If you have been following these How To articles over the past year, you might have noticed an online bent. That is because this author has the most experience with web development. This month's topic is going to be how to start up your own web development company.
First, you have to know what you're doing. Getting the requisite skills to develop good web sites doesn't require formal schooling, but it helps. But more than that it requires a lot of reading. You should keep up with trends in the Internet scene and try to make sure that you know at least a general idea of what's going on. HTML 5 is coming out soon, for instance. It would do a world of good to read up on that and find out what's going on in order to stay abreast of current trends. Also, if you can become a part of a discussion community online, that is an excellent resource for not only what's going on in web design but also can provide explanations and fixes for problems that you may encounter. So you have to know what you're doing, and reading is the best way to do that.
Build Your Portfolio
Second, you need to show what you're capable of. If necessary, you should even volunteer to do free projects so that you can have something to show to other people. Its not good enough to have degrees, certifications, or buzzwords in your vocabulary - the only thing that other people will trust with absolute certainty is actual work. If you're still in school, you have an excellent opportunity to begin building your portfolio. Ask around to all the people you know for opportunities for web design. You might be surprised how many people are thinking about putting up a web site, for this or that reason. Everybody's doing it these days, and your friends will too. Offer to give them a free site, and they probably won't turn it down. Make it look good, make it professional, and it is the best resume you'll ever have.
Alternatively, if you're already working, offer to make a company web site for some purpose. Perhaps you can offer to redesign the company site itself, for no extra charge. Or you can propose a new project and say that you should create a web site to go along with the project. Perhaps another department is looking to advertise or coordinate something. An internal, company site might be useful to your company but not so useful to your resume, so try to make something that you can show off later. For ideas on what to make or how to make it, you can look to previous How Tos.
For this style of creating your own web design company, you have to know a lot of people. So try your best to go to the places and meet the people who are good business connections. Try to get a job where you can meet a lot of people regularly. If they are professionals like yourself, and not the consumer public, that's even better. Make connections, collect business cards, get to know people, and they'll come in useful later on. Don't be shy about thinking this way, they are all thinking the same way about you. If you don't come up with some sort of idea or proposal for them, they'll probably consider you a waste of time anyway. Build a network of people that you know, at the same time that you are building your first web site, and everything will come together later on.
Spread it Around
After making your first site, start talking about it. Try to work it into every conversation, even if its difficult. You'd be surprised how easy it is to steer a conversation to what you've been working on in your spare time lately. You might make a few missteps, but if you can laugh at yourself it shouldn't matter. After all, nobody's perfect. Make sure that all your friends, relatives, and contacts know that you've just finished this really cool web site, and you're hoping to build another. Sooner or later, someone will give you the opportunity to do so.
Take that opportunity, but this time ask for a small fee. Its going to be only your second time, so you shouldn't ask for too much, but if you do your second site for free people will think you're operating a charity. So ask for something, an even number, and see if the person accepts it. Chances are he knows that nothing good comes for free and will take you up on your offer. Then, after a short, informal chat, put together something that will definitely make him happy. Bend over backwards, do extra work, make finishing and re-finishing touches. This second person is going to be your best advertiser.
Get an Artistic Ally
Chances are that you're going to be working from the technical side of things. You should face the fact that you're not an artistic person, and never will be as long as you continue to focus on the technical side of things. Every good web programmer needs a designer. Its like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter, Cagney and Lacey. A web programmer needs a web designer. This person can make your work beautiful in ways that simply cannot imagine.
So you need a designer friend, someone who is interested in doing these side jobs with you. Find one and do whatever it takes to get her to join you. Yes, its probably going to be a her. Offer cakes, candies, and interesting work and make sure she sticks around. You're going to need her. You will both approach the web design problem from opposite sides - she from a design perspective and you from a technical perspective. You two will have to come to a compromise in just about everything, and that is good. Your work will be better for it. Prepare for it and don't get too frustrated by each other.
Eventually, if things go well, you will get more and more projects. So many that there won't be enough spare time during the day to take care of everything. That is good time to get serious about your work, which has probably been part-time up until now, and go full-time with it. Open up your own web site advertising your company. Put up a portfolio of the work that you've done so far. Make sure everybody knows about it. If the stars align, you've done all you can, and your fortune is right, it can all come together to be a successful online business.
That is what this author has done, along with the beautiful and talented designer I have found. Together we have created Studio 078, and starting in the new year all of our efforts will be put into that. We hope you can stop by and see how things are going throughout the year!