If you are thinking about starting your own website design business, then you will need to dedicate a lot of hard work and patience to your project, even sacrificing evenings and weekends to get your business launched. However, if you take your time and make sure you cover every essential step that needs taking, you will be sure to be left with a well-established and well-built successful web design business of your very own.
Beyond your industry training and hands-on experience with web design, what are the sort of skills a successful web designer needs?
Your approach to your work may be very different from others in the same field. You may have particular skills and a flair for design that others lack that can make you shine and stand out from your competition. While this is great, you will also need to have lots of other skills that will help to make your business a success:
- A sharp attention to detail
- An ability to work under pressure
- Budgeting skills
- Excellent customer service skills
- Good communication skills
- Good organisation skills
- Keen problem-solving skills
- Sales, marketing and good negotiation skills
If you’ve got all of those skills, there’s no reason why you cannot set yourself up as a professional web designer.
Let’s take a look at the nitty-gritty of setting up your website design business and the formalities you need to address:
Business accounting options
If you are setting yourself up as a solo entrepreneur and plan to run the business by yourself, then it would be wise to consider your business bookkeeping and accounting options. Working for yourself means that you take on every responsibility for your business, that includes all of your bookkeeping and business accounting records.
Here you have three options:
- Do your own manual business accounting
- Hire an accountant to manage your tax and accounting affairs
- Automate your accounts with accounting software
It is very important that you keep an up-to-date record of all your financial transactions for your website design business. You will need to submit accurate accounting figures to HMRC at the end of the tax year, so you want to get this right to avoid any mistakes and penalties.
If you don’t want to get bogged down with manually keeping your own books, then you can make things easy for yourself by outsourcing this essential task to an accountant to take care of for you. They will go through your books and work out what tax you will owe at the end of the financial year and can also advise you about any expenses you can claim for your business that you may not be aware of.
You could also choose to automate your bookkeeping and accounting by using accounting software such as QuickBooks or FreshBooks for example. These are very user-friendly cloud-based accounting tools that automate your whole bookkeeping and accounting process. They have a low monthly subscription cost and can save you a lot of time and money by freeing your time up to focus on your business. You can link your bank accounts to these tools that can track all of your transactions and quickly issue and track invoices to your clients.
Setting up shop
Fortunately, as an independent web designer you don’t actually need to base yourself in a bricks and mortar office set up. You could quite easily run your business from your home office or a spare bedroom. This makes starting up as a web designer very affordable.
With not commercial rent to pay, your overheads can be greatly reduced and this means more of your money can be invested in the tools, equipment and training you need to make your business a success.
Your initial costs should go towards the business basics you need to be able to do your job. These will include:
- Computer equipment
- Web design software
- A printer and scanner
- A professional website
- A business phone or separate phone-line
- Web hosting
- Business cards
Marketing your business
To begin with most of your time will be taken up with marketing for new customers. While you can utilise social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn to attract new leads, there is still a good use for physical marketing materials such as business cards.
Networking meetings are a great place to meet and mingle with local business owners, so a pocket full of handy business cards is a quick and convenient way to circulate your details and get your business known.
It may seem obvious that to succeed as a web designer in the 21st century, you will also need to have a stunning website to showcase your skills. Your website should showcase a great portfolio of your work showing your range.
You should aim to give your customers a taster of the types of websites you can design for them, but remember that tastes may differ, so it is important to include some styles that you don’t particularly favour, but your customers may like.
You will also need to set up a solid social media presence across all platforms where your prospective customers may hang out. Again, if you don’t have a lot of time to be active and present on your social media accounts, then you could outsource this task to a freelance social media manager who can take on the job of building up your profile and responding to queries on your behalf.
The great thing about social media is that it’s a free marketing tool for your business to use. You can also pay for sponsored posts that give you even better targeted reach to the customer demographic you are looking to attract.
Mobile or virtual services
Next you have to decide whether you are going to run your website design business virtually or in person working at your clients premises. You could even offer a mixture of both! If feel it is important to meet with your clients, then you should also factor in your petrol costs as well as the wear and tear on your car (should you choose to drive) or the travel costs if using public transport.
If you choose to operate your business from home, then talking with your clients over the telephone may be an important aspect of your work. If this is the case, then you should ensure your office set up is situated in a quiet location in your home where your calls can be handled without distractions or with any loud background noise. You may need to have a separate business mobile phone or separate land line to use for your business that cannot be blocked by your domestic calls.
Officially registering your business
You may decide to start off as a sole trader and register yourself as such with HMRC. However, from a business perspective, it may be worth considering officially registering your business as a limited company. Doing this means that you will go through a company formation so your business will become it’s own distinct legal entity. What this means for you is that you will be granted ‘limited liability’, which separates and protects your own personal finances from that of your company.
Should anything go wrong with your business further down the line, as a limited company you will only be liable to pay any company debts up to the value of the shares you own in the company. This means that you will not lose everything you own to pay back your business creditors.
If you’d like more information on limited companies and why you may want to consider setting one up for your website design business, then take a look at our blog post : What’s better, a sole trader or limited company?
Being a web designer means that your work is very much in the public domain. It may be wise for you to consider getting some insurance to cover any possibility of unhappy customers claiming for not delivering what they expected, or even another web designer claiming that you ripped off their idea that was created first. You have to look at insurance as self-preservation.
An example would be if a client’s new website doesn’t do what they wanted, or breaks down completely, they have a right to claim their losses – actually pain out or verbally agreed – from you.
Like it or not, claims of copyright infringement and intellectual property theft are quite common in the web design industry. An example would be if you used any third party content such as images, video or music without first obtaining the right licences to use it, you could be slapped with a nasty claim. To protect yourself from instances such as these, you should look in to taking out professional indemnity insurance.
Public liability insurance is useful if you have clients that visit you at your office or workplace. It will protect you against any compensation claims that are made by a visitor who claims they have been injured on your property.
Rules and regulations
Whether you choose to operate your business as a sole trader or as a registered limited company, you will still need to remain compliant with your statutory filing and reporting requirements for HRMC (and Companies House for a limited company).
If you have chosen to form your own limited company to protect yourself and your business, then you will have a legal obligation to comply with rules set in place by HMRC and Companies House so that they are kept informed about what is going on with your business. As a company director, you will be responsible for:
- Submitting an annual confirmation statement to Companies House each year
- Preparing and submitting financial accounts for Companies House
- Notifying Companies House if there are any changes to your company details
- File your Company Tax Returns and annual accounts with HMRC
- Paying Corporation Tax (if eligible)
Not sure what this all means? Don’t worry. We have covered all of these different filing requirements on our blog.
Once you are set up and fully aware of your legal obligations, you can relax in the knowledge that you have everything covered and focus on building up your base of happy customers.