It's easier than ever for the average person to establish an online presence and build their own website, with numerous inexpensive and easy-to-use website builder sites on the market like Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. Still, nothing compares to the work of a professional.

A polished, professional-looking website can help any business stand out to potential customers, which means individuals with web design skills are in high demand. With so many individuals and businesses needing websites, the job outlook for this industry is good. For those with the right skills, website design is also a lucrative field. The median annual pay for web developers and digital designers in 2020 was more than $77,000.

Starting and operating your own small business might seem overwhelming but with some planning, research, and organization, you'll launch a successful business in no time. This article will teach you how to start a web design business and walk you through each step you need to take.

What You Need to Know Before Starting a Web Design Business

Web development and design services are highly specialized skills. While a web developer creates and maintains websites for clients, a digital designer develops, builds, and assesses the functionality of websites.

There isn't one educational path to launching a career as a web designer. Some enter the field with just a high school diploma while others earn a bachelor's degree in computer science, graphic design, web development, or communications. Others might opt, instead, for web design certificates and an associate degree.

Ultimately, it's more about your skills and depth of understanding when it comes to computer programming and website production than whether you have a degree. Your portfolio of work needs to be organized and impressive, as well, as this is what your potential clients will be judging you on.

Important Choices to Make for Your Web Design Business

Before starting a web design business, you need to make some important decisions about how your company will operate. As a small business owner, here are a few areas you'll need to consider:

  • Services offered: Before you get started, you need to determine which services you'll offer through your web design business. There are numerous services you might consider offering, including building new websites from scratch, redesign work, creating domain names, website maintenance, content marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). You might choose to focus on specific areas or provide a wide range of services.
  • Target market: Define your target audience so you can successfully promote your new business to the right web design clients. Your level of experience could also determine the type of clients you take on. If you're newer to the web design field, you might be better off marketing your work to startups and smaller businesses than to larger, established corporations that might only work with bigger firms.
  • Average range of prices: As you determine pricing for your web design services, check out what your competitors are charging. The national average cost for a website developer is $697 and hourly rates tend to range from $50 to $85. This will vary based on the scope of the project, how many hours the job will take you, and the average price in your specific area.
  • Amount of work you can take on: It's important to be realistic about your time and how many clients you're able to take on at once. Also, decide if you want to work part or full time. Remember that each client will have different needs, so one business might hire you for website maintenance and updating e-commerce pages that could take you a couple of hours to complete, while building websites from the ground up is more time-consuming work. Remain aware of how much time you have available to work on web design and development websites. As your business grows, you may decide to turn into a web design agency and hire other web designers to work for you.
  • Business costs: The startup cost for a web design business is relatively low. You could get your company off the ground for less than $2,000. The costs you'll need to consider are fees for web hosting your own site, a computer and internet connection, webpage creation software, and a graphic design package.
  • Licenses and permits: While you won't be required to get a professional license as a web designer, you might need to obtain a business license. Check your state, county, and city laws to see if you should register for a business license and what fees are associated with this. Also, keep in mind that there may be insurance requirements to run your business.
  • Master Service Agreements or Statements of Work: You may need to create a Master Services Agreement (MSA) or Statement of Work (SOW) agreement for your clients to sign ahead of each project. These legal documents should include the terms you agreed upon - including terms of payment, deadlines, and the scope of the work. These service agreements are more appropriate for independent contract workers and freelancers.
  • Business plan: Many of the matters discussed above should be included in your business plan, which is the most important document you can create for your startup. Most business plans include an executive summary describing the business, roles and services you offer, and where your company is located. Additionally, you'll include a more in-depth company description, a market analysis, your business structure, marketing and sales information, and financial projections.

Launching Your Web Design Business

Once you have a business plan ready to go, here are the steps you need to take to get your web design business off the ground.

Choose the Right Business Structure

When forming your business, one of the most important decisions you'll make is choosing a legal business structure. There are four common business entity types: sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations. Each entity has its pros and cons, impacting your personal liability as the business owner, how you're taxed, how you can raise funds, and how you register your company. But which type is best for a web design business?

It depends on the nature of your business. If you're starting small and working on your own, you might opt for a sole proprietorship, which allows you to operate as a single entity. As you grow, an LLC might make more sense because it will offer more personal liability protection.

After determining your structure, you'll want to pick a business name for your new company. You'll want a name that reflects your brand and resonates with potential clients. At the same time, you need to keep your state's legal requirements in mind. Each state has different business naming requirements. Many ask you to select a name that's unlike any other business that already exists. Some states even prevent you from using certain words in your name. Before getting your heart set on a name, check your state laws and review databases of existing businesses.

While you won't likely need a professional license to enter the web design and development field, you'll likely need a local business license. Review your state, county, and city laws to see how to obtain a business license and how much it will cost.

Before you get started, make sure you have a strong understanding of your tax requirements as a business owner. You're required to pay various taxes at the federal, state, and local levels. How you file your taxes each year will be determined by your business structure. Most business entities need an employer identification number (EIN), which is used as a tax ID. You should apply for your EIN after registering your business with your state, county, or city.

Once your business is registered and you have all the legal documents in your hand, it's a good idea to open a business bank account to separate your personal and business finances. The information required when creating a bank account could vary by bank. Generally, though, you'll need the EIN assigned to your business or your Social Security number, personal identification (like a driver's license or passport), all your business formation documents, any ownership agreements, your business license, your assumed name certificate, and your monthly revenue (or an estimate).

If you're operating your web design business from an office rather than your home, you may also need to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. This is issued by your local building department and conveys that your space is up to code. Check with your local government about any other legal requirements or documents needed to open an office for your business.

How to Promote Your Web Design Business and Reach New Clients

Now that all of your paperwork is completed and your business is registered, you need to promote your company to find clients and get to work. Clients won't magically find you on their own, though. You need to create a marketing strategy that includes a mix of traditional and digital initiatives.

Here are a few easy ways to market your new business:

  • Build a website. As a web design company, your business website will be your best marketing tool. Use it as a way to show off your skills and let clients know what you can do. In addition to information about your services and pricing, you should also include a portfolio that showcases an array of your work.
  • Create social media profiles. Successful businesses build a strong social media presence. This is especially important as a web developer and designer. Use Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites to feature your work, offer design tips and tricks, share any news you might have, and engage potential clients.
  • Use branded media. As someone who wants to show off their design skills, your branded media - logos, social media banners, slogans, or themes - is another opportunity for your skills to shine.
  • Ask for referrals and testimonials. Recommendations and glowing reviews from past clients will help convince new clients to choose you for their web design job.
  • Write a blog. Adding a blog to your website is a great way to lure in new clients. If you offer SEO, content marketing, or copywriting as services, it's also a way to showcase your writing. Your blogs should be educational and engaging while tackling specific topics that draw visitors to your site.
  • Don't forget traditional print materials. While many clients will discover your business through digital means, don't rule out traditional print advertisements. Consider mailing flyers to new businesses opening in your area to see if they need help with their websites. Business cards can also come in handy if you attend local networking events.
  • Set up online business pages. Claim your Google My Business and Yelp pages. These sites offer easy ways for local businesses to connect with clients in their area who are looking for specific services.

Handling Behind-the-Scenes Business Tasks

While web design might be second nature for you, the day-to-day operations of running a small business might seem overwhelming. There's a lot of administrative and accounting work that comes with each client: billing, offering estimates, tracking payments, and more.

Luckily, Skynova is here to make being the boss a little easier. Our full range of accounting and invoicing software helps you easily track your finances and build your business successfully.

Skynova can help you in the following areas:

  • Billing: Submit custom invoices to customers easily using our free invoice template.
  • Quoting jobs: Quotes are an important first step in forming a relationship with a client. Learn how to create a quote for your web design services. Then, use our free template to send it to clients.
  • Track payments and costs: Turn to our accounting software module to track your finances and keep accurate records for bookkeeping.
  • Receipts: Create receipts that you can easily send to clients at the close of each transaction using our receipt template.
  • Deposits: If you require a deposit for web design projects, use our deposit request template to track down payments.

Rely on Skynova While Building Your Successful Web Design Business

Launching a web design business could be a lucrative and successful career choice for you. As you get started, there's a lot of planning and research required to get your business off the ground.

Skynova's accounting software, business templates, and other software products make it easy for you to grow a successful web design business. Our simple and straightforward templates and products allow you to effortlessly bill your clients, track your finances, organize your paperwork, and handle all of your accounting needs.