It’s not an easy task. It will require you to master a variety of new skills such as bookkeeping and marketing. You also need to take practical steps such as determining if you have enough money to start your business or to survive.
For this tutorial, I reached out to web designers and asked them for their top advice. These are their top tips.
Change your mindset
It’s a great opportunity to be your boss, but it’s not always easy.
You will likely spend most of your day working as a web designer for a company. Other people are responsible for winning clients, setting up contracts, managing the finances, and setting the company’s strategy, objectives, and goals.
All of the other tasks are your responsibility when you start your own web design company. You will still have to manage the people, even if you are able to hire them.
It is likely that your core activity of creating great websites will become less important when you work on your own. If your business grows and becomes successful, you might become a full-time manager.
This may not be a bad thing. Entrepreneurship is an exciting job. We’ll be covering the financial and managerial aspects of running a business in this tutorial. It may take some time to get used to, especially if you enjoy designing websites.
You may also need to adjust your perception of websites and what they should look like. Francis Barbero, the Managing Director at Starfish Internet Solutions, in the Philippines, shared his top advice to people who are setting up a web design company.
Be aware of your own inborn perceptions of websites. Websites can mean different things to different people. It can be a commodity for some, but it is essential for others. Think about how your average client in the market will perceive websites. Your image, price, and service should be adjusted accordingly.
This is something that you probably haven’t had to worry about as an employee. The client gives you a brief and you work together to build the website they desire. As a business owner, it is important to attract new clients. This means speaking in the language of your target audience and structuring your services to meet their needs.
It may seem that you are able to be everything to everyone. You might offer both “cheap commodity” sites to clients who desire that and more expensive, well-designed sites to clients who are willing to invest more.
However, business is not always like that. Your agency’s portfolio should reflect this reputation. You can have a variety of services and prices, but it’s okay to offer different levels. However, you should think about what type of web design agency in Singapore and the services your client would like. Then position yourself to fulfill those needs.
Get Clear on Your Deal
Web design is a competitive field. What sets you apart from the thousands of other design firms?
Maybe you have worked for large law firms and are familiar with their requirements. Perhaps you are aiming for the local market and focusing on small businesses in your area to give them the local flair.
However, you can also try to distinguish yourself solely on quality. But, you will need to be extremely good and/or hardworking. Ryan McKay from Japan-based Studiomochi sent me this email.
“Under promise, over deliver.” Surprise the client with something extra. You can add value wherever they least expect it. Always keep your word. In business, your word is everything. Send an estimate today if you promise to send one by tonight. Send it to live by Friday if you promise that the site will be live by Friday. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. You should set realistic deadlines for your project tasks, and then increase the time to make sure you are safe. Your client may have given you a deadline, and she will be disappointed if you fail to meet it.
Your service offerings could be a way to differentiate yourself. Paul Boag, the founder of UK web agency Headscape, wrote in a blog that agencies need to do more than design websites. Clients often need longer-term support with site maintenance, updating it, measuring its success, etc.
“You might have noticed that we no longer call ourselves web design agencies on our new Headscape website. Instead, we refer to ourselves as web agencies. We believe that our clients require more than just beautiful pictures and development. The work we do is becoming more about strategy, governance, and measurement.
Think about what you can offer your clients. Beyond a beautiful website, what are their goals? What can you do to help them reach their goals? You don’t need to be an expert in digital marketing, but you can partner with someone who is.
Once you have a clear idea of your offering, it is time to develop a compelling identity. You need to come up with a name for your business (see this series of advice on naming your business), create your branding message and design, and then put all that into a website that is both attractive and user-friendly.
The financial burden is one of the biggest obstacles to starting your own business. Is it possible to quit your regular job and start your own business?
You need to build a complete financial model in order to answer this question.
Start by creating your business model and making assumptions about the number of clients you’ll get and what they’ll pay. Also, make some assumptions about your expenses, including startup costs and ongoing business expenses.
You can then calculate the break-even level, which is the amount of money you make to pay your expenses. You want to make profits and not just pay your expenses. However, if you are just starting out, you will need to calculate how long it will take to break even and whether you have enough money to get you there.
Don’t be alarmed if all this seems complicated. I wrote a tutorial called from Idea to Break-Even which guides you through creating a financial plan for your startup.
A Freelancer’s Guide to Effective Budgeting will help you ensure that you are in control of your personal finances. This guide to pricing will help you decide how much to charge.
You don’t have to be a web designer to manage a web design agency. While I have already spoken about the financial aspect of web design, there are many other skills that you will need.
Ryan McKay, Studiomochi, offers another piece of advice:
Learn to communicate well. Many web designers work in agencies, where they can be creative 100% of the time. You must master communication skills in order to succeed in business. Talking up can solve almost all business problems. Are you running behind on your project? Notify the client if you see a delay. Do you need new business? Get on the phone to sell your services. Send your client useful links and articles even if the project is going smoothly. Be a problem solver for your business and be the first person that your client calls when they have a problem.
Don’t worry if you aren’t comfortable with networking, making cold calls, or giving a presentation. Being an introvert myself, it’s easy to empathize. While you may not always enjoy doing these things, you can definitely get better at them with practice and study.
The Envato Tuts+ series Presentation Fundamentals is a good place to begin. You can also find one-off tutorials such as How To Start (and Continue ) a Conversation with Anyone. For sales, you can also check out the Promoting Your Services and Winning Work course.
You won’t be capable of hiring employees unless you have lots of money in your bank account. Even if you are doing everything yourself in the beginning, you should start to look for ways to outsource, partner with others, and eventually hire employees.
Vicki Young, founder of Nalla Design wrote that in the beginning, you’ll need to be able to do everything in the business. It can be overwhelming. It is helpful to list all the tasks that you need to do and all the roles you fill your day with. Also, note what time you spend on each day. This will give you a clear picture of where you are spending your time and how you can invest in new team members to help you.
You don’t have to hire a full-time employee in order to get help. Start by outsourcing individual tasks via sites such as Upwork, Freelancer or our Envato Studio. You could also look at Zirtual if you are looking for a dedicated virtual assistant. As your business grows, you can hire more contractors and build a permanent staff. For more information on hiring, please see this tutorial.
Continue to work on your personal projects
It can be tempting to give up on your personal projects because of all the work involved in starting a business. The blog that consumes so much of your time or the forum where you offer so much expert advice for no reward.
However, web designer Daniel Howells, the owner of Howells Studio, said that this is exactly what you should not do.
My blog siteInspire.com has helped me to get a lot of new business. It’s been a labor of love since 2009. Don’t underestimate the power and value of personal projects. Even if you don’t make any money from them, they will help tremendously in terms of brand recognition and lead generation.
You must be careful. It will take a lot of your time to start a business. There must be something that you can give up. Maybe it’s your TV obsession and not your blog that could help get your name out there.
Take a look at your time and make a list of areas you can free up. However, you should continue to do anything that will show the world your web design knowledge, expertise, or opinions, even though there isn’t an immediate tangible result.
Next, start your business. Although I initially wrote “take the plunge”, it’s actually the wrong metaphor. Although you could leave your job and invest your entire life savings in your new company tomorrow, most people prefer a gradual approach.
Do the initial research I have outlined in this tutorial to make sure you are clear about your approach and how the finances will work. You can go ahead and do it if you are confident it will work. If you aren’t sure if the numbers will work, you can do some freelance work. This includes setting up the website and marketing. You can build up clients and refer people to you while still having the security net of your job.
This will allow you to build your business slowly and then only take on full-time work when you are comfortable. You don’t need to take a leap of faith when starting a new venture. You don’t need to be afraid or take risks. You can take it at your own pace, considering your life circumstances and responsibilities, and only dive in when the water is comfortable.