"So, you're thinking of starting a home based Web design business? Advice for standing out among the crowd and surviving in this business."
By Julie Frost - Copyright 1999
When I first started my Web design business from my home in 1995, people were saying that the Web was "still in it's infancy". But even then, it seemed people were getting on the Internet in droves. New business sites were popping up left and right... And so were new Web design firms.
Since that time, I've seen many web design businesses come and go. But I've also seen the web - once a 'baby' - grow bigger and stronger with each day. According to the Nielsen Media Research approximately 70.5 Million adults are now online. And International Data Corporation reports that 41.2 percent of all small businesses are accessing the Internet (up from 19.7 percent in 1996).
So obviously there is a market for web designers. But is the market saturated?
Maybe, maybe not. Web Design is frequently listed as a "Hot" home based business idea, in online and offline publications. But I doubt very much that there are more quality, affordable design firms then the market can bear. But whatever the answer may be, how can you get YOUR web design business to stand out?
First and foremost, you have to have a niche market.
Just saying that your target market is "small businesses" is not enough. Did you know that "small businesses" account for 98% of all businesses in the U.S.? While it might be nice to market to everyone, it's not just not feasible.
I know of one gal who designs web sites for horse breeders, horse tack/supplement/etc. suppliers and other horse related businesses. Other niche ideas include: real estate brokers, insurance salespeople, direct salespeople, restaurants, and the list could go on and on. Your best bet? Find a niche that you have connections with, have experience in, and enjoy.
The great thing about having a niche as a web designer is that, though your customers may be "competitors", it's most likely they will not be on the same street or in the same town, fighting to sell more products then the other. And though the web might bring them closer together, there's room enough for everyone.
Learn how to build a community, and build a business at the same time!
Many people have started community sites. For example, you could get the domain www.OurLittleCity.net (not a real site, but it could be!) and build sites for local businesses. You could even get more specific - www.southwestoregon.com or www.hustontexas.com. While these types of sites are gaining popularity, believe it or not, none of the above URL's are taken! Even if they don't apply to your situation, the domain that DOES apply may be readily available. And don't give up if your first choice is taken. For instance, www.bangor.com is taken, but www.bangormaine.com is not. (At the time of this writing, the above domains were available.)
Flashy does not necessarily mean good.
While the use of graphics, animation, and flashing/scrolling text can be effective in the design of a great site, going overboard with these and other enchancements will ultimately slow your site down, and turn off a lot of potential clients.
Before you start grabbing "free" graphics from here and there or creating your own, then building a virtual mecca of glitz and glimmer, remember that everything that glitters is NOT gold. If you have to err, err on the conservative side when building web sites.
Keep the design simple and effective. If you're not sure what that is, surf around awhile. When I first started my web design business, I would look at at least 50 web sites a day... Trying to find what I liked and what I didn't like, what stood out and what stood out like a sore thumb, what worked, and what didn't. What you like and what others like may be completely different, but if you see the types of sites that are continually popular, quick to load, and effectively doing their job, you'll start to get the idea of what's already working.
The price is right! Or is it?
Just because the market may be saturated, don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. If potential customers ask why you charge more, let them know that it may be truer online then anywhere else - you get what you pay for. They can pay a dime-a-dozen web design and get a dime-a-dozen web site, or they can pay you what you're worth and get the quality and service they deserve.
And remember, there will always be someone who will underbid you - no matter how low you price your services! Don't worry about them. Remember the design firms I mentioned earlier that come and go? Those low bidders, in my experience, are always the first to go.
Starting a web design business - like any other business - is exciting and maybe a little bit scary, but what a great business it is. Anyone with the desire to do well and the willingness and determination to learn CAN succeed!
Julie Frost is the author of the online booklet "Start Your Own Home Based Web Design Business". You can purchase her online booklet for just $19.95 by sending a blank email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can mail Julie at mailto: email@example.com