If you have a bit of design prowess, or tend to lean towards the technically inclined side of your group of friends and family, you should consider starting your own web design business. You can start this business from home!

In 2016, it’s never been easier for someone to get started building and designing websites. The technology has dramatically improved, making building a site as easy as dragging and dropping some boxes around on the screen.

While there are hundreds of designers all throwing their hat into the ring, looking to start this type of business for themselves, the market for potential customers is so large that the level of competition you’ll be up against isn’t as stiff as it might seem from the outside.

If you’re able to get in front of customers who either need a brand new website or require a redesign of their outdated website, you can easily make 6-figures per year as a work-at-home web designer. Also, you don’t need a lot of investment to start this business. This is a good example of a business idea you can start with under 10k

Here’s the basic process you’ll need to follow, like so many other designers that have come before you have followed.

Keep It Simple: Use WordPress

In 2005, you had to know how to code HTML, CSS, and Javascript or another scripting language, in most cases. In 2010, that need diminished dramatically for aspiring web designers.  Now, in 2016, you do not have to actually know how to write code in order to build a well-designed website.  

By using WordPress, you can easily get away with building sites without knowing anything more than how to drag and drop different website elements inside of a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) development window.  

Should there come a time when you need something slightly more technical, you can easily outsource the process on websites like Upwork. For $10 to $25 an hour, you can hire a freelancer that is able to handle the technical hurdles you may face.

You’ll want to get on YouTube and watch a few tutorial videos to help you get familiar with WordPress; how to install themes, make basic customizations, install and customize plugins, and tweak various design elements. You can also look into drag and drop builders, like Thrive Themes.

Once you have your bearings, and can confidently move around inside of WordPress, you’re ready to start finding your first clients.

Your First Clients Probably Won’t Pay

Every business requires you to get paid to stick around but, unfortunately, your first few web design clients are probably going to be “pro bono” projects that you take on just to get your portfolio started.  

With the massive amount of freelance and upstart web designers in the industry, if you get paid for your first few jobs, you should consider yourself one of the lucky few.

Working for free isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It’s going to make it easier for you to land your first few clients, which is where so many new businesses face the biggest issues.  

Without having a pricing strategy muddying up the waters, you can focus on how much value you’re going to provide to the client, which will make the “sale” happen a lot sooner. Everybody loves free work.

Getting the first few pro bono jobs under your belt will give you the portfolio you need to start charging customers later on.

Build Your Skills: Customers Judge Your Site

While having a healthy portfolio of happy clients (even if they didn’t pay you) will help you land more clients down the road, the biggest factor that will determine your success is the design of your own website.

Every potential client that finds you, or you get in front of – letting them know about your services – will seek out your website.  

They’re going to judge you based on how well it works, how good it looks, and whether or not you are showing that you’re capable of helping them turn their branding and image into an online property that also helps them generate new business.

You should definitely put your all into the early clients you have, to help show the world what you can do – at the end of the day, if your own site doesn’t show off those skills, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Raise Your Rates Accordingly

After you’ve landed 3-5 clients and your business website shows your best work, it’s time to start charging for what you do. There are a few different groups of web designers, primarily based on how much they charge for their services.

The first group is, arguably, the biggest, and pits you up against the most competition are the newcomers. Once you overcome the entry level designers, your job of generating clients becomes much easier.  

To get there, though, you’re going to be competing on price. That means you should be charging between $40 and $60 per hour, with most design jobs taking between 20 and 40 hours to complete.

When you advance to the next stage in your business, clients will begin reaching out to you automatically, and referrals will come your way. This gives you the perfect opportunity to increase your rates substantially. As a general rule, you’ll want to start charging between $50 and $75 per hour.

Finally, after you’ve been in the business for a year, or more, you’re going to make your way into the upper echelon of web designers. Work will come your way without having to keep fighting for it, and clients will gladly pay your higher rates. When you’ve got a healthy portfolio of sites under your belt, you can easily charge upwards of $100 per hour.

Get Out of the House and Network

The only way to find your first few clients is to actually leave the house and let people know what you’re doing.  

Your local Chamber Of Commerce typically holds get-togethers where you can network with other business owners, giving you a chance to talk about your web design services and the fact that you’re looking for a few pro bono projects to get your name out into the world.

If you stick with it, building your own web design agency from the comfort of your own home is a real possibility, and can easily net you $100,000 per year or more.


James Crook
 – Author, Speaker, Web Marketer – is the best selling author of “Digitally Enhanced” and founder of marketing agency Choc Chip Digital. He works with hundreds of small businesses each year to grow their client base online, and is a passionate advocate for the power of authentic, heart-centred marketing. Widely recognised as a confident and articulate communicator, James draws on his love of digital technology to inspire, motivate and educate audiences across Australia.