This tutorial is based on my personal experience of running a web design company.
When I started, there was nobody to hand hold me a tell me what to do and what not. It has been a long journey of trial and errors.
I made many mistakes, and learnt from those. It is all about repeating what works and discarding the rest. In this tutorial I have tried to break down the steps needed for starting and running a successful web design agency.
Web design is not only graphics design. It is a complete process including creating graphics and then using those graphics as web elements inside web pages.
Web design may be static consisting of static web pages. Or, it can be dynamic too, involving programming and dynamically showing web pages from database calls.
It makes sense to be very clear about what type of web design you want to do. Because the requirements of manpower and other resources will vary accordingly.
You will also need to explain to the clients the type of web design you do.
Many clients are not techy and assume that they are getting everything under one umbrella. They get dissappointed to learn that it is not the case.
So the wise thing to do is to explain in clear details what you cover and what not at the very onset.
You can go solo and freelance or you can run it as a business with multiple people involved. Both approaches have pros and cons.
If you are running the business with muliple people, you can think of turing it to a Limited Liability Company, to avail legal protection in case of bankrutpcy and other liabilities.
Being freelancer gives a lot of freedom and the start up cost also is minimal, but scaling up can be a problem as you are one person only.
Businesses with more manpower typically needs higher investment and account management.
Decide a course of action depending on your budget and resource requirements.
If you are starting with 1 – 2 clients, then it is best to set up a propretorship firm and then scale up as the requirements increase.
You can work from home if you are going solo, or take an office somewhere. An office will also be needed if you have multiple people in your business.
Get a small office in the beginning if you need to. Something around in the range 10 x 6 or 8 x 6 will be enough for the office space as you will want to save in startup costs.
There should be enough space to sit two people at least. Two chair and one table is enough initially.
Get internet connection. I will suggest getting broadband from the local supplier as wireless is not standard enough for a stable connection.
Buy one good computer if you have not done so already. This is vital. You will be doing all your work here. So make sure that the configuration is good.
Web design is a computer based process so you will need a desktop. A PC with i3/i5, 16GB Ram and 1TB hard disk is good enough. You can also use a laptop with same configuration.
Decorating the inside of your office room is a good idea. Make it look professional with color combinations, placement of paintings and boards etc.
If you are working from home, make sure that the working area is nice and cosy without much distrction.
The web design process needs a variety of software tools.
From requirement gathering to wireframing and then coding and maintenance, there are software tools for every purpose.
The first tool you will need is a graphics software. Adobe is the default choice but it comes with a price.
If tou want to save on starting costs, then go for a free alternative.
Linux guys have the option to use Gimp. For windows users Krita https://krita.org/en/ is a good choice.
Requirement gathering tools help you to compile requirements of the client. They document every step of the web design process and you can keep tab on whether you are off-target or not.
Slack can be a good option for gathering requirements from clients. https://slack.com
Mockup and wireframing tools help to create a demo. https://moqups.com/ and https://www.mockflow.com/ are two commercial options.
If you are looking for something free then the pencil project is a great start https://pencil.evolus.vn/.
Finally you will also need software for monitoring and maintaining the project. You can invest in a good project management tool like Scorro https://www.scoro.com/.
A project management system will help you track the progress of the project and keep it on schedule.
Create a brand website. Choose a domain name that reflects your brand.
You can host your website with bluehost or godaddy. Do not waste your time with cheap web hosting elsewhere as your site needs to keep up 99.99% of times!
Install WordPress on your website. WordPress a free and the most popular choice for designing a website.
There are thousands of plugins to enhance the functionality of your website. Choose the ones that you need.
The plugin Yoast seo is a good choice to make your website search engine friendly.
You can also install a plugin to speed up your website. The plugin https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-fastest-cache/ can be a good option for this purpose.
Your website must be professional to look at and contain your complete portfolio. Include your best work in a gallery to showcase.
Testimonials and reviews are trust building features and more you get them positive more is your chance of getting new clients.
If you are starting new, then there will not be many of testimonials and reviews. One way to overcome this is getting reviews from people you know in your circuit.
Do some small projects for friends and acquintances and then ask for reviews. You can also do it for free to generate testimonials in the beginning.
Remember that your website is an extension of your brand online. So take time out to set it correctly.
You will a need a marketing plan to spread the word about your web design business. Marketing a web design business is relatively easier than other industries.
Here are some ways to expose your brand to potential customers –
Freebies is a great way to create exposure. Designers are creative people. Use that creativity to create something of value.
The freebie can be a business card, template or infographics. Give it away free with a request to link back to your website.
Being active in social media channels can be yield tremendous value to your brand. Engage in answering questions and solve problems in Facebook and Linked in groups.
The ideas is to leave a link to your website for more information, where appropriate.
If you can spend a bit, then consider buying ads in Facebook. They let you target users by your chosen demographics.
Testimonials add the trust factor to your brand. As stated earlier, at the beginning you will not get many testimonials.
The recommended way to overcome this is to ask friends and close assocites to provide testimonials.
In lieu you can create something nice for them. A business card, brochure, pamphlet or anything small but valuable for free!
Viral content is something which has a shock value but is also entertaining. Do you have something like this in mind?
Then create the content and distribute it through social media. Such content spreads quickly brining in citations and links.
Networking is a vital component in any business, not only web design.
Web design seminars, business seminars, trade fairs are great places to network. People in these seminars are on the lookout for more business and you can strike some deals with offers and discounts.
Do not forget to hand out your business cards wherever possible.
Social media is online equivalent of groups and communities.
When you join such a group you are a part of it and others in the group will listen to you.
Of course you should be well acquainted to the group to be taken seriously. Hence starters should always participate in close networks only.
Ask friends in these channels for referrals. Though you may be hesitant to do so, it is one of the surefire ways to generate leads.
Use social media to also bring attention to your discount and offers.
For example, if you are launching a new service, you can tell your network about it and then ask for referrals.
Incentivize by offering discounts when people sign through these social media links.
Govt. has specific license fee for different businesses. Typically the local municipality or panchayat determines the fee.
It is not possible to tell you what will be your license fee because different municipalities and panchayats determine different fee.
Contact your local licensing authority to know about the procedure, pay the fee and obtain a license to ply your trade.
A trade license will also help to bring about the trust factor. Probable clients can see now that you are legit and trustworthy as a business.
Most of the web design work can be conducted and transferred online. Hence, clients for a web design company can come from anywhere in the world.
But while big companies find it easier to get such clients due to their brand names, for freelancers and smaller companies it can be a struggle.
There are platforms like https://upwork.com, https://guru.com, https://freelancer.com that can make the task of finding outside leads easier.
These platforms are frequented by both local and international businesses looking to get work done.
Smaller companies and freelancers can register in these sites and then look for contracts from foreign merchants.
You may have to quote low and produce excellent quality for getting positive reviews. But it is worth it and many Indian companies starting in this way are now clocking millions in yearly revenue.
Maintaining a professional relation with clients can yield positive results in the long term.
Communicate with clients on a regular basis. Set up a routine and send messages and responses regularly.
Share knowledge with clients. This enhances positive feedback and trust. The knowledge can be distributed through a newsletter or through a blog.
Always do a little bit more than expected. Everyone likes to get that bit extra and it will go a long way to establish you as a go to person for all things related to web design.
Getting a new client is harder than keeping an old client, but very few freelancers and smaller companies think about it.
Customer/client acquisition cost (CAC) is an important metric in business.
Customer acquisition cost is the amount you spend to get one customer. Every business has CAC. The lower the CAC, the better for the company.
When you are able to retain old clients, that contributes to lowering your overall customer acquisition cost.
Good and prompt service, professional attitude and making things easy for clients go a long way to keep the old clients loyal to you.
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