Book review: Design and Launch an Online Web Design Business

Design and Launch an Online Web Design Business by Jason Rich

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My long-term goal is for OptimWise to become a web design firm, creating and promoting websites for small businesses. I've been looking for the best books about succeeding in the web design business.

I wasn't very impressed by How to Open & Operate a Financially Successful Web Site Design Business, but I like Entrepreneur Magazine and some of the other books produced by Entrepreneur Press, so I thought this book would be worth reading. I liked it better than How to Open.... Both books leave it up to you to learn the technical web design skills skills, and simply guide you through the business side of web design.

The advice is primarily for web designers, but every chapter also speaks to graphic designers, photographers, and others who market their digital work online.

One of the main points is that it's critical to focus on a narrow niche and establish yourself as an expert. You can create a premium brand by targeting a specific industry or client type, and charge accordingly. Aiming for too broad a market makes it hard for you to gain expertise in any one area, and makes you less appealing to clients because you don't stand out as unique.

Another point is to provide a range of services, because clients like one-stop shopping, and you benefit from multiple revenue streams. In addition to web design, you could offer site editing/updating, SEO, hosting, domain registration, photo editing, logo creation, advertising, setting up merchant accounts, etc.

The book provides helpful recommendations for creating a portfolio, as well as advice on forming contracts. It mentions marketing by word of mouth, but spends more time describing how to find work online through Guru.com, eLance.com, and Craigslist.org. Even if you're doing "faceless" business through one of these sites, it's important to personalize quotes, proposals, and design work for each client.

Notes

Portfolio
• Choose your focus. Demonstrate your specialty and target your niche audience.
• Show fewer than 12 sites. Link to others.
• Include a bio about who you are, your expertise, and why the client should hire you.
• Categorize your work by type.
• Provide brief explanations for how each site solved the client's needs.
• Every page should display your contact info.

Marketing
• Advertising and marketing pros cost you up front, but provide a better return than doing it yourself.
• Attract media attention by becoming an expert in your field. Media lets you plug your products and services while building credibility.
• As soon as you finish a job, ask the client for the names of referrals. You may offer an incentive (discount or commission).

Contracts
Contracts should include:
• Specific deliverables
• Specific milestones and deadlines
• Specific price (fees) and payment terms
• Ownership of your intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights
• Details and fees for ongoing work/maintenance
• Terms for remedying problems
• Cancellation clause for ending the agreement
• Limitation of liability boilerplate

Design
Design a client's site based on:
• client's logo
• websites the client likes
• functionality the client needs

Pricing suggestions
• Editing: bill in 15 minute increments at $50/hr. Allow clients to purchase blocks of time at a discount.
• SEO: charge monthly
• Hosting: use an affiliate or reseller program.
• Start with low prices to build your portfolio and reputation, then raise prices as work comes in.

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