A starrtup idea

A student wrote to me: “I graduated in Computer Science and currently working for a software company. I like to start my own startup develop websites for business companies. Do you think it is a good idea? What do I need? Please advice.

Answer: To begin a startup developing websites for other business is a good idea. A website serves as a marketing tool for business but most business owners do not have the skills to build website so this opens an opportunity for web developers and web design professionals. With the extensive use of smart phones and Internet, more companies are using website to advertise their business, especially restaurants and retails stores need these types of marketing.

Before starting a company, you need to identify the target customers. This is important because it will help you to identify who you will be providing your services to. The target customers will help determine the skills that you need because you want to make sure you can provide a quality services to your customers. Building website for a large global company is different from building website for small local company. Building in interactive website is different from a static website. As a small startup you also need to analyze the market and identify who are your competitors, what they do and how much they charge their customers.

You need to determine your operating budget. Knowing your budget will help you determine the type of customers that you can reach for your web development business. You have limited capital so you must be careful and not wasting time for any type of customer but select your target customer carefully. You need to do a market analysis to see who could be your customer today? (Targeted customers) Who you could reach out to? (Served customers) before going further for the total market. While web market size is big with a lot of potential such as downloads, page views, and large users but the key for every startup is still revenue. Do not confuse users (Who may not pay) and customers (who pay).

Marketing your startup web design business is very important. Of course, you should setup your own website to advertise your company but most potential customers may not access the Internet to look for someone to build website for them. You will need to follow the traditional marketing by having business cards and brochures for marketing your web design business. You need to contact targeted customers personally as the way to reach your customers. Even you may get some customers but you also need to determine how to keep them? What will happen if they switch to your competitors? You will need a strategy to retain them and grow your business.

There are two basic things in providing web development service: Building the website and maintain the website. Many businesses just want a static website but in today environment, static website is dead. No one will reach for static website anymore. So you must be able to convince customers by having an interactive website and you can maintain it for a monthly fee. A static web site that unchanged is not a good website so to market on the web, you need to link that with other website or have your own reviews to keep people from coming back.

As a business, you need to have few sample websites as a demonstration for them to choose and make sure that they sign a contract agreement before you start of any work. A signed contract is the only way that guarantees payment for your work. As an entrepreneur and a business person, you need to learn how to manage your time wisely. This involves pricing your services appropriately to justify the time you spend working. If the website is complex and take longer than the price should be higher than a simple website. Do NOT consider “working hard” just to get business but you must “working smart”. You need time to do the work AND time to contact the customers. If you spend all your time to build website than who are going to contact customers? Who will reach customers? Who will do the marketing?

You must test your websites in all the major web browsers in order to ensure they function within different browsers correctly. You must learn about search engine optimization (SEO) to attract web traffic using keywords and headline tags because a website will only be effective if people can find the site. You must be careful about using copyrights on photographs. There are many photographs available on the Internet but some have copyright. Using somebody’s copyrighted photographs can lead to legal troubles. You must have your own picture or find royalty-free photographs to use for your web development business.

A startup building website is a good start for any software developer as it does not require a lot of investment. Anyone with a computer and skills can do it so competition could be fierce but consider this as a learning experience and as you are growing the company, you will learn more and as long as you are serious and do not give up, you will succeed.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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