10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Web Design Business

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Freelancing on the side to earn extra income is all well and good. But if you want to start a business that generates a full-time income, here are some things to know.

1. Web Design is a Commodity

Low barrier to entry and an abundance of do-it-yourself options means clients have too many choices and no basis upon which to make the best decision. The sooner you acknowledge this, the easier it will be to break out of the commoditization trap.

2. Sales is a Skill You Must Acquire

If you’re unable or unwilling to learn how to sell your services, consider partnering with someone who can. Otherwise, don’t quit your day job.

3. Prospecting for Business is not Optional

“Sales” is everything that occurs after a prospect agrees to meet with you. Finding people willing to meet with you requires prospecting. While it’s not impossible to grow quickly through word-of-mouth alone, it’s the exception, not the norm. Just like SEO, word-of-mouth requires time; it doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re just starting out and need clients right away, go out and find them.

4. Cold Calling Works

Despite claims to the contrary by so-called experts, cold-calling is one of the most effective means to obtain new business. Unless clients are beating a path to your door, don’t be too quick to dismiss cold-calling.

5. Prospects Aren’t Buying What You’re Selling

Business owners don’t value your HTML skills or your time. They value vendors who produce results. Business owners are concerned with what puts money in their pocket or what keeps money in their pocket. If your service doesn’t directly impact their bottom line, you’re not selling what they’re buying.

6. Your Biggest Competitor is Not Who You Think

Over the years, I’ve lost more deals to the decision to do nothing than other web firms. Before getting too cozy with that prospect, find out whether this project is mission-critical, or if “doing nothing” is an option. As Seth Godin says: “Are you really worth the hassle, the risk, the time, the money?”

7. Never Offer a Proposal

Writing a proposal is a poor way to close a deal. But when I first started out, I’d offer to write one instead of simply asking for the sale. Once I learned otherwise, I found I could close a deal on a verbal agreement, then write the proposal to finalize the sale. So don’t write a proposal unless your prospect has agreed to sign it.

8. Never Agree to “Final Payment Upon Completion”

Obtaining content from the client is one of the most challenging aspects of web design. You are on dangerous ground when your contract stipulates that the client can make final payment upon completion. Conceivably, a client can delay the project for any number of reasons that are beyond your control and you might never see that “final payment.”

9. Clone Your Best Clients as Soon as Possible

Chances are, you’ll stumble on some good clients by accident. You know the type—the ones who give you plenty of ongoing work, always pay on time, never badger you for a lower price, and send you a gift basket at Christmas. Once you land a few of those, figure out what characteristics they have in common … then go after others like them.

10. Two Are Better than One

Having been in business as a both sole proprietor and a partnership, I can say that I prefer the latter. That said, a bad partnership can be nearly as disastrous as a bad marriage. But considering that partnerships generate more revenue than sole proprietors, I’d say it’s worth the risk. There is my “Top 10” list of what you need to know before starting your web design business. Did I miss anything? Post yours below.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Starting a Web Design Business

What are the essential skills needed to start a web design business?

To start a web design business, you need a combination of technical and soft skills. On the technical side, you should be proficient in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and other relevant programming languages. You should also be familiar with design software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Understanding of UX/UI design principles is crucial as well. On the soft skills side, you need to have strong communication skills, project management abilities, and a knack for problem-solving. Additionally, a basic understanding of business and marketing can help you attract and retain clients.

How much does it cost to start a web design business?

The cost of starting a web design business can vary greatly depending on your business model. If you’re working as a freelancer from home, your initial costs could be relatively low, mainly involving the purchase of necessary software and hardware. However, if you’re planning to start a full-scale agency with an office and employees, your costs will be significantly higher. These could include rent, salaries, utilities, marketing, and more. It’s important to create a detailed business plan to estimate your startup costs accurately.

How can I attract clients for my web design business?

Attracting clients for your web design business involves a combination of effective marketing and networking. You can start by creating a professional website showcasing your portfolio. Social media platforms and online marketplaces like Upwork can also be useful for reaching potential clients. Networking events, both online and offline, can help you connect with potential clients and other professionals in your field. Additionally, consider offering special promotions or discounts to attract your first clients and build your reputation.

How do I price my web design services?

Pricing your web design services can be challenging, especially when you’re just starting out. You need to consider several factors, including the complexity of the project, the time it will take, your level of expertise, and the going rates in your market. Some web designers charge a flat rate per project, while others charge an hourly rate. It’s important to be transparent about your pricing and provide detailed quotes to potential clients.

What are the common challenges in starting a web design business?

Starting a web design business comes with several challenges. These can include finding clients, setting competitive yet profitable prices, managing multiple projects at once, and staying up-to-date with the latest web design trends and technologies. Additionally, like any business, it involves a certain level of financial risk. However, with careful planning, ongoing learning, and a commitment to providing excellent service, these challenges can be overcome.

How can I differentiate my web design business from competitors?

Differentiating your web design business from competitors can be achieved by focusing on a unique selling proposition (USP). This could be a specific design style, a particular industry you specialize in, or exceptional customer service. Additionally, showcasing your portfolio and client testimonials can help demonstrate your skills and reliability.

Do I need a business license to start a web design business?

The requirements for starting a web design business can vary depending on your location. In some places, you may need a business license, while in others, you may not. It’s important to research the specific requirements in your area and ensure you’re operating legally.

How can I manage multiple web design projects effectively?

Managing multiple web design projects effectively requires strong project management skills. You need to be able to prioritize tasks, set and meet deadlines, and communicate effectively with clients. Using project management tools can help you stay organized and keep track of your progress.

How can I keep up with the latest web design trends and technologies?

Keeping up with the latest web design trends and technologies is crucial for staying competitive in this field. You can do this by following relevant blogs, attending web design conferences, taking online courses, and participating in web design communities.

What are the potential income streams for a web design business?

The primary income stream for a web design business is the revenue from designing and developing websites. However, there are several other potential income streams as well. These can include website maintenance and updates, hosting services, SEO services, graphic design services, and more. By offering a range of services, you can increase your income potential and provide more value to your clients.

John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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