If you are thinking about starting a web development business, there are several things you’ll need to know before jumping all in. With an endless sea of development work available, it can seem like a no-brainer to look for work in this industry. Hate to break it to you, but you’re not the only one with that revelation. Steep competition makes it hard to get out there and establish a name for yourself and your work. It’s difficult to know where and how to start.
In fact, we get this sort of message quite frequently from young, eager entrepreneurs:
To my friends at CodeWright,
My current place of employment is going out of business in about a month. After endless hours of job searching, submitting resumes, and networking, it’s looking like I will be out of work for at least a month or two. I’ve previously dabbled with freelancing in web development, and now am thinking about starting my own web design business. I never really made an effort to get the business off the ground previously. Given my current situation, I’ve decided to revamp it for a living and take the jump in starting my own business.
I am concerned however after doing some market research. I see a ton of web design companies offering services for as low as $5 on a monthly basis. I’m afraid my business will get overlooked in a sea of “do it yourself” options that cater to a tight budget. To make this business work for me, I need at least $4,000-$7,000 for each website I design, not to mention maintenance fees!
Even if I create custom, functional web pages that are sleek and professional, how do I compete with a $5 price point? I know those offerings are geared to down-market clients but do companies really want a mid-market or up-market solution? I really want to make sure this is worth it before I risk everything and dive right in.
Another Desperate Developer
We get it. Creating a business from the ground up can seem daunting, especially when there are other developers offering the same services for less money. But don’t worry! You CAN make it work for you.
That’s why we’re taking a step by step approach of breaking down the in’s and outs of web development and how to break into this market. Here are a few things to start thinking about as you embark on your journey. Stay tuned in as this is only one of a series of posts that will break down every angle you need to know about this industry.
To get started think about how you are going to set up your business and answer some of the following questions:
What tools do you plan to use?
What tools you use depend on your budget and skill level. Make sure that you have comprehensive skills in whatever coding and graphics tools you select for your business, but don’t be afraid to outsource if needed.
What is your unique offering?
Think about what you have to offer that the low-cost development companies don’t. Can you program? Great! More complicated web features and designs require this skill, so bank off of that. Basic designs and WordPress sites are easy to use and only require basics skills to create, but they typically don’t yield a very high profit. Pinpoint something you do well and highlight it.
Who is your perfect client?
Do your research and figure out buyer personas. Reach out to potentials whose web presence is critical to the life of their business and ask questions on what services they may need. If they are dependent upon their website to bring in new clients, they are more likely to acknowledge how great web design plays a role in this. Use these conversations to determine what you will offer and to whom you will offer it.
Create your first Sales list
Make a list of the clients you want to do work for and intentionally reach out to companies that can allot budget for quality work and design.
Nail down your network channels
Plan to get involved in networks in which your target clients are likely to be involved. Make your presence known.
What is your vision to grow? – Visit the websites of people in your network. Explore the functionality and intuitiveness of the sites. Browse through and see if there is anything specific that you know you could improve. Spend time establishing a road map and planning through the next several years with expectancy for growth. What is your 5 year? Your 10 year?
Are you a positive person?
You never want to offend a potential client by telling them that their website looks unprofessional. Simply let them know about your business and offer your services if they are looking to change the site or improve functionality.
Who will you ask for referrals?
Past clients, business colleagues, and even friends and families are your best advertising tools at this point.
What is your plan for outsourcing? – Does a client need something that isn’t in your area of expertise? There’s likely someone in your network that can fill that need. And you never know, when a collaborative partner needs something you’re skilled at, they may return the favor and bring you business.
Is owning a business for you?
Maybe. But be honest with yourself. Owning a business requires self-discipline, extreme organization and planning, the anticipation of future needs, and the ability to see how the products and services you offer will affect you and your clients in the long run. If these are things you’re not good at, you may want to do some soul searching and spend time growing in these areas. If you don’t altogether enjoy the management side of working for yourself, then I highly recommend you reconsider owning your own business. Does this mean that you don’t have something to offer? Of course not. It just means you should consider leaving the administrative and business related tasks to someone else and let your web design and development skills shine.
Ultimately, starting your own business is a risk. We all know this. But if you feel it is a risk that you’re willing to take, then go for it! Make a plan, map it out, network yourself, and get to work. Be sure to stay positive, but don’t ignore the cons of owning your own business, like inconsistent income, monetary and time investments, and trial and error learning, all of which are great motivation to make your business and yourself better! Anticipating pitfalls, issues, and potential roadblocks is key to making your business a success.
What are your crazy ideas? How do you want to change the development world and do you have any getting started tips to share? Leave a note and let us know! Also, look out for the next blog in our series on starting a web development business where we expand on the specific characteristics of the web development industry, and how these can work for or against you as you start.