Expert Tips For Starting An Online Web Design Agency In 2022

Rashi Jaitly
September 08, 2022

Starting a web design agency looks glamorous from the outside. Successful agency owners earn millions of dollars, get to work with big brands, take luxurious vacations, and appear on Ted Talks.

It seems like the life of your dreams, right?

But, getting there is extremely challenging. Not everyone who started is at the top. Establishing a successful agency takes skill, persistence, commitment, consistency, and courage. 

There are no shortcuts. 

After spending 10 years in the industry and meeting over a dozen web design agency owners, here are some of our best tips that will take your creative endeavor to the next level. 

1. Create an offer before pitching to clients

New web development agencies often make the mistake of finding clients before curating an offer. That’s why agency owners complain about getting peanuts in their early days. 

When you don’t decide your services, identify your USP, set timelines and create packages, you give your customers the authority to manipulate and make you do more work for less money. This is where offers come in handy. 

But creating one isn’t that simple. Here is a checklist for curating an irresistible offer for your design agency:

Define your niche

Choose an area where your expertise lies or you feel the most passionate about. Your niche should be profitable, display your strongest skills, have growth opportunities, and have less competition. At the start, you can play around with two or three niches, but make sure to narrow it down to become an expert in one. 

Create your customer persona

 Not everyone in your niche will be your customer, so take your time nailing down your target audience. Create a customer persona of your ideal buyer by defining their demographics, goals and aspirations, challenges and objections to not buying your service. 

With a buyer persona in place, you can be prepared with answers for all the “No’s” you might have to hear while pitching to clients. You can also better educate your audience on why they need your services by being present at places where they are most active. 

Hubspot buyer's persona template to create unlimited customer avatar

You can use Hubspot’s Make My Persona template to create as many online personas as you like, according to your business needs.

Decide which design services you’ll offer

 Now that you know your target audience, you can identify the services that best suit their needs. Evaluate the market and select only those services that are profitable, easy to scale, and have a low barrier to entry. Many web design and development agencies also provide additional services like branding, search engine optimization, video production and editing, content marketing, and others to curate an all-in-one offer that’s impossible to resist. 

Set your rates

 By this time, you know the amount of work you are willing to put in and the outcome that your client will get from it. Instead of letting your client quote the amount, you put in your offer. 

Your rate chart should have the services you are offering, the project timeline, and the expected result. In the end, include the total value of these services to what they are paying right now to entice quick buying. 

Now, when you pitch to clients, you are confident in your services and are not undercharging for your efforts. 

2. Choose the right people

Running an agency isn’t a one-person job. You’ll have to build your in-house team and hire contractors or freelancers to complete your project. Hiring the right people is the most challenging job you’ll do as a leader. If you hire the wrong team members, you will never achieve your goals, scale your business or impress your clients. 

Here are some tips to follow before you hire-

  • Identify what you are looking for. The term “designer” is quite generic and doesn’t define its specialization. Instead, list the skills, years of experience, projects you want them to work on, and daily tasks before asking for candidate recommendations. 
  • Put skills over experience. If you think a person can take up this position, don’t get baffled by the amount of experience. Ask them to do a pilot project and see if they are a good fit. 
  • Don’t only rely on portfolios. People with the coolest portfolios often lack the creativity and sincerity to complete a project. Portfolios can surely be one way to filter out candidates, but solely making a decision based on that can backfire. 
  • Remember that you are paying for a lot of other skills than design. Your selected candidate should have the will to learn, apply feedback, communicate well, be honest and sincere with the work, and deliver on time. 
  • Check their experience. Someone who works in a similar niche to yours will understand your design requirements much better than others. 

3. Simplify your design process through web design tools 

A design process includes brainstorming ideas, getting approvals, completing tasks, and working on feedback. While this seems manageable when you are working solo, but with establishing an agency comes dreadful repetitive tasks. This slows down productivity and makes it challenging to track project progress. 

There are many great web design tools that web development agencies can use to automate repetitive tasks and deliver better customer results. 

Here are some of them:

Communication tool for designers

Your communication with your team and clients needs to be seamless. Collaboration tools ensure that team members can communicate across boundaries and clients are aware of the project’s progress. These are some of our best recommendations-

Project management tools for designers 

Agencies, large or small, juggle multiple projects simultaneously. From ideation to approval, there are a lot of moving parts that project managers have to handle to provide the best outcome. This can easily become chaotic if not handled properly. A project management tool saves you time and effort in managing projects. They make it easy for businesses to track project development progress, assign tasks, and stay organized at work. Here are some of the tried and tested project management software-

Web design tools for creating mockups/wireframes

Most designers spend a chunk of their time creating mockups and wireframes for clients. These tools help designers seamlessly demonstrate designs over the web. You can also add your clients or other design team members to get feedback on the mockups. There are pre-defined templates to choose from, so designers don’t have to start from scratch. Some of the best web design tools for building mockups are:

Best web design review tool 

Most web designers fear the process of feedback. 

It leads to an endless chain of emails with vague comments and impossible requests, making it difficult for designers to understand what the client is trying to say. 

So, here, having a visual feedback tool is extremely important. Your clients can directly put in comments, tag people, and communicate in the chat to gain clarity. 

And one of the best feedback tools you must try out is Webvizio. 

Webvizio lets you leave feedback, assign tasks, and track web bugs on live websites and digital assets. You can easily collaborate and get everyone on the same page. Webvizio lets you integrate your favorite productivity software so your team members can receive instant notifications. 

You can create unlimited projects on the platform and add as many work tasks or comments as you want to see on the website. 

Set deadlines, oversee task status, and track your team productivity and overall project progress. Get a clear picture of who is doing what at any given moment and achieve project milestones on time. 

Get Webvizio for Free

4. Constantly look for opportunities 

One of the biggest rookie mistakes new agency owners make is to stop chasing clients when they are at capacity. So, when they don’t have much work, they are forced to accept subpar projects to pay their bills. 

Successful agency owners are always looking for ways to promote their services. This way, they are confident in charging high prices and converting big clients. 

Here are some places you can look for clients-

  • Facebook and LinkedIn have tons of groups where you can find small businesses and big agencies looking to sub-contract or hire designers for projects. You can search for relevant terms on the search bar, like “design agency needed,” “designers required,” etc., and filter out irrelevant posts. 
Examples of Facebook groups that design agency owners can join
  • Reach out to your current network and tell them you’re looking for clients in these niches and about the services you are providing. We are sure you are going to get some referrals through this. 
  • Build your personal brand for successful inbound marketing. Start posting relevant content and interact with your target audience to get noticed. Once you establish yourself as an expert design agency owner, you will see leads coming in. 
  • Try cold emailing. We cannot focus enough on how well cold emailing works if you reach out to the right person. Don’t send mass emails; instead, give yourself time to research what services your client might want to invest in and how your design agency can help them achieve their goals. 
  • Showcase your design skills through your website. Most top agencies claim that content has played a significant role in getting them leads. You must create a website and regularly post content to get in front of your audience. 
Toast web design agency's website home page

For instance,  toastdesign.co, a web design agency, has curated an excellent website that talks briefly about their work and services. They also run a blog page that gets over 10,000 monthly organic traffic.  Toast ranks for high volume, niched keywords that get them good leads and contribute to a good portion of their revenue. 

5. Make time for upskilling 

As your business grows, you’ll have less time to invest in learning new design skills. It’s not that you’ll forget how to build websites, especially when you are working five days a week, but you’ll indeed feel left out. 

The web design industry changes pretty quickly. You’ll have to continuously upskill yourself to compete with the latest trends. So, in everything you do as a business owner, never forget to add new skills. The day you stop learning is the day you stop growing. 

Here are some ways you can upskill as a design agency owner-

  • Join masterclasses of design experts. There will always be better people than you, so instead of cribbing and self-doubting, you can join their courses or masterclasses to upgrade your skills. 
  • Find a mentor. Taking help as you grow your business is normal. No one has ever figured it all out. You can niche down to find a mentor to help you scale your business and suggest ways to improve yourself. 
  • Play around with new coding and design techniques in online playgrounds like CodePen
  • Attend networking events, collaboration and training sessions through Meetup and WordCamp. 

You can also encourage your team members to upgrade their skill sets by offering them access to design courses like-

Ready to launch your web design agency?

No matter how simple it might look now, starting a business is a lot of work. There will be a lot of challenges that you might have to face to sustain your business. But, we are sure that these expert tips will help you. 

Take your time, and don’t rush the process. You will hear success stories and see design agencies earning good money, but that doesn’t mean your journey isn’t worth it. 

No matter what the situation, just get started.