Skills, skills, skills.
Before you even think about getting into this business you should know your stuff. The information below assumes you already know how to setup a domain, the hosting account, create databases and at least know 1 CMS (content management system) like Wordpress or Joomla. Don't close a deal for building a website if you're not sure how to build it. You should spend a couple of months learning the skills you'll need to complete the task of building a website. The best way to accomplish that is by building your business website. You will have to spend some time (maybe some money too) building your business website to perfection! Google will be your friend at this point. Hit Google with queries like: Joomla Tutorials, Wordpress Tutorials, How to build a website using SOFTWARE X, etc. If you're a visual guide guy like me, try Video Tutorials for the same subjects. If you already know your "stuff", continue...
Your initial goal should be to get at least 10 clients in a period of 2-3 months so you'll have a portfolio to show to your next potential clients. You will not make a profit at first, but you should be able to cover your expenses to break even. Hit your local businesses, try to listen to them and to find out their needs. Go with the low-budget projects first. These clients just want a web presence and will not demand any specialized and custom features for their website. These projects are easy to complete. It can take you a couple of days to a couple of weeks to deliver and you will quickly add projects to your portfolio. Since these projects are low-budget you won't have to create custom designs. Once you close a deal, you will immediately hit the themes and templates marketplaces to find at least 3 suitable designs for your client to choose from.
For starters, here are the ones I use for these low-budget projects if you're looking for web designs.
- Themeforest (My latest client, that used a joomla template from Themeforest, was left speechless by the quality of the design and features he got.)
- Template Monster
- CSS Igniter
- Mojo Themes
- Elegant Themes
All offer high-quality designs only! Themeforest is part of a network of marketplaces where you can also find icon-packs, scripts, animations, etc. Don't forget to visit that marketplace.There are a lot more marketplaces in the web and you can find them by Googling. Give the above sites a visit and spend some time looking around at designs.
Note that you'll have to be honest about the designs. They must know that these designs won't be unique to them and that other companies will have them as well. To sell it, you will have to make sure that no immediate competitor owns the same design. It requires a bit o research. Tell them that it doesn't matter that if other business have the same theme if they are not competitors.
Selling your services
This is the hardest part. How much do you sell your services to these "low-budget" projects? Well that depends. I'll give you some figures I work with.
My basic website building cost starts around 400€ (~520 USD) and can go up to 800€ or 1000€ ($1000 to $1300), these clients will have to work for your website also. For example, they will provide all the necessary material for the website. Text, photos, and videos. If they require professional photography, you should team-up with a local photographer and get them in contact with the potential client (photography or video production will not be included in your prices!) Your client then will acquire a design (from a marketplace) that isn't unique to them and will not have special features or custom functions unless of course they are at the high-end of your low-budget service. This rate might be low for you (or to high), it really depends on the competition in your area. My competition sells their services for less than what I charge, but I have the portfolio and the quality of my work as a selling point. Plus I offer 1 year hosting and a domain for 2 years to all my clients. You should offer at least a free domain for 1 year in the beginning, but charge extra for hosting if they choose the lowest possible budget.
Now that I've mentioned hosting and domains, you can choose to be a reseller with a reputable hosting provider or create unique (and independent) accounts for each of your clients. A reseller account has the benefit of passive income for a couple of years from each of your clients, since they have to renew the hosting contract every year. You could also sell hosting as an affiliate, again with a reputable hosting provider.
From that 400€ around 350€ are profit for about 30 hours of work. That 50€ goes to the design and the domain (I have a server so hosting isn't an issue for 1 year). You may sell your services for a lot more. There are a lot of factors to take into account on how much you should bill for your services. The most important is the competition in your area and it is really easy to find out how much they sell their services. Just call them and ask for a quote. Some might give you a quote over the phone, others might ask for details first. Just ask the price range of low-budget projects in general. Furthermore there are the business expenses, rent, office supplies, accountant, etc. (You can get a rough estimate using this tool: http://freelanceswitch.com/rates/) Then also take into account what your client's needs are. Does he/she just require a web presence? Does he/she require special functions? What ever the needs, you should do some research and find out if you can deliver all the requirements. If you can deliver, charge accordingly. As an example of special functions I'll use a newsletter system for the CMS Joomla. There are free extensions for joomla and then there are the paid solutions. If the client's needs require the paid extension that has more features you will add that to the bill.
If the potential client asks for a custom and unique to their business Design, at that point you enter the mid to high budget projects and the costs are a different story there. If you have the skills go for it.
As a final (and very important) note, don't start the project without a down-payment of at least 20% of the total cost. When I started, I had a couple of clients that changed their minds mid-way of the build and walked away and I was left with the designs and domains I bought with my own money. You should use the down-payment for all the initial purchases like designs, scripts, graphics, domain, etc. The down-payment isn't refundable if the client decides to walk away. Another thing to remember and is really important as well is that you should never give full administration access to your client before the final payment. If you get your money go ahead and give full admin access credential to your client.
I hope you will find this information useful. It is based on my 5+ years experience in this business. If you have any questions or require more info or guidance just leave a comment and I'll answer as soon as possible. Don't forget to like and share this post!