The Business of Building Web Sites

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Hello everyone, my name is Miles Burke. Five years ago this month, I was crazy enough to start a web site design and development company by leaving my previous employer, with only two weeks pay, mortgage payments to make, a 23 month old child and pregnant wife.

As you can imagine the latter was not overly impressed by my act of bravery, however I managed to quickly turn this around, and employed my first staff member less than three months later. I’d freelanced a few years earlier, but this time I believe I learnt from my earlier mistakes.

We now have fifteen staff in the web team and are part of a larger company, which I am a shareholder and director of, with a total staff of just over forty. I recently was awarded ‘one of Western Australia’s most pre-eminent business leaders under the age of 40′, an award which I am proud to have received.

Over the coming months, I hope to discuss with you my thoughts and observations, the mistakes I made and the lessons that I have learnt on this journey of small business ownership and management. I say discuss, because I really hope I can count on you to comment on my posts or get in touch and provide your own input to this conversation.

I’m honoured to have been asked by Simon Mackie and the fantastic team at SitePoint to be part of their blogging team, and impart some of my knowledge. I’d be equally as honoured to hear your questions, your own lessons and your opinions. Perhaps we could start by encouraging commenting below, and suggest some topics you’d like to hear about.

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  • http://www.sitepoint.com Simon Mackie

    Welcome aboard Miles!

  • http://www.twice21.com ParkinT

    Welcome. We can expect ‘miles’ of useful posts?

  • tuna

    Miles.. good to see the fabled first post. Topic ideas… humm…

    1) The expansion point for a business and knowing when to take it.
    2) Making yourself redundant as a boss.
    3) Getting the skill and personality mix right with staff.
    4) Maintaining a motivated crew when the goal posts of the web industry move several time a day.
    5) Freelance of your own clients.. stay small or expand.. job or enjoyment..

    You want more…?

  • Toby Somerville

    Welcome Miles.
    Echoing Tuna’s ideas, it would be great if you could look at:

    1) Knowing when to expand the business
    2) When to start employing staff
    3) Outsource work or keeping in-house
    4) How to work ON your business and not IN your business
    5) Finding your business niche

    Looking forward to your next post.

  • rasiel

    Like you I also took the risk of leaving a high paying job with my country’s NIC and do my own thing, its interesting to know that you and i left basically under the same circumstances, little money, and an upcoming family.

    It would be interesting for you to post about the early difficulties in getting your business of the ground as well as managing family life, as well as to your business experience.

  • Deny

    Hi, Mr. Miles – great to read your first time post.
    Makes me write my first comment here, after become a lurker for a long time on SitePoint.

    Write anything from your journey, Mr. Miles.
    Your experience may become very useful for us.

    Waiting for your another great post ;)

  • http://www.heulog.co.uk cymrojazz

    I’m at a similar stage although not having left my full time employer. I do a little moonlighting in my spare time as well as maintaining my empoyer’s and their affiliates’ websites. I’m thinking of branching out on my own in two years down the line when I’ve developed a larger portfolio, increased my skills set, and our daughter allows us more sleeeeeeeeeep!

  • dev_cw

    This is good news. I am happy to see a new web business blog at SP. My concerns are regarding finance, how to make a profit rather than just covering expenses. I notice that many small businesses don’t know how to run the financial aspects of the business and suffer in the long run.

  • dmwalk

    Looking forward to learning from your experience.

  • Andy

    Hi Miles

    Well done for taking the plunge, this is exactly what I want to do and I’m in the same position you were in (mortgage, kid wife – hopefully not pregnant), unfortunately I havent had the courage that you have.

    I’m going to follow your blog and hopefully it will give me the courage and confidence to go forwards like you did

    Cheers
    Andy

  • planewalker

    Grats to your success – looking forward to future postings ;)

  • http://www.tpdevelopment.com.au ricktu

    Welcome aboard Miles. What I’d be interested to hear about are your marketing techniques. I’ve got enough work for me to do but I want to push it to the next level where I can start employing staff and work towards the same point you are at.

  • Talon

    Miles,
    It seems that taking that all important first step and quitting your job, and the financial security it provides, is the most difficult thing for anyone to do. Especially, when you have the financial responsibilities that many of us seem to have.
    What did you do prior to leaving your job to help ensure your success in your new venture? Or did you just take a leap of faith?

  • http://www.purecaffeine.com pureCaffeine

    Looking forward to more Miles! I know I just shutdown my business endevours of 6 years although it was never really a serious attempt at going full time, but if/when I have another go at it then it will be with the intention to give up full-time employment and really go for it, so would be interested to hear how you coped with the stress and kept focussed and motivated, plus of course the millions of technical aspects of running a business and how you kept on top of it all :-)

    Nat

  • http://www.sitepoint.com Mark Harbottle

    Congrats Miles. You deserve your success for backing yourself. I’m sure everyone here is keen to know why you think you succeeded where many others have tried and failed.

  • Anonymous

    Hello Miles,
    I can’t wait for everything you have to tell us. Like you five years ago, I’m trying to start a business of building web sites, and I’m very interested in this subject. Welcome!

  • http://www.clearwind.nl peach

    hi, and welcome. nice to have ya :)

    I would like to see an elaborate post about how your were attracting/pulling-in clients as a freelancer, and how your current large company is getting business now.

  • http://www.bam.com.au miles

    Hi folks!

    Thank you all so much for the warm welcome, and the well crafted suggestions for topics. Some of these are what I had in mind (great minds think alike!), and there’s a number of new ones too, which is fantastic. Thanks for taking the time to comment, stay tuned for more posts shortly, and keep the ideas flowing.

  • Anonymous

    Parapapum-pum, mate. What part of the States are you from? Why don’t you go back there?

  • malikyte

    Hello Miles, and welcome. My mind, as I was reading these comments, almost exactly mirrored that of Talon’s comment, except his was much more eloquently stated compared to what my mind was churning up into a cohesive thought.

  • http://www.WebsiteTrafficReseller.com marcel

    Congradulations :)

    Hope to see you in the forums too :)

  • katiebird

    I’m looking forward to regular visits with you.

    One thing I’d really like would be a discussion of the The Web Design Business Kit 2.0, reviews of this are few and far between.

    And while it looks tempting, it’s a lot of money to spend without a little real-world feedback.

    Would that interest anyone else?

  • http://www.dkanderson.com Jala Matriq

    Hey Miles great post I am toying with the idea of quiting my job too its a huge first step. It would be great if you could write about your journey particularly the first step of it and what gave you the confidence to be so bold. Thanks for this post Miles you are definately making an impact on my thoughts.

  • geetika.mangla

    Hi,
    I am from India, I am toying with the idea of starting my own thing, without leaving my job. Still looking for a start.

  • Ken

    Hey Miles I’m in the same boat as most of the people posting. I have been designing websites off and on for a few years now and I know it’s what I want to do. I have been at the same job for over 17 years. I need to make the move but it’s scary. I have a wife and two kids 10 and 9. My wife makes good money but we need both incomes. I know in my heart that if I make the move I can make it. I can make more money and spend more time with my kids. I also look forward to hearing how you took the plunge.

    This is for katiebird you asked about the web 2.0 kit. I just got the kit and im very happy with it so far. Like I said I want to start out on my own very soon and this kit will defiantly help get me there. I may have figured some of this out on my own through trial and error but there’s no way I would have thought of all the useful information that’s in these manuals. A lot of the information is practical for any business and it has already helped me help my wife with the company she works for. In fact Ill be honest there’s so much information that I can’t absorb it all at once but what I am taking from it as I read through it is helping me move forward much fast then if I didn’t have it. You know how you see those reviews where people tell you that they would have paid more for something. Well I would give it that kind of rating. It’s worth the money.

    Ken

  • katiebird

    Ken,
    Thanks VERY much for sharing that information. With Christmas around the corner, I’ll probably wait until the first of the year. But, it sounds like it belongs on my To-Buy list.

  • exposedElements

    Like many others in this forum, I’ve been doing freelance work for a couple of years on the side and would like to learn more about what you did to get clients.

    thanks.

  • fouadz

    Can you let us know how you did manage to get your first 10 contracts ?

    Thank you

  • http://www.bam.com.au miles

    Thanks everyone for your valuable ideas and input. I’ve just posted today with my thoughts on personality types for leaping into small business, and looking forward to following that with some of the suggestions here in these comments.

    Keep those great thoughts flowing!

  • smsu

    Miles, sorry for the Off topic

    Katiebird

    I also got the web design 2 kit, and it is really good. Like Ken says, you could probably come up with them eventually but the examples in it are great and I don’t see why we have to reinvent the wheel etc

    Some really clever and creative people put a great package together and I for one am going to use it to the full

    Andy