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How to manage your web design business – first part

In the previous posts we have discussed if being a Web Designer is more than just “doing PSD” and I said that nowadays a Web Designer should know a bit of SEO, understand how to influence the conversion rates of a site and have at least a basic idea about what coding a site means. I’m going a bit further today and will be discussing about Web Designers that don’t want to be working for The Man and start their own small business. Having your own “internet” business gives you a large number of opportunities and options, some sort of a “freedom” that you can’t get as a simple employee.

Learning how to manage your online business can be a difficult task, especially if you start like most small creative business out there, without an entrepreneurial background and only based on your “productive” profession. The time, the effort and the way you understand how a business works are very critical for your success because running a business requires a different set of skills; and while you might be very good at what you do as a web designer, the competition, market and customers are the toughest “boss” you will ever have.

Without going into details probably the most challenging things when running a small business are:

  • finding customers;
  • cash in enough money to pay the bills;
  • be efficient enough to make a profit;
  • hire staff to grow your business.

For each of the points above you could probably write a book or more without covering the subject entirely. So I’m only going to make a separate post for each of them and only mention what most people fail at.

Finding customers

Finding customers is probably the most obvious thing entrepreneur wanna-be are afraid off and yes, finding them is the most important thing for every business owner. Customers are not something that can find on a local super market, but there are a few keys for success:

  • Word of mouth is the most powerful tools a small business could have to get customers.
    Probably you don’t have a lot of money to do advertising, go to trade shows and other “high end” strategies, but word of mouth works all the time and even if you don’t have a site, fancy office and business cards. It’s free as it doesn’t cost you money, but to get it you usually have to overdeliver, which as we will discuss later it costs time (and therefore money).
  • Get referrals from other businesses or from your existing customers.
    Finding people that sell different products or services but are still on the same market can be very helpful to your business because their customers might need your services. So placing a banner on their website can attract some new clients for you. But being a “good guy in the industry” might get you friendly help from other small businesses just like yours. And previous customers for which you overdelivered are your best sales force even if you don’t know it yet, because they are genuine in recommending your business.
  • Create a strategy and plan. Go niche.
    I’m not sure if you ever watched a sales guy working, but they are quite organized: they think of where the needs of the customer meet with what you deliver then they are trying to identify where these potential customers are. You might hate doing sales, but being an entrepreneur is being the jack of all trades so you need to think what would be your ideal customer, how you might get that customer on your website and convert him into a buyer. Think about the circles they travel in, who are they likely to listen to or where do they look when trying to buy a product or a service like yours. But most importantly, don’t try to target all the potential customers in the World. I know it sounds like a good way to have lots and lots of potential customers but it really doesn’t. You should focus on a niche and become the best on it.
  • Keep an eye on (your potential customers) industry events.
    If you focus on a niche is far easier to find customers and target them with specific solutions to their needs. Let’s say you are good at creating web sites for restaurants. Then the food and dining industry is your niche market. Now, where would be a good chance to meet more food and dining potential customers? You guessed it: at a food/catering industry event.
  • Study the competition.
    This one is quite obvious but I mention it because I hope you won’t go to that food and catering even without checking on the competition first. You might not run into them there, but chances are the first way of dealing with sales rejection is to know what the other solutions are and where you can come up with a better solution. Checking on the competition is a good way of checking on your business, because knowing their strong and weak points can help improve your business and find unfulfilled needs in the market. Learn from their experience, how they promote their products and services.
  • Realize there is no quick way.
    Studies say that most businesses close their doors in the first 5 years. If you are afraid of failing, that’s ok. Most entrepreneurs are afraid of failing and in fact if you don’t, then this is a warning sign you’re being un-realistic for some reason. But you know when most of these businesses fail? Not when they don’t have enough sales. They fail when the entrepreneur stops trying.

Next time we will talk about cashing in enough money to pay the bills.

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One Response to “How to manage your web design business – first part”

  1. dumankaya says:

    Hello I can not access your rss feed Something trouble? Can you fix it? Thanks great post! thanks!

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