Do you dream of starting your own web design business? With the advent of easy, fast Internet access and an array of available digital tools, it’s a great time to consider making your dream a reality.
Startup requirements for a web design business can be minimal — just a smartphone, laptop, Internet connection and a few pieces of software. Add a little planning, and you can significantly increase your chances of success. Here are five tips to consider before you launch.
Take a Professional Approach
Before you begin taking on clients, make sure you’ve set up your business in a sustainable, professional manner. To help with accounting and taxes, open a business checking account that’s separate from your personal account. Make sure you get any permits or licenses required for starting a business in your area.
Create templates for estimates and invoices, and set up a schedule of fees. You’ll want to charge an hourly rate that is higher than you earned in a salaried job, since you will be covering expenses like taxes, health and liability insurance, and overhead. Consider how you’ll break down your fees through the course of projects; most designers charge up to half of the total fee upfront.
Even if you’re starting small, put together a simple business plan. A proper business plan can help you get financing and land larger customers, and it enables you to clarify where you see your business going. At a minimum, your plan should include a description of your business and the services you intend to provide, who you consider to be your target clients, your anticipated costs on a monthly basis, and information about your competitors.
Use the Right Tools
Some web designers spend tens of thousands of dollars each year on the latest computer equipment and software, but you can easily get started with some basic tools.
You will need a computer, although it doesn’t have to be the latest model. Many web designers use Macs, but design software also works fine on PCs. Try to get the best specs you can afford, including the most random-access memory (RAM) and the fastest processor.
To make designing sites fast and easy, you’ll need some type of graphic software; many web designers use Photoshop or similar software to create their graphics. In addition, you’ll need a text editor for writing code, along with a file transfer protocol (FTP) client for uploading files to the web.
Your most important tool will be a fast Internet connection, likely through your phone company or cable provider.
Sharpen Your Skills
Web designers need to master a variety of skills, including writing well, creating graphics and coding.
You’ll need to develop a deep understanding of user interface design and stay up to date on the latest web technologies. Basic coding languages for the web are HTML and CSS, which you can learn on your own if you take the initiative.
If a project requires skills that you don’t yet possess, consider partnering with an outside website developer for support.
Create a Unique Brand
Web design is highly competitive, and you’ll need to differentiate your business to stand out and attract clients.
A basic step in creating a brand for your business is developing a logo and using it consistently — on your business cards, on social media and on your own website. However, you’ll need to take your branding efforts even further, by developing a signature look that you use consistently.
In addition, consider purchasing a unique domain name that you can use for your website and business email address.
Market Your Business Effectively
Putting up a website for your virtual business is similar to hanging a shingle for a brick-and-mortar establishment. Simply being open for business doesn’t mean the customers will stream in; you’ll need to go out and get them.
To begin landing clients, start engaging in a variety of marketing activities, including:
- Updating your website on a consistent basis with compelling content, including examples of your web design work.
- Being active on social media, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
- Using search engine optimization techniques to ensure that your website ranks well in Google and other search engines.
- Attending networking events in your area through your local chamber of commerce and other business groups.
Ready to get started? By working through these tips, you can have your web design business up and running quickly.
Author bio: Chris Pautsch is Founder and CEO of KeyLimeTie. KeyLimeTie is a full-service design, development and digital strategy agency, helping clients communicate more effectively and intimately with their customers through interactive marketing channels.