How to start your web development business in India?

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A lot of people are starting a web development business. And for a good reason.

Let me start by being captain obvious.

Every business these days requires a website. Be it a small one-person business or a big multi-national business. This has given rise to a lot of web development businesses being set-up.

web development business

This is a market where there are a huge number of service providers and a huge number of buyers.

So, the opportunity is ripe for you to start your web development business.

However, not all of them succeed or are serious about running the business in the long term.

Clients are always comfortable working with a company who is serious about their business. And not some freelancer who is running a business before he/she lands up a job.

In fact, a lot of my customers are someone who has burnt their money at the hands of a freelancer who either didn’t do a good job or left the project in between because they got a good-paying job.

So, if you are serious about starting your web development business, then you have to do a few things.

Let’s look at them one by one.

Company structure for your web development business

The first and foremost thing, you need to to do is set-up a company. Because let’s be honest your future clients will be comfortable working with your company than just you.

Whenever you form a company, it also gives the right signal that you are serious about whatever you are doing.

A freelancer taking payment in his savings account doesn’t give a client the confidence that will build a long-lasting relationship.

So, what are your different options, when it comes to the formation of the company?

*Please note, following content doesn’t construe legal advice. For more details talk with your CA or CS.

Proprietorship

This is the simplest form of a company. In the case of proprietorship, there is only one person who is in charge of the company. And we call that person ‘a proprietor’.

Whenever you are forming a company, it is accompanied by legal compliances. For example, you have to pay income tax for the company or you have to pay the sales tax depending upon whether you are liable to pay sales tax.

And such compliances are minimal for a proprietorship.

Hence, it is the easiest of the options, when it comes to the formation of the company.

So, if you are the sole owner of the business and you have no partners with you, then it makes sense to go with proprietorship.

However, there are some disadvantages associated with proprietorship.

So, let’s look at the pros and cons of the proprietorship.

Pros:

  1. Easy to form
  2. Less cost of formation
  3. Minimum compliance
  4. Less time required to form the company
  5. Tax rates in various slabs

Cons:

  1. Only one person can be the owner of the company
  2. May face difficulty while applying for loans
  3. Unlimited liability, i.e. all the liabilities of the company are yours. If you don’t pay the loans, that bank can take possession of your personal belongings.

Even if there are cons associated with a proprietorship, it still remains a popular choice among business people.

Partnership

This type of company formation is good when you have more than one person owning the company. Similar to a proprietorship firm, a partnership has less compliance.

Like a proprietorship, the liability is unlimited in partnership. Additionally, the partners are liable for the actions of each other.

You can form the partnership by just creating a partnership deed on a stamp paper. Make sure you consult a lawyer, CS or CA before you sign any deed.

Since the company is formed with just a deed, the time required to form the company is very less. However, like a proprietorship firm, you don’t get slabs of income tax and there is a flat tax rate.

So, let’s look at the pros and cons of a partnership.

Pros:

  1. Easy to form
  2. Less cost of formation
  3. Minimum compliance
  4. Less time required to form the company

Cons:

  1. Flat tax rate
  2. Unlimited liability, i.e. all the liabilities of the company are yours. If you don’t pay the loans, that bank can take possession of your personal belongings.
  3. Additionally, you are responsible for the deeds of your partner.

Limited Liability Partnership

As a partnership, when there are multiple people who want to start a business, a limited liability partnership or LLP is a good option.

The major differences between an LLP and partnership are

  1. LLP needs to be registered with ROC (Registrar of Companies)
  2. Liability of each partner is limited.

However, whenever you are registering your company with RoC (Registrar of Companies) you have to get your name approved beforehand. You cannot just keep any name.

In fact, there are certain guidelines, which you have to follow while naming your company.

You can check the guidelines here.

This makes it a time-consuming process. Another disadvantage of an LLP is, it is costly to set up one. The professional charges are around Rs. 10,000 for the formation of an LLP. Depending on the city and experience of the professional, the cost will change, but it is definitely higher than what is required for a proprietorship or a partnership.

Compliance associated with an LLP is higher than the proprietorship and a partnership but less than a private limited or a limited company.

Pros:

  1. Less compliance compared to a private limited company
  2. Less cost of formation compared to a private limited company
  3. Limited liability
  4. Easier to get loans compared to a partnership.

Cons:

  1. Flat tax rate
  2. Long formation process
  3. More compliance as compared to a proprietorship or a partnership.

There are few more options apart from these three likes One Person Company (OPC), Private Limited Company (Pvt Ltd). But don’t go with these options when you are just starting out.

They are costly to form and costly to run. Not to mention the time required to form them.

And with the new stringent policies by Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the level of compliance has increased multifold.

My Recommendation

When you are just starting out, and if you are the only person looking after the company, go with Proprietorship. It is quick to form at very low cost. Additionally, the compliance requirement is very low.

As I had said earlier, contacting your clients as a company is quite different from contacting them as a freelancer.

As a company, you will get more respect, than as a freelancer. Unless you have already established yourself as a reputed freelancer.

Selecting the right technology

There are various technologies at your disposal for you to build websites and offer them to your clients.

Therefore selecting the right technology, is very important. If you select a technology which is not accepted in the market, then you are going to face an uphill task of convincing the clients to go with your choice of technology.

Just to give you an example. Following is a time series chart taken from Google Trends. Have look at it and then let’s discuss.

As you can clearly see, WordPress is far more popular CMS in India. A lot of people are searching for it. And we can safely say, people, want their website built using WordPress.

Imagine convincing the client to go with Joomla instead of WordPress.

But it doesn’t mean at all that you should ditch Joomla if you are a Joomla expert instead of WordPress. In that case, it would be senseless to take up the project because you are not an expert in WordPress.

So, what to do?

Let’s discuss a couple of scenarios

In this case, you have to invest your brain in marketing, and you should have a compelling pitch that will woo the customer away from a popular technology, to the technology you are expert in.

You have to assure the client that you will deliver the product as intended irrespective of the technology.

Also, you have to take care of the pricing factor. If your technology costs higher than the competing popular technology, you have to give the right reasons for the higher cost.

The technology you are expert in is obsolete

In this scenario, you are helpless. There is no other option but to learn new technology and start providing services in that technology.

Invest in the right technology

Technologies keep coming and going. Therefore, it is imperative for you to select the right technology. You don’t want your investment to go bad right?

Let’s say you learn technology X and suddenly, that has disappeared. Not only you will lose money, clients but time too. And you cannot afford to lose time. Money can be earned back but time?

Take a look at following Google Trend.

It shows, how many times certain PHP frameworks were searched. Have a look and then let’s discuss it.

Assume, you started learning Zend framework around 2014. As you can see, Zend, Laravel, Yii, CakePHP were equally popular during that time. So, Zend wouldn’t have been a bad choice at that time.

But now you can clearly see, it is nowhere as popular as Laravel.

So, your investment has now gone bad and someone who took up Laravel is probably getting a lot of projects. In fact, Zend never gained popularity.

The moral of the story is to take up a technology that will stand the test of time and take your web development business forward.

Selecting that right technology will reduce your marketing burden and the path to get clients will be a bit easier.

Be a master of one

Jack of all trades and master of none doesn’t work in the business. You should be a master of the technologies, you are going to use to build websites for your clients.

Having some knowledge of PHP, some knowledge of Java, some knowledge of Python, is no good. You won’t be able to take complex projects, that require complete knowledge of the technology.

Ultimately you will lose the high ticket projects because of it.

So, be a master of one rather than someone who knows a little bit of everything. This will further help you with positioning. What is positioning? that we will see soon.

Selecting one technology to start with

In the previous section, we saw being the master of one helps down the line. Now, we are going to see, how it helps.

When you are starting your business, you may be tempted to pitch multiple technologies. You may be expert in PHP and Java. And you are completely capable of completing any project in either technology.

While pitching all the technologies, you are expert in makes sense, it is very difficult to complete projects in different languages when you are a team of one person.

Switching from one language to another, or one framework to another is not easy as it sounds.

I have made this mistake, and I found it very difficult to develop different projects using different technologies simultaneously.

Therefore you should start with one technology only. Unless you have a partner or a team that is dedicated to particular technologies.

Additional advantage

The additional advantage you get with pitching one technology is you can start pitching yourself as an expert in a particular technology.

However, as I discussed in the previous section, you should select and pitch the right technology. A technology that is here to stay for a foreseeable future.

My Recommendation

Read what experts are saying about technologies. Read the documentation. Talk with experts before going ahead with a certain technology. It is going to be a long-term investment. And it should not go bad. And of course, keep on learning new technologies. And as you will grow your team, you will be able to take up projects in the new technology.

Creating your brand presence for your web development business

A business without a brand identity is like a shop without the door. Your business although has a name requires a branding exercise.

Your customers and prospects should start identifying you by your brand name, your logo or even your slogan or tag line.

It won’t happen in one day for sure, but you have to start somewhere. And there is no good time like today to start your efforts.

So, what goes into creating a brand identity?

Logo soon becomes the face of your business. People start recognising your company by the logo itself. The logo is a central visual of your business. And it goes on your website, brochures, marketing collateral, social media, business cards and almost everything else where you mention your business.

Let’s look at some of the guidelines for designing a logo.

Guidelines

  • Do not go for esoteric design. Do not design a complex logo that few people can comprehend.
  • Simplicity is timeless. People will remember simpler logos more than they will remember complex, hard to understand logos.
  • The logo should be versatile. It should look perfect everywhere like a website, social media, printed marketing materials etc
  • Do not go overboard with colours. Let’s not make a rainbow.
  • Avoid generic designs.

What are common designs?

Have you ever seen some logos that look like the same? Some portray the globe, some portray the upward-pointing graphs, some showing a magnifying lens.

You need to avoid such generic designs. These are the uninspired designs created by a lazy designer. Usually, if you go with a low-cost designer, then they are not going to take efforts while creating a logo for you.

If you want to know more about what I am talking about. Check out this article by 99Designs.

Options for logo designing

Options are aplenty for designing your logo. There are some free options and some are paid.

Free Options
  • Designing yourself on Canva
  • Namecheap free logo designer
Paid Options
  • 99Designs
  • Design Crowd
  • Freelancer
  • Placeit
  • Logo Genie

My Recommendation

You can run a logo designing competition on freelancer.com
You will get multiple entries when you run a competition and you can choose the best amongst it. However, remember with a low budget you will get a lot of low-quality entries. Generic logos to be specific. But in any case, it is not a bad idea to go with the competition on freelancer.com.

In fact, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to logo designing. You have too many options to choose from.

guidelines for a logo
The Guidelines for a Good Logo Design

Colour palette

Colour palette constitutes an important part of the branding effort. Selecting the right colours that convey the right message is important.

Imagine a hospital painted in blood-red colour. Not a pretty sight right?

Or a branding agency using the most boring colours ever imagined by mankind.

So, it is imperative to select the right colour palette.

Guidelines for choosing a colour palette

  • Choose a couple of colours.
  • Do not go overboard with colours and select 7-8 colours.
  • Choose colours that are in sync with your brand.

How to select a colour palette?

The good news is you don’t have to be an expert in colour theory to select colours. There are various good websites that give you ready-made colour palettes. Just choose the right set of colours and you are good to go.

Few options are,

  • Coolers.co
  • Paletton.com
  • Colormind.io
  • Colorhunt.co
Coolers.com colour generator

Typography

Rather than going into the definition of the term, let me explain what typography means to a layman like me.

Typography includes the fonts, font size for various textual elements like heading, subheading etc. This is a very crude definition of typography. In fact, we cannot even call it a definition. But you get the idea.

In order to create a consistent brand experience, we need to select fonts that will be used on a website, marketing collateral etc.

There are some broad guidelines on typography, let’s see them

Guidelines

  • Do not go overboard with fonts. Select at the most two fonts. One for general text and one for headings.
  • Pair the fonts smartly. Make sure the fonts you have selected are complementary.
  • Select readable fonts. Not everyone is comfortable reading complex fonts.

Always remember while branding is heavily related to designing, it starts with a strategy.

Because your branding efforts should be in sync with your messaging, your services, your core competencies etc. Give branding its due respect, it will give you returns in the long run.

The web presence for your web development business

Now you have your company name, and the technology you are going to work in. So, it is time to create your web presence.

Domain name

First, you should buy the domain name for your business. You can buy a domain name from Namecheap.

While selecting a domain name, follow some broad rules

  • Avoid trademarks
  • Try to avoid hard to remember domain name
  • Avoid names that will have two meanings
  • Keep it simple
  • Don’t add dashes as far as possible
  • Go for .com if possible. It is still the most sought after property.
  • If you are working with a mature technology that will remain here for long, you can add the technology name in your domain name. Otherwise, avoid it.
  • Buy the domain name for more that one year, just to avoid forgetting to renew it.

Website

You are running a web development business. Not having a website for yourself, would be criminal.

You won’t give work to an interior designer who doesn’t have his/her office. So, make sure you take some time out and build a pixel perfect website.

The website you will build for yourself can be a single pager, however, it has to be perfect. It should not look like amateurish work. Again taking an example of interior designers; you will not give a job to an interior designer, who has a shabby office.

Therefore, your website should be perfect. Let it be a small website. A simple single-page website. Nobody is going to count the pages on your website. But they are going to look for the quality.

The Important Parts of Your Website

Select any technology you are comfortable with while building your website and just start building it.

Social media presence

Being on social media may be optional for you personally. But it is not optional for your company. People do check your presence on social media. Not to mention, you may get some leads organically. Although that is difficult when you starting out.

But having a social media page with updates is always good. You can create a community around your brand using social media.

Additionally, if you want to run ads then social media will provide you with a good platform.

You should create your presence at least on the following social media pages.

  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

Make sure you create appropriate cover images for LinkedIn and Facebook. You can use Canva for designing cover images.

Positioning

What does positioning mean?

Positioning is how your prospective clients and everyone for that matter perceives you. For example, when we say Apple, what comes in your mind?

Premium mobile devices or premium laptops.

What comes in your mind when we talk about Suzuki cars?

A car for every family.

This how companies like Apple and Suzuki have positioned themselves. Just having a premium product doesn’t mean that you will be automatically positioned as a premium devices manufacturing company.

For that, you need the right messaging.

Your logo, your website, your marketing material and everything else should be premium. Of course, the product or the service you provide should be premium, that goes without saying.

Imagine a premium WordPress development agency whose logo looks like something developed in MS Paint. Now, is it possible for anyone to think they are premium service providers? No way!

That’s why in previous sections, we put a lot of emphasis on branding efforts.

How does it relate to you?

Now as a web developer, we can position ourselves as, let’s say

  • A premium web developer
  • A low-cost web developer
  • Cheap web developer
  • WordPress developer
  • Expert Laravel developer

The options are aplenty. These are just a few options You can position yourself in any relevant category.

But let me tell you, once you position yourself in a certain way; getting rid of that positioning or rebranding takes a lot of efforts and money.

Therefore make sure you are positioning yourself in the right way.

The good thing about positioning is it is completely in your hands. Unless of course, your services are of poor quality.

My Recommendation

Position yourself as anything depending upon your strategy, but never ever position yourself as a cheap service provider. A cheap service provider will find it very difficult to get good high ticket projects.

Time to market your company

We are ready with everything. Now, it’s time to market your company and start building a portfolio. But before you go out and start meeting people, you have to do a few things.

  • Print business cards: You can do it for a low cost on Vistaprint.
  • Prepare your business presentation.
  • Prepare a one-pager leaflet kind of thing that you can share with people via WhatsApp.

Build a portfolio

Before you can get high-ticket orders, you need to build a portfolio of your websites. If you already have websites to showcase, then all good.

But if you don’t have a portfolio with you, then you need to build one and build it fast.

Share with your network your availability

Asking an unknown person to give you an order to build a website without having a portfolio is a tough task. Therefore you need someone in between you and the client to bring in the trust factor.

So, how you will create that trust factor?

Here is the step-by-step action plan for you

  • Send an email to your network stating that you have started a business of web development. And you will be doing initial 2-3 websites at low cost.
  • Make sure these websites are not too big. Don’t spend months building one website at a low cost.
  • If the website is big then do charge a higher amount.
  • Your immediate network will have your family members, friends, classmates, teachers etc. They will tell their network regarding you.
  • Since the customer you will reach through this network will have someone in between, there will be a trust factor.
  • And you can show your own website as an example, to these prospective clients. That’s why your website should be of very high quality.

Using this way you can start building your portfolio.

So this is how you build your web development business. While technical knowledge is a must for a web development business. But, in order to get clients, a strategy is more important.

That’s why we focussed more on selecting the right technology, creating brand identity, building an online presence, building social presence more.

Closing thoughts

Starting your web development business is a great decision you have taken. You can grow your business multifold by using the right strategy and treading the right path.

My best wishes to you and your new venture.

Also published on Medium. Link to the post

https://medium.com/@ppsakhadeo/how-to-start-your-web-development-business-in-india-f1c8a4e4e11c

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