packages?

Amy: I don’t. I mean the hosting is the only recurring package. If I do somebody’s graphics, there’s an entry-level graphic package. And I know this sounds crazy, but I have one that’s almost double and I almost don’t ever have to use that. The way that I qualify that is it depends upon the amount of pain and suffering it’s going to cost me, right? If you’re an easy person to work with. Yeah, you need business cards laid out. I’m not going to hand you the graphics and make you do it. I’m going to lay you about a really nice business card because you know it’s going to take me 15 minutes to do it. I have the information, I have the graphics, I know it needs to be, you know, RGB and it needs to be 300 DPI and it needs to be a certain size, so I’ll do that for them on the inexpensive graphic package.

So, yeah, the only ongoing is hosting itself.

Colleen: Do you promote your packages anywhere?

Amy: Uh, no I don’t. I work on word of mouth. I have worked for the last 15 years on word of mouth. I have never advertised, which is why like two years ago I realized that I needed to possibly make my site look more appealing, that the doctor needed to go to the doctor because I didn’t know what to say about what it is that I do. I do have two clients, they are coaches and I do ongoing work for them, marketing, graphics.

It’s not only what I do. The packages are just something that I’m really happy that I was able to figure out because I feel for the women who want to make money in this niche and it’s so hard to compete with the big guns. There are people that are extremely electronically savvy. They’ve got gorgeous websites. They have this knowledge and talent coming out the ears. Not everybody has that.

I mean they’re stuck and they can’t get online. They’re trying to do with themselves. They’re frustrated, they know they need it. And so I’m happy that even before I came up with the packages, I was making widgets for them. Again, it was so that the little guy could… I mean I needed to make it for myself for my own website, right?

I knew that a lot of women who couldn’t afford to pay for somebody to do those graphics and we all kind of needed the same graphics. So I have for the last probably 12 years I’ve been making free widgets for special offers for, again, this niche and even how to customize. And you don’t need to be my customer and you don’t need to pay for them.

Colleen: That’s awesome. You know, it’s crucial that we understand the problems that we solve for our clients and you’ve just done an amazing job with solving your audience’s problems and creating these packages as the solution to their problems.

Thanks for coming on and talking about how you’ve approached this. I think this has been really, really helpful.

Amy: Thank you. Thank you for having me. It was fun.

Colleen: And you can be found at If anyone’s interested in joining Amy’s community, when you go to her website, click on Community at the top left. Amy can also be found in my group, which is Design Domination on Facebook.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the Design Domination Community

Hang out and get advice from designers of all levels in our welcoming community of graphic designers on Facebook.

Join the group