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What I Learned | My First Client | Web Startup

A little bit about me

My name is James and I have been doing full stack web development for since 2002. Mind you until recently this was only a hobby that I have only recently decided to turn into a career path. Now, that is not to say that I haven't been "keeping up with the code-ashions", throughout the years I have observed and kept up with the evolution of everything from HTML/CSS/JS/PHP/SQL to frameworks and tools like Node.JS and Bootstrap. I understand that this is most likely not the case for most of you, but don't worry. As long as you are adept at using a search engine and you have the drive to learn/implement new concepts you will be just fine! Anyway, let's get into it!

Services / Setting rate

Depending on your experience level you may be able to offer services from a wide range of possible services. You may also want to pay a contractor to do some of the things you cannot. I did this for Dev-ops work on my first project and I am glad I did. Some of the services I am able to offer are:

  • Web Design (Figma)
  • Web Development
  • Managed Hosting (contracted out)
  • Dev-ops (contracted out)

As far as setting a rate goes this is completely up to you. Do you want paid a lump sum on a per project basis? Would you rather charge based on an *hourly rate x project time estimate"? You can also have a mix of box which was ultimately the way I chose to go. We will cover this below.

Finding the first client / Being sought out

This is a notoriously hard step that I kinda lucked out on but I will explain how it worked for me so that you may be able to find your first client successfully.

Word-of-mouth is one of the great advertising tools out there. Even with most modern advancements this method is still regarded as one of the best! I know, asking for help is hard, but believe me you will regret no asking for help more often than you will for having asked for help. Now, how do we use this helpful method??? Family and friends, of course, by starting a conversation on social media we can ask the people we know whether they know anybody in need of our services. This is the method I chose and it worked out well for me. Within one day of reaching out for help I was talking to who I am now able to call my first client!

Just a small note, there is no one direct way to success at this stage, I have heard it said, "In order to be successful as a web agency startup you need to understand that luck plays a large roll but not as large a roll as drive, determination and willpower."

In the comments please let us know any other methods you have used. Was it successful? How are things going now?

Landing the project / Getting hired

It is important to keep in mind that once you have found a potential client, or they have found you, this is not a done deal just yet. Actually, it is at this stage is where a lot of soft skills come into play, and it seems the most important aspect of this stage (and many others) is effective communication. You may be communicating over DMs, email or in so many other ways. You should remain concise and professional at all times.

What should this conversation entail? Well, this is a highly variable situation and is not a cookie-cutter type thing. These conversations have an ebb-and-flow with some basic consistencies across many projects. Some of the information you will likely be asked for is as such:

  • How much experience do you have in _____?
  • What is your rate?
  • Do you offer ____?
  • Can you provide examples of other relevant projects?

NOTE: Sometimes you will find out that they have paid another agency to do work for them in the past. Sometimes this may mean that you are expected to re-work an old agency's shoddy work. In the case of my first client this was a near $1,000 site in which she had to remove due to copy-written materials that the other agency has used. This resulted in the need for a fresh build.

If the client seems interested after interviewing you then we can proceed.There are questions you will need answers for in order to offer up a proposal for the job:

  • Is this a fresh build or a redevelopment of an existing build?
  • What are the features they will be needing?
  • Do they need a design made or will they be providing one?
  • Will they need media/assets or will they be providing them?
  • Are they using a hosting/managed hosting platform?
  • Do they have a tech stack in mind?
  • Will they need managed hosting?
  • Do they own a domain name (or multiple)?
  • What is the time frame for release?

From these questions we can start to build a foundation from which to work from. I will use my first client as an example below:

Evaluating Work / Scoping out the project / Making a proposal

Once we have gathered the relevant information we can begin to look closer at the job itself. We will want to make sure that we can not only provide the services needed but that we can do it within the allotted time frame.

NOTE: You may need to outsource some of the work to contractor(s) or other agencies and this is perfectly fine. I had to employ the help of a dev-ops friend in order to deliver for my first client. Don't assume that because you know server-side or back-end programming that you also know how to configure servers.

To make sure that we are able to deliver the work we promise we must review the answers we get to this question and break it down into its constituent parts. In order to do this effectively I took the information I gathered and made the following Document:
Scope Document

You will notice how this document contains a layman explanation, a detailed list of technical jobs and a breakdown of price (per service). This ensures that we are being entirely transparent with our client as to our intentions.

Once completed and we are happy with the scope we should send this over to the potential client to review. Only once there is a mutually agreed upon scope will we begin the work!

What's next?

If you vetted everything appropriately you should be able to get to work on your first client's project!


You can find my first client's website Here!

To employ us for your next web project:
Phone: (814)485-1621

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