What to Know to Start a Successful Web Design Business11 min read

Starting a web design business, exciting as it is, takes a lot of hard work and dedication – plus the necessary skills and know-how to find clients.

And that’s just the beginning.

You have to factor in the most important aspects of website design, charge fair rates for your services, use the right tools and software, and more. If this sounds like it’s a lot of work, it is.

However, the great news is that it is possible to build a very successful web design business if you keep the right information in mind.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview on how to start a web design business.

But First, The Law.

Laws and regulations in mind are a crucial part of starting your business. Depending on where you are located, you’ll have to comply with specific rules to operate legally.

In addition, online businesses entail their own rules regarding things like copyright and trademark law. Ignoring these can lead to some serious consequences down the road, so it’s best to consult with an attorney before getting started.

In addition, creating an LLC ensures that your assets are protected if your business is sued at any point down the line. This is an easily set up process (can be done in an afternoon in most states), and is well worth the time and money it takes.

Registering as a DAO LLC could be the right choice for a web design business. DAOs are decentralized autonomous organizations that use blockchain technology to operate. This allows you to use a more decentralized business model.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to incorporating your web design business, take the time to look through the different options available to you, and what would work best for your business is a critical first step.

A Quick Overview of Essential Design Elements for a Client Website

There’s a lot that goes into web design.

For instance, your website should be user-friendly: easy to navigate, visually appealing, and informative. It should encourage visitors to stay on the page longer so they’re likelier to convert into customers. Keep your target audience in mind as well here – if you’re creating a hearing aids website, it should be even simpler to use by a generally older clientele that may not be as comfortable using the internet.

Your website also needs to be responsive, which means that it should look good on all devices, from laptops to smartphones, especially as more and more people access the internet on mobile devices.

It should be fast. Users are unlikely to wait more than 3 seconds for a page to load. In some cases, a fast website is even more crucial for user experience. Gaming websites like Solitaire Bliss or Poki can’t afford slow loading times that interrupt gameplay.

Your designed website needs to be secure. This means that it should have an SSL certificate, and all payment forms should be protected with encryption. If your website deals with customer credit card information or other sensitive data, your site should be completely protected against malicious attacks and hackers.

What Skills Do You Need to Start a Web Design Business?

A web design business requires a diverse set of skills to keep it afloat. That means you’ll probably have to find a talented team that fills in all the gaps. Of course, freelancers and small business owners with the right skillset could get it away with doing it all, but they’ll quickly hit a ceiling in terms of how much work they’re able to take on.

Here’s a list of some of the fundamental skills your web design business needs.

Web Development Basics

We’ll start with the absolute basics! You can’t start a web design business without knowing HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Or at least, by having people that know how to do it on the team.

Many resources are available online and in libraries that can help you learn these programming languages. Some of these are free, including websites such as W3Schools.

However, there’s a difference between knowing the theory and being able to put it into practice. The best way to learn web design is to get your hands dirty and start designing websites.

Portfolio Development

Your portfolio is essentially your “resume” as a web designer. It’s a collection of your best work that you can show to potential clients to prove that you can design high-quality websites.

You may not have much (or any) website design experience when starting out.

In this case, you can create practice projects or offer to do pro-bono work for various organizations. Once you have some real client work under your belt, make sure to showcase this prominently in your portfolio.

If you can specialize in an area of web design and have specific examples, like ecommerce website designs that have helped businesses increase their sales, show those off in your portfolio.

Marketing Your Business

You could be the best web designer in the world, but if no one knows about your business, you’re not going to get very far.

That’s why marketing is such an essential skill for web design businesses.

Depending on factors like your target audience and the scale of your operations, you can rely on marketing methods like online advertising, social media marketing, and content marketing. It’s essential to experiment with different marketing strategies to see what works best for your business. Make sure to hire someone with experience for the role, or you could outsource to a good marketing agency as well!

Pro tip: automate the marketing process as much as possible. There are plenty of AI tools that can help you create better content, track your SEO progress, and even find new customers.

Sourcing Clients and Projects

Acquiring clients is the bedrock of your web design agency, and getting a monthly retainer the dream. While some design agencies would prefer to concentrate their efforts on acquiring hot high-ticket clients (the kind that keep the money flowing in), it’s up to you to decide what your target market is.

Again, it’s crucial to experiment with different sourcing methods, like online job boards, cold-emailing, and networking. I’ll go into some detail regarding these three methods.

Online job boards: These are websites where companies and individuals post job listings for web designers. Some of the most popular ones include Upwork, Freelancer, and 99designs.

To use these platforms, create a profile and start applying for jobs. Read the requirements and ensure you can deliver before applying for jobs. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on specific jobs if needed.

Cold-emailing: This involves emailing companies and individuals who might need your services and pitching them your business.

To do this effectively, you need to have a strong understanding of sales and marketing. Customize your emails based on what a specific business does. If you need help getting started, try finding a sales mentor.

Also, practice getting comfortable with rejection! You will likely get rejected more times than you are accepted. However, the great news is that you only need to be accepted a few times to get the wheel spinning.

Pro tip: When you get a positive answer from potential clients, automate the process of scheduling an appointment. Finding a time to meet that works for both you and the client can be time-consuming, so you can use software tools to streamline this process.

Networking: This is perhaps the most effective way to find clients. Networking involves meeting people in person or online and building relationships with them. You can meet people by attending industry events, joining relevant online communities, or simply reaching out to people you know. Once you’ve built up a strong network, you’ll be able to find clients much more quickly. This will also increase the number of referrals that you start getting

You can check out this list of expert tips on acquiring clients as well.

Maintaining Client Relationships

Clients are the lifeblood of your business, so it’s essential to keep them happy. Plus, acquiring a client is so much more expensive than retaining one! Once you’ve won them over, put in the work to ensure they stay. Be responsive to their needs. Stay professional and open to feedback, and deliver high-quality work.

Remember, listening to your customer’s request is critical. While you might have more subject matter expertise, in the end the website will belong to the client. Their opinion matters. Listen first, and then create a space for conversation and suggestions.

Client management is a skill that takes time to develop, but here are some more pointers to help you flex that muscle.

Establishing Rates

It’s the eternal question: how do you charge enough to make a profit, but not so much that you scare away potential clients?

The best way to determine how much to charge is to research the rates of other web design businesses in your area. Check to see if they serve a similar clientele to yours, and if their business is around the same size too. That should give you an idea of how much to charge for your own services. Of course, there’s more to establishing rates than just that! Check out this article on six different kinds of pricing models, and see which one suits your purposes best.

Don’t forget – you don’t have to stick to a single pricing model for the entire lifetime of your business! As your web design agency grows, as you solidify your niche, as you build expertise, it’s imperative you keep refreshing your pricing model to further boost profitability.

Finally, when it comes to billing and invoicing your clients, tools like Scoro or FreshBooks can help you automate this process and get paid faster.

Delivering High-Quality Work on Time

This is one of the most important skills to develop when running a web design business. Clients will not be happy if you deliver late or provide subpar work.

To avoid this, develop a strong work ethic and learn how to manage your time effectively. Sset realistic deadlines for yourself and give yourself some buffer time if something goes wrong.

Growing Your Business Over Time

Finally, the last (and one of the most important) skills to develop is the ability to learn and adapt continuously so you can grow and scale your web design business over time.

The web design industry is constantly changing, so it’s essential to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. One way to do this is to read design blogs and articles, attend webinars and conferences, and take online courses that discuss what’s happening in the industry.  Did you know that horizontal scrolling is one of the promising web design trends currently making waves in the industry? It won’t remain that way forever! That’s why t’s crucial to stay abreast of such trends.

IExperiment with new design techniques and strategies. By continuously learning and adapting, you’ll be able to keep your business one step ahead of the competition.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Website Design Business

Learning the challenges you may face from what others have done before is a great way to set yourself up for success.

Here are three common mistakes made when starting a web development business:

1. Not Defining Your Target Market

Take the time to define your target market. Trying to be everything to everyone is a recipe for disaster. By clearly defining who your ideal customer is, you can focus your marketing strategy to attract the right kind of clients.

2. Not Pricing Your Services Properly

Many new companies make the mistake of either charging too little or too much for their services. As a result, they either end up working for less than they’re worth, or fail to attract any customers. Do your research and price your services keeping both competition and profitability in mind.

3. Failing to Plan for Growth

Without a plan for growth, you’ll be unable to scale your business properly and grow over time. With planning, you’ll have the right team and infrastructure to support your growth.

Avoiding these common mistakes will help you set your web development business up for success.

Conclusion

There’s no time like the present to get started on your web design business. A successful web design business can be a great way to earn a living while doing something you love.

By following the tips in this article, you’ll be well on your way to getting your business off the ground. Just remember to take things one step at a time and enjoy the process. Before you know it, you’ll be up and running and on your way to success.

Disclaimer: This post was published in collaboration with Hanson Cheng, the founder of Freedom to Ascend. He empowers online entrepreneurs and business owners to 10x their business and become financially independent.

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Jamil Ali Ahmed

Jamil is an Organic Search Manager at Cloudways – A SEO friendly hosting Platform. He has 14 years experience in SEO, and is passionate about Digital Marketing and Growth Optimization. Jamil is a Minimalist, Observer, Loves Nature, Animals, Food, Cricket & Mimicking 🙂

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