Setting up a web design business seems easy to the layperson. After all, every business, every brand and, virtually, everybody needs a website, right? However, there are a few pitfalls that everybody falls into when they’re starting out in this great industry.
A few years ago I started offering web design services to my graphic design clients. I learned plenty of hard lessons and here are a few of the main ones.
1. Starting before getting paid
Starting work before you get paid is a classic rookie mistake. However, here are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if the client comes from a large organisation a company with over 50-100 employees, then it’s OK to work without receiving money first.
If your client is a solopreneur or an individual who is seeking web design services for a small business, then you should receive 50% of the fee before and then 50% upon delivery of the project.
2. Working for free
Starting to work before you’ve been paid is essentially working for free. However some beginner web designers make the mistake of designing whole websites for free as a way to get started.
If you have very little experience then this may be an idea. However I would prefer to create websites for myself as a way to get experience rather than to create websites for other people for free. One of the most important metrics of a business is the bottom line. You should get into the habit of making a profit from the very start. (Sounds obvious, but…)
3. Charging too little
A website should never cost less than $1500 and will usually cost much more. It simply isn’t worth your time to ask for less. OK, you could throw together a WordPress site with a theme and a logo in a few hours but that’s no way to run a web design business.
4. Doing jobs for less than $200
Never do anything for less than $200. If somebody wants to do a job for $100, they’ll give you the runaround for hours and then it’ll take you ages to get paid – if at all.
There may be a possible exception to this rule if the client is a larger organisation with 100 employees or more. Larger organisations are usually good clients who will give you repeat business.
5. Working for friends and family
They say: “Don’t work for children or animals”. But, I think: “Don’t work for friends and family” is more of a golden rule.
Don’t work for friends, family or pets
In fact, I think animals are probably a pleasure to work with compared to some of the “friends” I’ve worked for.
“Mate’s rates” and “do me a favor” are a couple of phrases that will send a chill through your spine after a few years. You’ll never get constructive criticism, a good job or paid properly if you work with friends of family.
Friends and families are great. They’re not clients though. Not if you value your sanity.
6. Doing too much for clients (more than you’re getting paid for)
I’m not talking about over-delivering here. Over-delivering is when you do one thing for a client that they haven’t asked for or one thing that’s not in the contract. And this one thing should be pointed out and it should make the client drool over your abilities and recommend you to all their contacts.
Over-delivering is one thing, but doing too much is another. Examples of doing too much for a client are:
- adding multiple features to a website that the client didn’t ask or pay for
- answering an irrelevant questions by searching Google when they could have searched Google themselves
- going back to a website once you’ve been paid and updating WordPress and plug-ins when it’s not your responsibility and you’re not getting paid for it.
Only do what you’re paid to do. Get it? Got it? Good.
7. Not delegating soon enough
When you’re first starting out you shouldn’t outsource much. However when you have a lot of clients and a lot of regular work, then you should starting thinking about outsourcing and taking on staff.
If you can show a staff member how to do a 1-minute task takes 5-minutes you should do it. Resist the temptation to do the 1-minute task yourself. Once your staff member has learned how to do that task, you’ll never have to do it again – saving you hours in the future.
Prepare SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for everything. This will start to remove you from the business. But, remember, this is something you’ll do a few years into your business’s lifecycle.
8. Working for nightmare clients
There’s no such thing as nightmare clients. There are only good clients and ex-clients.
You tend to get nightmare clients when you first start in business. You don’t see the potential client’s “red flags” because of inexperience. The “red flags” are:
- Clients who try to do the design themselves
- Clients who ask for extras (or “brief creep”) after the project has been agreed upon
- Clients who haggle on the price
- Clients who don’t pay on time
You develop a “sixth sense” for clients that do the above before you start working with them and get rid of them before they become a problem.
But, if you think you have a nightmare client and you’re still working with them, then finish the project as soon as possible and get paid before they waste any more of your time.
9. Trying to compete on price
Allied to my previous points about not doing jobs for less than $200 and not doing websites for less than $1500 is this: Make sure you offer a premium service for a premium price. Don’t try to compete on price.
So, for example, if you create a website for a client offer a complete service with logo design, search engine optimisation, social network integration, proper back-up, plus any other services you think the client may need. Discuss this with the client, add it to the contract and deliver it. You can charge a premium for this.
10. Not providing hosting and maintenance as a repeat monthly billable service
Rookie web designers offer a one-off payment for website creation and say goodbye to the client there and then. This is a huge mistake. Web design is a great business because of the opportunities for monthly recurring billing.
You can resell web hosting and charge clients ongoing hosting, maintenance and back-up fees. This can be a very lucrative and passive stream of income to your business but you have to be confident in your web host and your ability to troubleshoot issues when they arise. Charge monthly, not yearly.
You can do it
You can set up a web design business from home and make money easily. But you need to make sure you can offer a premium product for a premium price and concentrate on building relationships with clients that require ongoing assistance.
If you’re interested in setting up a web design business you may be interested in taking my course: Make Money Running A Web Design Business.