How to Start a Web Design Business: Tips on Building a Profitable Online Company with No Experience

How to Start a Web Design Business: Tips on Building a Profitable Online Company with No Experience

Starting a web design business can be daunting if you don’t know how to do it but this article will help you become a lucrative web designer. There is so much that goes into it, such as how much money you need, what skills you should have, and how much time it will take to learn the ropes. The good news is that there are a few high-level steps in this blog post on how to start a web design business with no experience!

Follow these steps and make your own profitable online company in no time!

What is a web design business?

A web design business can fall into more than one business structure. The most popular of which include:

  1. Designing websites for businesses (large and small)
  2. Designing web templates and selling them on an e-commerce platform
  3. Providing design and copy advisory
  4. Creating a marketplace like 99Designs
  5. Designing a SaaS (software-as-a-service)
  6. Developing and launching an online course
  7. Launch a web design course

These are just a few of the ways you can start your own successful web design business to land new clients. For the sake of this article, we’ll focus on how to start a web design agency that focuses on developing websites for small businesses.

Solve a Problem

What problem are you solving? What service will your web design business provide to the public that they need and how much money can you charge them for it?

If this question is not answered, how do people know what type of website services you offer or how much to pay in terms of fees or cost per project? By answering these questions, potential clients would be able to find out more about who you are as a person. As well as give an idea on how exactly your value proposition works by explaining if there’s any hidden charges behind designing websites.

A few important questions to keep in mind:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • Are you focused on web design from scratch or revamping existing web sites?
  • Why do your potential customers have this problem?
  • Do you have specific web design skills or are you a generalist?
  • Which web design company is your primary competitor
  • Will you help a customer with personal brand or will you serve local businesses?
  • Are you going after online businesses or brick and mortar?
  • What is your unique value proposition?

Identify Your Customer

Finding your target market isn’t easy but with a structured approach, you can make life a lot easier. Think about your customers and where they are located? Where do they hang out? Are they on Reddit or would you find them at the mall?

It’s equally important to understand how much money your potential customers earn, knowing this will help you price your products accordingly. The fastest way to the sweet spot is understanding what your customers value most.

A few things to consider when identifying your potential customer:

  • Are they a business or a person
  • If a business; small, mid, or large business
  • How many employees does the business have
  • How much annual revenue does the business do
  • Is the business’ website the primary revenue driver

Differentiate Your Web Design Business From Competition

The key difference between having a successful web design agency versus not would be how well people understand exactly who you are and how you stand out.

If your potential customers don’t know what makes you different from other web design companies, how will they find the motivation to work with you? How can someone say yes when there’s no direct answer why their site would be better off working with a specific business over another one?

How Will You Charge Your Clients?

Decide if your business will be hourly fee basis or fixed price projects only. You may find that you’ll have to play around with your pricing. If you can A/B test your pricing and pricing model then that would be ideal for your to obtain the most feedback in the shortest amount of time.

Investigate the competition and study their pricing. Setup a call with the company if you must to understand their exclusive deals. Take notes!

Once you figure everything out, decide on how you will accept payments:

  • PayPal
  • Invoicing
  • Cash/Check
  • Stripe

Not everything works for everyone and in the beginning stages of a business, you may just want to accept payment in whatever form the customer is comfortable paying in. At this stage, you’re just trying to get acclimated to being a business owner.

Showoff Your Skills

Now that you have a comprehensive list of how to start a web design business, it’s time to showcase your skills. There are many ways you can do this.

First, pick a platform or two (or three). For example, put together a digital portfolio on your own site. You can also establish an expert profile on sites like LinkedIn and add all the relevant work experience related projects in there. Having this information available for potential customers is beneficial as they can learn more about how capable you are from your previous job.

Another option is putting together a blog on your website, which you can link back to from wherever it’s hosted (LinkedIn profile, another site like Dribble). A personal site would work as well and be more similar to how other web design businesses showcase their skills.

Lastly, look into how much becoming a sponsor on industry sites like Creative Market or Smashing Magazine would cost. You can add a little bit of design work for free in exchange to how it will be displayed and linked back from your site, which is great additional traffic source.

Here are a few hacks if you don’t have a vast portfolio:

  • Do personal projects
  • Create case studies based on how you helped other people’s businesses grow. Explain how easy it was to turn things around for them, how long it took and how much money they made as a result of your work. Also include the challenges that were faced before reaching success with numbers/examples to back up what you’re saying.
  • Gather up all your school projects and put them on full display
  • Create a “Lorem Ipsum” business website and give it a “Lorem Ipsum” business name

Launching Your Web Design Agency

Build a brand

Visual identity is how your business looks and feels to the customer. It’s what they see on all of your social media, how you present yourself in emails, how you answer phone calls and how friendly everyone seems to be (or not).

Start small and put together a professional email address that will eventually lead into becoming or something similar. A great example comes from Tim Ferriss: His old name was but his new name became since he started working with First Round Capital as an advisor for their portfolio companies which led him receiving more opportunities down the road because people knew who he worked for at this point.

Be consistent with how you present yourself across all social media channels and how the site looks like including how it feels to navigate through it. For example, a steep learning curve may have visitors going elsewhere so avoid this by making sure everything is easy-to-use.

Also, use tools such as Google Analytics to understand how people are using your website so that you can make changes accordingly throughout time based on what’s working best for users or how they’re navigating from page to page within your site. This will help increase conversions/sales down the road if there were any issues in the beginning stages of launching a business!

Here’s a tip to increase the probability of a successful launch

Get the word out about who you are and what you’re working on before you launch. Start building an audience early and take them on your business building journey. You will slowly build a loyal following with inherent trust and it will make the launch day much more successful. The momentum will be created and you’ll gain a few early adopters which is how businesses grow down the road too!

Feedback Loop

Only the best of the best businesses prioritize customer feedback. Put a process in place to talk to your customers. Ask them what they like and don’t like about the agency so that you can make improvements quickly. You’ll quickly find that the small changes you’re making based on feedback is transforming your agency into the exact business your customers want. This is called product-market fit (service-market fit?)

Obtaining New Clients

Obtaining clients for your new business is always the most difficult part of the process. Here, we will share a few methods for acquiring new clients

  • Work for free! This one isn’t the most fun but its the fastest way to obtain testimonials. Testimonials give credibility. Credibility brings in business.
  • Your network is your net worth. Get out there and meet people, you never know where your next gig will come from. Find relevant networking events and other after hours events that you can take advantage of. Hint: you can also reach out to your existing network.
  • Send direct messages to potential clients on LinkedIn. This can be automated. A system would send very personalized messages to a bulk set of contacts that meet your customer parameters. When you get a response, just book a call and close the deal.
  • The same automated process as mentioned above can be conducted on Twitter DMs (Twitter is a POWERFUL resource for networking)

Build a Business Plan

Understanding how you’ll obtain customers, how to work with them and how much it will cost can allow you to build a business plan. This becomes your “way out” if the market changes so that you don’t have to scrap everything down the road.

Develop Operations Process and Standard Operating Procedures

Get all of your ops in order. This is how you manage the day to day operations of your business so that it runs smoothly and efficiently. Having documented processes will allow new team members or employees come on board much easier than if they had to learn everything from scratch since everyone seems to do things slightly differently which can lead to miscommunication, lost clients/money etc…

Put together an email drip campaign using Mailchimp (or whatever email software you prefer) for onboarding customers after purchase as well as notifying them about changes within their account with a service like ActiveCampaign . You can even segment these follow-up emails based on how people are engaging with the agency’s content online via social media channels such as Facebook! These are just a few ways to optimize your onboarding process and how you’re communicating with customers.

Document and automate as many of your operational processes as possible.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking to start a web design business, we hope that this post will help guide your path and give some insight into how to build a profitable online company with no experience.

Keep in mind that if all else fails, use sites like Fiverr or Upwork. These are great for building up an agency quickly but make sure not to get too comfortable! Their true value is in helping you build your brand, you can hardly build a real business off of these platforms.

That’s all for now! Let me know what other web design businesses you’d like us to investigate. Additionally, let us know in the comments below if you need some more guidance and we’ll be happy to help you structure your profitable web design business.

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