First Steps in Creating a Web Design Business


You don’t like working for others and wish others worked for you? Are you also attracted to the idea of working with lots of people and multiple personalities? Then going for your own design company is something you might want to look into.

Starting a web design business might seem something anybody can do, but is definitely a difficult task. Note that this discussion is purely theoretical, if you wish to read a real opinion, then find someone who owns such a company and ask him how it was in the beginning.

The difficult part about starting your own company is that you need to be patient – the good stuff comes to those who wait. It is a long-term commitment and results might not come right away. Actually, it might be a bumpy ride up until the results come; or worse, they might not come at all and you will fail miserably.

Image by kristja.

In the beginning it sounds nice. You are your own boss, make lots of money and do pretty much nothing besides sign papers. This might be the life of huge company owners (although I would like the right to disagree), but it will not be yours. You might have to work even more than your own employees, you will not really make that much money and yes, you will be your own boss, but the clients you work with will still decide whether or not to hire you – they have the money, right?

Statistics say 80% of new businesses disappear within their first year. It takes a lot of determination and it is not the path to take for people without drive and stamina. If you’re still reading and think you have a fairly good chance of being one of the 20%, then continue reading, this is for you.

Owning a company

Great, are you ready to embark on this journey? Then you need to know things will change for you. Your career will not be a 9-5 job and won’t even be similar to the bits of freelancing you experienced before. Expect to get a feeling of accomplishment when things happen as you wish them to – expect to put your head down and be disappointed when things don’t turn out the way you want. Now you are on the other side of a business. You control what is happening and you give jobs, order people around and decide on wages. Landing a big project will mean much more for you now than if you were working in an agency, where you just get assignments and, when you deliver them, you get new ones. Your life has changed!

Now you can also employ people and let them do your work, while you spend time with your family or doing whatever else you wish to. However, most designers or developers who start their own businesses have no, or a limited, amount of money in the beginning and choose to do some of the work themselves, to save up until they have a bigger budget. You will most definitely have to do this in the beginning, unless you find a partner who is willing to contribute to the finances.

Advantages of owning your business are many. You are able to schedule your own time and have more freedom to experiment; even more freedom to hang out with your friends. You get total control, price up jobs as you think and have a different feeling knowing this time everything you do is for your own purpose. You are in charge of everything. But challenges arise at any minute too…

Get ready for problems

The first part of the article was about the nice stuff. Now it comes the ugly. Just because you are a great web designer doesn’t mean you are a great entrepreneur. There is a whole new path for you to learn and there is not much free time for you after you throw yourself out there. As in freelancing, you need to be able to motivate yourself and the ones you work with and be the boss, not just a friend or co-worker.

Unlike in a company, there is no one who takes care of other things for you. Unless you hire people for it, you will need to do the bookkeeping, taxes, client meetings, project presentations, project management and so on. This doesn’t allow too much time for hanging out with your friends.

Image by iprole.

Working on your time and whenever you want is an advantage – like in freelancing. But in both careers you need to be able to motivate yourself and start working right away instead of doing laundry or walking your dog. Also, you need to be good at following a schedule. If you slack off a day, the second day you will find yourself in a lot of trouble. Distractions are also something difficult to deal with, from social media to e-mails and, if you work from home, to kids and family members.

Maybe the most time-consuming task is email. This time you need to create them yourself; from scratch! There are no short answers to your project manager anymore. Now you are also in charge of communicating with the client and there is a reason why every company hires specialized people to do this – because it requires special skills. Now go and ask yourself, will you spend the necessary time to learn them or will you hire someone to handle the external communication? If you prefer to do it alone, get ready for some difficult challenges. Not every client is a joy to work with and you need to learn how to get the best out of them. Your job will be even more stressful if most of the clients are difficult to work with – and you probably already know most of them are difficult to work with.

Some good tips I can give you for when you decide to start your own design company is getting an accountant and focus on smaller tasks. Having an expert to keep control of all the stuff you have no idea about will pay off because it will allow you more time for the things you know how to do. It is not really possible to keep track of everything and doing both administrative and technical tasks will only give you sleepless nights.

If you are out there always looking for clients and you do it well, keep doing it and hire somebody at the office to actually turn the ideas into projects. Chasing clients and doing the work is quite impossible to do at the same time. It is possible for freelancers, as they have more free time than you do, but don’t forget – there is no real free time for you in the following months or even years. On the other hand, if you’re really good at completing the design briefs, then do that and hire someone else on commission to land projects. All big companies have several departments for a reason: keep sales, finance, design and technology apart from each other.

What’s in for you later?

Now we talk about the future. What are your opportunities in the future? Well, there are actually only two: success and failure, but we all know failure is never an option. Forcing yourself to be successful is the only way to actually reach your goals. If in the beginning you only run a business, in the future you have the opportunity to own it and hire people to run it – this is the dream, I would say. It is as far as it will go for you.

Image by cobrasoft.

You will pick up business skills along the road that might help you get back in with another agency. If at some point in time you wish to start working again, nobody will reject you – with the experience of leading a small project to running a company everybody will be delighted to have you around.

If you fail, however, the only thing you can do is go back to an agency or freelance. You can still have the company on your CV, but is it really worth? How likely are you to get a job if you state your small business failed? If you disagree with this, you are more than welcome to share your opinion with us; I would love to hear them.

Bottom line

Well, now you’ve heard it all. You know what is good about owning your own business and you know what challenges to expect. I would be glad to hear that some of you still want to pursue your dream or maybe start or continue on this path. I can’t wait to hear about your results.

Until next time, let’s hear your opinions on the topic…



  1. Zid

    I believe that you are correct sir. It is difficult.
    I do not however see the the difference between freelancing and owning your own company.
    Freelancing would be doing the exact same thing, bookeeping, answering client emails, keeping track of expenses, finding new clients, doing the design work and quite possibly sub contracting part of the work out just to keep up.
    I guess maybe you were talking about part-time freelancing, when you have a J.O.B. too. Many call that freelancing, I would call that moonlighting. I know several freelancers who do freelancing full time and that is all they do. And either way, as I said, the responsibility is in my opinion not much different than a business owner.
    Green Eggs and Ham by Dr, Seuss was one of my favorite books of all time. I will not read it here to you, although I think you would really enjoy it.
    Thank you so much for the article on how I can start my own business and quit and going back to the agency!

  2. mike

    Don’t forget insurance! Go get some, if your making your own business, it can be as little as $500 a year, and can really make a difference when things go wrong.

  3. Collins

    This is the appropriate blog for anybody who desires to search out about this topic. Thanks for sharing these ideas.