View Full Version : starting a web design business - any tips?

3-16-11, 1:58pm
Hi, all...

I'm easing my way out of the rat race, into freelancing and working from home. I've done some website design (gratis) for non-profits and for myself over the past couple years. I really enjoy the creative aspects of it, and it feels great when people are happy with my work. I'm thinking about doing this for pay. Do you have any pointers for me? Any pitfalls to avoid or things I can do to make it a pleasant and rewarding experience for everyone involved? Suggestions for how to get customers?


3-16-11, 6:00pm
Hi Diane, I do this for a living and started the same way. My first few clients were at a reduced rate, doing my very best-best work in order to build a portfolio and a reputation. I approached three clients specifically who I knew were extraordinarily well plugged-in to the networking circuit -- they had lots of friends and colleagues and supporters they could recommend ME to if I did a good job! :) I explained what I was doing and offered to do a lot for a little. It paid off -- I've never had to advertise in many years.

I also chose a niche for myself that I loved, so I could fully invest myself in each project and feel like part of a team (even though I was a freelancer). Again, this helped me to do my best work.....which got me rave reviews......which got me referrals.....and so on.

I would do Google searches for resources for freelance web professionals, especially in the areas of project planning, developing a good contract, dealing with difficult clients, etc. There's a ton of information out there that will help you avoid some of what I had to learn the hard way (too many things to list here, from "scope creep" to deadbeat clients who don't pay).

But mostly.....I find that if I do my work with love, do what I say I'll do WHEN I say I'll do it, and listen deeply & well to what my client needs, I can't go wrong.

Good luck!!

p.s. Read this today and thought of you: http://www.flyingsolo.com.au/marketing/business-marketing/whats-your-unique-selling-proposition-usp
A good place to ponder what makes you different, and leverage your strongest gifts.

3-21-11, 5:08pm
Pug - thanks for the guidance and encouragement! I've been a project manager for many years, so I feel comfortable with that part. The marketing end of things is a bit intimidating to me. I like your suggestion about doing a few projects at discounted rates (or even gratis) to get established and build a portfolio of work and some clients who will give good recommendations. Thanks again - I appreciate your advice!

3-21-11, 10:32pm
Diane, just wanted to wish you well in this!!! Please post as you go along and let us know how you are doing! I myself am wanting to go back to school and learn web design and freelance at least part time to have more control and to get out of the rat race myself. So I am very interested to hear of your progress/process. Once again, good luck! Rob

3-21-11, 11:16pm
I would be more enthused about this, if I didn't know a lot of even hard core IT people (not just web design, but software development and database people etc.) who had been contractors for years and years BY CHOICE, who gave up contracting for steady J.O.B.S. in this recession (could be they just had really good offers, but I don't know, it seems more than that .....).

Yea, I'm just debbie downer here and all. What can I say, this economy really scares me. In a better economy I wouldn't be quite as bleak. I'm quite sure it's a good barter-able skill at least though :D

3-22-11, 12:13am
Yes, I also know people who worked as freelancers or small business owners for years, and now they are looking for jobs or have found jobs in big companies. I'm in a different place. For many years, I worked in the insurance industry and had good pay and benefits, but I just can't spend 50 hours a week in a grey cubicle anymore. So in January, I quit my stressful job and now work part time for much less pay. I'm still adjusting to my newfound freedom slash poverty. My plan is to have multiple income streams, so I'm not dependent on any one source of income. For example, I have 2 renters that cover my mortgage payment, and the part time job covers most of the rest of the bills. So the website development gig would just bring in a little extra income. It wouldn't be my only source of income. I'll let you know how it goes. Who knows - maybe I'll get tired of poverty in a year, and go back to the grey cubicle, but I hope not!

: )

3-22-11, 3:04am
Yea guess I'll be out of the gray walled cubical too, at least for a little while (taking at least 6 months off I figure, might be a lot more), I can't stand to go back to cubical work immediately. It is not the best time of my life to be out perhaps (should wait another 20 years, but blah I've done 12 already! ;)), not in the best economy. How did my dad ever get the guts to quit work for 5 years in his prime earning years to travel the world? I don't know, but the economy was better then.

3-22-11, 5:10pm
The "bad economy" had virtually no effect on my business....I just had to shift my approach and cater to peoples' "new need", which in this case was to save money and keep their small businesses afloat. And this year, "still in a recession," our billings look like they will double. So despite all the doom and gloom and fear in the media, it's all in one's perception, in how carefully one chooses their niche, and how much love & value you bring to the work. I too know lots of IT people who went back to jobs for the security.....can't blame them at all.....but to the man/woman, they were not suited to entrepreneurship and rarely good at the people skills needed to be profitable. (something about that left-brain dominance.... ;) ) I'm not even the sharpest pencil in the box either, you know? But I'm trustworthy and honest and kind, and people like working with me even if someone else is cheaper.

ANM and Diane (and Rob!) good luck. You can do whatever you set out to do.

p.s. seriously, the Barbara Winter stuff is really fun to read (Making a Living Without A Job), and setting up multiple income streams (multiple profit centers) gives you almost as much income security as a regular job, only you can't be laid off..... :D

3-25-11, 4:41pm
I could probably do this, my background is IT-ish. The main thing I don't want in the world is to be drafted back into a full time job in corporate America (temp work with time limits I might be able to deal with). And to that end will consider anything else, going back to school ... sure. Part-job below my capacities .... sure, but I don't think those are easy to get. The economy is so bad, especially here, that who knows .... I do have a lot of fear for the future. But if not now, THEN WHEN?

If not us, not them
If not now, then when?
If not here, nor there
If not this world, then where?

If not now when I'm in my mid-30s, have some money to play around with (but not unlimited amounts!!), and alas the economy is in total collapse anyway (sigh), then when?

3-25-11, 7:55pm
All, pug recently recommended Making a Living Without a Job to me in a separate thread and having read it, I'm on fire. Seriously. My brain is on fire. I would highly recommend it. Highly. Moving on to some additional material now, but going to get one of my profit centers going (teaching materials for elementary Spanish teachers). Excited. Thank you to pug for being willing to share your experience and advice. Please, all, keep posting! Would love to hear where you end up with your self-employment endeavors.