How To Start A Web Design Business [and Get Your First Client!]
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Starting a web design business is not as difficult as you might think, but it does require certain talents that cannot be overlooked. I’ll share exactly how I started my own website design business in 2015 without a portfolio and landed my first client (and many more!).
A little secret that many people don’t know when considering web designing is that you do not need to reinvent the wheel.
In other words, take a look at a client’s top 5 to 10 competitors and you may notice that all of those websites look similar. That’s okay!
You won’t need to create something drastically different, though better is always the end goal. There’s always a framework to follow when you work in web design.
Using this guide, you can start your own business and get your first client in just eight easy steps.
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How To Start A Web Design Business With No Experience
If you’re truly interested in starting a web design business with no portfolio, you’ll need to consider a few things first:
- Can you spot a good from a bad design on websites that you visit?
- Are you tech-savvy or at least a quick learner when it comes to computers and online tools?
- Are you willing to put in some work up front to make your web design business a reality?
If you answered “yes” to all three questions above, then continue reading. If you answered “no” to any of them, reconsider if website designing is right for you.
There are many other home business ideas to consider.
If starting a business is not for you, consider a work from home job opportunity instead.
1. Create a Web Design Business Plan
When I started a web design business in 2015, I didn’t realize how quickly I would be ready for my first client. At that point, I did not have any kind of portfolio.
My first client wasn’t just for web design services. In order to make some money while sharpening my web designing skills, I needed to branch out and offer additional freelance services.
Freelance writing is a great way to make money while you build an online business. There is a high demand for native-speaking writers (in various languages).
But I still wanted to prepare my business website and hone my skills for designing websites while I worked doing freelance writing.
Here is my web design business plan in a nutshell. We’ll go over each step in detail.
- Design your own business website to showcase your skills.
- Start a Facebook page explaining your services.
- List your services to gain attention and experience.
- Establish your pricing, policies, and terms of service.
- Draft a sample contract for your web design clients.
- Promote your services.
- Find your first client.
2. Design Your Own Business Website to Showcase Your Skills
Creating your own website needs to be step one (or a very close second at the least). If you want to truly start your own business, then continue reading. If you just want to work for another boss and pay huge fees to list your services on other platforms, then skip to step three.
How To Start A Web Design Business Using WordPress
When I initially started my web design business, I used Wix. It was easy, cheap, and it covered the requirements 100%.
Today, however, I would instead recommend a self-hosted website on WordPress.
Though it may take a little more time to figure things out on WordPress, the features and customization are much better than that of Wix. Plus, if you design for bloggers (which are crawling out of the woodwork these days), you’ll definitely want to learn how to design websites on WordPress.
3. Start a Facebook Page Explaining Your Services
Now that you have a business website established, you’ll want to start a Facebook business page to showcase your website! You can start the page at any time. Simply let your followers know that your business website is “coming soon.”
Facebook offers a step-by-step tutorial that will help you set up your business page!
You can also start a Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram account, but I highly recommend focusing on one platform in the beginning. It’s easy to burn out when too many things are happening at one time.
Related: How to Become a Social Media Manager
4. List Your Services to Gain Attention and Experience
There is plenty of web design work from home that you can start working on without treating it as a business. The main issue with doing this long-term is that you will end up cutting your profits significantly. When you list your services on another platform, that website will take up to 50% of your earnings! So be careful not to make this your long-term plan!
To find web designing projects to work from home, list your services on either or both of the following platforms. Be sure to check their terms of service for fees!
5. Establish Your Pricing, Policies, and Terms of Service
Next, you’ll want to establish base pricing for your services along with your policies and terms of service.
Keep in mind that pricing can change from client to client. No two projects are the same or will take the same amount of time to complete. It will be tricky getting your pricing established perfectly, but over time it does get easier to quote clients!
Prices for designing websites typically range from $500 to $50,000+. It’s not likely that someone with a $50k budget will work with a beginner, but if you agree to the work in strides, you never know.
My very first client turned into an $80,000+ job over the course of 3 1/2 years. The nice thing about working on a contract basis is that you can work multiple jobs simultaneously. I’ve done that for years!
When you make an offer on a project, be sure to cover everything it includes and verbiage that explains that “charges apply to additional services.” You never want to surprise your clients with a bill they weren’t expecting.
There are websites that will help you create free policies for your web design business, but it’s always good to consult legal help in your region if you’re unsure of laws!
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6. Draft a Sample Contract for Your Web Design Clients
Before it’s time to send a project estimate to your first client, you’ll want to have a sample contract drafted. My contracts include project details like milestone payment requirements, estimated date of completion, and of course project pricing.
I cannot advise you on how to draft a legal contract, but I can direct you to a list of resources!
Once you have your contract drafted, you can tailor it to each client that you encounter! I like to send a “sample contract” with my project estimates so that my clients know what to expect from the start.
7. Promote Your Services
So you have a web design business website started and you’re ready for an influx of clients, right? Wrong. When you’re first starting out, clients will not know where to find you; that’s why you need to find them.
Once you’ve established a good base of happy clients, referrals will start to come in. Until then, you’ll need to be proactive.
This step is similar to step 3 (list your services for exposure). Only this time, you’re going to promote yourself as a service business and skip the middleman platform that takes a hefty percentage of your earnings.
Here are a few places you can promote your services:
- Facebook niche groups
- Local newspapers
You can also run giveaways and discounts in the beginning to build your portfolio. It’s always easier to sell services when you have something to show for your work.
8. Find Your First Client
Once you’ve promoted your services in as many places as possible, you will soon get your first client. If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs waiting, now would be the best time to start working on sample websites! Plus, if you create something great, you just might be able to match that project with a future client anyway.
Don’t worry, if you have the right talent and you get your website in front of the right eyes, questions will come. Those questions often lead to job estimates which lead to paying clients. Don’t give up before you’ve even started.
Find that first client and cultivate the relationship. You may find that a large number of clients are not pouring in at first, so take advantage of any extra work that your existing clients can provide – even if it’s not specifically web designing.
Now go get started and set up your own web designing business website! If I could do it 5 years ago with no experience, so can you.