With everyone from entrepreneurs to small businesses and individuals looking to start an online presence, there's a substantial potential client base for web design firms. And a rapidly diversifying market, for example into search engine optimisation, provides the potential for additional revenue streams.
Why start a web design company?
Web design companies are increasingly popular due to low initial start-up costs and the potential for rapid growth. The number of businesses moving online is increasing, creating an expanding market that will continue to grow into the future. Entrepreneurs can also learn key techniques personally without the need for expensive training courses; it’s definitely a results-driven industry that emphasises talent, innovation and creativity. It’s also a business that can be run initially whilst you continue in your job, making it ideal for entrepreneurs with young families.
What skills will I need?
A web design agency will typically be able to create website designs (graphic design) and also build these sites (development). If you plan to do both then – which is advisable as you’ll widen your market – then you’ll need highly polished skills in both area, or to work with another person. Since you’re unlikely to have enough capital to pay an employee this will typically mean taking on a business partner, something you may not wish to do initially. You may also wish to offer search marketing services, which will include search engine optimisation. Aside from technical skills, you’ll need a professional attitude and the ability to translate client needs into tenable blueprints.
In-depth knowledge of industry-standard software programmes is essential; this includes Adobe Photoshop and InDesign, .NET environments for development and Google Analytics if providing search engine optimisation services. These are powerful packages, with many years experience needed to develop proficiency. If you prefer structured training you can book a course but commercial experience is essential when using these programs within your business.
Start-up costs vary between very little and medium depending on the hardware and software you currently own. You’ll need professional monitors to ensure faithful colour reproduction and fast hardware to ensure you can work efficiently, as well as software licenses for the major programs you’ll be using. Licenses can set you back hundreds or even thousands of pounds; consider buying second hand from companies that are buying the latest version.
Insurance and compliance
Aside from professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance, which are advisable in case of negligence or damage to third party properties, you’ll want to protect your technical assets. Choose specialist insurance that covers expensive hardware. In terms of compliance, ensure websites created are compliant with W3C standards and anti-virus/security best practice. Make sure you back up your work regularly – consider an automatic off-site backup to protect against the worst happening.
Your first step
If you’ve been working in commercial web design for several years and are ready to start your business, establish what your company will do i.e. whether it will provide a full service or just one aspect of web design. Work out what you’ll need to buy and look into raising start-up finance. Don’t quit your job until you’re up and running and have revenue coming in. If you don’t have the experience or software proficiency to run a company, look into professional qualifications/training or start teaching yourself. Find out what books are current ‘industry bibles’ and see if your local library has a copy.