I caught the entrepreneurial bug at 10-years-old. With Mom’s help, my younger brother and I started baking banana breads and selling them to door-to-door. At 12-years-old, I began making websites for fun. By 17, I had my first paid client and by 20 I was working in web development full time. Now 26, I’ve been building websites ever since.
I made a lot of mistakes early on and also experienced a lot of success. My willingness to take risks and my entrepreneurial bent kept me going through the ups and the downs. There was more to it than my own abilities, though. There is something special about the web development industry.
If someone asks me if starting a web development business is right for them, I say “Yes!” if they’re willing to do the work. Here are 15 reasons why:
1. You Can Start Part-Time
If you’re in college or you’ve got a day-job, you can start a web development business on the side and build it part-time. While meeting with clients may present some scheduling challenges, you can work through those. The actual web development work can be done in the evenings and on the weekends.
2. You Don’t Need An Office
If you need to meet with clients, meet at their office or at a local café. Maintaining an office is expensive and, in the early days, it’s money that can be better spent elsewhere. If a client asks where you are located or seems put off by your lack of an office, simply explain with confidence that you built your business to be mobile and that you’re able to get more done for your clients in less time by not having an office.
3. You Don’t Need To Learn Code
If you’re just getting started, don’t waste time learning HTML or CSS. If you already know how to code, put that knowledge aside. The best way to get started is by using a platform. I highly recommend WordPress. Start out by using pre-built themes and plugins. Stay focused on providing results for your clients and keep your learning curve to a minimum. There will be plenty of opportunity to master code down the road – if that is your goal.
4. Your Schedule Can Be Flexible
Being the master of my own time is a big reason why I favor web development. The nature of the work means that I can get it done early in the day or late at night. If I need (or want) to take time off for a few weeks, or even longer, I can arrange the business and communicate with clients to keep things going in my absence. If communication is required, an hour or two checking email or making phone calls on the road can be all it takes.
5. The Demand In The Market Is High
More businesses and organizations than ever before are turning to the web and looking for help to establish or improve their Internet presence. Along with the demand for service there is a tremendous demand for education. The amount of information being blasted at businesses is overwhelming and they put a high value on anyone that can help them filter through the noise and make intelligent decisions. That’s where you come in.
6. The Startup Cost Is Low
Your greatest initial expense is a computer and the one you already have will probably work just fine. Beyond that, a $100-$200 budget is easily enough to get you started. Buy a domain name (around $10), choose a premium theme ($40-$50), and a managed web-host ($25-$30 a month). Get your first client and begin investing a portion of your earnings back in the business (development software, training, plugin licenses, etc).
7. The Margins Are High
The profit potential in web development is enormous. The greatest expense is your time and as your capabilities and processes improve, the amount of time it takes to deliver high value will decrease. I recommend that you start by calculating your per-project rates at a minimum of $75/hour and go up from there as your value increases.
8. There Is High Demand For Specialists
Web development covers a wide spectrum of skillsets and within that spectrum there is a lot of room for specialists. Even more importantly, the demand for those specialists is high. You can focus your efforts on a niche or on a specific facet of development (e.g. design, mobile development, engineering). You can also focus on a geographic region, becoming a specialist to serving businesses in a specific area.
9. Competitors Are Falling Behind
The web development industry is growing and changing at a mind-numbing pace. This means that your local competitor, the guy who’s been building websites for 5+ years, is probably using old technologies and is in danger of falling behind on industry best practices. This offers you a lot of room to come in, start with a clean slate, and deliver a higher value to your clients – and eventually his.
10. You Can Scale As You Grow
When the demand for your services is higher than you can manage, you can bring in a partner, a contractor, or a first employee to manage the load. The flexible nature of the business means you still don’t need to get an office and the speed at which you’ve acquired your skillsets means that you can also quickly train a newcomer to continue providing a high value to your clients. You can also use technology to streamline and automate some of the time-consuming parts of your business, making it easier to scale.
11. The Timing Is Right
There has never been a better time to start a web development business. Internet availability and the speed of consumer adoption means that more people than ever before are using the Internet to make decisions. Businesses realize that. For those who’ve held out all these years, they are finally ready to get a website. For those who had a website built early on, they’re ready to make changes and improve.
12. There Are Giants In The Land
Since the early days, the amount of experience within the industry has exploded at an exponential rate and more people than ever are sharing what they’ve learned. You can study the successes of web developers who’ve gone before you, not only in general, but also, more than likely, in your specific area of interest. The web development industry as a whole has a great willingness to share and if you can’t find answers by looking, you can ask.
13. Education Is Readily Available
There are thousands of blogs and websites dedicated to web development. Smashing Magazine, Webdesigner Depot, and Web Design Ledger are three great resources, to name only a few. Add to that, there are hundreds of great books (and ebooks) on specific specialties. You can also make use of online learning to further your education via sites like Learnable, Treehouse, and Codecademy.
14. Web Development Favors The Young
For those of us under 30 we have a perceptive advantage in this industry over those of the older generation. Web development and new technology is heavily associated with the younger generation and while we can’t sit back (some of those older folks are still very quick to learn!) we can use the perception to our advantange.
15. Building Websites Opens Doors To New Opportunities
As you put your best into your work, you’re going to learn about clients and their businesses. Along the way, you may discover opportunities to meet a need that hasn’t yet been met. Keep your eyes and ears open. Many now successful app development companies started out doing web development for clients and, along the way, recognized an opportunity to build a service that now reaches a much wider audience.
It’s time to get started! Check out the book Rich20Something, it’s lays out exactly how to create a freelance business from scratch and level up your life.
Jonathan Wold is a full-time web developer with more than 13 years of experience building websites. He specializes in building websites with WordPress and he is passionate about sharing what he’s learned with others. He is writing a guide to teach beginners how to build a web development business on WordPress.