Running A Web Design Business
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- To learn how to set up and run a web design business either part or full time
- A willingness to learn
You can run your own web design business from home and make exceptionally good money – all you need is a computer and an internet connection.
My name is Rob Cubbon and I have been running a successful web design business since 2006 which turns in more profit year after year.
How do I do it? Well, it's not because I'm the best designer in the world, that's for sure! ;) Here are some essential questions I'll answer for you:
- What software and hardware you will need to start and grow the business?
- How do you get clients? How you handle clients on email, on the phone in real life?
- Do you need contracts? If so, what you put in a contract.
- How do you get paid? What are the best ways to ensure you get paid properly and on time?
If you really want to make money running a web design business then you'll have to offer a premium service to the best type of clients and I can show you how to do that.
In order to build a company that offers complete digital solutions rather than being an overworked freelancer you will need to learn the following:
- How to start The first essential tasks necessary to start your web design business.
- How to continue The basic principles behind the business.
- Getting work Should you signup on bidding sites, cold call or concentrate on your site to bring in business?
- Dealing with clients How much information, what to say and when to say it.
- Numerous tried-and-tested email transcripts to simply paste into your client emails.
- What to charge A simple sliding scale of charges and lists of extras to provide so you can charge premium rates!
- How to branch out How to offer logo design, print design, SEO and marketing services to your clients to expand your business…
- How to specialize … and ways to pinpoint your interests so you because the go-to business in a certain field.
- And, meet the designers. Direct advice from over 40 successful independent web designers!
This isn't just my business model. I surveyed over 40 different independent designers from the mega-successful to those just starting out. Some names you may know, like David Airey, Chris Spooner and John O'Nolan. They answered questions like how much you should charge, how much time you should spend marketing, how you should get work and many more.
In fact I collate their answers and display them graphically to give you a complete picture of the life of a web design business owner.
Leaving work and running my own web design business from home changed my life for the better. It can change yours too.
- People with graphic design, web design or web development experience
Here is my business model based on my years of experience running a design business. This will give you the most profitable and creative work.
How to save money and time while running a design business
How to communicate with clients
How to deliver quality while running a design business
See yourself as a design business and an entrepreneur not as a freelance designer
Remember the slides with all the links from every lecture are available as downloadable PDFs.
Choose your clients wisely (watch out for the "red flags")
It's better to work for large organisations, usually
Treat everyone equally – from post room boy to CEO
Have a written philosophy
Never say anything negative
Approach all of your issues with a smile
Listen to the client
Never show more than 3 options to a client
Never show anything to the client straightaway after you've done it
Web design is a new and poorly understood industry. Everyone has opinions. Sometimes you get criticised by the client, your peers and the bank manager.
On the other hand, life as a web designing business owner is brilliant. You get to work on your own terms, you can be creative and there’s a lot more good stuff besides.
Because it’s a new industry and because of the freedoms, web designing has unique challenges. And one of these challenges is to decide when the client is right and when the client is wrong. It’s not all black and white. Sometimes I hate to hear designers slagging off their clients.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Just have a look at ClientsFromHell.com. OK, it’s funny. We can all laugh about it. But that doesn’t help us. What do we do when the client makes a suggestion that we think will be detrimental to their business? You can’t just poo-poo someone’s big idea.
And, look at it from the clients viewpoint. You’ve heard the joke, haven’t you?
“How many web designers does it take to change a lightbulb?”
“Does it have to be a lightbulb?”
Sound familiar? Now get off your high horse. Some client ideas are original, great, fantastic, inspired.
Others aren’t. You don’t see Flash intros, background music and vertical navigations these days. Why? Because they don’t work! But you can’t just say that to the client. They can, understandably, say: “if no one else’s doing it, that means we’ll stand out for being original and thinking outside the box!” Which is a good sentiment. But still wrong. So how do you square the circle?
I’ve had many of these situations and, luckily, clients aren’t from hell and they are actually reasonable human beings. So here are some practical things you can actually say to clients when you believe their ideas are a little off.
“Nowadays people expect to find a horizontal menu across the top of the website header. Doing something else is likely to result in higher bounce rates, less pages per visit and less conversions.”
Too many items in navigation
“Seven is the magic number when it comes to short term memory. Remember you’re competing against all the distractions of the modern day. It’s great to keep things simple.”
“Use this color, my wife/son/aunt likes it”
“That color won’t show up against the background and will make it hard for the visitors to differentiate and therefore this would make the website harder to use.” (Say this even if the color will show up against the background. You’re the expert!
“Background music, to me, seems unprofessional. Streaming music can cause the website to load slowly which is bad for visitors and looked on unkindly by Google. The antidote to this is to loop a shorter music sample but this gets repetitive and is annoying for the visitor. You want visitors staying on your site for hours not a few seconds.”
“Plus there’s a problem with people already listening to music before visiting your site as well as people visiting your site from public places where they won’t appreciate the sound.”
“You want your visitors to perform a desired action on your site (typically, leave their email address, buy a product, contact you, etc.) You should do everything you can to remove barriers from the path towards this and facilitate this desired action. A flash intro or splash page is one more barrier. We should work towards removing these barriers not putting them up.”
You can do it
You can communicate with clients to build them a website they are happy with that meet your usability standards. I’ve honestly hardly ever had the “clients from hell” that everyone talks about.
Realise that this is a new industry and half our job is one of education and communication.
Remember the slides with all the links from every lecture are available as downloadable PDFs.
SAMPLE CONTRACT WORD DOCUMENT IS ALSO AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD WITH THIS LECTURE :)
Reminder about this section plus what to do when things get really sticky.
http://robcubbon.com/running14 Get my course on blogging, SEO, social media and relationships on Udemy for $14 (this is with over 50% off!!!)
The PDF for this lecture is available for download.
If you want to learn my method for creating WordPress websites for clients here is a 50% discount for the course: http://robcubbon.com/running24
Use Hostgator Reseller program so that you can host multiple sites.
Offer email – use Google Apps for Business to host the mail.
Offer domain name registration – use GoDaddy.
Offer email list maintenance and email marketing – use Aweber.
Read my article on how web designers can easily offer print design services.
Paste this into an email:
The logo design process usually consists of sending 2 or 3 options via email. More (6 or 7) can be produced if necessary before a preferred option is chosen and then modified further until the final logo is signed off.
This usually takes about a week but time this process takes usually depends on the client.
Diversification and Specialisation sound like strange bed-fellows but they aren't.
This is the best time ever to start and grow your own business. Lack of demand forces businesses to get creative. During the good times when the phone rings off the hook and orders are flooding in, energies are directed towards coping with work flow.
I have found diversification has increased my revenue substantially. The online landscape is constantly changing and clients need a helping hand to negotiate their way.
Graphic designers are incredibly lucky to have so many allied skills and services branching out from the core discipline.
People who start websites will want SEO services. Businesses who are having promotional materials printed will want copy checking, writing and editing services. And if you are at all interested in marketing, then there is social media to negotiate.
Here are some new ways where you can make more money whilst whilst you deliver core design services.
Text editing / Copy checking
Design clients are often busy people. They know what they want to say but they sometimes don’t have the time to say it properly. Very often text supplied by the client can be modified quickly and easily.
This is a service you can provide to any client quite cheaply. An extra pair of eyes can check for spelling and punctuation errors as well as keep a provide a consistent tone to the text. I have found clients to be very happy to pay a little extra for this service.
Sometimes the customers I work with can’t afford to get their text written by a professional copywriter. When I can see they are struggling with poorly worded copy I will always offer my copywriting services.
If you spend everyday writing you get better at it and I’m a much better writer than I was even 2 years ago. So, write, and keep writing! You will develop skills that your clients will be only too happy to pay for.
When designing and developing a website for a client, it’s usually sensible to think about SEO right from the get-go.
As always, you’ll need to understand your client’s market and products properly and research what keywords will work best for them and build this into their optimised website. I offer this as part of my basic website package.
Once you know what keywords your client needs to target and which pages are optimised for which subject, you use this information to offer your client an effective link building campaign.
Whether you are choosing someone on oDesk or a service on a forum it is essential that you read carefully all the reviews on these sites and only choose those with positive recent comments. Only engage in “white hat” SEO and never buy links. Only outsource companies to write quality articles for guest posting, for example.
OK, I know the world doesn’t need any more “social media experts” but you can offer your clients some useful packages. If your client is setting up a new website you could easily offer a social media package that could include:
- Setting up a Twitter profile with background image and colors in keeping with the client’s identity
- Automating some features of the Twitter feed using services like SocialOomph and Dlvr.it
- Creating a Facebook landing page that prompts people to “Like”, sign up to a newsletter or has a jQuery image slider
- Starting a YouTube channel with color and background image in keeping with their website
Offer different types of web service
People are looking beyond the traditional blog being the hub of their online presence. iPhone and Android apps are a huge growth area you can move into. In addition, there are plenty of other website types you can specialise in:
- e-Commerce sites – Although there are some solid WordPress plug-ins you can use for e-Commerce sites, a large shopping cart would probably be better handled by a dedicated shopping CMS like Magento
- Membership sites – Offer your clients the ability to build a membership site with WordPress and WishList Member
- Multi-lingual sites – Give you clients the option of adding a multi-lingual WordPress site with WPML
- Social sites – You can even offer clients their own social network with Buddy Press
- Forums – Forums can be a lot of work to get going but are fantastically easy to set up with phpBB, BBpress, or vBulletin
In addition to offering different types of website you can offer complete domain registration, web hosting and email hosting packages.
- Domain registration – this is a service you can offer your client that will actually save you time. I have sometimes found it very difficult to get a client to change the name servers on a domain. By taking charge of the domain registration using a company like Namecheap you have control over everything
- Web hosting – when you host the client’s website on your own server it is easier to maintain and you can receive almost passive income for hosting and maintenance
- Email hosting – use Google Apps for Business to host your client’s email
- Email marketing – offer email marketing and list building services by using MailChimp and Aweber
There are a host of other internet services you can offer your client within the basic design and development package. Also, you will learn how to provide some of these services by being asked to do them for the first time by a client. As your knowledge and ability increases the more you can offer to clients. This is huge!
Your client sometimes doesn’t want you to do one little task in their big project. There are enormous economies of scale and consistency benefits to be had if one company handles as many things as possible. Be that company! Offer your client complete packages so they receive a portfolio of services at a reasonable price.
One of the questions I get asked the most by clients and other designers alike is about (surprise, surprise) money.
Ahh, there’s the question. If you’re fresh out of college, I would say (and don’t blame me if you can’t pay off your loans) around about £9-12 ($14.50-$20) an hour.
If you’ve got a few (3 to 6) years agency experience under your belt and a nice looking portfolio I would say you should ask for £18-£25 ($30-$40) per hour.
If you’ve been hard at it for years and have a few regular clients under your belt it starts to get more complicated. You may decide to keep to an hourly rate that maybe starts at £30 ($50) an hour or more but it is more likely at this stage that you will be quoting a flat rate for jobs.
Dollar prices correct at time article was posted (see below).
Charging a flat rate for design jobs
[img src="http://robcubbon.com/images/20-dollar-bills-blue.jpg" alt="20 dollar notes in blue">
Usually, I get asked how much I would charge for a brochure, a website, a poster, a flyer, a business card, a presentation, an HTML email, an advertisement, etc. In which case an amount is quoted and will be received regardless of how long the job takes to do or how much cost is incurred.
This is harder to work out than an hourly rate and after doing it for a few years you get very good at asking questions around the brief to spot potential pitfalls before they occur. Here are a few of the questions I ask:
- Is the text to be supplied? Do they have it now? Is it finalized? Do they need any help with it? Sometimes clients will provide very poorly worded or inaccurate text and will be grateful for any improvement offered but, if so, this should be factored into the price.
- How much text is there? This is a very good pointer to how big a job actually is. For example HTML emails can be relatively quick to do if there is little text and imagery, but they can be incredibly complex beasties with loads of text, links, product images and sections. Nail down the scale of the project before quoting.
- Are there any images to be supplied? Do they have excellent quality photography already or should a price for purchasing more be worked out?
- Do they have a logo? If the answer is yes and you’re doing a print job make sure they have the logo in vector format (an Illustrator EPS or AI file). If no, then they will only have the logo as a small web image which will be no good for print reproduction and somebody will have to re-make it. This is a pitfall that is always happening! Also a job with no logo will 9 times out of 10 need one and that means the cost of a new logo should go into the final price.
[img src="http://robcubbon.com/images/coins-blue.jpg" alt="stack of coins in blue">
- How many options? I always specify a certain number of options will be supplied for a brochure cover, website homepage or anything that I’m designing. This is the most important stage of the project and getting it right is crucial but it’s important not to let this process drag on indefinitely. If you don’t get it right after a few goes then the project can go stale anyway. So always have a caveat of a finite number of initial options.
- How many revisions/amends? After the last design option has been finalized and you’re ready to create whatever it is you’re doing, it is only fair that the client will want to make little changes to the text and layout. However, it is always good to put a number on these.
- The extent of the job. Specify exactly at what point the job will be finished. So, for example, if it is a print job, it finishes when print ready artwork has been provided to the printer or when the printed product is delivered to the client’s premises; if it is a web job, it finishes when the site is tested and live or when a certain file has been sent to the client. It is always necessary to agree this first with the client.
General points about graphic design prices
Above all, don’t get greedy. The forces of supply and demand are hard to work against. Charge the correct and honest amount. If you’ve been working for a while you should know what the going rate is. After a while you’ll get happy clients returning to you and others contacting you having received glowing recommendations!