How Felix Norton Grew From Freelancer to Million-Dollar Agency Owner

Felix Norton's transition from freelancer to million-dollar agency

Like many entrepreneurs, Felix Norton has had a lot of different ventures over the years. He started freelancing as a web designer while attending university. A few years later, Felix pivoted the business to grow as an agency. Over the last several years, Woww has expanded by offering additional services, and today the business has more than 30 employees.

In this interview, Felix shares how he made the impressive transition from freelancer to a million-dollar agency owner.


Business Name: Woww
Website URL:
Founders: Felix Norton and Garnett Thorne
Business Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Year Started: 2016
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 32 full-time employees

How much revenue and profit does the business generate?

Between $100-120k monthly recurring revenue (MRR). We aim for a 20% profit margin.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I’ve run a number of entrepreneurial pursuits since high school. Some did well and made a decent profit while others fizzled out. I ran a neighbourhood IT support service, dabbled in crypto mining, started and flipped an e-commerce brand, and even tried to start an online course business on how to build profitable online stores. But the consistent business during all these side-hustles has been running a digital marketing agency. 

I started freelancing as a web designer during my university studies. I made my first website for my dad and then one of his friends and ultimately started gaining enough work that it made sense to hire another freelancer part-time. Shortly after, I hired multiple freelancers and was suddenly running an agency. 

Now 12 years later I run Woww, a fully remote digital marketing agency based in Cape Town with 32 full-time employees servicing clients globally, helping businesses start, grow and thrive online.

Woww Website

How does your business make money?

We provide a complementary set of professional digital services, that all help businesses get online, grow traction, and ultimately succeed. So we offer everything from logo and corporate identity design to website development, hosting, SEO, paid marketing, and content creation.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

Before Woww became the holistic full-service digital agency it is today, I originally wanted to churn out cost-effective websites in under a week. Woww was originally an acronym for “WordPress One Week Websites.” Within the first few months, we realised that this was a terrible idea and pivoted.

What we found was that our clients didn’t just want a website up and done in under a week. They wanted a strategic partner to guide them to success online. This required more than just a website, it required branding, digital strategy, traffic acquisition through SEO & PPC and long term support, all working together to create a sustainable online asset that yielded results.

We dropped the acronym and went with “Woww” giving the impression of amazement and a subtle play on the www. of a website address.

How and when did you launch the business?

I freelanced during my student days to support myself. Over time and a couple of failed business ideas, I gained experience, and in 2016, I decided to really commit to starting a proper agency.

How is the business funded? 

Completely and somewhat foolishly bootstrapped. A laptop, an internet connection and the optimism of a young entrepreneur. 80-hour work weeks, grinding and figuring it all out the hard way. Looking back, there’s a lot I would have done differently, but it taught me a number of valuable skills along the way.

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

In the early days I did everything I could. Friends and family, doing free projects, networking events, cold email outreach, Facebook Groups, and responding to classified ads. Anyone I could somehow get in touch with, I would try to work with. It was the definition of a modern hustle.

What was your first year in business like?

The early days were tough but exciting. We worked 80-hour weeks and took on any project (even when we really shouldn’t have). We didn’t make much, but we were profitable and sustainable from day one, and I’m incredibly proud of that.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

Our reputation was a huge factor in the early days; our clients became our greatest promoters.

Then, one day, a client asked, “Hey, can you make my website come up #1 on Google?” I said, “For sure!” and so it became a rabbit hole that consumed me and even to this day serves as our core lead engine. SEO, which seemed like the mystic arts at the time, has become a core traffic acquisition channel and really helped us grow with sustainable and consistent leads.

More recently, we’ve diversified. We now use outreach campaigns, PPC, and social media, along with a lot of effort into network building through professional groups like the Entrepreneurs’ Organization and conferences.

What have been the most significant keys to your business’ success?

  • People – An agency is a collective of digital marketing experts, and by hiring great people and fostering a sustainable culture, we continue to retain and attract incredible talent, who are then able to deliver an incredible service.
  • Systems –  While people are crucial, they’re still human, and humans make mistakes. So, our standard operating procedures (SOPs) and processes act as the guardrail to ensure they’re always on track. These systems are then rigorously maintained and continuously improved to ensure we’re always growing and delivering better results. 
  • Strategy –  In the early days, we walked a very organic path. We kind of knew what we wanted to do and went where things led us naturally. But today, we’re more purposeful in our direction. We have more clearly defined our vision and mapped out the path to get there, and the results are undeniably more tangible.

Tell us about your team.

We’re sitting with a team of 32 full-time team members and adding at least one a month as we continue to grow. When we started out we all worked together in person and were super proud of moving out of my house (where the business and team worked for 3 years) and into a big fancy office in 2019. But after Covid, we’ve transitioned into a fully remote team and are now hiring team members from different cities as we transition into an international agency.

How did you make the transition from side hustle to full-time?

When I brought on my business partner Garnett, who helped me really focus on growing the business as a legitimate registered entity and actually paying my taxes!

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

When we moved into our first proper office. It was a very tangible moment because even though we didn’t change anything else about the business, when people came to visit the office (as opposed to the previous home office), it became something people understood, “Oh you’re a real business now.”

What separates your business from your competitors?

We are a top-tier agency, but because we’re based out of South Africa, we can offer incredible value for our rates when compared to the local competitors (UK, EU, US, etc), without compromising on timezone and language barriers.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Read Traction.

What is your favorite quote?

“Live a few years like most people won’t, to live the rest of life like most people can’t.”

What are your future plans for the business?

Internationalization. We want to fully invert our local client base percentage of 80% local and 20% international. So we’re focusing on acquiring clients primarily in the UK and the EU.

If you had to start from scratch, where would you begin?

  • Create a solid brand identity
  • Target a clearly defined niche 
  • Leverage a well-thought-out strategy
  • Hire the right people and foster a culture from the beginning

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

Books: Traction, Scaling Up, The Lean Startup, Start with Why, Radical Candour, and so many more!

Blogs: Backlinko, Ahrefs, SEJ

Youtube: The Futur, Matt Diggity and just Youtube in general, so many helpful channels.

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