Running your web design agency demands more than excellent design and technical skills. Until you can hire professionals, you need to manage the marketing, accounting, HR, sales negotiating and peacekeeping—for those rocky moments with unhappy clients or disgruntled staff. You can learn more about the responsibilities of being “the boss” in the Defining realities and roles tutorial from the lynda.com course Running a Design Business: Starting Small.
Meanwhile, here are six tips for running your agency:
Keep up to date with your accounting and invoicing procedures. Cash flow is the lifeblood of a small business and lack of management in this key area is often why a business fails.
It’s especially important that everyone working on a client’s web project, including freelancers, log their time. Include time spent by admin staff chasing clients for digital content or payment.
Invoice clients as soon as a project has ended, according to the payment terms you agreed on. Hiring a bookkeeper, even part time, is a worthwhile investment for any web design agency and can mean the difference between getting paid and losing money. Bookkeepers can monitor invoices, chase late payments with reminders, and alert you to any defaulters. Clients can be late making payment for many reasons, so by offering creative financing options most situations can be resolved amicably, keeping your business relationship intact. Good financial practices contribute to good client management.
2. ESTIMATING & PRICING
Establish a clear fee rate table for estimating and pricing web design projects. Make sure it includes a percentage of all your overhead costs and has a profit margin built into it.
Your rate table gives a starting point for pricing a client’s web project and fees can be modified depending on the volume of work. For more advice, watch the lynda.com course Running a Design Business.
Your web design business needs a steady flow of work to keep it in good health. Creating a marketing strategy helps you identify your target market and plan how you’re going to connect with and win clients. It should include the budget you’re allocating to marketing activities and you should review your strategy regularly.
Make it a rule that you ask every happy client for a referral when your project ends. This simple request can generate a lot of business.
One source of potential business is your list of previous (hopefully satisfied) clients. This list is often overlooked, but well-planned client management can generate repeat business and referrals to new clients. Make time to stay in touch with your list and keep those business relationships active.
4. CLIENT CONTRACTS
Once your client agrees to give you a project, a contract should be created covering all essential points discussed during initial meetings. You can have an attorney create a contract template suitable for a web design business. You then customize it by adding the client’s unique project details plus any contingency clauses you need. It often needs several revisions until everyone agrees to the content and the client signs on the dotted line.
This contract can be very detailed, depending on the size of the project, and should be used as a working document that describes each party’s obligations and responsibilities throughout the web project. It can be amended at any time if the scope of the project changes.
Having a mentor can prove to be a valuable asset because it allows you to
• See a situation through more experienced eyes
• Learn a lot
• Become better at managing your web design business and your staff, too
• Expand your support network and business contacts
• Your mentor may suggest routes and ideas you haven’t considered
• You become accountable to your mentor
• A mentor can often see bigger pictures (or problems) that you can’t because you’re too involved in the business
6. NEVER STOP LEARNING.
Technology changes all the time, as does the software used in web design, so nurture your creative team and encourage them to take advanced learning courses to become certified professionals in web design techniques or programming.
Managing a web design business takes a lot of time, but with the help of several online courses, you, too, can work on your professional development at your own pace.