The First Year of Doing Web Design Business

Technically, this is not my first year. This is my 12 years of getting paid for what I do.

It pays the bill, gets stuff done, but just enough. Looking back, moving solo was a lot easier than motivating others to catch up to you. After all, work leave their mind as they step out of the office. Not bashing, just stating the facts, they are simply not paid to think about it.

There were loads of problem and blessing. So here goes.

1. Motivating Web Designers

Phewww. I never knew it was this difficult. Pouring energy out to someone just to uplift them, only to see them sink again next week is tiring as hell. It's a vicious cycle, it's damaging and brings out all the negativity in me. I call them vampires.

It's what vampires do, suck out the life out of you.

What I did was, instead of motivating and giving them my limited energy, I asked them what do they like most about their work. Are they curious enough about the work? Do they want to be better at what they do? I don't expect them to answer on the spot, but allow them to think about it for a week.

In one week time, they came back and gave me how they see themselves in the future. I told them, then go all in. Be invested in it. Their goal doesn't have to be ambitious, just as long as the dot connects to mine.

A month later I found them in same pitfall.. what a bummer.


2. Not Enough Cashflow

Cash is the single most important matter in any given business. Without cash, you can't do anything. There was a time where I had to dig deep into my pocket and pay the staff. I don't like owing people. Hey, I'm a self-elect leader, I should act like one and leaders eat last. It's ok to not have money, it's not the end, it just means you have to work harder (or smarter).


3. Operating at Loss

Not all projects are profitable. Despite charging client at 5 digit figures, they are still at loss. This is mainly due to

  1. Underestimating the work - so I thought we'll just buy this plugin, that plugin, and this, it'll work. No, it doesn't. Debugging can cause a massive headache (and heartache), especially if you face it for the entire day!
  2. Client moves the goal post - This normally happens when the client has yet to form any idea what they want. They want to see it first, then decide later. Well, 75% of people are Visual people, they want to see it then adjust later. Unfortunately, that's how the digital world works. Had this been architect, it would be really expensive to change the design and function of a space.
  3. Lack of Technical Ability - Sometimes we bite more than we can chew. Damn, that's damaging. As a result, we had to outsource some bit of it, which cost me my earlobe.
  4. Under Quote - Too shy to renegotiate? Then swallow it! That's the price I had to pay. Thankfully have a bloody good Operation Manager. she will do the billing and chasing.


4. Whoring Idea

My role as a designer is to solve a problem, not create more. The issue is when Tom Dick and Harry decides with their gut instinct. Similarly, you wouldn't tell a car painter how to paint the car, but why do it? The worst bit is we actually followed!

So, what was set out to be an elegant, cool, fresh design becomes a complete mashup of ideas. It has no motive, no real concept, but hey, it just works!

I'm not happy with it, but we need to get paid, and quickly. Slap this and that and we're done.


5. Focusing on the Wrong Thing!

Sometimes I'm just invested in the wrong thing. Like coding, for example, I know someone out there is a lot better than me, but yet, to save money, I do it myself. The result is "save money today, poorer tomorrow."

I should be investing time for tomorrow, instead, I spent today doing dirty works.

This, I have to agree with Pareto's Law, 80-20 rule. "Only 20% of what you do today matters!". I would love to focus on that 20% daily.


6. Wrong Tool for the Wrong Job.

I learned this the hard way. You can't think everyone is as passionate as you are. Back-end developers may not like front-end, likewise the other way around too. Yes, they can code, but it'll be a massive let down.

Backend developer thinking - as long as it works

Frontend developer thinking - as long as it looks good.

The two mindset is like oil and water. They can't mix. It's very rare to find a hybrid that understands the importance of both. As my mentor said, "You can't ask the fish to climb a tree".


7. Not All Marketing Tools Works the Same Way

After convinced that Facebook ads were the way to go, I poured in not less than RM5k for the entire year. It was a major bummer. Facebook does not work on Business to Business. Especially if you want high-end customers. Facebook attracts low-end customers.

I got a call one day, he explained to me what he wanted to achieve this and that.. yadda-yadda. I happily listened for 1 hour. Turns out, his budget was RM500. What he wanted to build was in the region of RM 120k.

So no, Facebook is now a place for us to share ideas, update our work, and that's about it.

You want high paying customers? Go nurture them!


I learned this the hard way and willing to share my ups and down so you don't repeat the same mistake. Transitioning from Freelancing to an agency takes time, courage, patience and money. A lot of battles up ahead, and it's only the beginning.

Work, Learn, Pray. Repeat x100,000,000,000.

A share would be, Sublime.

Hi, I'm Edwin

I'm a multilayer Marketer + Designer that helps businesses get more leads. My core skills are web design, SEO and Copywriting. I work at Web Design, Laman7

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