How to Start a Web Design Agency

Written by WordPress Enthusiast & Technology Writer

June 15, 2023
How to Start a Web Design Agency

Web design is one of the most in-demand businesses on the internet. Starting a web design agency is one of the most satisfying and lucrative businesses anyone can start. If you have web design skills, starting a web design agency isn’t difficult, but there are a few things to consider when building a successful web design business. In this post, we’ll look at how to start a web design agency to help you get your business off the ground and running in the right direction.

Business Planning

A business plan provides all the details about your business and answers questions that will help build a roadmap. It shows how the business will start, why you’re the right person to start this business, who the competition is, how the audience is, how you will find clients, what the services are, what sets you apart from the others, the number of clients you want to work with per month, your long-term goals, company mission, milestones, costs, etc.

The business plans should also include the name of your business, your branding, colors, styles, etc. This would include the website design, business card design, and all other aspects of the business. Create a style guide and employee guidelines that will help team members understand the design and direction of the business.

The business plan will sum up your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This is known as a SWOT Analysis and will help you plan your business for success. While there are a lot of elements in a business plan, we will focus on the elements that get your web design agency started and headed in the right direction.

The Legal Part of Business

To operate as a legal business, you’ll need to research the laws in your area and follow them in every detail. This might require a business license, filing taxes, etc. Consider opening a bank account for your business to keep the account separate from your personal account. Also, create contracts for employees and clients.

You’ll need to choose the type of legal entity for your business. This will determine tax rules, how your business operates, etc. Common legal entities include sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLC), C corporations, and S corporations.

Many agencies start as sole proprietorships and change later if needed. You should also consider whether to incorporate the business. This provides a level of protection that separates your assets from the assets of your business.

The Team and Skills You Need to Start a Web Design Agency

The design team should have a well-rounded skill set. Every skill needed to operate the business should be collectively covered by the team. Fortunately, the way of the web allows team members to live virtually anywhere in the world and easily collaborate on the project. You could even build a custom team based on the project. Networking is a great way to build your web design team .

Here are the major skills any web design agency should have:

  • WordPress
  • Layout design
  • Color theory
  • Usability
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Business management
  • Marketing

These skills can be broken down further. Be sure to continue learning and stay on top of trends and new technologies.

The Tools You Need to Start a Web Design Agency

Regardless of where the team works from, a web design agency requires lots of tools and equipment. Don’t skimp on the tools you need to design amazing websites and run your web design agency.

Here’s a list of the main tools you might need:

  • Afford computer hardware
  • A desk to work from
  • Code Editor
  • Image Editor
  • Browser development tools
  • WordPress themes
  • Child themes
  • Page layouts and templates
  • WordPress plugins
  • Business templates
  • Accounting software
  • Project management and communication software
  • Time-tracking software
  • SEO tools
  • Office 365
  • Zoom
  • CRM

Many of these tools are free. Some require a license fee. Be sure to follow all of the licensing closely. There are many popular tools available such as Google Docs, Slack, Sketch, Photoshop, Chrome plugins, Brackets, Yoast, Duplicator, WProller, etc. These, or similar tools, will help you save time and build communication between your team and clients.

Choose a Niche

To build a successful web design agency, it’s best to specialize in a niche. For example, rather than building websites with every possible platform, specialize in WordPress. Take this even further by specializing in certain types of websites such as online schools, large eCommerce stores, multi-sites, simple blogs, websites for churches, musicians, etc. Each has different needs and specializing in those needs can help you stand above those that don’t specialize in that niche.

This will help you focus your skillset and offer higher quality services. If you tried to provide everything, then it will be difficult to provide high-quality services. It’s best to focus on a few things and do them well than do everything but do nothing well. I recommend providing services you feel confident you and your team can provide on an expert level. Your work will shine and stand out from the crowd.

When deciding on a niche for your web design agency, examine your skills, experience, and interests. Ideally, this is a niche you’d work with for many years. Your niche can change over time, though, so there’s no need to feel trapped by this decision.

Determine the Services You’ll Provide

Make sure it’s clear about the exact services you provide. Once you’ve decided on your niche or specialty, this will help determine your ideal client and build your portfolio. It will also help you communicate your services to your target client and create a style that you can call your own.

Services can include:

  • Developing websites
  • Redesign existing websites
  • Moving websites from one host to another
  • Moving websites from one platform to another
  • Hosting the websites
  • Maintaining the websites
  • Providing content
  • Providing extensive training
  • Social media
  • Advertising
  • Email marketing
  • SEO

There are many more you can choose from and there are no right or wrong answers. The choices you make are up to you. The fewer you choose the better quality you can provide, but it will also limit your income.

It’s also possible to add services later, and you might need to add more services than just building websites. Many web design agencies offer value-added and related services such as child theme design, moving a website, or web hosting.

Reseller hosting is a great way to make money as a web designer. This allows you to not only build the website but to host the website, which provides ongoing monthly income. For more information about reseller hosting, see the article Reseller Hosting for Devs and Web Designers: Business Boost.

Reseller Hosting by Verpex

Set Your Prices

Rates will vary greatly depending on the project, your skillset, brand recognition, and portfolio. Make sure your services and quality are reflected in the price, but you’ll probably need to start lower until you establish enough demand and credibility for your brand. Don’t undervalue your work. It’s easier to adjust prices down than up. Prices should include all overhead such as your labor, the cost of the WordPress theme, plugins, SEO tools, electricity, computer depreciation, insurance, etc.

It’s best to set your rates based on the project rather than billing hourly, but this can be a good idea to calculate your project rate based on your ideal hourly rate. This is a number that you should determine for yourself and your business goals. Be sure to include all the business expenses and taxes when calculating prices.

One possible method of pricing is to compare several companies that provide the same services and quality and price accordingly. It’s up to you if you price your work the same, higher, or lower, but it needs to be appropriate based on your skills and brand recognition.

Choose Your Target Client

Makes notes of the type of clients you want to serve. Include the types of websites they need, the types of businesses they own, where you’ll find them, how they spend their time, the price ranges they’ll pay, etc. This will help you locate your clients and know how to communicate with them.

Types of clients include:

  • Bloggers
  • News websites
  • Online stores
  • Online schools
  • B2B
  • B2C
  • Consultants
  • Small websites
  • Large websites
  • Service providers
  • Non-profits

Build a Portfolio for Your Web Design Agency

Building a portfolio lets you showcase your skills and the work you’ve created. The first website in your portfolio should be your own website. This is the work that most potential clients will see first, so your website should make a great first impression. It should showcase your design skills and show why they should choose you for their website needs.

Your website should also contain a portfolio of websites you’ve built. This will provide social proof, a list of clients you’ve worked for, and showcase your team’s skills. Showcase your best work with images and a story that details the process of the project including unique challenges and how you solved them. This builds a case study that helps clients understand your approach. Provide links so potential clients can see the websites. Finally, display testimonials from your clients. You might need to build a few websites on a volunteer basis to get started. Make sure your SEO matches your target audience.

This example shows several free portfolio themes in the WordPress repository. This is a good resource to find ideas.

Building a portfolio

How to Find Clients for Your Web Design Agency

Marketing your web design business is ongoing. Constantly promote the business so you won’t run out of work. Create an outreach plan and pitch it to your prospective clients. Build a social media strategy that includes accounts for your web design business. Utilize these accounts to build a following. Create social media posts and videos to capture your target audience. Track your customer relationships with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool.

Go where your target client hangs out. Utilize your existing network, offering to build a website for your friends, family, and colleagues, or asking them if they know someone in need of a website. Join groups on social media. Build a social media presence. Answer questions and provide help. Send cold emails and cold-call potential clients. Ask current clients for referrals and testimonials. Collaborate with other web design agencies.

Build a landing page with a lead magnet and a sales funnel. Create content such as blog posts, YouTube videos, and even courses on learning platforms. Build an email list to keep your audience informed and up to date. Offer an eBook, checklist, link to a video, template, or another free resource in exchange for signing up for your email newsletter.

Proposal Templates

Create and use proposal templates that clearly show the work being done, the cost of that work, and the timeline the work will be completed. It should show what the work does and does not include. Include the amount that is due upfront and the amount that is due at the end of the project. It should be easy for customers to understand.

Create a Contract

Never start the work on a website without a signed contract. The contract should include all of the information from the proposal and shows that the customer has agreed to the proposal. It will show the specs of the project, the date the project is due, the price of the website, and payment terms.

Reflect on and Improve Your Web Design Process

Once you’ve completed a project, reflect on the process to see what you can improve. Ask what tools would improve the process, how communication could be improved, what were the difficult challenges of the project, what skills should be improved, etc. Use these answers to improve your web design agency. Continue learning and improving your business.



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Ending Thoughts on How to Start a Web Design Agency

That’s our look at how to start a web design agency. Be patient. Building a successful web design agency takes time and effort. It’s not a get-rich-quick type of business and there is a lot of competition. However, there’s also a lot of demand for well-designed websites. Following the steps we’ve shown here, anyone can build a successful web design agency that can grow with them.

We want to hear from you. Do you have anything to add on how to start a web design agency? Let us know in the comments.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do beginner blogs make money?

One of the most common ways that beginner blogs make money is through display advertisements and affiliate marketing.

Are website builders easy to use?

One of the easiest ways to build a website is with a website builder. Using a website builder doesn't require any programming and coding skills.

How do I promote my business?

Many find success with targeted Google and Facebook ads. Try and focus on a niche or local market to start off with.

Which method is right for my business?

Generally speaking, small businesses, and those managing just one website, will want to try shared hosting. While entrepreneurs looking to build their own hosting business should sign up as resellers

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