So you have decided to quit your 9-to-5 job in a design agency to build your business. What’s next?
Let’s put it straight — building a WordPress design business that brings more money than a well-paid position is not easy. When starting from scratch, you must prepare a solid strategy and stick to it. You can think — easier said than done.
But don’t you worry — in this article, we will walk you through the process of starting a profitable design business from A to Z.
Growing a design business from zero is a challenging task. You should be prepared to manage many business aspects that exceed design work, at least in the beginning.
Accountancy, legal procedures, and lead generation are just a few of your new responsibilities, and the list is long.
To deal better with new challenges and responsibilities, follow these seven steps.
Choose Your Niche
Focusing on one industry or client type helps designers stand out among competitors. Just think about it — would you choose a designer who knows the specifics of your field and has worked with similar projects in the past or a generalist designer?
By choosing to serve one market niche, your clients will see you as a more experienced and professional expert compared to other designers who pick any project they can.
You don’t limit your selling opportunities despite selling to a smaller market. On the contrary, by choosing to work with a specific niche, you can convince more clients to buy your services and close more deals.
So how to choose the right niche?
Start by thinking about your previous experience — what projects have inspired you the most, what clients you have found the easiest to work with, and where you have the most experience. Once you have picked a niche, it’s time to start the research phase.
When starting your own consulting business, you should learn if your target market needs your services and is ready to pay the price you ask. If that’s not the case for your niche, it’s worth reconsidering your assumptions and, perhaps, picking a different industry.
Define Your Rates
You have quitted your 9-to-5 job to have more freedom and control over your life and finances, and you can’t achieve this goal without making your design agency profitable. Setting the right rates for your services lays the foundations for building a profitable business.
Creating a price list is not easy for beginning freelancers and business owners — you don’t know yet how much clients can pay for your services and how to prepare project estimates the right way.
To ensure your prices are competitive, analyze how much your competitors charge their clients for similar services.
Once you know the average price people pay for design services, it’s time to benchmark your rates.
There are a few factors that affect price. Let’s check them out.
- Experience — your experience level is defined by the number and size of projects you have in your portfolio.
- Project size — you should evaluate your client’s project scope carefully to understand the time needed to finish it.
- Project value — the more significant value your WordPress design work brings to a client, the more you can charge for your work. It means that the more money your clients can generate with your designs, the more they will be able to pay you.
- Expenses — the price of design tools, accounting, and taxes should also be included in the final price.
Cooperate With Other Companies
When preparing layouts for a new website, there is a high chance that your clients will need help adjusting the design — copywriting, web development, and website optimization. You can hire a UI developer and other external service providers to expand your offering.
You can increase your client's lifetime value by offering more services other than design. To do it, you don’t need to learn SEO or copywriting. Instead, you can cooperate with other freelancers and companies who you can refer to clients.
Make sure they don’t offer competitive services but complement your service offering. Take your time to check their work and understand if they do a great job with their projects.
To make the referral process work smoothly with partners, you should define conditions for cooperation and create a contract for clients to sign.
Set Up Your Company
Once you have set up all business aspects, it’s time to create a legal entity — your company.
Start with choosing a name for your consulting business that is easy to remember and pronounce. Make sure your company name somehow relates to your industry.
To get some ideas for a business name, you can shortlist company names and ask the people who can potentially become your clients to pick their favorite.
You can ask in person or search for a Facebook group representing your niche. Create a poll to learn what name your potential clients find the most attractive and suitable for your business niche.
Once you have a name for your company, cover all legal aspects of doing business in your country. Research the requirements for setting up a company and ensure you comply with them.
To run your business smoothly, find a reliable accountant and a convenient accounting software, so you can create and send invoices with just a few clicks. Make sure you outsource most non-design aspects, so you can focus on what you can do the best — designing.
Build Your Website
Your website is where clients find you — it can make a great first impression or put clients off. That’s because when looking at your website, clients also judge your skills.
While you might prioritize paid projects and client work, building a great website to show your portfolio is key to getting more leads online. Having no website can even harm your image. Just imagine your prospects thinking of you as a shoemaker who walks without shoes.
Add your portfolio projects and client testimonials to develop a website that builds trust. Visually showcase your projects instead of describing them in words. If you run your website on WordPress, choose a WordPress theme that is dedicated to design agencies presenting images the right way. Remember that in this industry, it’s the visual form that sells, not text.
When you have already built designs for your website and proceed with development, introduce contact forms to make it easy for clients to get in touch with you.
While you should invest more time in creating a concept for a great personal website, running it shouldn’t be complicated. Invest in managed hosting for a design agency so you don’t have to go through time-consuming activities such as updating plugins or running backups manually.
Get New Clients
Ensuring a steady flow of clients is equally essential to building your brand identity and setting up a business entity.
Getting new clients, in the beginning, is hard, but you will get the ball rolling once you finish a couple of projects. Your happy clients will want to refer you to their network.
To grow beyond referrals, you can also consider investing in other channels. Some of them will bring results fast but will involve more expenses. Others — will require more time and effort but will help you grow organically over the following years.
Here are just a few channels that can help you grow:
- SEO — by improving your page performance and creating content that helps rank on the keywords with a high buying intent, you can attract leads without spending money on ads. However, climbing up the ranks in Google takes time, so you won’t see results immediately.
- Paid ads — investing in paid ads can bring results fast. It’s often enough to write a good copy for your ads, choose the right audience, and set a budget to see leads flowing in. While this channel can bring results fast, you always have to fuel it with money.
- Social media — create content that relates to your client's problems. Provide them with fast solutions to their design challenges, get them to learn something, and, at the same time, communicate yourself as a design expert.
Expand Your Skills and Knowledge
Design is the industry that changes fast — new trends appear together with new technologies and tools. To stay competitive, you have to upskill yourself all the time and follow the latest trends.
To grow as a designer, consider creating a budget you can dedicate to buying UX books, online courses, and masterclasses. Surround yourself with the best experts who you can learn from.
Use free resources available online — subscribe to respected design newsletters, read new blog articles on top design blogs, and follow Instagram profiles of peer designers.
By creating more learning opportunities for yourself, you will become more consistent in learning a few new design tricks every day, even if your schedule is packed with design work.
Building a successful design business takes time and effort — it’s rarely an overnight success. However, by setting the right strategy for building your brand and attracting new clients, you can reach your growth goals fast. The tips we have shared in this article will make this process more manageable, even for a beginner.