Customer Login

Student Success Story with Franz Sauerstein

We’re continuing to share a different story each week of how a past student has been able to significantly grow their freelance business by applying the concepts they learned from Double Your Freelancing (check out last week’s where we revisited Matt Olpinski’s story/progress). 

If you feel your story would be a good fit, share why. We’re now looking for features for June, so apply today!


Franz Sauerstein is the man behind Xciting Webdesign, a WordPress and WooCommerce company that for the last three years has specialized in helping small-to-medium sized businesses generate more revenue. Unlike other online marketing agency developers, Xciting Webdesign uses a data-driven approach to unlock profits.

Franz has gone through Double Your Freelancing Rate, The Blueprint and is currently enrolled in Double Your Freelancing Clients.

“I took a look at my earnings this year and calculated that I am on my track to triple my revenue and I also turned down some truly toxic clients, which made me happy.”

How’d you get started as a freelancer? Was it what you expected?

I got into freelancing by coincidence. I had to find an internship for my university application pretty quickly after I found out that the German army couldn’t hold to what they had promised. So I looked over hundreds of websites looking for the right company and was shocked by how bad their websites were.

“Didn’t these people know that their website is their most important figurehead?”

Of course they knew – but agencies here way overcharged and did a lousy job of reaching out. So, I started getting into webdesign and sold on price at first.

I had little-to-no expectations, treating it all as an experiment at first. I was surprised by how ruthless some people can be – and others so caring and loving, radiating positivity. The latter were always way more successful. I took that observation to heart.

What’s been most challenging thus far?

The most challenging thus far is dealing with bad clients. I am still improving my pre-project qualification, my legal backup and my skills in noticing red flags. It’s a great feeling to spot a bad client before taking the work and turning them down instead.

“My advice to everyone – Say no way more!”

Currently I am in the process of streamlining and documenting my workflow to be able to work less in my business and more on my business. I want to help more companies in less time.

Did you ever want to quit or give up?

I never wanted to quit Xciting Webdesign. However I ran a experiment with a brilliant journalist on starting a local news blog and monetizing it. We managed to get it to 100,000 readers per month, but couldn’t monetize it and make it profitable. I will gladly reply to comments and share my experience about what works and what doesn’t. 🙂

What were you struggling the most with when you ran into Double Your Freelancing Rate?

I ran into Brennan’s course as I was moving away from my price-leadership-positioning. I knew that being the cheapest guy out there wasn’t viable in the long run – it gave me exposure at first and helped to kick-start my business  – and I knew that there were wildly successful freelancers out there.

However, they didn’t share what made them successful. Brennan was the one who was willing to share his expertise and teach people like me how to deliver more value to the client and charge more on top of that.

Tell us about some of your recent successes.

I took a look at my earnings this year and calculated that I am on my track to triple my revenue. I also turned down some truly toxic clients, which made me happy.

I am keeping a success-diary and it is full of small wins like doubling profits for clients, landing a special workshop with a million-dollar-fundraiser (SOS Children’s Villages) to optimize their fundraising and getting to know someone I wanted to meet.

Life, growth and happiness are about those “small” things. Start to write them down and reflect on them. You will be more confident in your abilities, happier and a better person because of it.

What tips, tricks or pieces of advice helped you to get those results?

  1. Use value-based pricing. It makes all the difference being a commodity vs. being an asset.
  2. Say “No, thanks” if your lead is not a good fit or feels shady.
  3. Use marketing automation and documentation of your processes to free up your time. Set one day per week aside to exclusively work on your business.
  4. Fix the scope of your projects or bill weekly. Get your legal templates watertight. Don’t hesitate to let your lawyer call your client on late invoices.
  5. Sell the discovery phase to your client.
  6. Build-Measure-Learn: Test the important details on your business and your projects, learn from the data and optimize. Repeat to achieve great results.
  7. Don’t get stressed out. Your life is too short to give someone the chance to make you unhappy.

What are you most excited about for your business in 2015?

I’m most excited to remove myself from the day-to-day operations and focus on planning out strategies for my clients. This will allow me to take on more clients and to speak and write more to my audience. It will be great fun! It will also give me the time to visit the flock of lovely sheep near my home more often. Bah!

Additionally I will put my expertise in online marketing to use by founding another start-up in the fall. You will hear about it on the news. 🙂

Für alle deutschen Selbstständige hat Franz Sauerstein noch einen kleinen E-Mail-Kurs zusammengestellt. Melden Sie sich an und lernen Sie, wie Sie Traffic und Umsatz online um 10%, 20% oder 50% steigern können.

(For all the German self-employed, Franz Sauerstein put together a short e-mail course. Subscribe and learn how you can increase traffic and sales online by 10%, 20% or 50%.)

FranzFranz runs Xciting Webdesign, an online marketing agency that specializes in WordPress and WooCommerce. He helps companies generate 50%+ more revenue. In contrast to his competition, Franz uses a data-driven approach to unlock hidden profits for his clients.

After starting his business simultaneously to his studies of engineering and economics, he mastered time management, prioritization and appreciating life the fullest – so that he can take time for the truly important things.

  • Thanks for having me, Brennan. If anyone has questions, please feel free to comment and I will answer.

    • Danny

      Great interview.. I like reading all these success stories. To +1 on your comment earlier, care to share what worked and didn’t work. How did you end up getting 100K readers a month on the blog site and then start to monetize it?

      • Hello Danny, thank you very much.

        I will gladly open up on that, but first let me describe the situation: Constance had no real quality local news. There was the traditional newspaper, but it’s content was and is still below average and sometimes plain wrong. There is also a small online blog which shares “news” but in a grumbly way. Lastly there was “our” news blog, . It persisted for 4 years already, had quite a lot of content, but failed to generate venue through their ad model and hovered at roundabout 300 readers per day when I joined the cause.

        First of all I analyzed the situation. The strengths were good quality content, frequent updates and a good image. Shortcomings were being relatively unkown, poor SEO and overall poor website technology and no optimization on engaging and holding readers. The threats included the local newspaper waking up from its slumber and stomping our new venture into oblivion with their many times greater manpower and budget. The chances lay in the still untapped realms of SEO, Google News, Social Media Marketing, flexibility, fastness and Word-of-Mouth.

        And that’s what we did:
        1. Redesigned the poorly formatted website to bring down bounce rate, up average session duration, up page/visits, up comments and up shares.
        2. Changed the technology to make the website much faster. We topped at a load time of round about 1 second, being 13x faster than the local newspaper.
        3. Did on-site SEO-optimization and teached the editor how to use the SEO by Yoast-plugin. We also got into Google News which helped a bit.
        3. Started Social Media Marketing. Facebook and Twitter were strong traffic sources, so we built up our following there and used ads to reach locals with news which already had high engagement. Example: We posted every new article on our social channels and promoted them all with 1 € to our followers and their friends. If one article was doing expectionally well, we increased the budget to reach out to more people.
        4. Social Media Marketing upped Word of Mouth and vice versa. Online-WOM was buzzing in the local facebook-groups and we saw huge spikes of traffics on a weekly basis. People remembered us and came back again and again. (Almost 80% of readers on a daily basis!)
        5. The editor, Waltraud Kässer, is brilliant and lightning fast. Important news (political, disasters, events and hot topics) were covered in roundabout 30 minutes, often 3 hours ahead of the competition. Guess where the traffic flowed? Both competitors were pretty angry. :]
        6. We also did features on topics which we knew would be trending, e.g. electoral campaigns. Google trends and listening in to your community helps a lot.

        So, that brought us up to 100k readers. We discussed several ways of monetizing and tried the most promising ones:

        1. Flattr: Click a button and the author of the article gets money. Nice concept, but there were not enough users.
        2. AdSense: Our traffic wasn’t specific enough. It was literally a cut-through of society on a local level. I got the click-rates pretty high, but the clicks weren’t worth that much.
        3. Affiliate: Same problem as with AdSense
        4. Paid articles: We didn’t want to run that, because the ones we got sent as tests were too promotional and had no value to our readers.
        5. Paid ads for local businesses: Due to our geographic situation and the exchange rate € – CHF the local businesses were (and are still) overrun with customers. They don’t need to spend money on ads. Furthermore they wouldn’t know how to use them. Looking back a Ads-as-a-Service-as-a-Service-model would have probably helped.
        6. Asking people to donate on a voluntary basis: We didn’t try this, but I don’t recall why. Could have worked.
        7. Subscription: Would have brought us too near to the local newspaper and was too easy to trick.

        We were earning much more in our respective “first” “jobs”, so we called it a great experience and still have a chuckle about the fits of rage of the competition. I stripped down the website greatly and moved to less pricy hosting. The editor is using it now as a kind of unregular column. But it was definitly great fun and taught a ton of lessons.

        I hope that helps! What is your business and what are the problems you are facing? 🙂

- Enter Your Location -
- or -