How to Start a Web Design Agency [Legal, Ops, Getting Clients]

UX & Product Design
Team Slam
Helping you win online

Congrats! You’ve decided to start a web design agency! It’s an exciting time, but you’ve spent hundreds of hours searching for what you need, have 20 tabs open, and have no idea where to start. No worries. Here at Slam Media Lab (Slam), we've done it and have the resources you need to start a web design agency!

Why listen to us?

We aren’t just giving you a list of steps. We’re giving you a list of carefully curated resources to start a web design agency. 

We were once where you are. Three years ago, our founder, Silvia Li Sam, started our web design agency with a dream, a laptop, and a metric ton of iced lattes. 

We made mistakes. And because it wasn’t that long ago, we can remember these mistakes vividly enough to keep you from doing the same.

We’re crushing it. Slam went from a start-up to an award-winning 2-million-dollar digital marketing agency in just two years.

We care. Slam caters to 30+ brands and founders focused on impact. Take a look at Slam Media Lab’s case studies to see a pattern in the businesses and organizations we serve. Our clients include Worklife Ventures, Peer Health Exchange, The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Voltus, Intrax, Elemental Excelerator, Easterseals, and more. Like them, we put our hearts into our work, and helping entrepreneurs is one of the things we do best; now, we’re here to help you.

That is why we decided to start Slam’s How to Start an Agency Course focused on web design, packed with 20+ templates and blueprints to grow your digital marketing agency into a million-dollar business within a year. The course covers topics including:

  • Slam's perspective on our decision to start our own web design and SEO agency during the pandemic, which has brought in over $2 million in revenue by 2023.
  • Strategies for pinpointing your niche, conducting in-depth research, and initiating your hunt for clients.
  • Comprehensive guidance on setting up your business legally and operationally, from registering your company to choosing banking solutions.
  • The behind the scenes on making strong proposals that convert effectively and win clients.
  • Techniques for promoting your agency through branding, SEO, and social media tactics.
  • Tips on enhancing your workflow with the help of ChatGPT.
  • And so much more!

Watch the trailer:

We've been floored by excitement and are offering 75% OFF to people who sign up with special code AGENCY100 using this link.

What is a Web Design Agency?

A web design agency is a company that specializes in developing brands, and creating and designing websites for individuals, businesses, and organizations. These agencies typically offer services such as:

  • Web layout design,
  • Graphic design, 
  • Content, 
  • User experience (UX) - intuitive, visually appealing, and user-friendly interfaces,
  • Website development - security, scalability, and performance

The primary focus of a web design agency is to produce visually appealing, functional, and user-friendly websites that effectively represent their clients’ brands and meet their specific business needs.

Start Your Web Design Agency in 10 Steps

When we started our web design agency, we spent hundreds of hours figuring out everything from the legal setup and positioning to how to pay taxes and, most importantly, acquire customers. This is why we’ve compiled everything in our How to Start an Agency” course, so you can get rolling quicker! We’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

So let’s get started and dive into each step!

  1. Register your web design agency business
  2. Domain registration 
  3. Naming your agency
  4. Designing your logo and brand
  5. Building your website
  6. Setting up your social media platforms
  7. Promoting your past work
  8. How to find clients

Find Your Website Agency’s Niche 

Identify the specific niche(s) you want to serve. To do so, start with research.

Firs step: List 10 niches you know a lot about or are very curious about. What kind of businesses are they? Think dentists, Series A startups, restaurants, fitness centers, etc. 

Now, go more narrow. Once you pick these 10, you want to narrow it more down.

If you picked dentists, then target orthodontists for adults. If you picked Series A startups, pick an industry like Series A startups in finance or healthcare. 

We touch on how to do this research in our course. Sign up now!

Research Your Web Site Agency’s Competition (And Offer Something Better)

First, the challenging part: the web design industry is pretty crowded, so expect some stiff competition. But here's the good news: there's a huge demand for web design services since almost every business and organization needs to be online. And you're in a great position to jump into this market.

For finding your niche, think about where your skills can really fill a gap. Look for areas that aren't overwhelmed with competitors but still have a need for the kind of services you offer. This approach can help you stand out and succeed in the industry.

To really understand your target market and the competition, start by analyzing the demand for web design services. Dive into search engine queries that are popular in your area of focus. How extensive are these search results? Examine the structure of the websites that appear. What design elements or features are they using effectively? What type of clients do they target? How much do they charge in average?

Pro tip: Platforms like Clutch or Design Rush can also show you a list of web design agencies in different cities, and how they rank. This can tell you a lot about what clients value and the areas where your competitors might be falling short. Look at the kind of feedback they receive. Are clients praising their creativity, speed, or customer service? Or are there common complaints that you could address in your own agency?

Lastly, take a close look at the client lists of your competitors. Who are they working with? What types of industries do they seem to be focusing on? Understanding their client base can help you identify your own potential niche markets and how you can differentiate your services to appeal to these clients. This comprehensive approach will give you a well-rounded understanding of the market and how to position your web design agency effectively.

Create Your Web Design Agency’s Brand

Starting a web design agency involves several key steps to set a strong foundation for your business. Here's an expanded guide on how to kick-start this process:

  1. Register your web design agency business
  2. Domain registration 
  3. Naming your agency
  4. Designing your logo and brand
  5. Building your website
  6. Setting up your social media platforms
  7. Promoting your past work
  8. How to find clients

Registering Your Agency Business

This is a crucial first step in formalizing your business. Registering as an LLC (Limited Liability Company) gives you legal protection and establishes your agency as a professional entity. This process varies slightly depending on your location but is generally straightforward and can be completed quickly. We’ll go over all the different options in our How to Start an Agency course.

Domain Registration

Your agency's domain name is its online identity. Choose a name that aligns with your agency's brand, is easy to remember, and can be easily associated with your services. You can use platforms like GoDaddy, NameCheap, Squarespace, etc.

Naming Your Web Design Agency

Your agency's name is more than just a label; it's the first insight into your brand's personality and ethos. This name should be memorable, unique, and SEO-friendly to ensure your agency is easily found online. Brainstorm a variety of names, check domain availability, and get feedback from peers before finalizing your choice.

For Slam, I picked my initials and found a domain that fit it! I am very happy with my choice.

Designing Your Web Design Agency’s Logo

Don’t have to tell you how important this is to a web designer. A logo really says a lot about your own brand. If you’re not a designer and are trying to start your own web design agency, that’s okay! Use design tools like Canva or Adobe Illustrator to create a logo that embodies your agency's values and appeals to your target audience. Your brand's visual identity, including color schemes and typography, should also be consistent across all platforms. If you’re in Canva, they have a lot of templates you can use.

Building Your Website

As a web design agency, your website is your most critical portfolio piece. It should not only showcase your design skills but also be user-friendly, informative, and optimized for search engines. Spend time making sure your website reflects the quality and creativity of the services you offer. At Slam, we use Webflow. But there are a lot of platforms out there you can use: Framer, WordPress, Squarespace. Don’t let the tool stop you from building and shipping!

Setting Up Your Social Media Platforms

When potential clients search for your web design agency, your social media profiles play a role in their first impressions. It's important to set up and manage these platforms to showcase your brand effectively.

Depending on your niche and target audience, select platforms that are most frequented by your potential clients. LinkedIn is a must. If your target market is more visually oriented, Instagram and TikTok are great for showcasing designs. Each platform serves a different purpose and reaches a different audience.

Use your social media to display your portfolio and designs. Before-and-after shots, design concepts, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into projects can be a great way to show case studies and projects.

In our course, we’ll walk you through how to set-up your Facebook page to show that it has likes and presence. Sign up now!

Promoting Your Past Web Design Work

When starting a web design agency, showcasing your past work is a must in attracting new clients. However, not everyone has an extensive portfolio of personal projects, especially if they are transitioning from freelancing or previous employment. Here are some tips to effectively promote your past work in these scenarios:

  1. For Freelancers:
  1. Showcase Your Process: Share the journey of your projects from conception to completion. This could include initial sketches, wireframes, and design iterations. It helps potential clients understand your approach and problem-solving skills.
  2. Highlight the Final Product: Ensure you display the finished website or design work prominently. Use high-quality images or interactive elements to show the effectiveness of your designs.
  3. Tie Work to Your Niche: Connect each project to the niche you have chosen for your agency. Explain how your designs have addressed specific needs or challenges within that niche, demonstrating your expertise and understanding of the target market.
  1. For Those with Web Design Jobs:
  • Select Relevant Projects: Choose projects you significantly contributed to and are most relevant to your agency’s focus. It’s important to pick work that aligns with the services you now offer.
  • Give Appropriate Credit: Be transparent about your role in each project. If it was a team effort, make it clear. You can say something like, “As part of the design team at [Previous Company], I contributed to the UX/UI design of this project.”
  • Seek Permission if Necessary: In some cases, you might need to get permission from your former employer to showcase the work, especially if there are confidentiality agreements involved.
  • Focus on Skills Demonstrated: Instead of taking full credit for the project, focus on the specific skills or aspects you were responsible for. This could be anything from user interface design to creating specific graphics or layouts.

How to Find Your First Web Design Clients

Finding clients isn’t easy. I won’t lie to you. It’s definitely one of the hardest parts of starting your own agency. With that being said, if I could do it, you can too!

Here are some of the strategies I used. In our comprehensive course, we go over each of these methods in detail, providing you with the tools and knowledge needed to successfully get clients for your agency. Here's an overview of the key strategies we'll cover:

  1. Referrals and Word of Mouth: This is one of the most effective ways to gain new clients. Encourage satisfied clients to refer others to your agency. Word of mouth can build your credibility and trustworthiness faster than many other marketing methods.
  2. Leveraging Platforms like Upwork: Online platforms such as Upwork can be a great place to start, especially for newer agencies. They allow you to connect with clients looking for web design services and can be a steady source of projects.
  3. Engaging in Targeted Groups by Niche: Participate in online communities and groups related to your niche. Platforms like LinkedIn groups, niche-specific forums, and Facebook groups can be excellent for networking and finding potential clients.
  4. Utilizing Social Media: Platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter can be powerful tools for showcasing your work, engaging with potential clients, and building your brand presence.
  5. Cold Emailing: While it can be challenging, cold emailing can also be very effective when done right. It involves reaching out to potential clients who may not know about your agency. This method requires a well-crafted approach to grab attention and generate interest.
  6. Content Marketing: Developing and sharing high-quality content that is optimized for search engines is a key strategy to attract clients to your web design agency. This involves creating insightful blog posts, articles, and resources that not only showcase your expertise in web design but are also rich with relevant keywords. By doing so, you improve your website's search engine ranking, making it easier for potential clients to find you when they search for web design services. The majority of Slam’s clients come from SEO. If you’re not familiar with SEO, take a look at our free SEO terms guide or read about how to choose keywords for SEO.

Start Your Web Design Agency With Confidence

You’re now ready to run a successful web design agency! So what’s next? It’s time to take it to the next level.

Access dozens of resources. You’ll have access to dozens of tools including checklists, templates, and step-by-step guides. These resources are designed to provide practical support and streamline the process of setting up and running your agency.

Our course is structured into detailed modules that cover every aspect of starting a web design agency. From the basics of setting up your business, understanding legal requirements, to mastering client acquisition strategies, we've got it all covered. Plus, you'll get the following agency tool templates for free:

Coming Soon!

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