Launching your own web design business might seem a daunting task, especially in the current economic climate. After all, you will be competing against well-established companies with impressive portfolios and solid experience. But don't let this stop you. You can do this. I set up a web design business that has been trading successfully 6 years ago. And I did it with very little experience originally.
You can do it in your spare time at first. It took me two years before I could quit my "day job". The secret is to never give up. Why not focus on the things you can do to start a successful web design business? This article will review the key skills needed in order to achieve your entrepreneurial goals.
1. Having the right attitude
This is the most fundamental factor when it comes to running a successful business. Perhaps you do not have the required skills yet, but you can teach yourself web design. Setting up a web-based business is relatively easy, but do you have the patience that will allow you to see it grow? Are you willing to fully dedicate yourself to your web design business? Is your motivation strong enough to withstand difficult times?
It also essential that you think of your web design business professionally. It goes without saying that your image and demeanor should be professional at all times, and the same applies to your website. You should purchase a unique domain, both for your website and for your email address. Ensure you have a separate business bank account. Printing business cards and starting a blog are other ways of optimising the outward image that your business projects.
When you're writing emails or writing articles for your blog, always use correct the grammar, spelling and punctuation. Always project professionalism and competence.
2. Organizational and time management skills
Decide on the number of hours that you will dedicate to your web design business and stick to them. It might prove challenging to stop other things from interfering with your work, especially when you are working from home. However, remember to treat your business professionally and to respect your working schedule.
You may be surprised to know that most independent web designers that run their own businesses only spend 50% of their time designing websites! There are plenty of other things to do and you need to plan and structure your days and weeks accordingly.
3. Building long-lasting client relationships
Your best customers are your current customers. They will give you more business and recommend you more than anyone else will. Be empathetic with existing and potential customers and try to anticipate their needs. Exceed your customers' expectations and they will appreciate your personalised attention, thus guaranteeing return business.
Also, consider diversifying your business: if you primarily offer website design, why not look into acquiring new skills and learn about print design, SEO services, or mobile applications?
Do not limit your business interactions to professionals in your field. Make the most of online communities, social media, business fairs, and any events that might connect you to other experts.
Get out from behind your computer and join some business meetup groups in your local area (Meetup.com is ideal for this). Try to meet up with marketers (marketers always need designers) but pretty much any business person could potentially need your services, and there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. You never know where a business lead might take you!
Put a WordPress.org blog on your site (or power your whole site with WordPress and start a blog). A blog, if you write good articles regularly, is the best way to bring your site in front of your potential customers. And it won't cost you anything!
Hands down this is the best advice I can give anyone about new business. Again, it is important not to give up. You need to be able to write at least one blog post a week of a minimum of 600 words. Install Google Analytics and you'll quickly get an idea for what works traffic-wise and what doesn't.
Write about what you know about. Write about what you're good at. Become an authority on a certain subject. This will get you readers, links and, ultimately, work.
6. Technical skills
Always be perfecting your skills. Try to build as many websites in as many different ways as possible. When you hit problems ask questions on the forums and on Facebook and LinkedIn groups that other web designers and developers use.
You will quickly learn how to phrase the questions so they get satisfactory answers and your presence in these places will raise your profile. (Remember to always put a link back to your site in your forum signature and you can periodically put links to blog posts in your LinkedIn and Facebook groups.)
7. Using the right tools
Web designers use a variety of different tools – some paid for and some free.
Graphics software packages, the most common being Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Fireworks, will be the most expensive software that has to be purchased. Most web designers purchase some sort of text editor to help them with editing HMTL, PHP
and CSS code.
Other free and cheap software, for example, FTP clients, project management software, back-up software, testing software, etc., needs to be downloaded and installed.
A word on equipment: invest in the best quality equipment you can afford.
What you can do
Lastly, remember that setting up a business is an ongoing task that will require constant attention and dedication. Do not be put off by the challenges: turn them into an opportunity to grow!
It's possible to set up a web design business from home very quickly with just a laptop, phone, and an internet connection. However, you will need to employ all the above skills and more to succeed. But, once up and running, a web design business can afford you with one of the best and most fulfilling professional lifestyles.
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