Two weeks ago, you started a web design agency. Last week you started defining your agency by choosing clients, setting red lines, and writing your elevator pitch.
This week, we’ll implement some practical solutions before problems occur. Remember one task a day; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Day Fifteen: Terms of Service
In the rush of excitement for a new project, it’s all too easy to skip the preliminaries and get down to business. Before you know it, you’re halfway through the post, and it’s too late to set terms.
Your terms of service document is a formal statement of the terms under which you agree to operate. This document is best prepared by an experienced legal professional in your jurisdiction, but you can write it yourself with a little guidance. Fortunately, as a web design agency, you are not providing physical products, which greatly simplifies the document.
You should include a statement limiting your liability. You must assert your intellectual property rights. Unfortunately, you also need to include details of what will happen when a client fails to pay an invoice.
Write the document in clear, friendly language. Don’t use marketing, talk, and don’t try to hide anything serious. A good client will appreciate you for being professional.
Your terms of service should be on your website and sent to potential clients alongside any quote – I know some people who send their terms in the same PDF as the quote, so the client can’t forget on them.
Day Sixteen: Project Management
Project management is probably the most important skill you need to master. Meeting deadlines, bringing in enough work to cover the bills, and not pulling all-nighters all depend on effective project management.
An ever-growing number of apps promise to help you with project management. We have listed here some of the best. However, if you already have a tool that you use to manage your work that you are comfortable with, consider sticking with it. Don’t fall back on a note-taking app or pen and paper.
Remember: organizing your work days is not billable. The more you can automate this process, the better.
Day Seventeen: Quotes & Invoices
So far, we have done one thing a day on purpose. Today, we will do two because they are so closely related.
There are all kinds of business documents that send money back and forth between companies, for example, purchase orders or credit notes. For a small web design agency, you will need two: a quote document and an invoice document.
Invoices are documents that request payment and provide the details for payment. Quotes are a preview of an expected invoice.
Some people like to have a receipt document that they send out to acknowledge payment. However, in my experience, it is best to send a handwritten email; it’s a great opportunity to personalize your communication and build good relationships.
There are legal requirements that vary by jurisdiction, but typically an invoice includes: your trading name; invoice number — incremental number code; your tax code if you have one; your address; the time the client has to pay – “Net 14,” which means the full amount within 14 standard days; the date of issue; the name and address of the client; a list of the services provided together with the rate for each service and the total; the total before tax; the total amount of the tax; the whole; and more importantly a means of payment.
Back on day two, you contacted your tax department to determine your liabilities. You may or may not have to charge sales tax or VAT. Always include the amount of tax on your invoice, even if the total is $0, so it’s clear whether it was charged or not.
A quotation document is almost identical to an invoice, except that you remove the payment requests. You should also add a note stating how long the quote is valid for – 3 months is standard.
Many services will create these documents for you as part of an accounting system. For example, Xero, FreshBooks, or Bloom. Even PayPal will let you send invoices. If you prefer, you can create your own quotes and invoices and send them as PDF – this option is best if you want to have full control over the design of your document, but it will take longer, and it’s a worry it is easy to make a mistake.
Day Eighteen: Social Media
Start today by researching social media accounts. Look at the list of target businesses you did on the eight days; which social media channel do they use the most? For example, if the niche you chose is restaurants on the third day, they probably use Instagram. If you’ve chosen retirement communities, they probably use Facebook.
Once you have a clear picture of your client’s channels, choose one (yes, 1) and register an account.
Social media is a huge waste of your time and provides a much smaller return on investment than you might expect. So, choose one service that your potential clients use and start building your profile. It is much better to invest your time and efforts where your clients will notice you than to spread yourself too thin.
Day Nineteen: Domain & Hosting
It’s another two task day. We’ve grouped these together because domains and hosting are often rented together.
Back on day nine, you chose your tech stack. You’ll be building your own site with the technology you offer your clients, so it’s important to make sure your hosting enables this. If you plan to develop with WordPress, you need WordPress hosting. If you plan to build with Wix, you’ll need a Wix account. If you plan to offer any kind of web app, you probably need Netlify.
Whatever you choose, choose something that fits your technology stack. The only exception is if you intend to specialize in a niche service like Shopify, which is completely inappropriate for an agency portfolio.
There are endless debates about whether you should register a domain with the same company that hosts your site. It seems like everyone knows someone who knows someone who registered a domain, and then something incredible happened that caused the domain to be lost that wouldn’t have happened if it was a separate host.
Back in real life, simplicity is a gift you give yourself. Choose a reputable company, register a good domain, host in the same place, and let their support resolve your DNS for you – many good hosts will even give you free domain rent for a year to entice you to join their hosting.
Good hosting is reliable, with plenty of room to grow. If it can also be cheap, that’s a bonus. It’s common to start with low-end (ish) shared hosting and expand to a VPS (Virtual Private Server) at some point in the future.
Day Twenty: Email
Despite the massive growth of messaging apps over the past decade, email remains the most important business tool.
Depending on the hosting you set up yesterday, email inboxes may have been included. If not, you will need to set up a separate email provider.
You will need a general email address. Traditionally this was [email protected]but [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]and [email protected] which is a little more friendly.
You need a personal email address that works for you. For example, I use [email protected]
You also need a separate account for finance that you can use for invoicing and for services such as Stripe and PayPal. [email protected] or [email protected] Nicely.
Finally, you’ll need to set a catch-all email sender for every time people guess your email, misplace your email, or assume you’ve used [email protected] Forward those emails to your general address.
Once that’s done, set up an email signature for each account. Include your logo, contact details, and the social media address you set up a few days ago.
Finally, update your email address with your hosting company, social media account and business accounts.
Day Twenty One: The rest
That’s it for this week. So stop your machine, go outside, ride a bike, go for a walk, learn to skateboard, and relax with family and friends.
We are coming to the sharp end of this process, and next week will be busy, so do everything you can to recharge your batteries.
Image featured via Pexels.