As a relative newcomer to the Exeter web design scene we’ve experienced first-hand some of the highs and lows of starting a web development company.
We’ve been running in our current guise for around 3 years, and it’s been quite an adventure! When you decide to launch a new business venture you inevitably sign yourself up for a steep learning curve, and the experiences that we’ve had in our formative years have been invaluable to the growth of our web design business. We hope to carry on learning, both from our successes and from our mistakes!
We thought that it would helpful to share some of the things that we’ve learnt so far.
If you’re a web design startup or considering setting out in the big bad world of web development, here are a few tips that you might find helpful:
1. Find your Niche
Launching a new company is a very exciting process! In the early months everybody carries a huge sense of expectation, and it’s not hard to keep motivation high. Looking back it probably felt like we were destined to become Exeter’s most successful and high-profile web development agency with 60 staff, an expansive array of world-class website design services and an office complex to rival Google’s.
Instead, we’ve found that it’s impossible to do everything immediately. Whilst it’s true that a startup will benefit from having a team of generalists, it’s better still to find a niche that you can thrive in and do everything that you can to be the best at it! We’ve enjoyed building a portfolio of responsive websites and E-Commerce online retail stores. We’ve also found ourselves gaining considerable expertise in WordPress development.
This information has shaped our business strategy and helps us deliver a high quality of service to our clients. If you’re not sure exactly what it is that you’re good at, we’d encourage you to find out – it might just be the shove in the right direction that your business needs.
2. Developer/Client Relations
Unsurprisingly, most web design startups tend to employ a combination of web designers and web developers. These are the guys and girls who design and develop websites. However, one of our steepest learning curves was in the whole realm of project management and developing a client-facing culture.
In an ideal world designers are given a clear and thorough brief, allowed a designated period of time to dream, design and deliver, and then receive prompt payment from a delighted client. The reality is that it can be really difficult for clients and designers to communicate clearly with one another. We’ve learnt so much about agreeing expectations at the outset of a project, during the development phase and upon completion. It’s made life a lot easier, both for our team and for our clients!
If you’re starting out, recognising the importance of communication and the client relationship cannot be underestimated.
3. There are few Shortcuts
It can be easy to think that the success of your website design company will depend entirely upon the quality of your web development. After all, surely that’s what it’s all about? The reality is that it takes time to build a successful web design agency, not to mention marketing, slowly building your reputation and waiting for those all important bigger projects to come your way.
We would advise any web design startups to be patient, build your business from the bottom up and be prepared to ride out those early lean periods. After all, once your web development agency is established and attracting new clients you won’t have as many opportunities to work on your company. Consider it an opportunity to shape your business culture that you might struggle to find time for in 12 months! Ensure that you keep focused on what’s ahead, plan diligently and don’t be too concerned if there are one or two months when business is a little slower than you might like!
4. Be Idealistic and Pragmatic
A big part of our vision is to provide high quality, affordable web design solutions to local businesses across Exeter and Devon. We love being in the South-West and want to be agents for positive change in the place that we live.
However, we’ve also learnt that to continue doing this in a sustainable way we’ve needed to pull in bigger projects from across the UK (and indeed from North America and Europe). The experience, profile and cash-flow that these website development projects have brought have been invaluable in helping us grow.
We’ve had to pursue a realistic middle ground comprising both idealism and pragmatism; every big commercial web design project that we take on gives us the stability that we need to help more local Exeter businesses…
5. Find Web Designers in your City
Finally, get to know others in your city who are doing the stuff and make sure that you take every opportunity to learn from them! We’re grateful for the likes of @ExeterWeb and @DigPen. These kinds of forums provide a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow together. We’re proud to be part of Exeter’s flourishing web development sector.