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The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Web Design Business

3.2. Business incorporation

At some point, you may deem it necessary to incorporate your business — providing some legal protection in the form of separation between personal/business assets. In order to do this, you’ll need to fill out some forms and submit payment to your state/country. It helps to have a good lawyer or accountant on your side (or help from a local SBDC, as mentioned above).

Regardless of where you’re incorporating your business, make sure to check on local rules and regulations as well as consulting with other businesses in your niche to determine what you need to get started.

3.3. Business administration

Starting a web design business means taking on a bunch of roles you’d probably rather not — but don’t ignore them!

Here are a few hats you’ll have to wear as a new web design business owner:

  • Accounting/Bookkeeping: Use an accounting tool like Freshbooks or Quickbooks to send invoices, receive payment, and track expenses.
  • Marketing: We’ve already shared some specific tips but the point is that you shouldn’t wait until you’re low on client work to market your business — it’s a long-term process.
  • Hiring/Management: You may eventually decide to outsource smaller projects and administrative tasks (you can try Fiverr for that), so it helps to build a process around hiring and management as soon as you start to recognize this need. In the meantime, create process documentation for as many things as you can so that even if you’re not ready to hire yet, you’ll be prepared when the time is right!

3.4. Get your tools in order

As you’re working in the trenches and getting through your projects, it makes sense to stop and think about the tools that you’re using. You might already be familiar with many of the essential web design tools, but at the same time, not all of those are going to be as effective when scaled up and incorporated into a web design business.

In other words, just because something worked for you in the past, doesn’t mean that it’ll continue to work in a professional business environment that you’re in now.

Consider this roundup of excellent tools for web designers and WordPress users. The list covers things like time tracking, document handling, project management, communicating with clients, working with graphic design, code development, and more.

4. Scale up, make more money & provide more value

When you’re first starting a web design business, you’ll have to build your way up the ranks. This might mean taking on low paying job in order to build out your portfolio — not exactly glamorous, but something basically everyone in your position has had to do!

Once you’re more established, you’ll want to start thinking about how to build more value into your offerings so that you can make more money. To be fair, there’s nothing stopping you from getting started with these things right now. You’re only limited by your energy and focus, which will be somewhat split doing many of the other activities outlined earlier in this article.

Here are a few ideas to make more money for your web design business:

  • Sign up as an affiliate for your favorite WordPress products (plugins, themes, hosting) and recommend them to your customers for a commission. To find success, be clear with affiliate disclosures (e.g. “This article contains affiliate links”) and be transparent about your experience with the product.
  • Make even more money by directly managing customer web hosting and ongoing WordPress maintenance (plugin, theme, core updates — as well as periodic website content updates/changes as requested by your client).
  • Keep learning new things. Of course, there’s no reason to try to learn everything there is to know about web design/development but you should work to stay current in your niche/specialty. Follow Google’s 20% rule for learning/developing — spend time going to conferences, completing courses, and reading more about coding to stay fresh. By spending time on this, you’re also essentially writing your own raise with current/new clients. Your expertise is definitely worth something!
  • Create information products. Selling services means that you’re limited by available time and energy. Selling products means unlimited revenue potential. Ask yourself, “What do I know enough about to write an ebook or create an online course about?”.

Final thoughts on starting a web design business

By taking each of these steps in stride, it doesn’t have to be completely overwhelming to start a web design business.

What other questions do you have about starting a web design business? Share your thoughts in the comments and together, let’s help grow the community through helpful support!

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