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Starting a Business


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#1
boob

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I am graduating high school in a couple months and planning on starting a local web design business for the summer. I am familiar with HTML and Macromedia Software. Right now I'm buying the things I need to set up a small network in my parent’s house so I can host the web sites on a dedicated server.

So my question is... any advice?

I just need a few sources on where I can learn more about professional design and e-commerce. Anything on search engine optimization will be extremely helpful as well. Anything anyone can tell me about how to go about doing this and being successful and what I should charge and how I should decide what to charge will be helpful. Any extra information you have to offer please do!

Also, I live in NE Missouri where there are a lot of small businesses that could use web sites. My major local competition is www.web-erectors.com. Also, what is a good site to purchase domain names from?

Thank you all in advance for any information or advice you have to offer. I really do appreciate it!

Edited by boob, 25 March 2006 - 12:57 PM.

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#2
thenotch

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set up a small network in my parent’s house so I can host the web sites on a dedicated server


THAT is mistake number one and you haven't desinged a single page.

A home connection, DSL or cable, is NOT a reliable and viable method for hosting other peoples websites. Your server may be a great system, configured great, but you are lacking any type of bandwidth and your clients would be sharing it with your parents which would so compeltely slow things down for not only your parents but more specifically for your clients. You also have limited upload rates (which would be your clients download rates) which again would end up being pretty slow with even two clients (think about it.. two clients who both get thousabds of daily hits, all this piping through your parents DSL or Cable connection... SLOOOOW).

Next, YOU aren't paying the bill, so if the connection goes down, your clients are at the mercy of not you but your parents. And even if you pay their bill all you can do is troubleshoot up to the modem at which point you are at the mercy of the phone/cable company. Hosting companies had a team setup to handle these problems and will have a quicker turn-around to get their customers back online, you have to wait for the phone/cable company to recieve the calls, come out, see whats wrong, etc etc

Next you say this is "for the summer"... then what? How many people want their web pages desinged and hosted by someone who is going to be around only for the summer and then gone? People like stability, small town and local or not, you won't get any business if they know this, and if they don't then you are starting off with a very unethical business plan of leaving them "high n' dry" when you leave...

My suggestion? If that other site that is your "competition" has an opening, why not freelance for them designing web pages? Forget about the hosting bit altogether unless you can have a serious backbone installed or you purchase a reseller account that will provide you with 24x7 support.

It all sounds like a great summer job, but there is a LOT more to it than just investigating where to get a name and setting up a server in your basement...

Good luck! :whistling:
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#3
TDXkev

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I agree. I don't think setting up a web design and hosting company is possible for you at this moment. Notch made a good point above about your connection, I would expand this to also say that you don't have any credibility built up. Unless you know the businesses personally, I don't see why they would use you when they could get an established company who has satisifed customers already.

Web design is not something to jump into lightly, a basic understanding of HTML and Macromedia Software is not really going to cut it. What I would suggest is that if you are interested in a career in Web Design, try to get an internship doing it during the summer. For example, with the competitor you mentioned. At least get some experience into the process before you jump in for yourself.

If you can't get that (which is possible since you are just graduating high school), I would just get a regular job and build your own website on the side. Try to learn the mechanics of it and what it really takes to get a site up and running.

Don't get discouraged, I like your entreprenurial (sp?) attitude.

Good luck! :whistling:
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#4
boob

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Thank you for the wishing of luck. I understand that it must sound crazy that a kid that's still in school plans to start a business, perhaps even stupid (especially the hosting part). I am taking all of this into consideration and understand that amount of work that is ahead. My idea is to start out small in order to build the credibility I need to begin a good, honest business. I have no intention of quitting after the summer is over; I simply plan to begin this business at the start of this summer. In the meantime, I am only trying to absorb any helpful information as an advantage over any local competition.

I am already capable of designing web pages that are more visually professional and appealing than my local competition and am simply looking for a solid basis for any other information that may be helpful to me, such as search page optimization and e-commerce. By starting out with small businesses (non e-commerce) I plan to prove myself and build the credibility I will need. Currently, my only credibility lies within my school where I am a second year web design student. I have also placed 1st in the FBLA Web Page Development contest for the district and the web page is currently being judged at state level.

A lot of work is ahead, but I know that I am capable of being successful. I hope to be taken seriously and would greatly appreciate any further web page design related information you have to offer. Thank you again.
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#5
thenotch

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All what you said is great, sounds like you have the skills to make the pages, but again, hosting is a whole other animal altogether and running a hosting service on your home internet connectiion is NOT a good idea.
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#6
-=blaster=-

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There is nothing wrong with running a web-server from home, as long as you have a UPS and at least a T-3 level of service. :blink:

To get started you will need a credit or debit card to be used for online purchases. Not everyone takes paypal.

I use GoDaddy for domain name registration. From there, you will need some sort of DNS. I use DynDns. I would recommend registering your domain for at least 5 years. Also, register your business with your state and/or local government and get an Employee Identification Number from the IRS. There are no fees for EIN, only taxes.

Setup a web server at home to test your creations before you upload to the main host. Linux rules in this case. The combination of apache, php, and mysql is most powerful. If you have the bandwidth to host at home, you will need a production server and a test server.

Now that you have some content, go to the Validator of Doom to ensure your creation is accurate. Your competitor does not comply. I have also noticed that your competitor produces "catalog" sites. The "contact us for more information" is most annoying for customers. The whole point of shopping online is to get prices. Take the next step and provide an actual shopping site for online purchase for those businesses that would benefit.

Learn from others, there are many free solutions to what you are trying to do. Ask yourself, why should someone pay for something they can get for free?

:whistling:
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#7
Ryan

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www.gtghosting.com :Three different plans, only difference is disk space and bandwidth.
Unlimited POP3 Mail Accounts
Unlimited MySQL Databases
Unlimited Mailing Lists
Unlimited Email Forwarders
Unlimited Subdomains
Unlimited Parked and Addon Domains
Unlimited FTP Accounts

They do take PayPal, handle domain name registration (8.95/yr) and are very reliable.
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#8
thenotch

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A bit of a better deal can be found HERE.

I have used them for two years now and haven't had one single problem with them. I also have a reseller account with them and it is VERY reasonable. So if you are wantinig to provide web hosting, I'd look into them...

The URL you posted rmurphy is not a bad deal...

And I guess what is being said here is that you do NOT want to provide hosting on your home connection unless you have the funds to purchase that T-3 line...

Investigate your web hosting options... there are plenty of low cost options that will more than meet your needs for hosting.
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#9
boob

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Thank you very much for the advice, I really do appreciate it guys. I am deffinately still in the stage of investigating all my options, I understand that by all means. Not just in web hosting but in the entire situation of starting this business. The links you have given me will be extermely helpful as well.

What would you all suggest as a fair rate to charge people on average? For an estimate example, what would you charge for this site- http://www.tnt-actio...scpage_008.asp; including graphic design and everything.

Also, my plan is to do the following when getting started: There are several small businesses that could use simple pages (like the one above). Would it be a good idea to go around to these businesses (like a saleman) in order to try to find customers? Or is doing so a mistake? In other words, should I wait for someone to come to me or should I go to them?

Thanks again.

Edited by boob, 26 March 2006 - 09:17 PM.

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#10
TaNkZ101

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well, i don't know, i mean i might go up to them, or leave a phone number and tell them all the plusses of a website. on my website i had a few advertisements for some local businesses, i came up to them and since my site had relatively good traffic, they told me after a few months that the advertisement payed off and they'd like to extend the agreement. this way i earned quite a bit of cash.
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#11
ScHwErV

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You cant just pick a site and say "how much would you charge for this". I dont know your capabilities with photoshop. I cant tell wether you use front page, or if you code in notepad. Everything depends on your abilities.

Most web designers charge by the hour. I set up an 8 hour initial package where I do 8 hours worth of work for the price of 7 hours. Then I charge by the hour after that. If you do such a thing, you have to be careful that you get in and get to work. 8 hours is almost always enough to get at least the front page up and probably a few other pages.

Your biggest problem now is that you have no idea how long it will take you to do the work. When you work with businesses, you need to have an idea. They will want a quote. They will want you to tell them how much it will cost up front and you will need to be very close to the quote. If you bid high, you lose customers. If you bid low, you work for free. These are things that you have to learn over time, its not something I can give you a google link to.

Also, if you do not intend to be around to offer support for your websites in the future, I wouldnt even bother. If I have a customer come to me with an existing website wanting support, I normally tell them that the initial fee for my services will be quite high. Thats because I have to figure out what the other guy did. Especially if the first guy used frontpage or dreamweaver. That is a lot of code that needs to be fixed.

Any new customers I get will be hosted at GTGHosting. They have excellent rates and top notch service. I know the owner, so I can say this with absolute certainty. As a web designer, I recommend that you do not offer hosting service. Tell them that you design the website, but they need to work with this other company for hosting. Itll save you a ton of hassle. When you meet your customer, take along a price sheet from GTGHosting or another business and tell them you recommend this business. Let them set up the account, or you set it up in their name. The bill goes directly to them and gets sent directly to the hoster. You dont have to mess with it.

Starting your own business is a huge step and it is not something to be taken lightly. If you take on this "business" as a summer thing and make mistakes, itll ruin your reputation. When you get out of college and want a real job, it may cost you.

As has been said before, freelance for another company. Get your feet wet without having to put your head on the line. There is a lot more to having a business with business customers who want things exactly right for exactly the right price.

ScHwErV :whistling:
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#12
boob

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As far as my abilities go I am confident that I can create more appealing web pages than all of my local competition. Also, once again, I do not have any desire on leaving all my customers at the end of the summer. I only plan to start my business at the beginning of this summer.

I do like the idea of taking around information of possible hosting companies to my customers and from there making a suggestion to them. Ideas like that are what I am looking for. Right now I am just trying to gain any ideas that may be able to work to my advantage and give me an idea of what I need to do in order to be successful. Just research. I thank you all again for your responses to my questions. I will stay posted.
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#13
TaNkZ101

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yeah and u'll get a thankyou from the owner of gtghost for the free advertising/customers!
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