What not to do when starting a web design business

Are you starting a web design business? Here’s what not to do — and why!

    1. Guess on your pricing
      • Always have a pricing table. It eliminates guessing, streamlines quotes and keeps you confident as you know exactly how a proposal impacts your bottom line. Wasting time on proposals keeps you from doing what you do best — creating stuff.
      • Not all projects are the same. For custom work that comes your way, employ a budgeting technique called PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique). It allows you to take a weighted average of your estimates, ensuring that you take a best-case scenario and worst-case scenario into account. It’s a method employed by the best web and software development companies around the globe.
    2. Hire based on the lowest price
      Don’t go for the $10 an hour programmer in India — it’ll cost you in time. Splurge on the more expensive people. It’s much cheaper in the long run. A professional programmer can finish a task with high quality in a week, opposed to the inexpensive half-assed programmer you chat with at 2 am, who drags projects on for months with no hope of completion. You can find good balances of value with geo-arbitrage, but be selective.
    3. Worry about the competition
      Competition doesn’t exist. Your art is yours — that’s what the customer wants. The second you start focusing on what everyone else is doing, and imitating them (Ooh, everyone has pretty scrolling websites!), you’ve commoditized yourself.
    4. Not use a project management system
      Get a good PM system and keep all your information in one place. Log all of your tasks and communications for each project. This allows new people to dive in and get a good history, know what is a priority, and get a bird’s eye view on work completed and work to do. Furthermore, you’re not always asking people for logins, or repeating yourself.
    5. Repeat yourself
      Document everything. If you find yourself giving instructions to new hires or clients — you’re doing it wrong. All that can be documented, should be. This will be one of your greatest time savers and, therefore, greatest assets. Include missions, marketing plans, all the things that failed, and all the things that worked. If it’s something you do more than once, write it down!
    6. Take bad clients for the money
      If they suck, they suck. Understand this: taking a client just for the money will make you poor. The shitty client who acts like they’ll solve your problems is only going to make them worse. They won’t pay on time, if at all. Your greatest weapon is to say no. The unicorn client is around the corner, trust me. Remember, you cannot give your time to a great customer if you’re spending it on stupid people.
    7. Not keep track of time
      You should track everything. Like money, you must know where your time goes.

      • Never go over-budget on a project. This is a risk all agencies face, due to scope creep. By keeping track of the budget and time spent, you can stay profitable.
      • Create strict deadlines and meet them. Use a Gantt chart. Delays cost you money!
    8. Spend all your money
      Keep a slush fund. Allocate a percentage of revenue for rainy days. Also, save a bit for a side project. All agencies love to build their own stuff, so unless you raise money, this allows you to play around once in a while. At the same time, don’t spend too much time on experiments, unless you’re willing to dedicate realistic time to it. However, this fund can also be used to build internal infrastructure, which can be considered an investment.
    9. Stay at home
      It’s nice to work in your underwear, and it is possible to get noticed purely via electronic means, but one needs human interaction. Get out there. Attend events, speak, hold lunch-and-learns, and network. While you’re at it, speak from the heart. It’s vital that you get out there and make a name for yourself. Show people what you’ve got, playa! Don’t hold back!
    10. Think small
      It’s easy to think when you’re starting out that everyone else is bigger than you. The truth is, you’re a lot smarter than you think. After learning about the back-end for websites for major companies like Johnson & Johnson, we realized that we were the ones ahead of the curve, and these big companies were way behind. It was also an obvious example of how we could provide value and win big!

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