A Detailed Guide on How to Start a Web Design Business

Are you a web designer considering starting a website design business? Follow this comprehensive guide to setting up a web design company!

by Editorial Team • 20 May 2024

The web design business is lucrative, but it’s just as competitive. So, if you’re a web designer thinking of going freelance or setting up your own web design company, take a breather. Pause and read this guide on how to start a web design business so a few weeks later, you’re not stuck thinking, "Wait, what do I do now?"

How To Start A Web Design Business

Let us describe nearly everything you need to know to master your website design business.

1. Determine The Web Design Niche You Want To Target

The first step to starting your web design business is whittling it down to a niche. Why do you need to decide on one? For one, it’ll help identify leads faster. It may seem counterproductive. After all, when your field is wide open to any web design clients, you’ll get more of them, right?

The reality is far from this dream. You waste time chasing down cold leads when you’re unaware of what type of client fits your web design agency. On the other hand, when you have a well-sketched niche, your leads are warmer and more likely to convert into paying customers.

Here's an example: Let’s say you pitch this to four different clients: "I am a web designer experienced in building stunning e-commerce sites for small and medium-sized businesses in Australia."

You say this to another four clients: "I design sites." Which pitch do you think will convert more? The first one. And that’s the biggest benefit of choosing a niche as a website designer.

Now, how do you pick one? For designers who already have tons of experience in one field or industry, it’s an easy decision. For all others, it’s about filtering down. Ask yourself:

  1. What is your strongest skill? Think UX design, CMS, coding, development, etc.
  2. Which industries have you worked for in the past? And of those, which did you enjoy most?
  3. Are you passionate about the field?
  4. Which location do you want to serve, particularly if you offer a web design service for small businesses?

After you’ve shortlisted 2 or 3 niches, research them. Understand what opportunities they offer and if they match your pricing model.

A note: As your web design business grows, your niche can and will evolve. Selecting one is meant to give you a clear path to success.

2. Decide The Services You Want To Offer To Your Client

The next step is determining your web design agency’s services. Take a dual approach to this decision. Look out for what solutions other website designers or agencies are providing. List them.

Second, list down the skills you excel at:

  1. Can you develop an online store?
  2. Can you perform search engine optimization (SEO)?
  3. Can you create only static pages?
  4. Are you skilled at setting up websites with extensive content, like e-learning sites?
  5. Can you also redesign and rebuild websites?
  6. Can you perform website maintenance and management?

Find the skill(s) that do not overlap and make that your unique selling point. All the others can be your secondary services. Also, keep in mind that a lot of companies prefer using top website builders. So, your web design business must offer that something extra. Therefore, think about adding complementary services such as:

  1. Marketing: email, digital or social media
  2. Managed web hosting
  3. Content creation

A good rule of thumb would be to package all the services a business would need to get its website and company off the ground. You gain a competitive advantage by clubbing website design with development, branding, hosting, and SEO. A small business owner would prefer to work with you rather than find and finalize different vendors for each.

3. Think About Productizing Your Website Design Business Services.

Once you’ve defined your services, productize them so you have recurring monthly revenue. Essentially, you sell services clients must subscribe to, like hosting or maintenance.

Since a productized service does not require hands-on work, it’s less time-consuming. You don’t have to manage the project or worry about revisions, or chase payments. A set amount is automatically credited to your web design company each month.

4. Set Your Pricing Model

Set your pricing model to start a web design business

The third step to starting a website design business is settling your pricing plans. This would still be challenging for new website designers at the beginning of their careers. Bring method to the madness by choosing one of the three models:

  1. Price by hour
  2. Price by day
  3. Price by project

There are pros and cons to each model. But the golden rule is to charge for the value you provide, not the time you spend on website design. When you choose project-based pricing, it factors in your skill and experience. The same framework that takes you an hour to design may require another website designer's whole day of work. You shouldn’t get paid less because you work faster.

Moreover, with per-hour pricing, you have to give a thorough explanation of each minute. However, hourly rates are incredibly easy to calculate and fairer for all involved. For freelance web designers, they make for an appropriate pricing model.

How Do You Pick The Best Method For A Web Design Company?

  • First, analyze what the competitors are charging so you don’t overcharge or underprice yourself.
  • Second, use hourly rates to figure out how much a project will cost your web design business. You don’t have to share this information with clients, but it's an excellent mathematical approach.
  • Consider taxes, expenses like online payment fees, stock images, licenses, and all other costs, such as the expense of an SEO tool, plugins, or themes that come with running a business.
  • Then include a profit percentage. Remember that you don’t get benefits like sick days or vacation leave. So, they have to be accounted for in the pricing.

A note: everything you do to grow your business must be built into your pricing. Clients who don’t pay for it come out of your pocket.

5. Select A Name For Your Web Design Business

The most fun part of starting a website design business is figuring out the name, but it is also an important step as it can help attract clients. Don’t blindly name the business after yourself. Put thought, planning, and consideration into it:

  1. Is the name easy to remember for your target audience?
  2. Can they pronounce it easily?
  3. Does it fit the website design niche?
  4. Is it similar to the name of another web design agency?
  5. Does it limit you to a specific location, especially if your services are offered everywhere?
  6. Will it cause issues when filling out or submitting legal forms?
  7. Is the domain available?

The last one is really important. Always check if the domain name is up for grabs before you finalize the brand name of your web design company. Although a .com extension is the best, if it’s not available, pick another variation.

How To Choose Between A Personal And A Business Name?

It boils down to this. If you plan to fly as a solo website designer for eternity, then your name as the brand name works well. But pick a different brand name if the vision is to scale your business into a full-fledged web design agency.

Personal names are good for business when:

  1. It’s temporary, and you hope to switch to a full-time job soon.
  2. You need help with search engine optimization, particularly as a freelancer.
  3. The objective is to grow it as a personal brand where you add alternate revenue streams like workshops, courses, or e-books on website design.

A proper business name is an ideal choice when:

  1. You’re establishing a legal entity and want it to be separate from your personal identity.
  2. You’re transitioning your career into website design and need a fresh slate.

Once you’ve brainstormed business names or used a name generator tool, share your ideas with colleagues, family, and friends. Take their reactions as a litmus test. Register the domain as soon as possible when you reach a consensus on the name.

At this point, you’re halfway through setting up your website design business, and it's time to make it official. Read through the regulations of your state and country to find out what legal paperwork you must do to incorporate your web design company.

1. First, settle on the type of web design agency you want to set up — corporation, sole proprietor, or any other.

  • Use platforms like LegalZoom or Lawyer to get the documentation right.

2. Once the business identity is founded, get licensed and move on to administrative work like accounting.

  • Open business bank accounts and buy tools like Quickbooks and Freshbooks. They come in handy for invoicing, payment and taxing.
  • If you’re not confident about business taxes, think about hiring a professional.

3. Get insured to protect your website design business against any contingency.

  • A good practice is to ask for several quotes before you pick the package that fits your assets and business.
  • Consider the plan benefits, particularly if your previous employer offered medical and retirement benefits.
  • If you have a partner or spouse, check if you are covered under their insurance before making any calls.

4. Finally, if you plan to hire people or outsource administrative activities, have a process in place. Document it so that everything is already in place when the time comes, and you’re not left rudderless.

7. Develop The Proposal & Contract Models

Spend a hefty chunk of your time developing a winning proposal for your website design business. The website design field is competitive, and you need to stand out to land clients. A perfectly crafted proposal does precisely that. It is a detailed and comprehensive document that contains:

  1. The scope of work, meaning what the project covers and what it does not in a given pricing model.
  2. Clearly and specifically defined deliverables.
  3. The tentative milestones within the project, along with timeless.

Ensure the proposal is written in a language that speaks and charms clients. When the client agrees to the proposal (always expect a certain level of negotiation), seal the deal with a contract. Always have a signed contract and a partial payment before you move forward with the project. It will protect you, your business, and your time.

What Should A Website Design Contract Contain?

A contract defines the client-business relationship. Consider the contract as a useful document you or the client can refer to at a later stage. It outlines both parties' roles and responsibilities and the consequences of failing to fulfill them completely. This includes iron-clad terms and conditions, so there is no scope creep and delayed payments.

For example, it will state how many revisions and changes are baked into the price and what would be the cost of any further changes.

The contract also has a formal quote stating the price of the project and stipulations for delayed payments. In comparison, a proposal has an estimate that offers a generic idea to the client about the cost involved with website design or redesign.

The right contract varies. What fits one client may not suit another, and the contract another website designer uses may not mesh with your business. So, create one appropriate for you. It is not necessary to use legal jargon in the contract. Once signed, the agreement is mutually binding.

8. Set up Your Payment Methods

As a website design business owner, a steady revenue stream will be your priority. You will be tempted to onboard clients and start billing them, even if you’re still establishing your web design agency. Nonetheless, do not begin any work unless your payment methods are pinned down.

The contract will clarify the payment terms, but you need a procedure in place for them to be effective. Setting up a payment method helps with it by defining:

  1. How do you create invoices?
  2. When do you invoice a client for work?
  3. How is the invoice delivered?
  4. How do the clients make payments to you? Is it through checks, credit cards, or digitally? If you’re accepting the latter, set up an online system that befits you, like Stripe or PayPal.

The scope of your payment method should encompass penalties for late payments. Also, a savvy business practice is to have a Plan B if an invoice remains unpaid.

Another task is to arrange how you pay the monthly salary of employees, including you. If you can afford it, consider outsourcing it to a payroll service and spare yourself the extra burden of transferring pay into accounts, filling out forms, and keeping up with tax laws.

9. Start The Process Of Creating Your Website

How does a photographer get clients? Through their images. How does a web designer land a client? Through their website. It is your storefront and the face of your web design agency.

Make it outstanding and so impressive that every potential customer who sees it thinks, "I want a similar site for my business!" So, when clients see your portfolio, which does the heavy lifting, they are already half convinced.

And now to discover the latest trends in website design, you can check our insightful blog on website design trends.

Let's understand how you can ensure the site displays your prowess as a website designer.

Make sure it has a comprehensive view of your skills and showcases the best of your completed work. If you’re a new freelance website designer, make demo websites or offer your web design services to small businesses for free. Besides your work, the website should contain:

  1. About page that tells your story
  2. Contact page where clients can get in touch with you
  3. Service page that lists all the services you provide
  4. Pricing page that explains your plans
  5. Testimonials from previous clients

The last is pivotal because it builds trust with potential customers and gives you credibility. Reach out to people for whom you’ve done website design and ask them to write a few lines. Or you can send a template and get their approval for it. Where possible, link or display your work for that particular client to act as social proof.

If you have certification or training in web design, include them in the about section to prove to the client that you take your website design business seriously. Key pointers to consider when building your website:

  1. The copy is compelling and error-free.
  2. The text is optimized for search.
  3. It’s easy for clients to contact you.
  4. It has the proper branding to make your business recognizable, like the logo, colors, taglines, and sundry.

Start small, if need be, and as you test and push each page or section live, keep building and improving the site based on your feedback.

10. Use A Website Building Platform To Kickstart It Fast

Building a website, especially one that converts leads into paying clients, is not easy when you’re already juggling the dozens of tasks involved with setting up a business. You need to buy a domain name, purchase web hosting, and then get down to the nitty-gritty of developing the site. When time is of the essence, every little delay can be costly.

  1. Use a no-code platform (Dorik) to get your site ready in less than ten steps. They have many templates you can pick and customize to complement your best work.
  2. Because they are intuitive and effortless, you can drag and drop elements to match your vision, and the website is ready in no time.
  3. The no-code platform (Dorik) is useful for more than just web design. Contracts, payments, search engine optimization, SSL/TLS certificates, and a website builder tool does it all for you.
  4. What’s more? You can create white-labeled sites for your clients using the no-code platform.

11. Establish Your Brand Digitally

Building a site for your website design business is one step to establishing yourself; the other is to declare your presence on social media. In an era where everything lives in URLs, you need a social media strategy, and it’s where clients will look for you first.

  1. Create an account on at least three social platforms.
  2. Instagram is an excellent starting point to build clout, show your expertise, and collect an audience.
  3. Once you have an engaged audience, convert them into clients by redirecting them to your official site. Use the bio feature of your social handle to add the website link.
  4. Use Twitter to join conversations in and around the website design community and position yourself as an expert.
  5. Leverage LinkedIn to hook in client leads and recruit employees if and when you need them.

Ensure you create business pages on all platforms and not personal accounts. Additionally, set up a Google Business Profile and claim all listings on business directories. They do wonders for SEO and help you reach clients when they search for a web design agency or company.

Setting up social profiles or GMB(Google My Business) is not sufficient, and you will need to regularly update them with new content and monitor them for comments and reviews. Check your bandwidth, and then decide how many social channels you want to build your presence. The key is consistency rather than spreading yourself thin.

12. Look For Your Web Design Clients

One of the final but continuous stages of founding a website design business is chasing down clients. Promoting yourself as a hire-worthy web designer is an ongoing task, but it will take more effort during the initial stage. Here’s how you find clients.

  1. Use your current network of colleagues, friends, and family. Ask them to refer you. Be polite with your request.
  2. Experiment with different flavors of marketing. Use Facebook groups to share free advice on website design. Use Instagram to create short promotional videos. Send out emails and newsletters to qualified leads. How do you get qualified leads? By creating a lead magnet on your site. A lead magnet is an e-book, checklist, or another useful resource that people can download from your site in return for their email address.

Do as much cold outreach as possible. Pitch them your website design services with a clear plan on how you will make their site better.

Social proof is your best bet. If you have a few clients under your belt, ask them for a good testimonial stating how you provided them with exceptional web design and service right after project completion.

Request clients to refer you to other business owners.

There are a million ways to market yourself as a web designer. Utilize as many as possible, but keep track of how many are converting. Then hone in on the channel that gives you the most conversions and leverage it to its max.

13. Implement Automation In Your Business

There is a vast land filled with tasks between thinking of starting a website design business and starting one. Suffice it to say, to get jobs done, a savvy website designer would automate where possible. Find a tool for every aspect, from lead generation to payment processing, from emailing clients to posting content on social media.

  1. To create contract templates, try LegalZoom.
  2. To get signatures, use and.coProposify, or PandaDoc.
  3. Use Zapier for automating prospecting and other communication emails.
  4. To track time, pick something like Toggl or Harvest.
  5. For bookkeeping, options like Xero and QuickBooks are fantastic.
  6. Evernote, Notion, Todoist, and Trello are great for organizing.
  7. For web design agencies with many team members, Slack is an option for collaboration.
  8. When handling multiple clients and their log-in credentials and other details, utilize LastPass to store all this information.
  9. For wireframes, Figma, Moqups, Justinmind, etc., to lock in what goes where on which page.
  10. Designing websites, landing pages, static pages, and mockups depend on no-code platforms. Use dorik.com
  11. For marketing strategies and SEO — Google Trends, SEMrush, Surfer, and Ahrefs can get the ball rolling. Although, if you’re using a no-code platform, you will not need an additional SEO tool.

FAQs on Website Design Business, Answered

1. How to start a web design business successfully?

Professional web designers are in demand right now, and nothing is standing in the way of freelancers or full-time workers hoping to make the switch to being business owners. So, to start a website design business, follow the broad steps listed below:

  1. Make a business plan including your niche, services, and rates.
  2. Complete the legal legwork of establishing a business identity.
  3. Create your web design site and complete admin work like setting up contracts, payment processes, and hiring employees.
  4. Develop a social media presence and start marketing your business to attract clients.

Read this entire post for a step-by-step guide to starting a web design business.

2. How much should I charge for a website design?

The prices you charge your website design clients will vary based on your skill, experience, and the difficulty and length of the project. As a general rule, for big projects or more experienced web designers, flat, per-project rates are best. For amateurs and small projects, hourly rates are best.

Find your ideal price for an hour to calculate how much you should charge a client. Yes, even if you’re pricing it per project. The hourly rate includes all business costs like taxes, insurance, and sick days.

3. What’s the benefit of a contract for a web designer?

A contract makes the scope of deliverables crystal clear, so you are paid for your work. It legally sets the stage for who owns the website post-delivery. It protects you and your website design business in case of an emergency, along with explaining the process to follow after a "what if" situation. It also ensures a successful client relationship that leads to more future work.

4. How to hand over a website when it’s done?

Handing over a website to a client can differ greatly depending on what platform you use and your work preference. But here’s an oversimplified version.

  1. Get the final approval written to avoid conflicts over additional services.
  2. Deploy the website and make it live.
  3. That actual handoff will vary based on the host, but it includes giving the client admin access by sharing login information to the website backend and all software licenses or keys. Or you can install the template on their system directly.
  4. Next, sit with the client and go through the entire project checklist to ensure every task is completed and the client is aware of it.
  5. Guarantee that the final hand-off, payment, and intellectual property ownership conditions are explicitly clear.
  6. If you’re not offering maintenance services, share process documentation so that they can troubleshoot anything independently.
  7. Always follow up with clients to build a rapport that brings in more work.

5. Which skills are required to become a web designer?

The skills necessary for a successful website designer are UX, UI, graphic and visual design, color theory, composition, photo editing, and copywriting. With the emergence and popularity of no-code website builders, web designers don’t need a thorough knowledge of HTML, CSS, or JavaScript. But a basic understanding is necessary.

You will also require soft skills such as communication, time management, and client management, as well as a foundation in SEO and knowledge of CMS and web servers.

Final Thoughts

For web designers, figuring out where to start building your website design business will be the hardest step. But once you cross that hurdle, the path to your web design company becomes crystal clear.

So, if you count web design, graphic design, and building something of your own among your myriad interests, now is the moment to take the plunge. Start with the first step – defining your website design niche – and the rest will follow easily.

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Editorial Team

With diverse backgrounds and expertise, the Dorik editorial team is committed to producing high-quality, informative, and engaging content for our readers. Whether you're a long-time reader or a new visitor, we hope you find our content valuable and informative.

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