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How Can I Make Money Selling Web Solutions? Part 2

The biggest opportunity for making money selling web solutions is in custom website development. Before you stop reading because you think that is beyond your skillset, let me first define what I mean.

Money: in the black, actual real profit that makes a significant impact on how you do business.

Custom: meaning made or done to order. When you sell business cards, you don’t force each and every client to use the same colors, same fonts, same paper, etc. The same is true with websites. Each customer will have a separate set of needs that typically requires a design that is created just for their site. This design could be made from scratch, or it could be a modified template or skin. As with printing, the level of design depends on the client’s needs, goals and budget.

Website Development: this is the part that usually freaks out the uninitiated. Something about the word development just sounds unreachable and hard. Even the word development takes a long time to say… dee-vel-ohp-ment. I can drag it out for seconds. All website development really is, is finding the right set of tools or functions to create a website that fits your client’s needs. As with design, much of the website development no longer has to be done from scratch. Development is akin to baking a cake. You can go out and harvest the wheat and grind it down to make flour for the cake, or you can go to the store and buy the ingredients. The end result is the same for both, you get a homemade, custom cake. However, one way is relatively simple and quick and the other way is labor and time intensive.

For most small business owners, a cake made from a scratch with their custom colors for the frosting will suffice. However, some clients may need you to bake a Gluten or Dairy free cake that is free of Red dye #40 and smells like cinnamon on the outside and vanilla on the inside.  Both of these kinds of clients can be lucrative if we understand the client’s needs, set proper expectations and if we understand how to use and manipulate the tools to create the perfect website for each client. 

Websites can come in a few different forms:

  1. Template Based Site – a template site is one that comes with a design already created that provides for modest amount of customizations. Typically these are images, color or image changes as well as the ability to add a customer logo. To keep  with our cake theme, a template site is like a cake bought from a grocery store bakery. The cake is made before you even decided to purchase  it so not much can be changed once you have decided to buy.  A template site may come with some industry content built in and usually provides the site administrator the ability to add content to specific areas of the using an editor of some kind. Template sites are typically what large hosting firms offer at a bargain price. They may come with a low set up fee and small monthly hosting fee. Since the site owner can do a lot of the work on a template site, the opportunity for large profits selling a template site is small. The larger opportunity here for a printer is to look for clients who are utilizing a template site (often denoted in the footer of the website). Quite often, a template site is an easy starting point for a client to get on the web but it rarely satisfies all of their needs.
  2. Custom Design Website (built using a web builder application) –the big difference between a custom site and a template site is the ability to tailor the site to the client’s specific needs. This is your cake made from scratch. You have more control over the flavor, color and size of the cake than you would if you were buying it pre-made. This type of site may be creating using a website builder application but it is designed and created specifically for the client. The design will be a custom theme with modules selected specifically for the client. This type of web design will satisfy the vast majority of  small business owner’s needs. There may need to be a customization here or there that would be handled by a developer, but the customizations tend to be minor tweaks to an existing application rather than having to create a whole new application to satisfy their needs.
    This is also the area where there is a large opportunity for you to build a new revenue stream. Taking the time to learn a website building application, sourcing the right partners and creating your sales plan (more on this in “Is it time to add web services to your repertoire?” ) will pay dividends in the web development market.  Efficiently building good looking and functional websites that fit your client’s need while providing consistently good customer service, will provide you a steady stream of new customers and ongoing revenue.
  3. Custom Website– there are relatively few instances where a client will come to you with a set of specifications that require a site to be built from the ground up. Parts of the many sites may require customizations, but an entirely custom project that can’t leverage any technology that currently exists, is rare and expensive due to the number of hours required to code the application and test it to ensure it works as expected.  In the cake world, this would be similar to that example of growing and nurturing all your own ingredients, then harvesting them, preparing them and using them to create your cake. If you engage with a client that needs something for their site that doesn’t currently exist, understand that this will be time consuming and a drain on resources if you do not allocate and prepare for it properly. These kinds of projects can also be very lucrative if you have quoted it properly and have the right talent or partners to create it. These are also the kind of projects where communication about expectations, additional fees, change orders, etc. is paramount to ensure project success. If communication breaks down, the project tends to stall as well. This kind of project isn’t the norm for most businesses (small or large) and isn’t the path I would recommend you start  your web development career with. Getting your feet wet with a few custom sites that don’t require heavy customization is typically the best way to jump start your web development division.

Adding custom website development to your list of services can be an immediate money maker. You will have to make an investment of time and money, however, with a strong sales pipeline and a commitment to marketing and supporting this new division you should see profits early on with this service addition. When you position yourself as a marketing services provider, your client’s will see web development as a natural extension to the services you are already providing them. It’s like adding cake to your ice cream shop; people really like to eat the two of those things together.