Webinar series: How to start a web design business

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GoDaddy Pro webinar: Successful Start

Have you been building websites on the side? Or just really like web design? Now might be a good time to start your own business. You can avoid pitfalls by learning from industry experts.

To help you start off on the right foot, we gathered some of our favorite gurus to bring you the GoDaddy Pro Successful Start 5-part webinar series. With a combination of professional presentations and live demos, you’ll learn everything you need to know to kick off your new web design and development business.

Successful Start – Webinar Series Schedule

How to start a web design business

Getting started with the GoDaddy Pro dashboard

How to manage clients in GoDaddy Pro

How to manage multiple websites in GoDaddy Pro

Must-have tools for a scalable website business

Guest Speakers

Chris Edwards

Chris owns and operates Data Driven Labs, a WordPress Maintenance and Marketing agency. He is a 19-year Internet marketing veteran with experience in web design & development, search engine optimization, online marketing, social media marketing, and mobile development. In his spare time, Chris enjoys visiting local theme parks and blogs about his adventures over at Florida Sun Adventures.

Sandy Edwards

Sandy works in field marketing at GoDaddy. She is actively involved in the WordPress community.

Justin Nealey

Nealey is a project manager at GoDaddy. He is a frequent contributor to our blog and is a host of our Journey series on YouTube. He also helps web designers build their brands and teaches them new ways to save time on web design projects. You can find more of his work at WP Jumpstart Pro.

Joe Howard

Hey, Joe here! I’m the founder & CEO of WP Buffs. We provide 24/7 maintenance services for serious website owners and white-label site management for agencies and freelancers. Plus, I co-host the WPMRR WordPress podcast. Boom!


How to start a web design business

We had the privilege of partnering with Chris Edwards on a webinar. He has been a website developer for about 20 years, 8 of which were working with WordPress. He also has 13 years of experience in SEO and digital marketing. Chris started out as a freelancer and slowly grew his business into an agency. He joined us to share his process for starting a web design business.

How Chris started his web development agency

Chris started out building websites on the side in high school and while working in IT. As he picked up more clients, he went full time and started building an agency with his wife. They expanded services beyond just building websites.

They underwent a brand change because no one understood the name was a play on their initials. Choosing the right branding was one thing Chris wishes they’d done from the start.

They grew their recurring revenue with the expanded services, hired additional help, and further promoted their brand. Data Driven Labs is now a full-blown agency.

Business planning steps

There are 3 things you’ll need to do before starting your web design business: Prepare your finances, create a simple business plan, and setup your business and administration software. These are the steps you need to follow for each:

Financial Preparation

  • How much money do you need? Have about 6 months income set aside & plan for unknowns.
  • Have a fallback plan. Don’t burn bridges with your old job when you go full-time.
  • Don’t risk it! If you aren’t financially ready to go full-time, you can do this on the side.

Simple Business Plan

  • What are your services?
  • What will you charge?
  • What market or niche will you focus on?
  • Where will you find your clients?

Business and Administration Setup

  • Pick a name & register your business.
  • Set up your accounting software.
  • Set up your domain & email address.
  • Create a website, even just a simple one to start.

“It all starts with proper planning. Don’t make a big mistake by jumping right in.”

How to define your website services

When you’re figuring out what services you’re going to offer, think outside the box. You may have some skills that pair well with web design, like graphic design or videography.

To start deciding which services to offer, ask yourself what you’re good at. There may be things you know, but you will want to sell the things that you’re really great at.

Another thing to consider is whether or not you have the resources to perform these services. Specialized photography is a good example. If you’re going to offer that, you’ll need professional cameras and other equipment. Make sure you already have the resources ready to go, don’t just leave it to figure out later.

You also need to figure out if you can sell your services. Are they something people want to buy? Make sure you have a market before you set your offerings.

Doing research and talking to others is a good way to find out how viable your services are. People who offer similar services, even your competitors, won’t mind sharing tips. There’s enough business out there for everyone.

Finally, make sure all the additional services you offer complement your main service. If your main service is web design, you could offer website maintenance & hosting, marketing & SEO, or photography & video.

Chris makes a good point that in the beginning, it’s just you. If you try to offer too much, you’ll stretch yourself thin. Make sure you can deliver on everything you offer.

How to price your website services

You should determine your rate based on a combination of factors, including your skill level, what your competitors charge, your overhead costs (including taxes and fees), cost of contracting out, and your desired profit margin.

These are 3 pricing models you can use to set your rates.

  • Hourly: Charge by the hour. You can use a flat hourly rate, which is the easiest form, or variable rate (different rate for each service), which is more complex.
  • Project Based: One price for the whole project. It’s easy to quote, and clients won’t ask why a simple project takes so long.
  • Value Based: Pricing based on the value your work adds can be complex and is a hard sell for budget-minded clients, but it can mean more money. Profit sharing is not recommended because it relies on client honesty.

Many designers wonder if you should price differently for design work than you do for development. Some assume that design work is less valuable. Chris

“You need to know what you are worth and don’t undersell yourself.”

Build recurring revenue

There will be dry spells. Build recurring revenue to keep cash flow coming in even when you’re not getting new projects. COVID-19 is a great example of how business can slow down. Due to the pandemic, lot of businesses are not starting new projects; they’re holding onto their budgets.

Beyond financial security, recurring revenue has other benefits. It builds a stronger relationship with your clients because they work with you on an ongoing basis instead of disconnecting after the project is finished. It can also allow you to take vacation because you don’t have to keep selling or doing project work every single day. You will have time to take a break because the recurring revenue keeps your bills paid.

Some common sources of recurring revenue are:

  • WordPress maintenance: updates, small changes, optimization
  • Website hosting
  • Social media management
  • Ongoing marketin: SEO, PPC

Automation is really important for recurring revenue because it’s easy to add services without adding a lot to your workload. Some tools Chris uses to automate his website services are GoDaddy Pro for website maintenance, bulk hosting providers, CDN services, and optimization plugins.

Find web design clients

Finding web design clients is an art form. While Chris brought in a business development person at Data Driven Labs, you can also find clients through networking groups and community meetups, among local businesses or friends and family, and even by partnering up with other agencies.

In fact, some of your competitors might have overflow that they can pass along to you. Other agencies may hand over projects that are too small for them or outsource tasks they don’t want to do. Chris recently began outsourcing the SEO side of his business to another provider who specializes in SEO. You can meet other agencies in the networking groups and meetups. Partnering up is a win/win.

“We have other clients that are massive agencies that get these smaller sites for small businesses … they’ll just give them to us.”

Hire help

As you grow, you may find that you need some help. As we mentioned before, you can partner up with other agencies or outsource to contractors. A good way to add new services is to resell them from other providers.

Just make sure you have a positive cash flow. You don’t want to establish a pricing model to resell contracted services at a rate that leaves you with no profit margin … or worse, a negative profit margin. Quote the contract before you quote the project for the client.


Getting started with GoDaddy Pro

For web designers, managing clients and websites is one of the most important (and difficult to streamline) aspects of the job. If you don’t figure out how to do it efficiently, it becomes a huge time suck and source of frustration. But if you get it right, it’s a fast track to recurring revenue and business scalability. Put simply: Better client and website management equals more money.

Of course, we’re probably preaching to the choir. If you’ve been building websites for very long at all, you already know that’s true. In which case, you’re probably looking for a better way to do it. For the second part of this webinar series, we brought in Sandy Edwards, a veteran WordPresser and community events manager for GoDaddy, to demo the GoDaddy Pro dashboard for you and explain how it can simplify your process.

Accessing client domains

One of the most important features in GoDaddy Pro is the ability to connect directly to your client’s GoDaddy account. You can use this connection to request delegated access to manage domains and products or make purchases on their behalf, depending on the level of access granted by your client.

“… you’re streamlining your client management and able to really make sure that when you go to launch that site, you already have access to the domain.”

Some other perks of managing your clients in GoDaddy Pro:

  • All client information is in one place: Name, contact information, websites & products.
  • Expiring product notifications: You can see when a client’s products are about to expire, so you can renew (if you have access) or prompt them to renew via email.

Collaborating in WordPress

Sometimes you need to allow multiple people to access the WordPress Admin area, especially if you run an agency or outsource work to contractors. GoDaddy Pro solves this by providing one-click access to the WordPress Admin dashboard of each connected website.

You can add collaborators to your GoDaddy Pro account and give them access to specific sites to let them use the one-click WP Admin access. It’s a seamless way to work together without having to share passwords.

Running multiple website updates and backups

As an agency, WordPress, theme, and plugin updates are your bread and butter. GoDaddy Pro offers convenient update features to make the website maintenance aspect of your business scalable.

Update All

Update all plugins, themes, or WordPress core for every connected site at once. Or, you can check which ones to update all at once, and update others individually.

Safe Update

We’ve all done it. Run updates on all the plugins and themes on your WordPress sites only to find that something got messed up along the way. Safe updates ensure that you can revert in case anything goes wrong.

  1. Check off anything you want to update and click safe update.
  2. GoDaddy Pro creates backups of all the sites. (You must have backups enabled for this feature!)
  3. A screenshot is taken of all sites, and then updates go through.
  4. Safe Update checks all website statuses. If anything goes down, it automatically reverts only those websites.
  5. Another screenshot is taken after update, and you see a before/after toggle screen to compare.
  6. You will have a Restore button and an OK button so you can choose to proceed or revert if you notice a problem in the screenshot comparison.


Regular backups are an essential part of managing any website. You never want to be stuck in a position where the website is down or irreparably corrupted and your last backup was many moons (and many changes) ago. An easy solution to this is to schedule your backups through the GoDaddy Pro dashboard.

These are the intervals available:

  • Free: Monthly, Weekly, or Daily
  • Premium: Every 12 Hours, 6 Hours, or 1 Hour

With these options, you can create different tiers of website maintenance plans. Sandy used to work for a company who would provide daily backups on their base-level maintenance plans, but they would do backups every 6 hours for higher level plans.

Premium backups are only $2 per month per site, making it affordable for you to make more money from your tiered plans.

Automated client reporting

Your clients pay you because they trust in the value you’re providing. The easiest way to reaffirm that value is to provide a regular report to show them what they’re getting.

You can set up different intervals for reporting: Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. You can also choose which add-ons to show your clients on the report.

Report Customization

There are several ways to customize your client reports. Sandy’s favorite feature is the custom notes area, which you can use to write notes about anything you’ve done for the reporting period, and it’s added on to the report.

There are some differences between the Free version and Premium.

  • Free: Watermarked, emailed to client but not automated
  • Premium: Brandable, send from your email address, automatically generated & sent

Scalable website maintenance

So far, you’ve been introduced to the staple features for website management. There are a few more features in GoDaddy Pro that you can use to kick things up a notch and really scale your business further.

  • Client tags: Add custom tags to your client accounts to keep them organized.
  • Workflow: Use the Overview page to manage all updates, add-ons, and services at a glance.
  • Security scans: Run ad-hoc security scans for free, or use Premium to automate them.
  • Broken link monitor: Instead of installing another plugin, use GoDaddy Pro to monitor broken links.
  • Performance checks: Run on-demand performance checks for load speed, or use Premium to automate them.
  • Uptime monitoring: Get notifications for downtime to find out before your client notices, and add uptime to client reports.
  • SEO ranking: A lite SEO tool with very basic keyword & competitor tracking that provides client-friendly reporting to show the value of your SEO services.
  • White label plugin: Rename the GoDaddy Pro worker plugin so all your client sees is your branding.
    Sandy’s tip: Use the client support feature to let your client email you for support directly from their WordPress Dashboard.
  • Template builder: Add your preferred themes and plugins to a “template” for quick WordPress site spin up. You get up to 10 templates.

“One of the things when you’re dealing with working at scale is the ability to manage all of the sites and maintain being organized”


When you’re building out your website maintenance plans, pricing is going to be top of mind for you. You’ll want to make sure any tools or software you’re paying for leaves you enough room for a healthy profit margin.

Almost everything on GoDaddy Pro is free. Premium features just give you better options, like White Label and automation. It might seem like these $1 or $2 Premium features would add up quickly, but activating all Premium add-ons only adds up to $9/site max. That’s on top of all the time it saves you by automating maintenance tasks.

Bulk Plans

If you’re an agency, or you just manage a whole lot of websites, there are bulk plans that make it even more affordable to provide website maintenance to your clients. Bulk plans give a discount on Premium add-ons for up to 100 sites per month with each bundle and does the math for you, so you don’t have to figure out what makes sense for your budget.

How to show your clients the value of website maintenance

Offering website maintenance plans is one of the best ways to provide additional value to your clients while building recurring revenue for your business. It’s a total win/win situation, but do your clients know that?

The key to showing the value of website maintenance is finding the right tool for the right price. GoDaddy Pro is a feature-packed website and client management tool that you can use to manage your clients’ websites efficiently and make a healthy profit without having to pass a lot of costs on to your client.


How to manage clients in GoDaddy Pro

Client management often comes as an afterthought to web designers & developers, especially those who are new to running a business. After all, one told you that you’d be spending more time managing clients and running the business than building websites, right?

Some people manage everything through email. Those who are a little more organized might have a spreadsheet. Not many know that you can manage your clients through GoDaddy Pro. It functions as a sort of “lite” CRM to complement the website management tools you might already be familiar with.

We were fortunate to have Nealey, a GoDaddy project manager and expert in web design project efficiency, for our 3rd webinar in this series.  He is a long-time GoDaddy Pro user and runs his own business, WP Jumpstart Pro, helping web designers build their brand and run a more efficient business. He provided some valuable tips and demos to show how using GoDaddy Pro to manage clients can increase your productivity.

Delegated Access

Like most of you, Nealey has been in situations where clients have sent him all of their personal information via email:  account and website logins, even credit card information. This is dangerous, considering most people use the same password for most of their accounts, including bank logins.

Now you never need your customer’s usernames, passwords, information again.

GoDaddy Pro Clients Demos

GoDaddy Pro provides a more convenient and secure experience by removing the need for a credentials spreadsheet or password sharing. Nealey demonstrated the key features of client account access during the webinar with us:

  • Add clients to the dashboard
  • Send an account access request
  • Access a client’s account

You can watch the webinar recording if you want him to walk you through it. Or, you can get the steps from our help article: Add clients to my GoDaddy Pro member account.

Types of Account Access

With the delegated access feature, you can request product-only access or access to products and purchases. Both levels of access will let you manage most products on the account. One caveat is domains. Due to increased security measures, your client may need to set up a folder to allow you access to specific domains.

If you need to help your client set up access to domain folders, see steps at go.me/domainpro.

Shared Shopping

Building websites for clients usually involves having them buy products like web hosting. The trouble comes when your client decides to purchase something else, bringing the project to a grinding halt.

Nealey shared a story about a client who decided to purchase a website builder instead of the cPanel hosting Nealey required. The client had to call support to cancel and refund the website builder and purchase the right hosting product. This one mistake set the project back by days.

GoDaddy Pro avoids these mishaps by letting you add products for your clients and complete the purchase or send them the cart via email. Any GoDaddy product you may want them to buy can be added directly from the GoDaddy Pro dashboard.

Watch the on-demand webinar recording for a walk-through on adding products for your clients. Or, you can get the steps from this help article: Add products for clients in my GoDaddy Pro member dashboard.


On top of providing an easy, convenient way for you to manage your clients and help them buy the right products, GoDaddy Pro rewards you for purchases they make on connected accounts.

We’re going to set our clients up with these hosting products and domains, everything else, already. Might as well get a little bit of a kickback for it.

You can use your points to save money on your own purchases. The rewards program has two tiers. Every member gets the 5% rewards, but once you hit 2500 points, you enter the GoDaddy Pro Plus tier and earn double the rewards.


How to manage multiple websites in GoDaddy Pro

When you’re managing multiple websites for clients, profit and scalability are directly related to efficiency. We had Nealey, a branding and business coach for web designers, partner with us for a webinar to show you how he saves time on website management tasks.

How long does it take to manage individual websites?

The amount of time required to manage each website varies by the individual and their skill set. By Nealey’s estimation, it could be anywhere from 4 to 11 minutes per site, adding up to 42 to 113 minutes per week. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, you’ll probably agree that it really adds up.

Eventually, you’re spending a lot more time on the maintenance side of things … versus going and finding new business.

Save time managing all your websites in one place

In the quest for bigger profits and better time management, it’s not unusual for those in the web design and development business to try out a lot of different tools looking for the most comprehensive solution. Nealey is no different, and the one he landed on was GoDaddy Pro.

Nealey shared some of his favorite features of GoDaddy Pro, including a few you may not have heard of.

Add a Website to GoDaddy Pro

Integrating WordPress sites with the dashboard is the core feature of GoDaddy Pro that makes it possible for you to manage all your sites in one place. You can add non-WordPress sites as well, but they will not use the WordPress-dependent features like Updates.

Template Builder

The template builder is a feature you can use to create templates of your favorite themes and plugins. Then, the next time you go to spin up a new site you can do it quickly by applying your template to have all the themes and plugins installed at once. No more going into each individual WordPress dashboard to add themes and plugins one by one.

Custom Tags

Stay organized with custom tags you can create for your websites. These are commonly used to tag sites by their project status, the host they’re using, or the website maintenance plans you created.


Invite teammates or hired freelancers to access your GoDaddy Pro dashboard and decide which websites they can manage. This feature makes it a lot easier to grow your agency and outsource work.

Bulk Add-on Management

If you have a lot of sites, you can keep track of which ones are using add-ons and make changes in bulk. There’s also an option for bulk billing, which gives you a discount on add-ons when you have 100+ websites.

How Nealey manages his websites

The first step to more efficient website management is developing a repeatable process. Once you have your process, you can refine and streamline it. Nealey has had 8 years in the website industry to refine and streamline his own process. He outlined his process and provided some pro tips, so you can learn from his experience to reduce time establishing your own.

  1. Overview dashboard: Use the left side menu to filter websites by add-ons, status, or tags.
  2. Updates section: Use the Safe update option (backups must be enabled) to safely update your themes and plugins in bulk. Nealey uses Safe update on all of his sites.
  3. Comments section: Manage any new comments. Delete the spam!
  4. Backups: Set up daily backups but switch to hourly when actively developing a site. That way, one mistake only loses an hour’s work instead of a whole day.
  5. Migrations: When you need to move a site from development to your client’s hosting when you’ve finished the project, you can use the backups area to clone and migrate the site automatically.
  6. Automation: Schedule automatic safe updates for plugins, themes, and WordPress core, so they can go through at a convenient time (such as Sunday at midnight) without you having to be up to access the dashboard.
  7. WordPress Users: Manage the WordPress users from GoDaddy Pro, so you don’t have to go into each WordPress dashboard to add or remove WordPress users every time a new stakeholder needs access.
  8. Maintenance Mode: When you need to put up an “Under Maintenance” or “Coming Soon” page during development, you can turn this on from the dashboard instead of adding another plugin.
  9. System Info: Check all the important server info for each site in the System Info tab. You can see the server OS, WordPress version, PHP version, site IP, memory limit, and more.

Show your value through automated client reports

Establishing an efficient process for managing websites doesn’t mean much if you can’t properly communicate the value of your service to your clients. GoDaddy Pro’s custom client reports give you the option to select which services and add-ons you want to include, the opportunity to leave notes about any special work you did, and options for branding.

The best part is you can automate your client reports as well. You can schedule them to send weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly and even choose a time and date.

You’ve got to be able to show your work and show your value that you’re bringing to your client … and you do that with client reporting.


Must-have tools for a scalable website business

The key to building and growing a successful web design and development business is finding the right set of tools. As you scale, you’ll need to find solutions for everything from hosting and website management to HR and marketing. Most people try out hundreds of tools before establishing their custom set.

We were excited to bring in Joe Howard from WP Buffs, a white label website management service, to share a few of his favorite tools. He has several years of experience in the industry and runs his own business as well as a podcast, WPMMR. You can leverage his expertise to save yourself hundreds of hours and dollars trying out different solutions.

Drive new leads with your website

If you build websites for a living, you have probably already sold your clients on the idea that a website is more than just a virtual business brochure. When done right, a business website is a powerful lead magnet.

Joe focuses on three main aspects that drive leads through his website:

  • SEO: A combination of high-quality content and optimized page and blog titles ensure visitors will find his website on search engines. Using “How to” in blog titles attracts searchers to instructional content.
  • Content marketing: A strong blog and free ebooks provide a lot of value to the searchers who were attracted to the site for the instructional content. They’re also an excellent way to collect leads and email subscribers through lead generation tools like ConvertPro.
  • CTAs: Collect leads through buttons on service pages, a Live Chat feature, and pop-ups on articles. This gives visitors plenty of different ways to interact with you, depending on what they’re ready for at the time.

“That’s a great lead generation strategy: Educate first, build that trust, and then ‘Hey, we can help you with that.’”

Save money with subscription services instead of hiring in-house

As someone who runs a subscription service, Joe knows the value they provide. When he needed design work for his ebooks and website, he decided to use manypixels. The monthly fee may seem steep until you think about how much hiring a full-time designer would cost. This solution saves money and provides unlimited designs, a clear benefit to those who have higher design needs.

You may not need a designer, but there are many other types of subscription services with price ranges for all stages of business.

Qualify leads with automated email campaigns

Every email address gathered by the ConvertPro integrations on the WP Buffs site comes to ConvertKit. ConvertPro is a tool for collecting subscriber emails while ConvertKit is a tool for creating and managing email campaigns.

Joe pipes subscribers into automated email sequences based on where they subscribed on the site. From there, he can track which topics they click in the emails to determine which readers are potential agencies and pull them into HubSpot through a Zapier integration. He wants to cultivate agency leads since that is his main customer base for WP Buffs.

You can use the same strategy for any customer base.

  1. Use ConvertPro in WordPress to collect subscribers from your blog posts and free digital assets (like ebooks).
  2. Tag them according to which lead magnet or article they subscribed from.
  3. Build custom email campaigns in ConvertKit to cultivate the relationship.
  4. Further channel qualified leads into a sales CRM to put them through your sales flow.

ConvertKit is an effective tool for segmenting subscribers to deliver targeted content or fill your sales funnel with qualified leads.

Build relationships that lead to sales with HubSpot

Every successful business needs a sales strategy, but WP Buffs doesn’t embrace the “ABC” motto of “Always Be Closing.” Joe uses email and content marketing automation to build stronger relationships with potential customers, instead.

After ConvertKit, HubSpot is the next leg of the journey where he cultivates leads by sending sequenced content that eventually leads to an offer. His goal it to provide enough value through communication that the recipient will want to schedule a sales call and sign up for his service.

Manage your team and projects efficiently with collaboration tools

As you scale your business and add more clients, projects, and teammates, managing everything can get scary. Multiple people may have to work on the same projects and communicate with each other in real time. Joe shared a few of the tools he uses to keep up with the day to day stuff.


Teamwork is a web-based project management tool that has extensions for pretty much anything work-related. For WP Buffs, Joe relies on the core Teamwork web app for project management and Teamwork Desk for support tickets. Teamwork makes it easy to assign, comment, and filter tasks.


While Teamwork offers a chat feature, Joe prefers Slack because it’s more convenient for live conversations. It’s pretty seamless between desktop and mobile, which is great for people who do a lot of their work on mobile.


15Five is a performance management software, and it’s where Joe and his team keep track of their goals and objectives, through bi-annual reviews and 1:1s. It helps teams stay connected with their company values. You can even give someone a virtual “high five.”

Building out your business toolkit

Throughout this series, we covered a lot of different strategies and tools you can use to start and scale your web design business. Everyone is going to have their own unique needs, but most web designers and developers will face some common challenges and will benefit from the same solutions. We brought in some industry experts to save you time and money by sharing some of their favorite methods and software, including our own GoDaddy Pro.

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