Bedroom Developer to Business Entrepreneur – 5 Survival Tips to Running Your Own Website Business

Consider the scenario: You are a bedroom developer/designer who over the past two years has built websites for friends, family and local business in your spare time and now you want to run your own website business. Undoubtedly this starting point is an exciting time, typically when one starts out in web design you are either creatively dominant or technically. Generally speaking for those who claim to be in the middle this is fine it just means when the time comes to delegate – make sure you know which side of the fence you will sit on.

Note: This is only applicable in the first year of running your website business – all shall be revealed in my later articles.

The web industry is a saturated marketplace however there is good news for the budding new bedroom developer or designer. Website and Internet development has only really been around for 30 years and if you compare that with industries like Steel, Mining, Catering, General high street retail etc… this is not a patch on their 1000+ year histories.

The fact is the “Industry Life Cycle” for website development and Internet technologies is still in its growth phase and showing little sign of maturing. The reason why I am telling you this is because by the very nature of its youth the continual release of new ideas and innovation will continue to thrive throughout your lifetime. There will always be new ideas, new trends set and new ways of doing things that others hadn’t thought of as well as the continual opportunity to do better than the next person.

The web industry is plagued with limited standardisation, have you ever wondered why there are over 8 internet browsers? Why does Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8 all have their own interpretation of style-sheets.

Why, oh why? Can we not build a website to work on one Internet browser and it will not work on another. Well historically it comes down to the fact that Internet standards have never been properly enforced or advised.

In 1994 was the dawn of the World Wide Web consortium and from there on in, their initiatives have been the most respected and followed standards for website building as we know it today. (for more visit their website)

So where was I? Ah yes, the bedroom designer/developer – well like all businesses your number one asset to get new your business running is REPUTATION!

Reputation is earned and the better you can build on this reputation, then the better you are going to survive in your first years in business. The way it generally works is that if you do a good job for someone – then likelihood is that they will tell their friends and so forth and then someone in that chain will want a website.

So here are my core rules in first year survival for running your own website business or any business (for that matter):

Rule 1: When an opportunity comes to build a website or even just something small – make sure that your 1ST job is done really well, above and beyond expectation.

It sounds stupidly obvious but I can tell you – this set me aside from the competition I was facing in my first year. If successful you immediately set yourself up to have a referral or recommendation.

Rule 2: Make sure you know how much it costs you (in hours) to build a website! Work out your hourly rate and then get a price together. The single most criminal mistake by nearly all website developers and business owners I’ve met over the years is getting your price wrong and when you do get it wrong… IT HURTS!

Trust me – it only takes one difficult client, or someone who changes their mind and does not understand what you do and you’ll be working every hour God sends for peanuts!

Rule 3: Understand domains and the impact of changing DNS settings, many people do not have a clue behind the impact of a poorly configured/managed domain-name can have on their business. If you can demonstrate common sense and understanding this will give you confidence in front of clients and handling the ‘dreaded go live’ period.

Because if you get this wrong – you will probably find for all your hard work – you still have not been paid!

Rule 4: Make sure you receive some money upfront before starting – agree a fee and get somewhere around 40 – 50% upfront – this way you can cover your cost to build and you wont be out of pocket during the closing stages of completing the website.

I recommend you request the remaining 50% on completion for small website work and larger websites request another 40% on first delivery and a final 20% once all is done.

Rule 5: Take your time when estimating complexity and timescales – this is the single most criminal mistake by any web development agency, whilst it can be easy to make a profit building a website it is even easier to mis-quote a project and find yourself at a significant loss.

You should approach the work in stages and calculate the time required deliver each stage. You then need to add on a suitable amount of contingency, for example 20%.

The stages typically could be:

  • Requirements and Capture
  • Design & Prototype (this is two stages if the project is large)
  • Build / Code
  • Test – Includes cross-browser testing, dead link checks, time to load checks, validation and any other necessary unit and system testing methods.
  • Deploy – Time it takes to publish the website, configure the hosting and domain name, double check email contact forms, Google verify the site, setup website traffic monitor and publish the site map.

Your final price should reflect the time you estimate to accomplish the work by your hourly rate.

Building Websites requires experience and knowledge of Software development methods, for those who are serious I recommended reading about Software Engineering, development methodologies and understanding project management technique.

No matter how small or large your website project is, this will open your eyes to the disciplines of software/web system development and the hoops you need to jump through that will set your professional standards above so many others within the marketplace.