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Rob587
Apr 19, 2010, 01:50 PM
I've seen numerous MR members that have successful internet design/marketing firms, so I was wondering if you all could offer some advice to the N00bs(maybe just me?) out there.

I just put up a temporary site to represent some of the small things ive worked on, but I would ultimately like to have a full studio with employees. I feel like I'm hitting a wall though because of my limited experience/design programming education.

Maybe if you guys could just list some key points or suggestions for how you got more clients, how you charged them, and how you expanded to where you are today?

THANKS GUYS! I think this will be good promo for those who wish to share!



ChicoWeb
Apr 19, 2010, 04:21 PM
I could go on for days about this topic, however I will spare you :) It's best to think about the long term goals of your firm, and what kind of firm you want to be in 1, 5, 10 years. I had no idea how much I had to pivot my company to keep up with demand and competition.

Every 15 Y.O. with a Mac, every neighbor, business owners friend, has/will become your competition. You need to separate yourself and your firm from the amateurs. I'd start first by putting some effort into your own site.

As SOON as you start hiring employees, or get to the point where you need too, you are moving into more of a business manager role then a graphic designer. You will be the Project Manager, Accountant, Proposal Writer, Requirements Gatherer, Payroll, HR, Create Director, Sales person, Time Manager, main point contact, customer service, and lastly you'll get to do some design every now and then.

Growth is good, but rapid growth can be the demise of a small business. It's imperative that you grow organically and that you don't hire people, just to hire them. I've seen several design firms go out of business because they have too many people on staff. Just think how much you now have to charge for a website, now that you employee 4 or 5 people? You need to make sure that your demographic and target audience can sustain these prices. A 1,2,3k and sometimes even 4k site can't be done at a profit.

I am exactly where you want to be, a firm with 4 full time emps, 2 full time. I'm lucky if I get 5 hours of design time most weeks. I'm not complaining at all, but it's a complete shift from where I started building static websites 6 years ago. I somehow manage to get my design time in on all our big projects, but my skills for HTML and CSS have gone away.

We are currently battling growth pains as well. We are working on anywhere from 20-25 projects at once, and have a queue of a half dozen. I myself need to look at my business and figure out our long term goals in the next 1,5, 10 years, because it has completely changed :) Anyways, hope this helps.

Rob587
Apr 19, 2010, 07:57 PM
Awesome insight Chico! I was hoping that you would be one of the responders to my thread.

Just a follow up question on what you've already written... Was it difficult getting clients without an office? That seems to be the biggest deterrent for my potential clients. Even though it seems silly, I think they like to see that your already well established. But you cant be well established(office, employees) unless your already making money from a large client base.

So my main question would be, how did you make the jump?

Thanks again!

ChicoWeb
Apr 19, 2010, 08:55 PM
That's not entirely true. You won't be getting $30k clients by taking them to the coffee shop, but you can surely get 2,3,4-10k sites by visiting them at their office, or meeting them downtown. I didn't have an office for about 2 years, then I got a $200 office that was decent enough for the time. Looking back on it, I can't believe how cheap it was, however at the time it seemed insane. You gotta walk before your crawl :)

Consultant
Apr 19, 2010, 09:21 PM
OP, you are selling design but your site looks like a free template.

You are in the wrong business.

Rob587
Apr 19, 2010, 09:55 PM
OP, you are selling design but your site looks like a free template.

You are in the wrong business.

It is... but its just something I threw up temporarily. Ill eventually use it for organic traffic from search engines by making it the blog portion of my future site.

Oh and thanks for jumping the gun and telling me I'm in the wrong buisiness. Gives me more motivation! :cool:

Rob587
Apr 19, 2010, 10:05 PM
That's not entirely true. You won't be getting $30k clients by taking them to the coffee shop, but you can surely get 2,3,4-10k sites by visiting them at their office, or meeting them downtown. I didn't have an office for about 2 years, then I got a $200 office that was decent enough for the time. Looking back on it, I can't believe how cheap it was, however at the time it seemed insane. You gotta walk before your crawl :)

I know what your saying. So what were some of the most crucial parts of your first meetings with clients? What would you show them? Prices, options, request forms, etc.? Thanks.

Consultant
Apr 19, 2010, 10:42 PM
It is... but its just something I threw up temporarily. Ill eventually use it for organic traffic from search engines by making it the blog portion of my future site.

Oh and thanks for jumping the gun and telling me I'm in the wrong buisiness. Gives me more motivation! :cool:

Maybe showing some of your amazing work? If you don't have any products or examples, then search engine traffic won't mean anything.

I started a business previously because people love my work AND are willing to pay for it.

Rob587
Apr 19, 2010, 11:25 PM
Maybe showing some of your amazing work? If you don't have any products or examples, then search engine traffic won't mean anything.

I started a business previously because people love my work AND are willing to pay for it.

Yea. Thanks.

Just out of curiosity, do you still run your business? Was it a design firm? What do you do now?

ChicoWeb
Apr 20, 2010, 05:19 PM
I know what your saying. So what were some of the most crucial parts of your first meetings with clients? What would you show them? Prices, options, request forms, etc.? Thanks.

Typically I feel them out. See what their requirements are, and I will sometimes give them ball park figures. I try to do this on the phone before they come so I don't waste everyones time though. BUT that's another topic. I don't have any forms, as once you've been doing it for long enough, you will know the questions to ask and what to expect. Really just gauge the client, feel out their long term goals, get some design ideas, and make a relationship with them.

lucidmedia
Apr 20, 2010, 09:54 PM
you claim you have limited experience and, based on some of the questions you are asking, I think you would benefit from some time spent working at a larger firm as an AE. Learn the business before you try to start your own.. I have seen quite a few "companies" (read: people) fall deeply in debt that way -- while ruining their reputation in the business...

Also, I agree that it is better to grow a company organically... your firm should grow out of client demand...

Slovak
Apr 21, 2010, 01:01 AM
Read the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. All small businesses and most of the large ones will learn tons from the approach.

Rob587
Apr 21, 2010, 12:03 PM
Read the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. All small businesses and most of the large ones will learn tons from the approach.

I definitely will. Which one do you recommend first? There's like 5.

Slovak
Apr 21, 2010, 12:22 PM
I definitely will. Which one do you recommend first? There's like 5.

http://www.amazon.com/E-Myth-Revisited-Small-Businesses-About/dp/0887307280/

Rob587
Apr 21, 2010, 05:03 PM
http://www.amazon.com/E-Myth-Revisited-Small-Businesses-About/dp/0887307280/

Reading it now. Thanks.