Episode 4 – Y2M2

We’ve started a newsletter! If you’re reading this in February 2024, you can still subscribe to receive our Y2M1 edition! We send out monthly-to-quarterly emails (depending on your preference) with backstage info on our Weichie.com web agency. Introducing new employees, agency struggles, new client work, internal initiatives, and much more. A best-in-class newsletter that’s a must-read!

We’re also getting settled in our new office in Brussels. In our previous episode, I mentioned that we were moving to a new location, now that that’s done, we can start making the place our own. Currently still in love with this amazing location in the city center of Brussels.

Growing our office

In our previous office, WeWork accommodated everything; Not only the coffee, tea, milk, microwave, and printer, … Also the desks and office chairs were included in the rent, as well as cleaning services.

For our new location, we need to get those items too, but it will be a continuous process. Currently started with 6 offices, office chairs, screens and monitors for the working area. Our kitchen started with a fridge, microwave, coffee machine, water boiler, and a cookie jar.

Next up will be a meeting/lunch table, so we can leave our desks for a moment.

Business evaluation

Last year, 2023 was a big investment year for Weichie.com. We upgraded to a bigger office at WeWork, to finally ended up leaving WeWork and moving to our own private space. The private space requires a security deposit but comes at around the same monthly renting price as we had at WeWork. But our new office is more spacious, leaving more room for growth.

A private office means we’re also required to purchase everything ourselves. Desks, monitors, office chairs, a fridge, cups, a microwave, a coffee machine, a meeting table, a tv, … Those are all required to create a nice work environment for the team, but aren’t free of charge.

Despite our growth with the Brussels team, we’re also trying to penetrate the US market!

The New York progress?

This belongs to a different journal, our New York Adventure Journal, but just wanted to let you know we made progress there as well and are all ready to go to make some new business there! Weichie.com Inc. and Weichie.com BV are ready for business!

Weichie.com Inc. is ready for business (NY-001/03)

Finally, Weichie.com Inc. Now also has a bank account! We’re ready to start working for US clients, be able to invoice them, and most importantly for our business: our clients can pay in their preferred payment method. No more international wire transfers that not only come with additional fees but not everyone can make an international wire transfer that easily we discovered.

Some of our clients always needed to call their bank to explain that they wanted to make a payment to Belgium. So with our US Bank account, working with Weichie.com Inc. is easier than ever. And there is no difference with other US-based digital agencies anymore – except our exceptional service in web design & development of course. You won’t find the quality that we deliver with Weichie.com at any other agency.

Our first American Clients

We already had a few American customers without our US branch. Those were customers who already worked together with me when I was living in New York and kept working together with us when I moved back to Belgium. We can now better support our long-term clients as we are now also reachable through our US Phone number.

Onboarding new clients is the next step! Currently onboarding our first new clients are all in the eCommerce sector, going hard on Shopify – which we love!

Episode 3 – Y1M10

August was a very intense month in terms of workload, but because most of our clients were on holiday the feedback and approval on those projects had huge delays. For our agency, this was a very busy month but the cash flow was not present. That means that on paper, everything looks good, but in reality, it simply does not work on paper only. In theory, all our invoices should be slowly dripping in in September, but it feels weird that you work your ass off.

In navigating the complexities of digital projects, I’ve identified scope creep as a significant challenge we face. Our commitment to client satisfaction often leads us to accommodate new ideas, reflecting our flexibility and desire to deliver exceptional work. However, I’ve realized that without clear boundaries, these well-intentioned adjustments can compromise both the project’s profitability and our ability to deliver on time. Moving forward, I must refine my project management skills, ensuring clear communication from the outset about the scope of work. Guaranteeing that both our team and our clients have a shared understanding of what the project includes – and maybe more importantly, what it does not.

I discovered that scope creep is currently one of my biggest flaws. We spend time on a project proposal, estimating a project timeframe and budget. But during the project, clients will come up with new ideas and we just want to help. But many small changes make the project unprofitable in the end, so definitely a management skill I add to my bucket list to ensure everyone knows what’s included in the proposal that we made – and what’s not.

New Office for Weichie.com!

We’re excited to share that we’re moving to our own private space beginning in December 2023! We loved WeWork and are very thankful they could support our starting agency in its early years. I grew there from a hot-desk membership just for me, to a private office space for 3 people. Because we needed to upgrade on more time to a 4-people’s private office, I also asked prices for a 6-people office.

You can never be too enthusiastic, but for example, if an intern would join us for a few months, I would not like our office space to become too small once again. The prices for the 6-desk office were very competitive with other office rentals in Brussels, so I started my journey there.

The opportunity for one of those location seemed almost too good to be true, yet it ticked all the boxes. Its a spacious area, capable of comfortably accommodating a small team of up to 10 people. While we haven’t grown to that size yet, it’s an exciting prospect, leaving us open to the possibilities that the future may hold!

More info about our new Weichie.com Brussels office can be found in this article, but our new address is above the OTOMAT restaurant in Place St-Catherine in Brussels!

A new hire!

If you haven’t heard it yet, we also have our official 2nd employee at Weichie.com! Except for me and my business partner Yannick, we now also have Mathias who joined our development team. If you would like to meet them, our accountant, or our freelancers, feel free to have a look at the Weichie.com team page.

All the foundations for healthy growth are now in place at our agency! This solid base allows us to concentrate on improving client satisfaction and refining our onboarding process. Our goal is to ensure Weichie.com becomes the best digital agency that businesses could wish for — known not just for our expertise but also for our fairness, passion and dedication to our clients.

Episode 2 – Y1M8

A personal journal can help me learn from my mistakes – and maybe – inspiring or helping someone on the way. But I still need to find the time to make it a habit. To occasionally write something down. In the second quarter of this year, we launched our new maintenance studio: SnappStudio, and had one of our most extended quotation phases so far! Thanks to our branding partner Kolos for a new project, we’ve also received a great opportunity. In the end, we also have not one, but two nice surprises!

Resurrecting old clients, the good & the bad

The good

A very big name in Brussels in the restaurant/catering sector got in touch with us a bit more than one year ago to make some small SEO tweaks to their website. Besides those small tweaks, it never became a real partnership. It was more troubleshooting for their website so they could move on. A few months later they came back to us for another project, a concept website that we also built for them. When the concept site launched, we went our separate ways again.

This year, in the early summer, they called us to let us know that if we still had room in our schedule, they would like us to become their digital partner. They have a round 20 websites that need maintenance and are fully renewing a few of them. So they really need a dedicated agency if they want this to work. As we loved the agency and the work we had done for them in the past, we really felt that we could be a great partner for them.

Not only for new businesses but simply to do some maintenance updates on their sites. But they also need someone who knows something about the digital world, in terms of servers, hosting, emails, and security, … We think together with them and try to find the best, cost-efficient, and long-term solutions for their challenges.

The bad

It’s not all fun & games. Also a bit over one year ago, we got contacted by a fashion label. They wanted to grow and take things seriously, so decided to work together with us for the makeover of their Shopify webshop. We’ve created a brand-new design, and rebuilt their Shopify store from the ground up, but I should have seen the red flags from the start.

Right after signing our proposal, their requests went berserk and out-of-scope. Yet they could not understand and send us new requests after new requests. I told them that we would launch the website as promised in our proposal, although we already did a lot of extra work. We’ve launched the webshop for them and they never paid.

Even now, a year and 6 months later, the webshop we’ve built is still online and running. So the quality of our work was there and they’re actually using the work we’ve made. Yet I was too kind to let them away with it and we never saw our money.

Now the best part, in July this year they reached out to us again telling us that they would love working with us again to make some additional tweaks to the website. To me, this proved that they actually were happy with our services and collaboration. Having the guts to come back and ask for more tweaks was one step too far. I’m in full learning process, but working for free is no longer on my list.

I simply thanked them for their request, but we will not be working together again.

SnappStudio is born

As our maintenance services and clients started to increase, we needed to find more ways to support our clients. At the beginning of this year, we had 10 clients on maintenance. Our challenge was to try and double our maintenance clients this year, to have a recurring income with our support. Now we are at 35 clients on maintenance.

Not all sites on our maintenance are of the same size, they also don’t have the same needs. We also keep learning and find better ways to support our clients on performance and security. But our maintenance fee is very low. We simply cannot provide our performance and security updates for the same budget. Therefore, we created maintenance packages so the client could choose which one would best fit their needs.

To maintain a clear and transparent overview of our services and costs, we’ve decided to launch a side business named SnappStudio. Solely focussing on maintenance and smaller website projects that have short deadlines.

New Agency Business

During the summer of this year, we’ve got a lot of new requests. One of those new clients was for a big city in Belgium to create a digital platform where citizens could easily find their way around all the summer activities of the city. It’s nice to see our agency grow this way. That we can start working for clients that most people know. We grow with every project we make, but having a big name in your client portfolio makes the growth of our agency a bit easier.

The most important part is clear communication and keeping promises.

The American Dream (for business)

More on this topic can be found in our New York Adventure posts, but the next steps in this business are also taken during the summer months. Our US Tax ID is approved and Weichie.com Corporation (Weichie.com Inc.) is officially born! To actually start doing business our next steps are to have it signed with a notary and open a bank account.

As always, I’m excited about my own new episode in our agency journey!

The Corporation startup (NY-001/02)

We’re getting serious about starting up a business branch in New York! As a Belgian agency, we have the luxury that many associations can assist with your US expansions. I’m pretty sure every country has them, you need to find them. I encountered one of them by accident and then got redirected to each and all of them from there.

Get advice on how to get started for your use case

It’s easy to just go for it, it’s a bit more complex than that if you want to do it right and want to make sure you’re not banned from the US for doing some illegal stuff. We started by joining Belcham, a Belgian agency that offers assistance, office space, advice, and a strong network of same-minded businesses that also want to move, or already made the move to the USA.

There I learned all the different tax rates per state in the US, that tax rates depend on where you’re invoicing to and not where you’re invoicing from, and that there are multiple business formats with each their benefits or flaws. We’ve also found our legal and accounting partner through the Belcham network.

Besides Belcham, in Belgium we also have FIT. A government instance that gives advice and financial support for businesses that want to grow overseas.

Requirements for Starting a Corporation

You will need a lawyer to file all your required documents and register your business in your preferred state. We went for a corporation and the business structure is the following: Each corporation will need a Director, a President, and a Treasurer. They can all be the same person if needed, but you need to register a person who will be accountable for those titles. A heads-up: The President can only sign to start the firm through a notary. You’re not required to go to the USA for this, a notary in your country is fine too.

I still don’t know much about all that paperwork so to make sure I am not telling any lies, I will simply suggest searching for a lawyer and follow their assistance.

Starting a bank

Starting a bank is another adventure. I wanted to hop by a bank and open a business account for our business, but apparently, the Belcham office that we have is not allowed. Banks don’t allow coworking spaces as legal addresses to open up a bank account.

That wasn’t even my first problem, also everyone who will receive authority over the bank account does need to be there in person. Compared to starting and registering the actual business, where everything is allowed remotely – for starting a bank account you will need to go the the USA physically. Which I did, but not with everyone who will receive access to the banking details of Weichie.com Inc.

We’re halfway there for our US adventure but we’ll get there! Opening a bank account is for the next chapter!

Getting Started in New York City (NY-001/01)

The Dream: Starting a weichie.com branch in New York City! Big dream, lots of work… But if I can keep myself motivated, it should be possible.

Last week I returned to New York for a week, but mainly for holiday reasons. Again, this made me super excited about my dream of starting a New York branch for our digital agency. More about the trip in a bit, but I will first get started on the current state of the business and all the preparations that are already made.

Why New York?

The big question. My entire career started in New York. When I was in my first year of university college, I knew I would be doing my final internship in the United States. It did not matter to me if it was New York, Los Angeles, or San Fransisco. In my mind, in our sector (web & tech) the United States is at the top of the industry.

I had sent out emails to literally hundreds of agencies in the States to ask if they’d offer international internships. The internship would be unpaid, so I was simply asking if it would be possible for a Belgian Student to run an internship at their company. Of the 100+ agencies I’ve reached out to, only 5 replied. 3 of them were positive…

Long story short, I managed to get a 6-month internship at a digital agency called Night Owl Interactive. The agency was based in New York City and existed out of a small team of 8 people. After my 6 month internship, I got hired right away and I stayed for 2 years in New York. Because Night Owl Interactive was a small agency, doing big projects, it always intrigued me to start something similar on my own.

Our base set up in New York

During my 2 years at Night Owls, I became very good friends with some of my colleagues. When our adventures ended at Night Owls, we stayed in touch. Some only for social and fun reasons, but with some I continued working. Because I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity my internship and early New York career gave me, I really wanted to work more and more with my New York colleagues.

Belcham US Readiness Program

The power of side projects

Are you a developer? A designer? Illustrator? Animator? Something else in the creative world? I don’t even care and you shouldn’t either. Side project will benefit you anyway, even if the side project has nothing to do with your day-to-day job.

Why would I spend my time on a side project?

“Practice makes perfect!”. It’s a great way to increase your skills.

Which side project should I pick?

If there aren’t any ideas to get started, then don’t push it. It should be something you really enjoy doing without feeling like an obligation. If you need to force yourself to work on a side-project, simply drop it.

No-one is going to ask about your personal projects. It’s something you love doing and maybe, once it’s done, you can publish it online for other people to see and maybe even to use.

You can always google some creative app ideas or beginner guides and if you find something you like, you can tweak it any way you want. An example for me would be to follow a simple React tutorial, but actually making it with Vuejs instead of react. I love Vuejs more than react and this way I can challenge myself to see if I can make the same react app in vue. It’s also a good method to compare both Vue and React to see how both frameworks are doing the same thing in their own way.

Ain’t nobody got time for that?

However, finding time for those side-projects ain’t always easy. But because a side project should be something you really love, and not something that feels obligated, it actually helps to work on it during breaks.

When I’m doing client work and feel like I’m losing the zone, I can hop on a side project to take a little break from work. This can be a bit dangerous as working on side-projects can be more fun than working on client work. Too bad we still need to make some moneys, and a side project is not going to do that right from the start.

A routine that works for me is waking up early and spend 1 hour on my personal project in the morning, before I do anything else. It actually helps me waking up happy and full of energy as I really want to get started on my project. Get that first cup of coffee at 6am and make it work!

Episode 1 – Y1M4

let’s kick it off! I’m 2 years into running Weichie.com, a digital agency that I started with Yannick Van Meerbeeck last year (2022). We’re currently a team of 3 full-time employees – including me and Yannick – and work with a few contractors and vast partners for design & branding.

We work with many European organizations and all types of different brands to help them with their marketing efforts across the web, email, social, and search! We hit the €350k in revenue last year and I would like to pin down the adventure of owning a digital agency. (inspired by Peter Kang, founder of Barrel)

I want to keep track of our journey as we always have exciting ideas. This blog will help document everything to see which ideas took off and which ones did not. We learn the most from our mistakes so this blog will not only cover our wins but also our losses.

Even in a small business like ours, there are countless new challenges, conflicts, wins, learnings, and inspirations. For me, the personal flaw that bothers me the most is that I look way too much at competitors and compare myself with other agencies. I’ve benefitted immensely from reading and listening to founders and business operators share their stories. I’d like to think of this series as a way to hopefully help other business/developer enthusiasts as well.

Most of the agency journey blogs will cover the following:

Q1 2023 for business

Q1 of 2023 was actually minor chaos. We had a few peak moments where it’s all hands on deck and we’re looking for additional employees, and on the other hand, we also have a quieter period where I’m stressing out about having any work at all. This might be the casual small business lifecycle but currently this is how it’s rolling. In our search for a new employee we also change our search for profile every month. That month we need an additional PM, the next month we urgently need a new back end developer, now it’s front-end and I assume this cycle will go on for a while.

Looking back, we might have focussed a little bit too much on the bigger clients, taking more time to design and develop, but the bigger the client, the longer it takes to make final decisions. They need a dedicated PM that can lead them through the process in time. This is something we’re learning very quickly, that we take care of the PM when clients partner with Weichie.com for their webproject.

Although we have the skill and the experience in web, I’m not the usual sales guy. But step by step we’re taking on this role in our new projects to make sure we’re the authority in each project. no matter which external agencies are on the project.

Improving Weichie.com

At Weichie.com we’re all in on ClickUp as a project management tool. We’ve dived into our current workflow of handling maintenance for our clients. As the demand for website maintenance is increasing, but also the demand for à la carte development work. For this last one, a website that is up-to-date and secure is way faster to work and fix than logging into a website that’s never been updated before. It’s way harder to make a small change for the client in that case, as I cannot ignore all the required updates and just make this small fix. The website will break sooner or later and we get blamed it came from our last change.

Having a clear price calculator tool helps protect our business hours and gives upfront pricing to clients for their updates. Thanks to our calculator tool we can always defend our prices and feel confident we’re giving the most correct price possible – even if the client doesn’t think so.

We’ve also made the decision in terms of tech stack to ditch our current WordPress starter theme. Our previous website themes were heavily built on jQuery. On a side note, I’ve used jQuery my entire life – writing this in 2023. When I interned at NightOwl Interactive back in 2018, my first agency in New York, everything was done with jQuery. I still love it, but it simply doesn’t do the trick for us anymore when working with WebGL.

2023 Roadmap

We have plenty of new ideas for this year! A brand new Weichie.com website, the launch of SnappStudio, releasing the latest version of our Presto application, and playing around with more Web3/NFT & AI projects. But maybe most importantly, is that we’re also continuously growing internally. The switch of our base theme, for example, our own uptime tracker, a new way of setting up pipelines to automate our workflow, having our own PM workflow, our own project calculator, our own Weichie.com CLI commands to boot new projects, …

A lot of new changes have come to our agency to improve our workflow, but I’ll be digging into those improvements in more detail later.

Goodbye to our intern Arnaud

We have interns at Weichei.com every year and our most recent one was from the Artevelde College University in Ghent. His name was Arnaud and he stayed with us for 3 months in total. He received his first WordPress experience here at Weichie.com and was also the first person here at Weichie.com who was working, testing, and playing around with our new starter theme.

Hello world!

The first post on my personal website. I’ve been making websites for clients, friends and myself for over 5 years now. I had my own portfolio website in the past, but that one is currently transformed into our current digital agency Weichie.com. I’m currently also working on a new agency website too, but taking a quick break to test new things out with my own personal site on the side.

I’ll leave my agency website for the fancy and complicated stuff. My own personal website I’ll keep to test new smaller things and to write to my future self. Keeping track of where I came from, or advice I know now, that I didn’t back then. As for the other things I hope to write about, I’ve been giving it some thought. These are some initial ideas:

I want to write interesting and informative things that are not boring. My aim is to develop a writing style that is both easy to read and entertaining. However, achieving this requires consistent practice and discipline, as I am not a copywriter.

Enjoy my site!

Hello world!

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