The decision to start my own business was a hard one, leave my stable, happy job as a head website designer and start a new adventure. To say that it was exciting, daunting and even frightening was an understatement. In this article I would like to share the discoveries that I made along this uncertain path of being self-employed.
1. Being a website designer does not make designing your OWN website easy
When I decided to start out on my own, I naively thought that designing my own website would be easy; after all I am a website designer and have designed hundreds of sites for my clients. As I sat down to sketch out ideas and put those ideas onto the screen, I was never quite happy with the result, after all it was my own website it had to be ‘amazing’ so 7 designs down the road, I finely came to the conclusion that I needed to start fresh.
I sat down to write all the content for my site first (yes I know I should have done this before designing, but you live you learn), once I had the content down, the design seemed to come much, much more easily, and finely I had a design that I was happy with.
But being the perfectionist that I am, I am constantly looking at the design and the changes that I want to make, to make it ‘perfect’, so needless to say I have a long list of improvements to make, but I feel always wanting to make your website better can’t be a bad thing.
2. The boring stuff
If you’re like me, you hate the boring stuff, and by boring stuff I mean paper work, accounts etc. it’s just not my thing, I would much prefer to be designing. However with running your own business you can’t get out of it.
I was very fortunate in that my sister is an accountant and she gave me loads of really valuable advise (and offering her services, to which I will be eternally in her debt), but if you don’t have a sibling that’s an accountant, I would strongly advise getting one, as the last thing you want to do with your new business is get the paperwork wrong, as this could be timely and expensive.
3. Getting clients
Getting clients is the most important part of starting your own website design business, as without them you don’t make money – simple.
I found that knowing people helps, what I mean is you probably know people who have their own companies or work for companies that you can get in touch with and family and friends connections can be really valuable, this can help you get your first few clients. But to fully ‘break out’ I found that getting in touch with companies (just by going through the yellow pages or Google searches) can be helpful for getting your name out there.
It’s definitely not easy, and it does take time, but persevere and you will get there.
4. Need to focus
If you’re like me focusing on what needs to be done can be hard, I always start of the day with a list of what I need to do and I always have to resist the urge to do the fun stuff first like designing some portfolio sites, learning some new skill, but over the years I have learned that sometimes it’s best to get the stuff you don’t want to do so much over with first otherwise you end up with an elephant in the room (a great analogy from my last boss), I feel it’s always best to deal with it head on.
5. Time Management
This sort of follow’s on from the point above, but it is so important I had to include it. Good time management makes you work effectively, and helps you to meet deadlines.
My way of time management, is to list everything you need to do in a week/day and assign each item with number, 1, 2, or 3, 1 being the most important thing that needs to be done, 2 being important but can possible be moved to another time, and 3 an item that can be rescheduled. Once you have marked each item with a number, list all the number 1’s and write down how much time each of them is going to take, add each time up and if it fits into your working day – GREAT!, if you have some space left put in the number 2’s then 3’s.
I know it may seem a bit of a faff to do every day, but it has helped me no end and made sure that I always stay on top of my work load.
6. Search Engine Optimisation
This is essential when starting out on your own, how else are people going to find you…here are some of the things that I have done to improve my ranking so far
- Make a list of key words you want to be found on
- Adding my business to Google Places
- Setting Up Google webmaster account
- Setting up Google Analytics account
- Adding my site to directories, mainly local ones
- Start your own blog
- Monitor and track your ranking for your key words
It’s not a complete list, and there are many more things you can do, but these have helped me so far in improving my ranking but there is still much, much more to do, as the joy of search engine optimisation is never over.
7. Social Media Marketing & How it can help
I only got into the social media world about a year ago – so quite late onto the band wagon, but have found it to be a really effective way of keeping in touch with clients, other designers and the world. The most well-known ways of social media is twitter and Facebook, twitter is great for short updates to your followers, such as a new design you have done, if you have an offer on etc. I like using Facebook for keeping in touch with clients and prospective clients, new designs on your portfolio and the like.
Well, if you have gotten to this point in the article, thank you for staying with me. This article does not profess to be an expert guide on want you need to do when starting your own web design business, merely a list of the discoveries I have made along the way, and I am sure I will have much more to add in the future.