Okay, you’ve decided it’s time to start a web design business.
All the signs are pointing to it.
- You’ve got a decent eye for design maybe a bit of code know how
- It’s a growing market
- It’s fairly easy to get into
- AND, every business/blogger/influencer/whatever needs a website, right?
Start a Web Design Business that Lasts
When I was first getting started, I googled a ton. I was looking for inspiration from other people who had gone before me and were doing what I was trying to do.
So, I’d enter some generic search phrase into Google: “Web design companies near me.”
That left me with tons of web design companies to look through and try to figure out what they were doing and how they were doing it.
There was just one problem. A lot of the search results ended up going to “Sorry, we’re closed,” pages. In other words, the companies had shut down. Some had only been around for a few years!
It was like a web design graveyard.
So, yes, it’s fairly straightforward to start a web design business. BUT, we’re not just looking to start one. We’re looking to build one that is successful for years and years to come.
This Week’s Episode
On this week’s episode of the Self-Made Web Designer podcast I talk with design legend, Chris Do of the The Futur.
Chris has coached thousands of designers to make a living doing what they love. He’s truly seen what it takes to start a web design business that lasts without having any experience to start with.
When you’re first getting started it may seem impossible. BUT, step by step you build your skills, your portfolio and your client base and eventually you look back to realize how far you’ve come in a relatively short period of time.
That’s exactly what happened to me.
Check out the episode with Chris Do to learn how you can start a web design business that lasts with no experience.
- The importance of honing your skills and learning a craft
- How to define the type of customer you’re going for
- Why it’s important to add value before you ask for anything from a client
- How to stand out when you start a web design business
- How to know when you’re ready to niche
- How to level up your web design business after you get started
Chris: [00:00:00] 20% of all small businesses will fail in the first year. That's why it is so important when you're starting a web design business to start with a good foundation. That's exactly what we're talking about this week with Mr. Chris dough. Are you ready? Let's go.
What's up everybody. Welcome to another episode of the self-made web designer podcast. So good to have you here with us this week. If you are new, welcome to the family. And if you have been listening for a while, I'm glad you're here. It's like you're an old friend. Just let yourself into my house. I actually don't do that.
Um, because it would scare my kids this week. We are continuing the conversation with Mr. Chris Do. He was with us last week and he chatted about eight tips to become a successful freelancer. If you haven't listened to that episode I want to encourage you to take a second and to go do that right now and come back to this one after you are finished.
This week he is carrying on the conversation on how to start a web design business that will last from scratch without any experience. So whatever level that you are at, if you're just getting started, this is perfect for you. And then we go on to talking about how to continue to grow once you've got started.
So if you're a pro of your professional, there's still a lot of great stuff in there for you as well. And if you are just getting started, I want to encourage you to sign up for my web designer starter kit course in this four video course that you get absolutely for free. I lay out how I built my own web design business without having any background in design or in web development. And in two years I went from no clients at all to doubling my income as a freelance web designer. It's not
impossible. If I can do it, you can do it to grab my starter kit, web design course and see for yourself. Just how possible it is. All right. Are you ready to dive into the second episode?
We're going into mid conversation with Mr. Chris DOE on how to start a web design business that lasts with no experience. All right, let's go. I wonder if we could maybe dive into. Some specifics, um, and, and some practical stuff, cause we've gone really philosophical, really heady, which is amazing. I love it.
I could do it all day. Um, but there's a lot of listeners who are, are really just getting started. And so they need to know what is what's step one. Um, you know, when it comes to branding, what's step one and finding clients what's, what's step one in, um, pricing my services. So, um, I wonder if you can take a little bit of time and just kinda kind of walk through that.
Like if somebody was coming to you today and saying, I want to start a design freelance business, w w w where should I, where should I go? What should I do?
Chris Do: [00:03:13] I'll take it through. I'll take you through the tactical steps that I would recommend for anybody. If you're starting a business today and you have zero clients, the biggest problem is what you have no clients.
So we have to be able to find clients. Now there's a couple of things that you can do. So there's some foundational work you have to do, which is, do you have the skillset? And a lot of people they don't want to put in the time. So you look at the work and it's just not very good. And it's because they think I'm good enough.
I'm going to just going to go for it. So there's. Some kind of minimum that you have to be able to produce and to be able to show so that you have some confidence and, and some, I don't know, steps towards being, um, an expert. I'm not saying you have to be an expert on day one, but practice your craft. Get ready for the work.
And I think step number two is who are you trying to serve? The first mistake everybody makes is they cast too wide of a net. And if you really think about the net metaphor, You know, the reason why net fishing isn't popular with people who are concerned about the environment is you accidentally capture all kinds of things that you don't want.
And you're doing great harm to an environment. You might catch a turtle, you might catch sharks in there. You might catch all kinds of things. And if you're going to go fishing, you have to kind of think about. What kind of fish, you're trying to catch where, where they hang out, what kind of bait triggers them and you, you go to them.
And so let's get rid of the wide net casting thing. Cause that's the mistake that most people make. Oh, I do logo InDesign. For who? For businesses for fast moving companies for professional company, it sounds super generic. It's your lack of commitment to a market that makes you ineffective in your marketing?
There's an analogy here that I'd like to share with you. I guess I'm full of analogies today. You know, chefs know this, right? Chefs know this. When you take some kind of sauce and you boil it down, you are reducing it down. And that's where you get this potent impactful thing. The flavors are more intense and think about your offering.
And your, your market segment is the same thing you want to boil it down into becomes really clear. So you can be impactful when you have a clear picture in your mind as to who your audience is. You'll start to figure out things about them, what their needs and challenges are, the gaps that exist between where they are and where they want to be.
And what you should be doing is you should be looking for those gaps that exist in the lives of your clients. Now I can make some predictions. Because I kind of have zeroed in on them where they're at, where they get their news and entertainment from. And now I want to meet them where they're at the expression.
The mountain can come to Moses, but Mo it is much easier for Moses to go to the mountain. You are Moses the clients for the mountain, go to them, go to where they're at. So if they spend a lot of time looking for inspiration on Tik TOK, make Tik TOK videos. If they spend time on Instagram, curating amazing design feeds, make sure you're on Instagram.
Or if they're reading articles short and longterm long form articles on LinkedIn, make sure you're writing that because that's where they're going to be. You got to go where the fish is. You got to go to the mountain, that's what you want to do. And then you have to put the bait on the hook that attracts them.
Some, some clients like images or videos, some just like writing or charts or information graphics, give them what they're attracted to and give them value so that they can start to find you. And there's another tip I'm going to give you, which is wherever your clients are congregating interact with their content consistently.
So when you're ready to reach out. It's not a total cold lead, it'll be cold to warm lead. And so that they're like, you know what, somehow, I, I feel like I know you it's because you're your little face avatar. Your little icon has been interacting with our comment contributing in really smart and meaningful ways.
So by the time you reach out, they're like, yeah, I get a good buy from you. You're a really smart person. You seem to know a lot about these things. So that's how you start to begin relationships with clients and whatever you do. You got to nurture these things slowly. To demonstrate to them that you care and that, uh, they can trust you.
That's what you're trying to build up.
Chris: [00:07:38] It sounds like that philosophy is the same philosophy that you have for, for teaching people is that you're, you're giving away much more than you would ever ask for. And return. And so rather than just going to somebody and saying, Hey, pay me money to teach you these things.
You know, you've, you've got more content than most folks out there teaching what you teach. Um, and so it sounds like that's a good way to build a business as well. Outside of just teaching people.
Chris Do: [00:08:07] When you are able to speak from a place of authority and you share things that you've learned in your life and your craft.
You automatically rise in esteem in the client's mind. And that's what you want to be able to do. You don't have to be the most prolific best known fill in the blank. You really can't even service that many clients. I mean, Blair ends has a philosophy on this. The most, you should have 10 clients a year that you're servicing on a regular basis.
And within those 10 clients, like how many leads do you realistically need to generate? Not that many. So if you can put out five, 10, 12 pieces of content in, let's say a month time. There's a good chance. Someone in your circle is going to see this and they're going to interact with you, and then you're going to do a project.
And then you can use that project to talk about and trade up for the next project. And so work begets more work. It's just kind of weird how that works, right? And the same philosophy can be seen. Like when you're looking for a video on YouTube and you see your search results, you're going to gravitate towards what the most viewed video.
Because we are creatures that rely heavily on social proof, whether it's true or not, not always the most viewed videos, the best, but that's our shorthand. And so when you put out work, that's consistent and people are interacting with it. They're just naturally going to assume you must know a lot. And then there you are.
Right. And then you can use those, those projects that you finish to talk about and that'll generate more interest like, Oh my gosh, uh, who worked on that project? Billy did or Mary did. And so let's get in touch with those people. I liked what they did here.
Chris: [00:09:44] I hear a lot from folks that they they're worried that, you know, the web design market or UX design or web development, like there's more and more web developers popping up every single day.
Um, and so there's a fear, like how am I going to differentiate myself from the rest of the pack. And, you know, it sounds like you're saying one way that you can do that is by building authority, building content, building relationships, over asking for a paycheck. Um, but what are some other things that folks might be able to do as, as freelancers to really stand out from the crowd that is already exists and the new crowd that's being added to every single day.
Chris Do: [00:10:25] In principle, it's fairly easy how to stand out. You go where no one else is looking. You look for that white space, the unclaimed space, and you go and do that in businesses. Call it a blue ocean strategy. Cause the red ocean is where everyone is fighting for those few clients. And it's a bloody mess. All you have to do sometimes you just move your boat somewhere else.
And then it's a wide open space. I'll give you some examples there. So in the motion design business, if you work with ad agencies or you compete with everybody that works with ad agencies, which is pretty much everyone, but as you start to narrow it down and keep narrowing it down, you might wind up as a place where we do a motion projects for fast food restaurants.
We're only doing food marketing now. There's only a handful of people who actually would claim something like that. So you don't need all the market, you just need most of one part of the market and you'll do really well. And this is a real example of somebody that I know who is a very small operation and who focused mostly on food marketing and they get a ton of work.
And what happens is when, when clients are looking for the people who do like really great and shots, you know, the soda that slides across the table with the ice lashing out. And then it reveals the Logan in some clever way. They see so much of this work on this. Person's real, this company's real that they feel compelled.
Like if we want the best at this, this is who we hire. If we want to generalize, who does this every once in a while. Then we'll hire them, but more often than not people when they're really ready to spend money and have a big problem to solve, they want to hire the specialist. Someone who's seen the problems more times than someone else has tried.
Chris: [00:11:05] So niching down as much to the problem that you're solving, the technique that you use to solve that. And I wonder, you know, that's, that's a scary leap when you're first getting started, you know, that's like, w w what am I going to hitch my wagon to, so to speak. So how do you make that decision? When does that, when does it become clear?
Like, yes, we should do motion design for fast food restaurants.
Chris Do: [00:12:10] As soon as you're brave enough to. And it's counterintuitive. You think it's scary to niche down because the market is shrinking, but it's much scarier to try to attack the entire market because at any given day you're going to be competing against world-class.
People only do just that. You're the generous in a, see a specialist. And it's counterintuitive because it feels like the market is so big and I can grab it all. But you have grab nothing. A Blair said this recently on our, our, uh, mini marathon podcast session where we did 12 calls together. He said that the, the market is bigger than the target.
So when you aim something really narrow, the actual market is much bigger than that. And it's okay to aim really narrow when clients see that you're really good at this one thing. They assume you're good at a lot of other things. So let me, let me just give you a real life example here. I was doing the rebrand for a storage self storage company, and then included the different pieces of collateral logo, signage, design, things like that.
And then that client loved the process in which we, we did for them helping them to find their brand voice. I started to write copy, and then they asked me, you know, what else can you do for us? Can you design the, the storefronts and the interior? So our stores, this is well wait outside of my zone of expertise.
Yes, I'm a designer. I believe I can do this, but I have almost no evidence that I can do any of this work. And I said to my client, you know, I don't know if you know this, but I'm not an architect. I mean, I don't want to build you something or design something where the buildings don't fall over and kill people.
And, and my, my client, his name is Brett Henry. Brett said, Chris, he smiles. I was like, I know you're not an architect. That's why I called my architect and asked him if you'd be willing to do the construction documents, if, if I gave him the design. And so I've already worked it out in the back end. That's why I'm asking you.
So I'm like, Yeah, I get to do all the fun stuff of architecture and not have to deal with like where the screws are and, and engineered. So it's safe. And so I got to design the blueprint for many of the self storage facilities for my client. And that's, that's what happens when you demonstrate expertise in a narrow, narrow area focus, they assume you're good at other things.
Yeah. And the opposite is also true. Where if you try to show people, you do a little bit of everything. They're never quite sure you an expert at anything. So it's,
Chris: [00:14:55] it's not necessarily saying no to things that are outside of your niche. It's just that you are only marketing yourself within the niche and other opportunities outside of that will likely have it happen as a result.
Chris Do: [00:15:10] Yes.
Chris: [00:15:10] That's great. Let's say we've, we've had some time, you know, uh, businesses has grown some and they've gone on to, to kind of see a little bit of success. What do you see are some key things in helping people take things up a level in their business?
Okay. This is really important. And the answers, the clue within the question itself, what can you do to level up in your business?
Chris Do: [00:15:35] So you're a creative person, but you probably know nothing about business, how to run a business, how to price, how to do sales or negotiate, how to do marketing. So that would be the clue. And I think most people who are creative, who are either traditionally trained, or self-taught almost have zero business training.
When I say zero, I mean, Yeah. You know how to send an invoice and you, you know how to file taxes. Maybe you might be able to read a profit and loss statement, but you have no financial projections, you understand pricing strategies and different pricing models. And so you kind of go out there and you sell your time and, and people in the business and economics world already know the world.
Doesn't totally work like that even today because people who say, you know, uh, you know, value-based pricing that doesn't work. That's not real. Well, you participate in value based pricing on a daily basis. You just don't even know it. I mean, even energy. The cost of electricity is we're finding out in Texas.
It depends on supply and demand. And some companies unfortunately take advantage of the fact that there's a cold storm and then they Jack the prices up because there's too much demand for the supply of energy they have. And you do this all the time, too. There's moments when you're going to want to buy a fast food meal, and there's going to be a time when you want fine dining.
Both are like calorie rich and nutrient rich theoretically, but they provide completely different experiences. And so the buyer, in this case, you determine how much money you want to spend on something. And then the market kind of either reacts to it or it doesn't. And so when you go and sell your work, you make the false assumption that is based on your values and your opinion and your self worth.
But in fact, it's the buyer who shows up to say, I can afford this. I can afford more than this, or I can't afford this. And those are things that you need to have a conversation with them about versus just assuming it's going to be this fixed price. And that's it,
Chris: [00:17:29] Chris, I can't thank you enough for, for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom.
It's been, it's been fantastic. If somebody is trying to find you online, how would they connect with you?
Chris Do: [00:17:40] You can find me pretty much on every social media platform with the exception of Tik TOK. I don't do Tik TOK. I'm at the Chris. Do. And my last name is spelled D O. D as in David, O as in Oscar.
Chris: [00:17:52] You've got the future.com. You've got the future YouTube channel as well, which has a ton of great content. And I highly recommend if you're listening to go check those out as soon as you possibly can. Well, thanks again for your time. I'd love to have you on again in the future after some time and, and, uh, just catch up with you, Chris, but really appreciate it.
Chris Do: [00:18:09] Thanks so much.
Chris: [00:18:10] There's so much wisdom from these last couple episodes that I, myself, I'm just going to have to go back to these and listen to them a few more times. And I want to encourage you to do the same. It is so important to lay a good foundation when you are building a web design business. And Chris has laid out how to do that.
When I was first getting started as a web designer, I Googled a ton on other web design businesses. I would just simply say, Say web design businesses near me. And then I would click through each site to see if I could learn something from them. Problem was that a lot of these sites were closed for business.
By the time I clicked on them, they were all ready, done. So this isn't just me trying to scare you into taking some action. This is a reality of what is happening. With people who start web design business. But I know that is not going to be your story because you are starting on the right foot. You're starting with some good advice and you're going to go all the way.
You're going to be on this podcast one day, telling everybody else how you were successful doing it. And I can't wait for that. All right, next week, we've got another episode coming out. It's going to be fantastic. And I can't wait for us to enjoy it together. As one big happy self made web design community until then I can't wait to see you.
And don't forget if you don't quit, you win.
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