How to Start A Web Design Business In 2023: Part 2

Covered in part 2:

In part 2 of this 3-part series, I’ll cover the steps you should take beginning around the 3rd month after you start a web design business up to your full year in business. Throughout this article, I’ll walk through the steps you should take to successfully niche down and build a scalable sales and marketing funnel to propel your growth further.

If you have yet to officially launch your business or sign your first few paying clients, I recommend first going back to read part 1:

How to Start A Web Design from Scratch in 2023: Part 1

Why wait until now to choose your niche

If you’re wondering why I intentionally held off on covering any information related to choosing a niche/niching down in part of 1 of this guide, allow me to explain:

Choosing your niche is one of the best things you can do to help ensure the long-term growth of your web design business. It helps you market your services more effectively, complete projects more efficiently, and results in happier customers and repeat business.

But, pulling your niche out of a hat on day one without working with clients in that niche is the wrong way to go about it. Done right, niching down can take you working with 10, 15, or even 50 customers before you have the required knowledge and confidence to make niching down worth your while.

A real-life example of what niching down done right looks like:

When my now co-founder, Perry, launched Brighter Vision, an agency that would evolve into the leading web design agency for Mental Health therapists, in 2014, he was building websites for any small business. Home remodelers, jewelers, lawyers – Brighter Vision even had a mobile dog washing company as a client. But then, after about 25 clients, something magical happened:

Perry took on a project to build a website for his mother-in-law’s mental health practice and, upon looking at websites of similar businesses that he could draw inspiration from, noticed some really interesting trends: – Mental health therapists, almost universally, had websites that looked like they were built in the ’90s (even if they were built that year!), weren’t mobile responsive, not optimized for search, and worse still, designed almost identical to one another – Further research revealed that just one company was responsible for 90% of these lackluster sites at a price that was more expensive than what Brighter Vision charged Even though these factors made for an intriguing niche, Perry made the conscious decision not to niche down right away and opted to learn more before going all-in. To prove the hypothesis, Brighter Vision attended a large national conference with thousands of mental health practice owners in attendance. At this event, Brighter Vision advertised itself as the “new kid on the block” – offering mobile responsive, fully-customized websites with included SEO at a price almost identical to the largest competitor. The reception to this new web design offering at the conference exceeded all expectations, generating dozens of clients and making the decision to focus on service mental health practices crystal clear.

How to choose a niche

Brighter Vision’s story of niching down may be just one example, but it shares commonalities with dozens of other web design businesses I’ve spoken with who have successfully niched down. In general, here is what I think is the best approach to niching down:
1. Hunt for opportunities:
Every time you work with a new type of client, do some quick research into the websites of similar businesses. There are often industry-wide trends you can identify, like websites that are not optimized for conversions or lack personalized branding.
2. Prove your hypothesis:
Don’t jump feet-first into a niche just because you had one project that went exceptionally well or found an interesting opportunity. Instead, try to work with at least 2-3 additional clients that match that niche. Ask for referrals and even consider accepting a few projects for a lower rate to better understand a specific niche (Fiverr and Upwork, while not ideal, can be decent options for this).
3. Ensure your niche aligns with your skills and values:
Being passionate about a specific industry or seeing a huge opportunity doesn’t automatically make for a perfect fit. Consider not only what type of clients you do your best work with but also what types of clients you like working with.

Supercharge your marketing by going all-in on your niche

In the story I shared about Brighter Vision’s process of niching down, I intentionally left out one important detail: The entire story happened before I had ever started working at Brighter Vision. When I joined Brighter Vision around client #50 or so, they had already completely rebranded into a web design agency specifically for therapists. So much so that when I received an email from the owner of a garage door repair business, I assumed they had made a mistake and had the wrong company. I learned that while Brighter Vision may have seemingly stumbled into a niche (one that would propel us to work with over 5000 mental health practices), the process of getting there was no accident and taught me an important lesson: Once you find your niche, don’t tip-toe in Going all-in on your niche means updating your website copy, service offerings, branding, and client process to reflect your chosen niche – and no one else. Because of this, it’s often a scary decision, as fear of inadvertently turning away other would-be-paying clients outside of that niche may have you questioning yourself. With this in mind, if you’ve gone about niching down the right way, it will help push away the doubt while opening up powerful growth opportunities like: – Partnering with thought leaders in your niche to cross-promote your services – Building an audience by posting niche-specific content across social media – Targeting your niche through keywords they are searching for in organic content and paid digital advertising

Build your sales and marketing funnel:

At the beginning of this section, I mentioned that you should niche down because it helps you market your services more effectively. Once you go all-in on a niche, you can build a sales funnel to target that niche. Here’s how you do it:
1. Understand your channels
In addition to building out a profile for an ideal type of customer within your niche, you need to have an understanding of where your niche gets information from (ex. Youtube, Facebook Groups, Blogs, TikTok, Google) and start familiarizing yourself with thought leaders in the space (coaches, influencers, companies) you may be able to partner with.
2. Create content that will resonate
Look at what other thought and opinion leaders are doing, and use their content as inspiration for your own. Write down a list of topics, the channels where you’ll share that content, and your schedule.
3. Capture contact information
Once you have a sales funnel that intentionally targets your niche, making the process of getting initial inquiries easy and incentivized can be as simple as providing a link to schedule a free consultation or getting access to your newsletter – it doesn’t necessarily mean offering a discount.

Improve your client experience

Another reason I provided as to why niching down is so beneficial is because it helps you complete projects more efficiently and results in happier customers and repeat business. Going back to an example from my time at Brighter Vision, one this quickly realized working specifically with mental health therapists is that they were often not tech-savvy. We had to design a client experience around that – making our questionnaire as easy as possible for a client to complete, avoiding technical jargon on our consultation calls, and being able to give our advice and suggestions by drawing from other work. To help you build a client experience that will have your customers saying “wow,” first try asking yourself these questions:
  • When you received quality feedback for a client, what questions did you ask?
  • How often do clients ask where a project is in the process?
  • What parts of your process do you find yourself constantly clarifying?
  • Out of your 5 happiest clients, what did they have in common?
  • Out of your 5 least happy clients, what did they have in common?
  • Where do projects most commonly get stuck, and why?
Once answered, these questions will help you see what adjustment you may need to make to your process and where it might be beneficial to use a tool like Motion.io to improve client communication and collaboration.

Invest in the right tools for the job

Technology to help owners of web design businesses work more efficiently and even automate large parts of their day-to-day responsibilities is more accessible and affordable than ever before. And at this point in your business, it’s time to start seriously considering investing in tools that can help you get more done faster, so you can focus on delivering your clients the best work and experience possible. Out of all the additional tools you might invest in during this stage, quality customer relationship management software (CRM) is probably the most important. Implemented correctly, your CRM should automate most of the activity from when a prospective client submits their first inquiry to when they schedule their initial consultation. Examples of things your CRM should be able to do for you include sending an email with your calendar link as soon as a form is submitted, documenting how the potential client found you and automatically following up with them until they schedule a time. Aside from investing in a quality CRM to manage your sales process, you should look for additional ways to streamline and automate your daily tasks. To understand what parts of your business may benefit from a new piece of software or automation, here’s what I recommend you do:
  1. Write down your 3 most repetitive tasks each (ex., data entry, update emails to clients)
  2. Write down 3 tasks you wish were taken off your plate (ex., client feedback calls)
  3. Search: “How to make [repetitive task/task you want off your plate] easier.”
Examples of what you might discover by following this process are how an automation platform like Zapier automates your process of data entry or how Motion.io can give your clients a way to easily leave feedback on a deliverable without needing to hop on a call. As you look to invest in additional tools, there will be things within your business (copywriting, accounting, and managing your inbox/calendar are good examples) that likely can’t be made easier with a piece of software. In situations where a task can’t be made easier or taken off your plate through software, consider hiring a virtual assistant or part contractor to help you out.

Final Thoughts:

The period covered in part 2 is often when things start to click for owners of web design businesses – making it incredibly exciting and rewarding. That said, as you start to see new clients stream in and revenue pick up, it can be easy to take your eye off the ball and lose sight of the things you need to be doing to ensure consistent, scalable growth.
Ready to make sure this doesn’t happen?
Check out part 3 of How to Start a Web Design Business from Scratch in 2023, where I’ll cover the things you need to be doing after your first full year in business.

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