I agree with some of the others. I believe you have sufficient skills to start your own web design company. You don’t have to know everything about web development to start a company. You can always outsource projects or parts of projects, which you don’t have the skills to complete. We outsource all of our JSP projects because we do not currently have the skills to complete them. On the same token we do a lot of work for companies who create simple HTML websites but their clients are looking for more advanced PHP or ASP features such as content management. This is something you may want to look into so that you can offer your clients a full range of services.
As far as pricing, we’ve found that an all-inclusive price results in the happiest customers. Once the client has signed off on the project, if major changes are required the client must sign a change order. The change order will specify the cost of the additions or changes, which weren’t included in the original bid. I would recommend requesting a down payment before you begin the project. This will help keep your clients on track, minimize your potential for loss and allow you to fund the project. Don’t be afraid to charge your clients for your work. The thing to remember is if you charge $400 and the project takes you 80 hours then you’re making $5 dollars a hour and you might as well get a job at McDonald’s.
My final thought for someone starting out in web development is host your own sites. I recommend finding a hosting source that will allow you to make a profit. One mistake I made when I was first getting started was that I hosted all my websites at a online web host. I paid $8.95 a month per site to host my websites. I charged the client that same $8.95. Each of these clients had their name servers for their domain pointed to this web host. At one point I had 23 sites hosted at this web host at a total cost of $205.85 / month. I charged the clients for hosting but I included no premium for myself so I had to support and manage all 23 domains and I didn’t make any money for it. As my skills increased and I begin to take my web business more seriously I realized that I other companies offering the same service in my market were charging much more per month. Most of the local competition had their hosting set at a minimum price of $15.95 a month. At $15.95 a month I would’ve been making $366.85 / month minus the cost of $205.85 leaving me with $161 a month for doing the same thing I was doing.
At the time I worried about changing the price because I didn’t want to lose clients but I did it anyway. I found that all of my clients had little or no problem accepting the higher price. As time went on my web host began to raise its price as well. I decided this was cutting into my profits too much so I started looking for other hosting options. I opted for purchasing my own servers, however, I wouldn’t recommend this for someone just starting out. What I would recommend is hosting your sites at a webhost which will allow you to utilize your own nameservers (NS.YOURCOMPANY.COM) If you have all of your clients use your domain as their namservers and you control your domain then you can change their web host without a significant effect on their site. This was my greatest mistake. When I begin to switch my sites over many clients became frustrated because they had to update their email and domains. Some clients refused to make the change and I lost them as hosting clients.
What you may want to look for deals similar to the one my company offers. We have a web developer special. You can purchase hosting accounts in groups of 5, 10, or 50 domains. With a deal like this you can save even more on your hosting. We allow you to setup your on nameservers and the ability to manage your own sites entirely including DNS. The same 23 domains would cost roughly $135 a month leaving you with a profit of $231.85 instead of the $161 a month using an external host. There are a lot of companies out there offering developer packages like ours. If I were just starting out I would strongly consider signing up for one of these packages. It will allow you to maximize your residual income from hosting while also maximizing your control of the domains you’re hosting.