I've mentioned my good friend Spencer before, and today I went to see him to get some advice and hear some stories. That sounds vague from the offset, but Spencer set up his own web design company exactly a year ago along with two other parners, and named it YouLove.Us. To date they've been unbelievably successful in their first year and their site has been featured on (I believe) well over 100 CSS galleries and online magazines.
The Reason For The Visit?Well who better to ask about taking your own web design company full time and making a living from it than three great guys who've done it so recently and successfully!
What I LearnedObviously the first appointment which I set up even before leaving my job was one with my business account manager, but I wanted to get a heads up on serious considerations and things that I should plan for in advance so that I'd be well prepared.
Here's what they told me:
Get an accountant - similar to what I've heard everyone else say, a good accountant will save you more money than they cost you.
Use accounting software to keep track of finances and invoices - they recommended Quickbooks, which I'll definitely be having a look at - but I know there are some alternatives floating around that are specifically for web developers so I'll have a look at those too.
Get advice on whether it'd be best to register as a Limited company or to stay a sole trader - this is something I'm going to speak to my business account manager about. YouLove.Us are a limited company, but that's mainly cause there are 3 of them, so far there's just one of me but I'm definitely hoping to expand later.. so I'll wait and get some more feedback on that one and post an update.
Keep a very close eye on cashflow - it's easy to forget that sometimes clients pay late, or sometimes a project overruns, so you need to be on top of your bank account balance at all times to make sure you know what the score is at all times. Try to always take a 50% deposit before starting work, or a 25% deposit on really big projects.
Have good set of terms and conditions - you never know when a project might go bad and you might need your client agreement in writing to secure your full and final payment.