Several years ago I had a web development and design business. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I do not know how to code. But that did stop me. I saw an opportunity to leverage other people’s skills and turn it into a profitable company. So if you are looking to start one your own, the following is everything you need to know about opening one. In this post, I will show you the various ways of going about starting your own web development company.
In order to protect your personal assets, you will first need to establish an entity for your business. You can do it as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), or a small corporation (S corp). The choice is yours. But it seems like most people starting out seem to opt for either a sole proprietorship or an LLC. When I first started, I went ahead and did the paperwork to establish my LLC. That way, my personal assets are protected, I can do business under my own name, and I do not get boggled down with the extra paperwork and headaches of a corporation. You can establish your paperwork by going to your state’s website or going to legal sites like LegalZoom.
There are three ways to get going when it comes to your web development business. One, you can start by just opening up a one-man shop. The second option is hiring employees. The third option is outsourcing to a contractor. Below, I will go through the pros and cons of each option.
Doing all the work yourself
As for me, I went with hiring contractors from the start and is the style of business that most people go when running a web development company. This was more of a necessity for me rather than a choice. I do not know how to code and did not have enough money to hire full time employees. So what I did was become the salesman of the company by trying to get contracts and then handing the contracts off to other people.
You will find that people in developing countries are much cheaper than people in the United States and Canada. And this is the hardest part. If you choose someone overseas, you will have to coordinate hours and there is a huge language barrier. Quality is also another factor you have to figure out—from my experience, quality of designers and coders in first world countries are much better than a lot of the cheap developing country programmers. But that doesn’t meant there aren’t any cheap quality programmers available. It’s just that you will have to do your due diligence.
I found that it was possible to have the best of both worlds. For several jobs, I was able to hire an American who now lives overseas. So I was able to get quality work for a very affordable price.
So you definitely want to start your own web development company, so now what? What do you need to get started? Here are some of the things you will need to get started:
Website: Of course the first thing you need for a web development company is a website. It is the storefront of your business. I found Bluehost and Namecheap to be really reliable (and inexpensive) webhosts.
Invoicing Software: You will need something to bill your clients. You can use Excel worksheets at first but they aren’t ideal long-term solutions. Many small startups and self-employed people use Freshbooks to do invoicing. You can try it free without a credit card for 30 days. And if you decide that you want to use it, you can start for as low as $15/mo.
Contracts and Proposals: For contracts and proposals, I used boilerplate contracts from a company that is no longer in business. However, Web Design Law has some nice contracts you can use for this purpose. You should not need a lawyer to draft up unique contracts and proposals.
Laptop: You need a powerful laptop. This laptop must be able to code and test the product that you are coding for your client. The laptop must also allow you to seamlessly communicate with your clients and contractors/employees on all fronts. To accomplish all this, I recommend the Lenovo Yoga. It is a 2-in-1, so it is both a tablet and a laptop. It’s a pretty fine piece of equipment and a great price for what you have to do.
Business Cards: If you plan on marketing your business locally by word-of-mouth, you will need business cards. I get my business cards from Vistaprint. They have an interface for you to design your own cards. Best of all, you can get 500 business cards for under $10, which is a great deal. And it’s great quality too. It will cost you twice as much and half the quality if you do it at your local Fedex/Kinko’s.
When I first started my web development business, I found early success in Facebook advertising. I marketed to local freelancers and my first $10 got me two contracts with a photographer and a painter. I don’t know what the numbers were for after the first $10 but they weren’t astronomically profitable. But the online marketing landscape has changed drastically since I first started the company. That was five years ago, when mobile advertising wasn’t even available yet and most people still accessed their internet via the computer.
If you want to market your business, here are the several avenues you should hit up:
Of course there are other ways to market your business and get jobs, but these four ways are probably the most effective ways to get contracts for your web development company.
There you have it. If you want to start a web development and design company, this is a cliff note of how to do it. Good luck with your venture!