Top 5 mistakes new web designers make when launching a business
Having been a web designer for a few years now, and also mentoring many other new web designers in my Square Secrets Business course, I’ve started to pick up on some common mistakes that tend to be made. I’m sharing these today in hopes that you can avoid these pitfalls, and launch that web design business of yours successfully!
1. Focus all on the creative work and ignore the business side
Most designers go into the industry because they’re in love with the idea of working in a creative business. I’ve heard from a lot of past students that they were bored to tears in their corporate job and they wanted to do work every day that made use of their creativity. Becoming a web designer in that case is a great solution, though I find these designers tend to put all of their attention towards the creative work and they ignore the business side of things.
What do I mean by business side? I mean things like doing your books and accounting, managing the inbox, putting processes and systems in place to make repeatable work more efficient, and figuring out all of the legal and tax requirements of having a business.
Without taking care of the business side of a web design business, your clients are going to be the ones who lose out. While working with a true creative can be a gift to a client, clients don’t enjoy working with someone who’s always missing deadlines (or who didn’t even set deadlines in the first place), who is hard to work with because clients are never told what’s happening next or what they need to provide next to keep the project moving forward, or who has a payments system that’s difficult and slow (eg. checks) that feels straight out of 1995.
2. Don’t have a solid marketing game plan in place
I mean it would be super nice if we threw up a website and then clients started streaming through our digital door, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.
While creative skills are pretty vital to be a web designer, we don’t get to spend all day every day just creating beautiful online spaces. A lot of time when starting your business will be spent on marketing to get those first few clients through the door. (The good news is, getting the first few clients tends to be the hardest, and it gets easier later on.)
You need to have a solid marketing game plan in place that plays to your strengths which you execute consistently in order to make it start raining clients.
Wanna know the most important work in that sentence? Consistently… consistently, consistently.
And the second important part of that sentence is ‘that plays to your strengths.’ There’s a LOT of marketing strategies that work really well. In-person networking, Facebook groups, blogging, YouTubbing, Pinterest, etc.
All of these strategies really do work and many web designers book themselves out by executing just one of them well (and consistently).
What I want for you to do is to pick a strategy that you actually could see yourself doing day after day. If you don’t have the equipment in your office to shoot amazing YouTube videos, don’t do YouTube. If you hate writing, don’t blog. If you’re trying to break the social media habit and therefore aren’t on Facebook, don’t go the Facebook group route.
Pick a marketing strategy you would actually enjoy and then do it consistently!
3. Unable to find clients, join freelancer platforms
Designers often join freelancer platforms when they feel they’ve exhausted all the options and clients just aren’t coming their way as often as they need in order to pay the bills.
But once you join a freelancer platform, a whole other host of new issues pop up. The main one being, you won’t command the same income for a project completed through a freelancer platform like you would through your own website. People go to freelancer platforms not really caring about the creative process, but about getting a logo quickly and cheaply, or a landing page thrown together ASAP.
The clients and projects on these platforms are far from what we’d call ‘ideal’ and they come with far below expected pay. This tends to result in resentment, frustration and, sometimes, going out of business.
That’s why focusing on your killer marketing game plan is so, so, so important, so you never have to resort to freelancer platforms.
4. Skipping client contracts and then not having a leg to stand on when problems arise
Eeeeek! Hoping and praying and being a good person is one way to run your business. Another is having a client contract which clearly spells out what happens in those sticky situations.
What happens when your client looses their job and therefore can’t pay the remainder of their project? What happens when you get pregnant or get into a car accident and can’t complete the work promised? What happens when you agreed upon a 5 page website but your client gives you 5,000 photos and 20,000 words for one page of their website?
Lend your future self a much-appreciated hand by getting a contract in place that both yourself and your client have signed, and which can be referred back to later and followed in whatever situation arises.
I bought my web designer contract at Shop Creative Law and while most projects go on just fine without having to refer back to the contract, in the few situations I needed to, I was so darn grateful I had it in place.
Use the code PAIGE10 for 10% off any contract in the Creative Law Shop. (Yes, by using that code I earn an affiliate commission!)
5. Not setting priorities and then working on a hamster wheel
This is one I was completely guilty of at the beginning. I felt the need to work like crazy to get my business off the ground, and felt completely exhausted from running my business. I was a mix of stress and worries and work, work, work.
Looking back I can now see the problem. I didn’t have any priorities set or logical order in which things should be taken care of in order to get my business set up. I was working on what I felt like, not what actually was going to move the needle.
I would redesign my website, tweak my Welcome Package, debate my pricing, and then read a lot of blogs from other successful designers, but what I really needed to be doing in any time not filled with client work was marketing.
It’s easy to work on what feels comfortable, but you can only go so long ignoring the important work that really needs to get done before things start to catch up with you.
So take a really critical look at where you are in your business and where you want to be. Then reverse engineer to figure out what needs to get done between now and then and set priorities, not based on what you feel like working on, but what really really needs to get done to move you and your business forward.
There you have it, the top 5 mistakes. My hope is that now you know what the common pitfalls designers are faced with, you can easily navigate around them.
So remember, focus on the business side of your business just as much as you do the creative side, creative and marketing game plan and execute on it consistently, avoid freelancer platforms (spend your time marketing instead), get a web designer contract, and set priorities!
Follow those steps and you’ll be just fine.
Or, join us inside my course Square Secrets Business where I’ll mentor you alongside a community of other talented, aspiring Squarespace web designers to ensure you get your business up and running successfully!