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So as the title says, I'm just about to get my feet wet in the web designing/development world. Problem is, I don't have many people to ask for help or advice. I know no business owners, no one with any web design experience. I'm on my own attempting to find work for my business without really knowing what to do when I find it. This, is why I am here. I may sound in a little over my head to some but I'm sure I can handle it, I just need a path. Some direction.

I would love for any advice, tips, lessons or anything that would help me in gaining clients and pleasing the customer. What questions should I ask? Where should I start?


(I plan on promoting with 4.25"x11" flyers which I'll have finished by the end of memorial day.)

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HELP!!! WISH ME LUCK!!!
 

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About.com has some great articles in general for beginners in most web design subjects:

http://webdesign.about.com/od/jobs/p/aa031703a.htm

It would be easier to help if I knew what exactly you're looking at getting into. Will you just be building static web sites? Do you want to learn dynamic and server-side programming for more advanced features (smarter email forms, database functionality, etc)?

How much experience in web design do you currently have? You really want to have a portfolio you can show potential clients that exemplifies your skill set and what you can do for them. I did free stuff for people for years before I started charging because I had to learn what my value was. Don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth. You should make sure you have contracts in place that protect you and the client with plenty of "what-if" scenarios built in (because you don't want to just assume that everything will go perfect). Speaking from experience, you want everything to be negotiated before you start on the project. If your base rate for a site is $500, you need to specify what that includes and what costs extra. You'll run into clients who will want to change things constantly so you need to have prepared standards in your contract (ie: "X number of hours of content changes, $X per hour thereafter"). Everything in the contract should be broken down - like if you're working hourly, $15 per hour for non-dynamic programming (like HTML) and graphic work, $25 per hour for actual application programming (like PHP and database work), etc. Those rates would be based off your experience. If you're working the same kind of project you've done before, you should have a base rate for each section of the project (ie: "$X per hour or a base of $150 for the component"). The reasoning is you have the code already (it belongs to you) and they're benefiting from that pre-built library and experience you have that they'd have to pay more for elsewhere.

At first it's a bit uncomfortable and your standards may benefit the client a lot more than they benefit you (especially with rates/pricing) so you have to grow into it. As you get more clients and thus there is more demand for your experience and knowledge, you can expand those standards to benefit you more.

As far as finding clients - you may be surprised how much interest can be drawn up by just telling your family and friends about your new business. :)
 

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As mentioned, Never do anything without a contract, I made this mistake once and never again. Never ever do any programming / designs without 50% upfront. Some people are devious and will steal your code to finish it themselves or keep changing their mind on the project. Avoid, any business that wants you to make a few designs to see how good you are,, I made that mistake also.

When starting out, make some free sites for friends / family or even some small local business who may have alot of contacts with other business people. That is one I am in process of doing, plus the fact the guy is friendly with myself, you got to look ahead and see what can happen if you hit it right, with the correct people.

Be honest with your skills. If you do not know PHP for example on a pro level, then never be scared to say I do not know.
But yeah,, if it get it right and have good prices, then word does spread. Are you based in the States?. Marketing is mainly the key to making the most money. Good marketing and a good service and you will be fine. Some clients are horrible to deal with. Be ready for those people.

Right up a contract of what you are willing to do and not do. After all, it is your income that matters here.
 

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Maybe this is just my past experiences, but clients always seem to say this " We do not want to spend to much money ". Most clients, do not know anything about web programming and most do not know the work that goes into it, so never be to technical with them. Explain the process and what is involved on your side. Let them know what is realistic of the project. Some clients expect far to much and some will expect you to jump to their ever wimper and make 9 million changes. ( only had 2 like that myself ). JUst be honest with them and do your best. Different clients have different concerns and different questions.
 

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Great point, neonjuice. I've had a few people ask me about sites that are very involved. Some including things that take a lot of programming time (this is where experience and code library comes in handy!) and once you explain that their ambitions typically reel back a bit. Sometimes you'll meet people that realistically just need pre-canned software...like a blogging system, CMS, and/or a shopping system. I got into PHP because I hate doing things over and over - so it's kind of my character to try to help people set up pre-canned software than building it from scratch and leaving them the bill :p
 

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Great point, neonjuice. I've had a few people ask me about sites that are very involved. Some including things that take a lot of programming time (this is where experience and code library comes in handy!) and once you explain that their ambitions typically reel back a bit. Sometimes you'll meet people that realistically just need pre-canned software...like a blogging system, CMS, and/or a shopping system. I got into PHP because I hate doing things over and over - so it's kind of my character to try to help people set up pre-canned software than building it from scratch and leaving them the bill :p
Defo a great way to do business, when you keep a list of PHP scripts or any dynamic scripts for that matter. Sometimes you can get a client who wants one style of interactivity and although it works out great in theory, sometimes it does not end up that great on a user experience level, so you do not want to waste to much time developing a larger prototype application, when you can draw a ready made script from your library. Another thing with being in the Web Development business is getting paid. It has and still is known for clients to steal code and try to finish it themselves, so always get 50% upfront to cover initial programming and design costs. I made this mistake several times, but hey, we gotta learn. Now days, I do no work at all, without a signed contract. Contracts are so important. Also, trademark your name if you can afford it.
 

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I do a lot of server-side stuff and until the work is paid in full, it stays on my server. That is a pretty big advantage of being more specialized. I could see stealing being a big problem with graphic/static web design work, for sure. I'm always super prudent to have a contract in place before any work starts (at least, these days! I've been burned without one before!) but even then I place watermarks on my layouts (obvious ones too - not ones that can be blurred out by someone disparate to save a few bucks!). JUST like you need to protect your web sites with security for that one person that may come along and try to screw it up, you have to set yourself up to protect against that one client that may try to screw you :p
 
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