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How to Start a Web Design Business

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Thinking about starting a web design business? Wondering what steps you need to take? In this lesson, you'll learn more about the important points to consider when beginning a new web design venture.

Web Business Savvy

Rachel has been working in web design for a local firm, WeeDesign, for the past 10 years. While she likes and enjoys her work, she would like more freedom to set her own hours and make her own decisions as well as pocket a little extra cash she can use to travel and see the world. She has considered starting her own private design firm, but is overwhelmed with the tasks and tools needed to launch a successful web design business.

Where to Start

The first place most people start in undertaking any kind of new venture is with costs. How much will it cost you to get started with a web design business? Costs should include necessary equipment, rental costs, utilities, insurance and employees. Consider hiring an accountant who can help make sense of the financial end of things.

Prepare all the necessary paperwork to establish your business legally and develop a business plan to guide the successful operation of your organization. Obtain all the necessary licenses and permits.

Next, build your brand, if you haven't already been working on this in an independent or freelance capacity. What name will you choose for your business? How do you want to be perceived - fresh, funky, traditional? Your messaging, website and all accompanying materials such as business cards, logos, etc., will present the image you select to potential clients.

Start, or continue, a portfolio of your work. In most scenarios, to get work, you have to show the kind of work you're capable of such as work you've recently performed for other clients. A website is a great place to display projects you've worked on. If you're just starting out and the work you've done is minimal, consider taking on a few free projects or projects done for a trade to help stock your site.

Determine your pricing structure. Look at your monthly costs and add in a salary for yourself. Decide if you want to charge by the hour, per project or by the page/design element. Work toward setting a rate that helps cover your costs and provides some money that you can live comfortably on.

Find a sales cycle. Who is your target client and where can they be found? How will you reach them and present your business and services? Create a template for a plan that includes summarizing what your capabilities are, identifying your clients' needs, explaining why your business is the best match to meet those needs and showing them examples of previous work you've done.

Things to Consider

Find the tools you'll need for success. You'll understandably need the appropriate computer hardware and software to complete design jobs, but you'll also need a way to prepare quotes and invoices, a system for organizing and keeping track of projects and timekeeping capabilities if you're hiring staff members right away.

Advertise and promote using multiple channels. You may not be able to afford a full-color advertisement in a national magazine, but there are plenty of local options that can help spread the word about your business such as a newspaper ad, billboard or social media marketing.

Be ready to network with other designers and business leaders. It's fairly easy to become a member of a local Chamber of Commerce organization, and even easier to check out member businesses' presence on the web. If you notice a need, consider approaching the business, but cautiously, to avoid offending anyone or hurting someone's feelings.

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