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Business tips for a 16 year old web designer?

Thread title: Business tips for a 16 year old web designer?
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04-24-2011, 12:35 PM
#1
andrewsuzuki is offline andrewsuzuki
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  Old  Business tips for a 16 year old web designer?

Hello, I've just created my domain and went live.
Do you have any tips for me, being "underage"?
I'm a web designer/developer, and I'm working on building up my portfolio on templates. Is this a good idea? I don't have any real jobs yet.
This is my site if it helps... andrewsuzuki.com
Thank you.

04-24-2011, 01:41 PM
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Lowengard is offline Lowengard
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  Old  welcome.

Andrew, here are three things you should consider as you are starting your business.

1. Why are you starting a business?
Are you doing this "because you can"? Are you looking for a summer job you might do poolside? Have you designed a few sites for family or friends and now want to see if you can make something more of it? Is this a school assignment? Did your greatest rival start a business last week so you need to do it too? Something else?
There is no wrong answer, and you don't need to articulate your reasons here, but knowing why you want to start a business feeds into question 2:
2. What do you want from the business?
Are you looking to create a successful business that you'll sell for millions when you're 18 and so fund your university education? Is a formal business a way to keep people from expecting you'll do this work for free? Do you want to use the experience to find out if you have what it takes to run a business? Something else?
3. Who are you going to work for, anyway?
Once you're up and running are you going to pound the pavements (so to speak) to find clients, or will you count on people you already known to help you find clients?
As you can probably tell from these questions, I believe it's important to identify some goals for your business, a way to help you figure out what to do. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as The Goal Police --if you change them or don't meet them, nobody comes after you.

And, if you haven't already checked them out, there are a number of online sites where you can learn about the basics of setting up a business. The US Small Business Administration--www.sba.gov--has a mini-course that lays out the basics succinctly. You can find similar information at My Own Business, Inc (see http://www.myownbusiness.org/course_list.html). A problem with these and many other sites is that they assume your business is manufacturing based and that high volume sales is your goal. For most small service-based businesses this is not the case.

04-24-2011, 04:03 PM
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andrewsuzuki is offline andrewsuzuki
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  Old

Originally Posted by Lowengard View Post

1. Why are you starting a business?

2. What do you want from the business?

3. Who are you going to work for, anyway?
1. I'm interested in making some money this summer to fuel my many other interests...composing music, building bikes, and more.
Most freelance web designers of my type charge at least $500 for a basic web design. If I charge even as low as $100 I figure I'll attract a lot of people with low budgets. I enjoy web design and programming anyways, it's a hobby, and if I can make money while doing so, then I'll be very happy.

2. Business experience would be great. I'm interested to see just how much I can make in 3 months and see if you can actually make a living off of it

3. This is the trickiest part. It will be difficult to find clients, but I'm going to try to direct my attention to people who have crappy websites built ten years ago, maximized for Internet explorer 2 or netscape navigator. There are quite a lot of businesses in my area with these types of websites.

Can you help me on how to contact these businesses with poor websites? I want to let them know that their website is lacking, without offending them or their business. I want to make my offer appealing.

Thanks.

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04-24-2011, 05:23 PM
#4
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  Old

Hey man I started my freelance career when I was around 14 and all I can say is take EVERY opportunity that comes up whether it's a $70 job or less. Building contacts and building your portfolio will all contribute to your business in the future. People I worked for or with over 6 years ago are still my friends today and we quite often help each other out with our websites.

Keep a good attitude, when you work with clients be polite but generally a nice guy. Clients love designers/programmers who can suggest new things, who can offer the point of view of a visitor. Keep a healthy relationship with people you work with.

All I can say is keep experimenting and get yourself out there, don't be intimated by the competitors and what they charge. You have a good start with your website (however, I'd suggest you cut down on the outer glow effects - they look tacky) try new styles and gain some experience.

04-24-2011, 11:06 PM
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  Old

I started freelancing when I was 16 as well, its really scary at first but it will give you a leg up that most don't get. Your first few jobs are going to be crap, just live with it and know that it will get better in a few months. Once you have a few jobs under your belt you will be able to start charging more money, also sell your quality to the fullest extent. Just don't outright lie, that only hurts you in the long run.

Sorry if it sounds like I am ripping your site; that is not at all my intentions.

The first thing that strikes me about your site is that you make it clear that you are inexperienced. You even put a counter saying that you are a fresh newbie. The vibe I got is "I'm an inexperienced kid" and that is not a vibe you want to give. Having no portfolio says that you are new, you'd be better off not outright saying it. You can however turn this into a good thing, offer low prices until you have a portfolio and sell on that.

You need to focus your content on what you can do for the client, your clients don't care who you are or what you do in your free time. Finally don't link to your personal page, especially with a non professional profile picture and privacy settings set to give nothing. If you are going to link to your personal facebook page, take a picture in a suit and tie, make your settings go public and be ready to make every single update you do professional.

As for being underage, it makes things harder. You can't sign contracts or have payments go to your name via paypal. The only direct method they can pay you by is check by mail, and thats are for online work. Don't try to register a paypal account or sign contracts in spite of this, it will often constitute fraud and can be a very serious offense. When I was under 18 I had my dad create a paypal account for me and I used that to get payments.

Finally, and I know I am going to get flack for saying this, lie about your age. When I was 16 the biggest obstacle I faced was people not wanting to pay a fair price because of my age. So I added 10 years to my age and used my dads name (with permission) so the paypal account matched. As soon as I started lying about my age and my age alone, things got easier. Same portfolio, same experience and I would make more. When you turn 18 quietly change your name and age, I only told 3 people when I did it and no one else knew. You'll even notice one of my iTraders call me Ken while my name is Dan (my dad is Ken).

04-25-2011, 12:28 PM
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  Old

Yes, I would happily give VG flack for the lying about your age comment as that constitutes fraud, too. However, as it is also illegal to ask someone's age for the purpose of employment, your being coy about it is okay. Maybe "I'm 31. . .if you're counting in base 7." Or, "I'm 8, but I'm really really smart." My experience has been, though, if you don't start out apologizing for it, or even bringing it up, it may be an issue only to people who don't want to hire you anyway.

And, bouncing off VG's comment about his father's participation, I'd recommend making someone over 18 the "straw man"-- the nominal business owner. This is not at all unusual and will save you and your parents or guardians endless headaches in the long run.

Now, back to goals for a sec. If you start now and plan to run this business as a summer job, that gives you about 4 months to explore, right? So, I recommend you use that time to give yourself financial and a number-of-projects goal. Maybe, by 31 August you will have:
  • identified 25 businesses or people who could use your services*
  • completed 10 projects
  • earned $750 from this venture

*you'd probably have to complete this earlier, as you'll not only have to identify potential clients but also contact them and convince them to hire you.

Is this doable? If not, adjust. You may also find you need to alter your the goals as you proceed.

04-26-2011, 01:32 AM
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andrewsuzuki is offline andrewsuzuki
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  Old

Thank you all very much - it's really helpful.
I've deleted my social links, however I will not lie about my age if asked.

Can someone compile me a template for a message I could send to the many websites in my area that have websites maximized for Netscape Navigator version 1? I want to inform them that their website is lacking, but I don't want to be offensive.

Also, how should I bill my clients? I was thinking of sending them paypal requests for money through my father's account, but do I need anything more than this? Invoices? Client area on my website? How do I make an invoice or similar documents if I need them?

Thanks again.

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04-26-2011, 01:55 AM
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  Old

Originally Posted by andrewsuzuki View Post
Can someone compile me a template for a message I could send to the many websites in my area that have websites maximized for Netscape Navigator version 1? I want to inform them that their website is lacking, but I don't want to be offensive.
I am unaware of a template for such emails, I'd search Google for one. If you don't come up with one your best bet is to make it yourself then run it past someone older who doesn't understand tech terms and see what they think. However if they are local I would advise that you go in person and make your pitch. What you would say would be pretty much the same either way, explain that their site isn't up to today's standards and that a redesign would bring in more business (always focus on why you will make them money).


Originally Posted by andrewsuzuki View Post
Also, how should I bill my clients? I was thinking of sending them paypal requests for money through my father's account, but do I need anything more than this? Invoices? Client area on my website? How do I make an invoice or similar documents if I need them?
I use quickbooks so generate invoices, before I used that I made invoices with excel using a free template I found online. I also used a PDF printer (bullzip) to turn them into PDF files before sending them.

One more tip that I forgot to put in my last post. Always charge an upfront fee, generally of 50% but no lower than 25%. This basically makes sure that they will stick with it, otherwise you will get half way in and they may decide they don't want your services anymore. This happens a lot to anyone who doesn't charge upfront fees. I've heard countless freelancers tell me that they've gotten to the end of a project just to be told "we decided to move in a different direction so lets call this deal off (after 20 hours of work)" or "we don't really like this design so we're not paying for it."


ps. about the lying about age thing, I only ever did that for online jobs. I never really did any local work back then. If I were to to local I wouldn't do that since paperwork would have to be done that would make matters a lot worse.

04-26-2011, 12:11 PM
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flc is offline flc
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  Old

Dude just take every opportunity that appears.. there no such thing as valuable as experience.. Best of luck with ur business..

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04-27-2011, 06:34 AM
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AdamC is offline AdamC
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Is your primary goal money or building a web presence?

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