Start a Web Design Business


Do you already know how to build websites?  If so, you may have a successful business opportunity just around the corner.  Many small businesses and entrepreneurs have no idea how create a business presence on the internet.  One of my first jobs making money from home was as a web designer building simple websites for small businesses in my town in Northern California.  With an average job paying $500, I was making decent money from 3-4 jobs per month that would supplement my other income streams.

If you don’t know how to build websites, but would like to learn, I recommend you look into taking some computer technology courses or even consider getting a degree.

Recruit Local Businesses

Building a Website for Local BusinessesOne of my most successful approaches when I first started out as a web designer was to recruit local businesses to the idea that they needed a website.  Believe it or not, many small businesses have still not invested the time or money to have a web presence.  I found out that most small businesses still think building a website is too expensive. Here are a few of my favorite talking points when selling the idea of a website to a local business.

Very Affordable.  Many small businesses are still owned and ran by members of the Baby Boomer generation or older.  This puts many businesses owners out of touch with modern technology.  The simple idea of building a website overwhelms many people.  As a result, they develop the assumption that creating a website is burdensome and expensive.  Your job is to show them how fast and affordable you can get it done.

Gain Exposure.  When you have a website for your business you gain exposure.  People will rate your services/products on Yelp, TripAdvisor and other rating sites.  Your website can be shared by customers on social media.

Reduce Phone Inquiries.  If you find a business that gets inundated with questions from customers, having a website that provides such information can help cut back on administrative costs.  Providing information online such as menus, pricing, hours of operation, specials, etc. can dramatically reduce customer inquiries by phone.

Build an Email List.  By having a website, you create an opportunity to build a mailing list.  Businesses can invite website visitors to subscribe to the mailing list and receive “exclusive offers” in their email.  Not only is this good for the customer, but it’s a way for the business to turn subscribers into repeat customers.

Word of Mouth

Your greatest sales tool is word of mouth.  After my initial recruitment efforts, I never had to spend money finding new clients.  Remember, provide high quality services and the work will come.  Your past clients will tell their friends and family,

I know a web designer.  He was affordable and did a great job.  I’ll give you his email.

Referrals are the best clients because you’ve already established a layer of trust via their friend, business associate or family member.  Someone they already trust has referred you

Offer a Discount for Referrals

Zazzle Discount Business CardOne of the best ways to generate referrals is to give your current clients a couple discount business cards to hand to people they know.  By offering a discount, you increase your chances of receiving that referral call or email. Click on the image to the right or the link above to customize the template you see or build your own custom discount business cards at

How to Price a Website

There are two main ways to bill for web design services: by the hour or with a flat rate.  I’ve found that some clients prefer a specific billing method and not to be set in your ways when making a proposal.

By the Hour

When you provide web design services and charge by the hour, the total cost tends to be higher.  That’s mostly due to not accurately costing out the entire project in the beginning.  Furthermore, I would often sacrifice my time to win the job.  If I could get a job for $500 flat, I didn’t want to scare the client away by charging $50/hour with no ceiling.  So more often than not I would use the flat rate quote to land the job.

However, some clients who have smaller jobs may want an hourly agreement so they can start/stop whenever they want.  It’s up to you to decide what’s best for each circumstance.

Flat Rate Quote

Most basic websites that I built for local businesses would take between 3-5 days, depending on how I spread out the work.  Because I wasn’t relying on the money to pay for food and rent, I often reduced my hourly rate to get the work.  On average, I charged $30/hour and a typical job would take between 15-20 hours of total work.  I would often price a web design job for roughly $500.  I have a formula for quoting a basic web design job.  The general order of operations is as follows:

  1. Organize the work into larger deliverables (graphic design, layout, content, etc.).
  2. Calculate the time (in hours) to complete each/all deliverables.
  3. Select the appropriate market rate for your services.  If you’ve been doing it a while, choose a higher rate.  If you’re just getting started, you might want to undercut competition, so choose a more modest hourly rate.
  4. Multiply the number of hours to complete the job in #2 by your hourly rate in #3.

Written Agreement

No matter how well you know the client or how much you trust each other, I recommend always drawing up a written agreement.  If you provide high quality customer service, you should very rarely ever have to reference the agreement.  I’ve found that it’s more for the client than myself.  It gives many clients peace of mind knowing what they’re paying for.

Website Development Agreement Template

Microsoft Word DocumentDISCLAIMER: The website development agreement template below is just a sample and should be reviewed for accuracy before use.

For a sample of the types of web design agreements I make, you can download my sample Website Development Agreement template.  I think it very clearly covers all the bases and outlines most expectations.  It also gives the client a clear picture of what they’re getting for their money.  The main goal is to prepare a document that outlines the following:

  • What you’re doing.
  • How much you expect to be paid to do it.
  • When you’ll complete it.
  • The process for dealing with changes or problems.

Most people are looking for a basic presence on the internet.  Put together a sales approach and outline how you will get the work done swiftly and efficiently.  Your efficiency will translate to lower prices for clients and less development time for you.  There is nothing stopping you from making this successful.

The future is yours.  Don’t let anything take it from you!

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