A Nerd’s World is a full-service agency, and we offer an array of digital solutions. Although we have a well-rounded arsenal, I have to say that the bread and butter of my company are websites. We generate over $2 million in revenue annually, and a significant percentage of that comes from custom built websites. I have an amazing team of Nerds working out of our headquarters in Toronto, and I’ve hand-picked them for specific skills and things that they can contribute to the company. In turn, I am very up front with what I expect and how we manage to maintain our reputation as the best website development company in Toronto. I’ve compiled a list of tips that I’ve implemented in my organization, however, can be used by any aspiring web developer.
1. Start a portfolio
Clients want to see a sample of your work–the fruits of your labour if you will. Building a portfolio allows you to showcase what you can offer your clients, and also helps establish your brand. If you don’t have thousands of websites under your belt, not to worry. We all have to start somewhere, and a great place to start is to offer your services for free. We’ve provided pro-bono services to not-for-profits, and this allowed us to sharpen our skills and streamline our development process. Also, in the creative realm, agency clients like to hear big names. We approached the Wu-Tang Clan a few years back, and offered to design their site for free. The famous New York based rap group accepted our offer, and in turn, they credited us with building the site which led to several opportunities.
2. Offer Competitive, Affordable Pricing
When you start out as a developer, you need to keep in mind that this is a very competitive industry. You’re a small fish in a big pond, and it’s important to keep your pricing affordable, as well as up-front. There’s nothing more disappointing, if not frustrating, than being sold on a product or service and learning about hidden fees. It’s like walking into a jewellery store, falling in love with a Rolex, only to see the tiny tag poking out of the watch. At first, you think ti’s $5,000 which is a lot for a watch, but once the jeweller takes it out of the case to show you, you see that there was hidden zero. A difference of $45,000 isn’t something to sniff at. As you build your portfolio, establish your brand, and expand your client base across various industries, you can increase your prices gradually.
3. Research competition
Performing your due Diligence is of particular importance when you’re starting off. When I first opened the flagship store, I picked up the phone and called five Toronto website design companies. I pretended I was a local butcher who had no background in web design. I asked questions, probed, took notes, and pushed buttons. After every conversation, I would grade the competitor on their customer service, services, and features that I liked, and things that I felt were their pitfalls. Find out what makes your competition successful, then fine tune it to make it better.
4. Find Different ways to Promote
People don’t magically hire you to build your website. You need to build a presence and promote your service. Find your target audience, and sell them. There are several networking opportunities for start-ups across the city. I’ve promoted our web services at conventions. It’s important to have a healthy mix of marketing strategies to get your brand in front of your targeted audience. From cold calling and print collateral to guerilla marketing, paid web advertising and social media campaigns, promotion is a key player in any successful business plan.
5. Be Client Driven
People who follow their passion are wealthier than those who follow money. Wealth can take many forms–not only monetarily, but also in your quality of life. If your goal is to be a millionaire, there are several steps you need to take to become one. You will find that offering a quality service, and taking pride in something you enjoy will eventually bring in revenue–not the other way around.
1. One Night Stands & Judging Books by their Covers
I don’t believe in one-night stands in business. What do I mean? Picture this, you meet a gentleman who smells of old money. He’s wearing a Tom Ford suit and has a Millguass timepiece. His budget of $120,000 would be a developer’s dream. After assessing his needs, we conclude that it will only cost $30,000 to build his website. He is pleased to learn this and places a deposit of 50% down on the project. Our company just made 15k in revenue—but the relationship doesn’t stop there. We don’t just hit and quit. We nurture the romance, wine and dine, and build trust. What this does is make the client happy, which leads to repeat business and referrals. Alternately, if someone who was tatted to high-heaven and smelled like pizza said they had a budget of $28,000, and expressed the same needs as Mr. Money Bags, I would quote that person the same price. Although it’s two grand over their budget, the pricing is honest. You will find that often, in these situations, clients are more likely to find the additional funds for a high-quality product. Be fair and consistent when pricing your services.
2. Over Promise
I’ve been promised many things in life–some promises have been kept, and several have been broken. Because of this, I’ve learned never to over-promise clients. Set realistic, attainable goals, no matter what the customer demands. Not being able to follow through on a promise breaks trust and will eventually ruin your reputation.
When a client sends an enquiry, our Nerds reply promptly. As part of good work ethic, this keeps you on top on your game and establishes structure. Laziness is toxic and has ruined several businesses. By finding your comfort zone when it comes to timelines and what you’re capable of as a developer will help you become more efficient.
4. Start on the wrong foot
Honesty is the best policy. If you start off on the wrong foot, you will find that your dirty secrets will haunt you in the future. You would be surprised at the number of developers who try to pass others’ work off as their own. Even if you’re not happy with your portfolio, it’s yours–clients can take it or leave it, but you can rest assured that there are no false expectations.
5. Pray for success
Remember when you wanted to go to the prom with your secret high school crush, Nicole Fill-in-the-Blank? Do you remember when you didn’t ask her to the prom and ended up going by yourself? Clients don’t put money in front of you unless you work for it. This business requires constant grinding to succeed. Knock on doors, pound the pavement, your business is not automated, and websites don’t build themselves.
Wanting success paints a pretty picture, but working for success makes it a reality.
Chris A. Hughes