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Big Dreams for a Small Business — Web Designer


Are you a fantastic web designer and thinking of starting your own business? Low overhead, lots of work and working from home sound great. Before you leap in, however, take some advice from those who’ve already done it.

Prepare to say no. People will come out of the woodwork wanting you to invest "sweat equity" in their new groundbreaking idea.
—From Michael Wilson, maddancer.com

The web design business is pretty saturated. You must be able to answer the question "why you?” If you don't stand out from the crowd, if you don't offer something of value, then don't get into this business.
— Gabriel Shaoolian, BlueFountainMedia.com

Don’t get bogged down in the freelance sites like Guru.com, Rent-acoder.com or get work on Craigslist. While the work is plentiful, these clients typically want something for nothing and tend to be very high maintenance.
— Sean Mayhew, HelioCreative.com

The most important thing a designer needs to know is that reputation and trust are key components to your work and for your future business. As a new business, you have to gain the trust of your clients and this is a crucial task that is made difficult without expertise in your field and a great reputation to boot. 
—Rachel Rhodes, Relevansi.com

Initially, keep your expenses low. That means possibly working from home to keep the rent down, and bring on new employees on a contract basis as you are building the business. This becomes a way to sort out the real talented folks from the ones just looking to earn a paycheck. Once your business picks up, then you have a ton of website designers to choose from for your team.
—Michael Ayalon, Petwebdesigner.com

The most important thing a designer needs to know about opening a web design business is to hire an attorney to write a clear contract so that both you and your clients understand your responsibilities, their responsibilities and what to expect. Nothing kills a business relationship faster than incorrect assumptions by either party. A comprehensive and clearly worded contract is a must. Secondly, I would recommend the website designer become an expert on search engine optimization. I don't care how pretty your websites are, if they are not search engine optimized and can't be found by search engines, your website is worthless.
—Michelle Minch, EasyDesignerWebsites.com

I am a big believer in finding "shared office space " to start. This gives you the dual benefit of having a built-in referral network and potential partners and customers. Home offices often have many distractions. When you are starting out, you may be working a lot of hours and keeping the home as a place of peace and refuge (separate from work) is a good idea.
—Steven Collins, New York, Webb Communications, Sitespan.com

Being a good designer or programmer isn't good enough by itself. When running your own company, you also need to be a salesman, finding prospects and landing contracts. It's basically a commission-only sales job: If you can't land clients, you won't earn any money.
—Chris Strom, cstrom.com

The idea of specializing scares many web designers , particularly those new to being in business. They are concerned that they'll lose business or become pigeon-holed by their clients. But specializing in a niche makes marketing significantly easier. It gives a designer the ability to dig deep into the industry and learn about common challenges and develop solutions. It provides the opportunity to become the big fish in a small pond, rather than a minnow in a sea of prospects.
—Neil Tortorella, tortorelladesign.com

(The biggest mistake I’ve made is) hiring the wrong people. You are only as good as the people around you.
—Kalika Yap, citrusstudios.com

Building relationships and getting referrals has been our biggest asset in growing our business. Networking with marketing organizations such as the BMA (Business Marketing Association) and AMA (American Marketing Association) can also be good, but can be time-consuming, so make sure that the organizations that you get involved in are appropriate for your business.
—Mike Walker, WalkerTek.com

(The biggest mistake I’ve made is) not targeting my ideal customer soon enough. I used to be one of those people who would take on just about any client, any gig, anything I could do in the very beginning. Of course, when you're just starting out, you tend to learn very quickly the kinds of things you're good at. When that happens, you'll want to restructure your business around those strengths and build on them. My mistake was that I simply waited too long and had to play catch-up later!
—Sherice Jacob, ielectrify.com