Beginner Mistakes When Starting a Website Business

"Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others." (Brandon Mull) Avoid these common mistakes when starting your web design business.

"Beginner mistakes in website business" with me face palm

Man, if only I had avoided these mistakes when I started my web design business... I can only imagine.

If you're starting a web design business, it's best to avoid these common mistakes. You're likely to make several of them, if not all, so be sure to skim through all of them!

The mistakes fall into four categories:

  • Setting Expectations
  • Selling
  • Communication
  • Processes

Let's dive in!

Setting Expectations

When embarking on a business deal, it's best to set clear expectations. Ambiguity can result in pissed-off customers and stunt your growth.

Not Setting Expectations

It's okay to say what's not included. It's also okay and highly encouraged to be real (honest) with them on what type of outcome you're expecting to produce.

Too many people overpromise and underdeliver or fail altogether to set any expectations.

Important: Always underpromise and overdeliver. "It's going to take one month." ~you get it done in 3 weeks~. "It's going improve speed by 25%." ~you raise it by 50%~. You get the point.

Not Pricing Your Value

If you're eager to get out there and sell some websites, you may be inclined to undervalue your services.

I'd advise you to create pricing that you find to suit your services.

Don't go too high or too low.

Don't feel like you need to add a bunch to your services for the prospect to accept your offer.

Stay true to your value.

Selling

Like it or not, you have to learn to sell. The good news is selling isn't reserved for charismatic, outgoing people. In fact, that can be a bit of a turn-off to some consumers.

Not Knowing How to Sell

There are plenty of people who are great at their trade but can't go through a sales process.

I advise you to be great at both. Find a sales training resource and learn it. Ultimately, practice is what will make you a good salesperson.

Selling Based on What You Know vs. What They Need

It's a mistake to talk about all the stuff you can do. As excited we get about our services, we should calm down and only discuss what they need, or more specifically, what we will do to solve their pains.

In the sales process, you need to extract their pains. The more pain they have, the more willing they are to purchase, at whatever cost.

Find their pains and offer a solution to their pains. Leave out all the other stuff.

Not Vetting Prospects Properly

When you get to the point that you have a prospect who is willing to buy your services, don't get too excited. In fact, before you even get to that point, make sure the prospect and their project are a good match for you.

It's easy to get in a mindset of you having to prove yourself to a prospect, but the reality is you both need to make sure you're a right fit for each other.

If the project "smells bad," don't take it. Meaning if you think you're not going to succeed, then pass. Whether it's because your skills don't match the project's requirements or you can tell the prospect will never be happy, it's okay to pass.

Kindly let them know that you don't see this being a good fit.

Communication

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." ― George Bernard Shaw

I've worked with many companies, and communication is the single most common pitfall of them all. Always over-communicate.

Poor Communication

The projects that go the poorest often result from poor communication. Even if a project is going poorly, it's best to have clear communication ASAP. It's best to be upfront. Sometimes the conversations are shitty to have, but they are for the best. Clients will likely appreciate the honesty and will work with you to improve the situation.

Not Asking for the Right Stuff Upfront

A lot of projects are severely stalled because the client isn't getting you what you need.

The way to avoid this is to not start the project until you have everything you need.

This sucks, but it's for the best.

Press them upfront on getting logos (original files), colors, fonts, accounts (DNS, Google Analytics, etc.), business information, and whatever else you need to succeed.

You'll likely discover some stuff that you didn't ask for upfront. That's okay. Make a note of it and next project you can ask for it.

Not Having an Agreement

Handshake agreements are great. I find it honorable to trust one another.

However, it's best to have explicit communication on deliverables, timeframe, cost, and signatures. Legal stuff is also important.

But having a clear outline of the previously mentioned items will result in less confusion.

I've gotten to the end of projects, and the client asks about something, and I go back to the contract and show them what we agreed on.

In some of those cases, it saved me to put what was not included.

Showing what's not included is just as important as showing what is.

Processes

I hate the word "processes". I like to go with the flow. But there are some processes that we need to iron out.

Doing Too Much Upfront

When we get excited about starting a business, creating the "face" of the company is exhilarating. Logos, copy, websites - the list goes on.

Hold up.

You really don't need much to get started. Too many people go overboard with their time and money on things that don't really matter.

Make sure you can send out a proposal, an invoice, and have the proper tools to work on the project. You can also hold off on buying tools until the project is secured.

We convince ourselves that all the extra stuff will help us succeed, but in reality, all you need is the bare bones. Spend your time on acquiring clients.

Not Putting Your Name on Their Website

When you create a website, add your name to it and link back to your website (if you have one).

This accomplishes several things:

  1. Linking back to your website is great for SEO, specifically building authority
  2. It spreads brand awareness
  3. With time, you'll get leads from that link

Not Using the Right Tools for the Job

Using the wrong tool for the job can get the job done, but not as good as it could be.

My two favorite website platforms/builders:

They've immensely reduced the time to build, helped me achieve higher quality websites, reduced maintenance, and significantly improved performance.

I wish I had those platforms eight years ago.

I also thoroughly enjoy Cloudflare. It's a bit technical but provides insane value for free or a small cost.

Not Billing Right

There's not necessarily a proper way to bill, but I think there are some wrong ways.

Avoid billing 100% upon completion.

On small projects, I prefer to bill 50% upfront and 50% upon completion.

Upfront gives you capital to work with. The back half of the project is where you'll be working for "free", but the client will have reduced risk as they don't pay the final bill until they are satisfied with the outcome.

I find this to be a compromise for both sides.

If it's a larger project, I divide the cost over the projected timeframe and bill monthly. They hold the last payment until they are ready to launch.

Not Sticking With It

Dude, stick with it! If I did this years ago, I'd be much further along.

IT TAKES TIME.

One of my favorite quotes/concepts is motivation gets you started, and discipline keeps you going. The spark will die off, but it will come back when you succeed.

Also, when you find yourself wondering if you should quit, look back at the progress you made instead of looking to the future for how far you have to go.

Please stick with it. I want you to succeed.

Happy business building, my friend!