Designing For The Web

How to start one of today's fastest-growing businesses.

Web-site design is fast becoming a hot multimillion-dollar niche industry. The numbers tell the story: Independent Web-site design companies will earn $10 billion in sales by the year 2000--up from $582 million last year--according to a 1997 survey by Forrester Research Inc., a market-research company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The survey predicts that the total number of Web pages will nearly double this year and triple in 1998. These figures represent a vast, exciting area of opportunity for those interested in designing Web sites.

But the best part is you don't need a lot of money to start a Web-site-design company. Brad Brewster, 30, started Bent Media Inc. in New Orleans in 1992 with only $5,000, which he used to buy a Macintosh computer and some multimedia software. And John McLain, 52, started McLain Web Design in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1996, with a mere $2,500, which bought him a PC, a printer and graphics software. Both men kept their costs down by working from home. When Brewster's business started to take off, he rented an office. McLain still works from home, but hopes to rent an office early next year.

"It doesn't take much money to start a Web-site-design company," McLain says. "A must is a high-speed computer, a fast modem (36.6 Kbps) and software that allows you to execute designs."

There are no credentials or legal requirements for breaking into this field. "At the moment, it's a totally unregulated business," McLain says. "As more entrepreneurs jump into the arena, it's safe to say that associations creating industrywide standards will be popping up."

But the big surprise is you don't have to be a computer wizard to design Web sites. All it takes is a love of and a familiarity with computers, a touch of creativity and a willingness to learn. "You'd be surprised how quickly you can pick up the technical skills," Brewster says.

There are many misconceptions about the Web-site-design business, according to Michael Stoner, a Princeton, New Jersey, Web-site-design consultant. "Most of the people starting Web-site-design companies are not techies," he says. Brewster, who has a bachelor's degree in art and sold multimedia-design work (such as CD-ROMs) before he began specializing in Web-site design. McLain was a journalist who worked for a communications firm before starting his company.

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This article was originally published in the August 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Designing For The Web.

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