8 Top Issues You Need To Face In The “Business” Of Web Designing

We all know PayPal. We use it almost by default. But did you know that PayPal didn’t even start the way it’s positioned today? Instead, it started out as a company called Confinity that “beamed” cash between hand-held devices like PDAs.

Nokia started out with boots, cables, consumer electronics, robotics, etc. Flickr began as a multi-player online game called “Game Never-ending.” Photo sharing, which was a part of the game, turned out to be most-used feature, and that grew into Flickr.

Martin Byrant of The Next Web has about 10 stories about companies that pivoted away from their original direction. But why are we talking about companies pivoting in a post that’s supposed to be about designers facing issues in the “business” of web designing?

That’s because there is a common theme here: Change. And change brings it with a recurring dread of uncertainty.

Web designers are a vulnerable bunch and any kind of change comes down hard on us. The companies and startups referred to here made quick directional changes. Often, web designers could be caught napping by the time the need for change is imminent.

The point is this: change is inevitable. Either you change or you don’t. As a web designer, you are standing in the sands of fast-flying change. There’s a lot happening out there that can determine your future. Here are some of those issues facing web designers today (some old and some new) and what you need to do to get out of each of them:

01. The “I Am Not Into Marketing” Syndrome

I Am Not Into Marketing Syndrome
Image credit: shutterstock

The good news: digital marketing is truly godsend when it comes to marketing. You don’t just get to pitch, promote, and hustle. You also have a way to gain trust, build up a network, engage with your potential customers, and excite them while executing services. Sometimes, you even get to automate marketing. If you are a web designer, you now have a way to bring in more business consistently, showcase your work much better, and more. The world has opened up, looking for your services.

The bad news: most web designers are not marketers. They think “marketing” is something that “others” do. Selling is not cool, apparently.

As Daniel H.Pink writes in his book To Sell is Human, we are all in sales. We’ve always been in sales. If there’s any problem that can seriously affect your business as a web designer, it’s this apathy for selling.

What you need to do

Learn all that you should and more about digital marketing. Learn to sell. “Become a marketer.”Leave no stone unturned. Even if you think, “this isn’t my thing,” go ahead and learn. Then execute what you learn. Do all this while your business is still on. Also, grow parallel skills such as design, video, and graphics. Why, you ask? That leads us to…

02. Web Design As A Service Proposition

Web Design As A Service Proposition
Image credit: shutterstock

Web design is a wrong way to position your service from the start. Your true winning proposition should be the one that capitalizes on your skills, allows your customers to come back to you over a period of time. While they come in, they should feel the irresistibility of the value your services provide.

As a sole proprietor or as an agency, you should be able to tap into recurring streams of income, residual streams of income, low overheads, and a positive cash flow (we’ll get to this later). You should be getting a kick out of the fact that you are providing services that really help clients solve their burning problems.

Guess what? That isn’t happening in the industry. The reason is that your clients don’t know the difference between a good website and a bad one. What you deliver is what they get. Of course, they’ll ask for a hundred changes. They’ll push you to make those color corrections, to round the corners, and to make an endless list of things to do for the “perfect site.”

The reality is that it cannot be perfect. Plus, the only “good” that’s justified in business (for you and for the client) is when that website makes money.

The website isn’t going to make money just by “being there.” But that’s all you provide. Client’s websites make money when they are promoted; not when they are completed and delivered.

What you need to do

Instead of delivering “web design” services, provide web and mobile application development as well as end to end digital marketing services. Position yourself to provide everything from a website to a mobile app with some heavy digital marketing thrown in between.

This gives your client more reasons to choose you. It provides you with a recurring income and possibly a better relationship with your clients (where they actually see leads coming in, traction building up, and their business growing).

03. Clients From Hell

Clients From Hell
Image credit: shutterstock

Most clients are a pleasure to work with. They “get” you. They respect you as a professional. They give you some breathing space, and even a staging act to air your points of view. But not all clients are built equal. You must have heard about clients from hell, haven’t you? You might even have had a few.

This is a serious problem for freelance web designers and even agencies. Some clients can get into the “hyper mode” and worry about everything. Others want to micro-manage you. A few others don’t pay on time. Some clients from hell actually want you to work for free, in perpetuity.

What you need to do

You can’t escape from the shark well of clients from hell. But you can choose who you want to work for.

Always start with trial assignments – small projects that you don’t mind losing money, time, or effort on. You’ll know a lot about a client from the way he works with you on that project. If and when it’s not working the way you like, “move on.”

Unabashed. Unashamed. Do it in style.

04. Learning To Say “No”

Learning To Say NO
Image credit: shutterstock

We all face this problem generally, in life. We just can’t bring ourselves to say “no.” That gets us into all sorts of problems and awkward situations. It costs our soul sometimes. For web designers, it also leads to projects you don’t get paid for. Time lost that you can never retrieve. Grueling hours spent on unnecessary and often unsatisfactory work.

The inability to say “no” often gives you “clients from hell.” A thorn-bed you are choosing to walk on, knowing very well that you have nothing to gain from but everything to lose (including the person who asked you for that “favor”).

What you need to do

Stop the madness. Web designing is a profession, just like heart surgery is. Heart surgeons aren’t going to cure you off your heart attack as a favor. You’ll have huge bills to pay.

It should be that way for web designing or for other services you provide. This applies to everyone from your clients to your extended family, and from your friends to freeloaders all over the world.

05. Competition-Pushed Pricing

Competition-Pushed Pricing
Image credit: shutterstock

Pricing is a sensitive issue for web designers. As it is, it’s hard to price yourself right. It’s hard to justify pricing for “services” on top of it. Plus, there’s worldwide competition beating down on your clients’ doors to threaten your very existence. How do you possibly beat an equally skilled web designer from Bangladesh who can do it for $3- $5 per hour when your going rate is $45 – $125 per hour?

So, do you lower your prices? That hurts.Or do you wait until you find a client who’s willing to pay your price? That takes too long.

What you need to do

Stop complaining. It’s a global marketplace. Developing countries are cheap to live in so the prices reflect that. Also, with $3-5 per hour, those designers from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan can live a life king-size. You can’t.

So, go back and revisit point 2. Reposition your services. Everyone can be a “web designer.” They are, however, very few people who have the courage to tell the client, “We’ll build your website. We’ll build it with the best technologies in the industry. We’ll make it super-attractive. We’ll help you generate leads. We’ll get you customers. Don’t pay us if you don’t see this happening. Caspice?

06. The DIY Domination

The DIY Domination
Image credit: shutterstock

Did you ever stop to think that you are on the brink of possible extinction as a web designer? Pick any of the DIY (do it yourself) software or web-based tools like IM Creator, SquareSpace, Wix, Weebly, Webydo and Dudaone and you’ll see that absolutely anyone can build a website on their own. Your clients can do that too.

Your potential clients can even build an ecommerce store – which was once a nice way for web designers/developers to make money – with options like Shopify, which not only allows “anyone” to put up an ecommerce store but goes as far as providing amazing features like mobile POS.

You see, Mr. Designer,your greatest competition isn’t even another web designer. It’s technology.

What you need to do

If you can’t beat it, join it.” Use the technology to your benefit. Bring your design and development skills to the table but don’t build anything from scratch. Use these tools to build custom-made websites for clients at speed. That speed gets you better turn around time, more customization, and allows you to provide superfast service.

Plus, there’s a chance that you can downsize on your team. You might not need as many people on your team as you thought. Lower your overheads. Speed up your processes.

07. Cash Flow

Cash Flow
Image credit: shutterstock

If you ask an intelligent Investor, they will tell you that the emphasis is always on the financial health of an asset you are looking to invest in.

Your web design business is your asset. The only thing that matters is the state of your cash flow. If it’s positive, and always stays like that, you are doing well for yourself. Let’s not even talk about the negative cash flow part.

But how do you ensure your cash flow remains positive? Simple: spend less. Earn more. Repeat.

What you need to do

Web design is a location-dependent, low-overhead, and highly profitable business. What that means for you is that you can build a virtual team, never work from an office, and provide services quickly to clients anywhere in the world.

Any expenses like office, rent, and utilities are redundant. Avoid unnecessary expenses because you “think” that an “office” or “in-house team” is a must. It’s not.

08. Changing Tides In Website Design

Changing Tides In Website Design
Image credit: Mark Menzies

Changes are imminent as I pointed out earlier. As far as web design is concerned, these changes come real fast. The technology that forms the backbone of the Internet, the websites, and the languages in use is always changing.

For instance, PHP was popular until yesterday. Today, it’s called the fractal of bad design. There was a time when all you needed to build a site was HTML. Today, you need HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript as a bare minimum for a basic website.

Every professional has to learn, cope with changes, learn new skills, and improve constantly. Web designers and developers just have to do it faster and more aggressively. It’s just the way it is.

What you need to do

Always keep learning. Always keep hustling. Accept change as one of those things in the life of a “web designer.” It’s that one thing you just have to do, no matter what you think or feel about the change. By the way, the change is usually for good. PHP gives way to Ruby. HTML gave way to HTML5. CSS improved and morphed into CSS3.

New technology standards mean better frameworks and a more solid grounding for the websites you create.

Over To You

As a web site designer, what are some of the biggest issues you face with your business? Which of these issues nag at you and eat you up? Have we missed any of the top issues that web designers or developers face today?

Please donate your two cents in the comments.

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  1. I can speak freely and say it is shops setup on the net that pretend to be local from India, yes I said the I word and taking away work from us. This happens more often in metropolitan, like Toronto, Canada. Clients have no clue on why they should pay half descent money for their web/business. I only take high paying clients and ignore all the smaller jobs, yet lets try not to forget that majority of business comes from smaller businesses. Oh and the fact that with wordpress and other drag and drop software, everyone including their dog and grandmothers are becoming web designers. Oh never mind you do not have to be a web designer, there are plenty of templates out there that will do the job? NO? LOL

  2. Very Nice.. This is Very nice Useful information.. I am very Happy to Read this post.. very nice.. Thanks for sharing..

  3. I am running an internet marketing business in Toronto from past 3 years, a major problem I am facing is the changes sent by clients again and again. Few clients don’t even know what they want but they keep suggesting the changes. They just spoil the whole design we create on first draft and the project takes more time to get finished. I think you made some good points. We should learn to say “NO”.

    Thanks Tracy for writing and sharing this with us.

    • Hi Nikki i agree with you.

  4. Great Post.

    Highlighted the main points well along with an (solution) alternative to it.

    In fact the problem starts from the very beginning, as the requirement were not well defines and mostly the sales team hurry things up to simply close the deal and pass on the ball to the delivery guys.

    Related work:- sankalptechnology.in/blog/common-web-development-problem-solutions/

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