Starting a web design business from home

In my previous post ‘23 Business Ideas For Stay at Home Mums‘, I shared with you a list of career choices that can fit flexibly alongside being a mum.

One of those was starting a web design business – which is something I’ve done personally; both as a freelancer and as part of a partnership.

I’m still doing websites now – although more focused on a particular niche.

Web design is often a pretty competitive field to play in, so before you choose to start a web design business from home, ask yourself…is this something I’m really passionate about?

Here are a few of my tips and things to think about if you’re planning to offer web design as a service:

How skilled you are at website design

It’s ideal to have some prior experience under your belt, but if you have less experience it doesn’t mean you can’t get going. There are many ways to build a website now from static sites coded in HTML (and maybe Javascript); to WordPress with a page builder plugin.

Your skill level is a factor to consider when figuring out who to offer your service to – and remember that if skill level is a pyramid, there’s more competition in the lower levels. If you can code, you can potentially get different types of projects than if you’re just using a plugin or a page builder.

Regardless, learning some basic code is really useful for sorting out problems on existing websites and making sure you’re not contributing to the slew of websites out there that are a half-done mess and break as soon as they’re updated!

Agency or Freelancer?

A website design business is not JUST website design. It’s part of process to get an online presence, and then use that presence to let others know more about you, what services your offer, and how they can be of benefit.

Because it’s a process with more than one speciality needed to get results (eg. web design, SEO, Content Marketing), you may or may not be confident and competent in offering all of these yourself – and it’s likely you’re not good at All The Things (and let’s face it, you’re probably juggling enough already).

So, you could set up a website design business as a freelancer (and this is how most people start off), and subcontract work to other freelancers (eg. graphic designers, SEO specialists)…or you could decide that you’re going to start an agency.

This industry is one where you don’t have to have a physical office with employees all under the same roof – in fact more and more digital/creative agencies employ remote workers nowadays.

It just depends on your overall plan for business going forwards – and whether you want to work IN the business or ON the business!

Who your target market are

This one is really important and something I’ve struggled a lot with in the past! One-person startups with little upfront cashflow are not who you should be going after if you’re wanting to work on projects that need a budget of several thousand!

If you don’t get super-clear on who your target market are, you’ll often find the same issues popping up – from them trying to micro-manage everything and refusing to follow your process, to telling you it’s too expensive and they can do it themselves on Wix (yeah, good luck with that…)

As an example, and for a number of reasons (one of the main ones being my very finite available time!), I made the decision to no longer offer amendments/website design tweaks on an hourly rate to websites that have been built elsewhere.

What equipment/software you need to get started

You can start up with very little – in theory all you need is either a laptop or desktop computer, and a tech stack you’re comfortable with. The way you build sites will dictate how much you’re spending on software/plugins etc, but you may find that if you’re spending less it takes up more in terms of time, which can make your service cost more.

I used to work on websites which were coded from scratch from designs produced in Photoshop/Illustrator – but nowadays that way of building websites does NOT fit in with looking after young children. I needed hours at a time whilst I had my head in code, and having that sort of block of time available now is a distant dream!

WordPress is always the CMS of choice for me, so the costs are found in yearly plugin licences, themes and page builders. As a rough guide, my tech stack is costing me somewhere around $500 a year currently. I’m completely obsessed with Software As A Service lifetime deals though, so I try get as many as possible on that!

What products/services you’ll offer

From the outset this may seem obvious, but you may find that having a few different solutions at different price points allows you to both work with the clients you want to, and also to potentially steer those types you don’t want to away.

It’s also a great way to upsell products to existing customers – so for example if you sell an online course teaching people how to build their own site, then you could potentially upsell them to the ‘done-for-you’ service when they realise the learning curve and what’s involved.

How you will market your website design business

Whether it’s via social media, email marketing or networking, you need a solid strategy to follow to market your business. This is where the endless hours spent researching who you want to sell to, where they hang out online and how best to reach them is needed, because it’s different for everyone.

Personally, I find that one of the best ways is via content marketing – so turning your own website into a mine of information for the potential customer.

This article about what customers want from a website explains a bit more about how today’s consumers are making their purchasing decisions online and how content marketing can help influence that decision (the article is aimed at cleaning business owners selling to potential customers, but the principles are the same regardless of industry).


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