Last week, you started a web design agency. This week we’ll help you take the next steps to make your agency viable.
The first few days were spent on legal checks and taxes. Next, you’ve chosen a niche to specialize in, a great name, worked out how much you’re going to charge, and set up business accounts. Then, finally, you took a day off to prepare for this week. (If you skipped any of those steps, go back and catch up now.)
This week, we’ll start defining who you are as an agency. The process is the same as last week: focusing on one task per day. By the end of the week, it will begin to become clear who you are as an agency.
Day Eight: Choose Your Clients
With any new business, the temptation is to grab any work you can get to keep the money flowing in. However, chasing money is counter-productive; you end up using opportunities rather than taking a targeted approach.
Last week you chose your niche. Today, you will choose the clients you intend to work for. And we mean that literally: draw up a list of target clients.
Would you like to work for Nike? Fine, add it to the list. Do you think Apple would look good in your portfolio? Add it too. Make sure you add a few that are more realistic but don’t set your sights too low.
By the end of the day, you should have a spreadsheet of companies to target.
Day Nine: Tech Stack
Now that you know who your agency plans to work for, it’s time to identify the technology stack you plan to offer them.
You might be a full-service agency that handles everything from branding to custom apps. Alternatively, you may be better off handling one aspect of the job well and outsourcing the rest.
However you plan to tackle the actual work, you’ll need a full stack solution for most clients. That means brand design, web design, marketing and content, front-end coding, content management, and SEO.
The best advice is to focus on your existing strengths and develop a skill to expert level. Then, once you’ve done that, you can expand sideways to fill in any gaps.
For example, moving into WordPress development is a good choice if you already know HTML and CSS. On the other hand, if you’re more design-focused, a site builder approach using SquareSpace or Shopify might be a better fit.
Technologies change, so you shouldn’t expect your core technologies to stay with you throughout your career. But these are the solutions that you will become an expert at in the next few years.
Day Ten: Define Your Red Lines
All companies have brand values, whether they define them or not. So, at this stage, it is more practical to look at the things you are not willing to do.
Everyone has red lines they are not willing to cross. Would you work for a pornography company? Would you work for a radical political group? Would you work for a controversial religion? Would you work for a company with a poor human rights record? Would you work for a large pharmacy?
There is no right or wrong answer to this; it’s all about your personal values. However, you will be asked to cross the line at some point. It’s easier to say “no thanks” if you know where the lines are in advance.
If you don’t have red lines, that’s valid too. But be aware that when you cross a line, that line will stay crossed; you will attract more of that kind of work, which you will define.
Day Eleven: Write Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a few short lines that can be delivered to a potential client on a (hypothetical) elevator ride between two floors.
When someone asks you what you do, “Um, well, you know, mostly websites and stuff.” That is not a good answer.
Your language should be natural, non-technical, and confident. Something like, “We help startups like yours outperform their competitors on Google.”
Once you’ve settled on a good elevator pitch, practice it over and over again. Write it on a post and stick it to your monitor, screenshot it and use it as your phone wallpaper. Say it over and over in the shower, in the car, and in the elevator. Learn it so that it rolls off your tongue with ease when someone asks for it.
Day Twelve: Pick a Coffee Shop
You do not need fancy offices to start a web design agency, and in fact, the first agency I worked with tanked mainly because they could not afford an office lease.
People are now used to working remotely, and most meetings can be held via video call. But you will still find clients who want to meet someone, especially for an initial meeting.
It’s always best to visit a client’s premises if you can, but coffee shops are another good option, and every new agency should have one.
Think of your coffee shop as your meeting room. If you are lucky enough to be in a town or city where you have a few options, try to choose one that fits your values: quirky and independent, efficient and corporate, etc.
Check when the quiet times are (you don’t want to be yelling at the rush orders). Make sure you know where the nearest parking or public transport is so you can direct clients. Make sure the wi-fi is OK, free if possible, and find out the password beforehand.
Day Thirteen: Start Your Branding
Two weeks later, you will finally be able to do something creative: design your logo.
If you are matching days to the days of the week, it is Saturday. That should give you more time for this task, but don’t go to town. Your logo will change and evolve. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in small details like logos and lose sight of the bigger picture.
Remember: no logo, no matter how cool, has ever won a pitch.
If you’re a designer, you probably ignored us and started on the logo on day one. In fact, you’ve probably had something struck in a sketchbook for some time.
If you’re not a designer, type your name in geometric sans-serif, tighten the tracing, and call it a day.
Either way, by the end of today, you’ll have something that fits your niche, connects to your elevator pitch, and appeals to your target clients.
Day Fourteen: The rest
I hope you learned the benefits of a rest day last week, and this week was easier as a result.
It’s time to do everything you do to relax. If you can, do it outside of your computer. Create some distance and recharge your batteries.
Next week, we’ll start putting together the assets you’ll use to present your business professionally.
Image featured via Unsplash.