While starting a web design business and making it sustainable is still the most precarious stage in your company’s life, the next step can be just as difficult – scaling it without jeopardizing what you’ve already built.
The opportunities for making the wrong steps are all too numerous, especially if you just jump into it without a plan or method.
The good news is that there are a couple of things you can do to avoid these pitfalls and ensure your scaling period results in plenty of new business, a bigger but still happy team, and a good foundation to take your web design business even further in the future.
It all starts with people
It doesn’t matter how much you believe the old adage that people matter most in business – the fact remains that your scaling process will revolve around people.
For one, taking on more work will mean that either your existing team will need to take on much more work (which is often already impossible) or you will need to hire new people .
Hiring new people is often done haphazardly by small companies, which soon enough find out why this is not something that should be rushed. There are just so many questions to answer:
How many people exactly will my growing business need?
Do I hire juniors or seniors?
How much should I offer them?
Do I have the money to hire the right number of new people?
Do I know what’s the right number of people?
How can I onboard them?
How will my existing team react?
Maybe I need an HR person?
How many HR people exactly will my growing business need?
And round and round we go.
Of course, there is always the sensitive matter of perhaps outsourcing some of the work, which is a whole other can of worms.
Your current team should also be behind you when you decide to scale. Going from three to a dozen people may not seem like a big deal, but long-evolved internal culture can be shattered within days.
No matter how you cut it, you will need to have a good, long think before you even start moving on the personnel-scaling front.
It’s also a bit about money
The fact that you are considering scaling your web design business means that you probably have a steady cash flow and that your financial situation is not in mere survival mode anymore. You might even be feeling comfortable.
Well, you shouldn’t be.
Scaling a business is an expensive endeavor, even if youʼre being really stingy.
We already mentioned hiring new people. Those people will need to be paid. Do you know how to weigh the need for new people with the expected growth in revenue?
You will need to find the money for the marketing push that will bring you new clients.
You might need to find new offices and equipment. And pay for them.
As your business continues to grow, it will need more money, which will, in turn, cause new complications which will, in turn, require more money…
You get the gist.
If you’re not really comfortable with the money aspect of running a business, talk to someone who is. Consultants and advisors may cost you some money (see, more money needed), but they can save you a ton in the long run.
Be careful, however. Not all of them are the same. Find someone who understands growing businesses, different types of financing options , and preferably the tech industry too.
Promotion, promotion, promotion
You can have the best team in the world and the soundest business model for the future but they won’t do you much good unless you attract new clients for your web design business.
To do that, you will need to promote yourself, and do it in more ways than one. This is the marketing push weʼve talked about, and more.
When selling web design services, the key to attracting clients is trust. There are far too many “web design agencies” out there, with the levels of expertise and track records below subpar.
Your potential clients need to know you are not one of those.
Your website is the first contact your potential new clients will have with your company and it goes without saying it has to show what you can do. Who would trust a web design agency whose website is an abomination from 2006?
And yet, you wouldn’t believe how many of those exist out there.
Make sure to make your past clients’ testimonials one of the focal points of your website. If you’ve won any awards or have certifications that you think would also build trust, feature those prominently too.
Your blog is another way to show your expertise. Cover new, challenging topics. Show off your work. You might also consider writing for other publications (such as dev.to). Get your name and the name of your company out there.
Hosting events, such as meetups or free classes, can also be a great way to promote your company and the expertise of your team.
Before scaling, most web design companies get most of their business through word of mouth. Mostly, however, this just happens and itʼs not something youʼre really active with.
Well, if you want to scale – you have to get active.
Reach out to companies from industries that intersect with yours – graphic designers, marketing agencies, IT solutions companies. Believe it or not, companies such as accounting firms and the likes can also bring you new business. Youʼll probably want to work out some kind of a referral/commission system for this.
Local small business associations and chambers of commerce are often overlooked when, in fact, they can be a great source of new business.
Try a bit of paid advertising
Paid advertising usually doesn’t work best for web design agencies. Sure, if you do your targeting perfectly and find the right channels to find just the people looking for services such as yours, you might get some results.
In reality, however, you will most likely be doing the same as a dozen agencies in your area, you will have trouble differentiating yourself, and you’ll end up spending far too much money for lukewarm leads, at best.
Don’t knock it off without trying, but don’t expect too much from it.
Scaling any business is not an easy task, web design definitely included. Be slow and methodical. Be very careful with your money and your team. Never stop thinking about ways to make new clients. Last but certainly not least, understand that you don’t know everything and that there are people who can help you.