If you're in business today, a website is as important as an ad in the Yellow Pages. With a Web presence, you've got access to millions of potential customers around the world--it's like rolling out a major advertising supplement, marketing brochure and mail order catalog in one easily updated package. And all without printing, postage or phone costs! The problem is that for most people, designing a website is on a par with building your own TV set--a major mystery best left unexplored. But if you can unlock the secrets of HTML and you've got a flair for graphics and copywriting, then Website design could be the business for you. The advantages to this business are that it's creative, you can start part-time on a minimal budget, and even if you don't already know HTML, it's not difficult to learn once you set your mind to it. And you can deal with clients in any geographic region without leaving your computer. You should have a good rapport with your computer and have mastered the basic skills to get around in cyberspace. You'll also need a talent for graphics and copywriting because your goal for each client will be not only to get the website up and running but to design one that's easy to navigate through, visually appealing, and clearly yet cleverly worded. Get started by designing a few sample sites to showcase your talents, and be sure to mix up your sample work to include e-commerce, information portal, and so on.
Your clients will be businesses--you can target everything from SOHOs to nonprofit organizations to professional associations to government agencies. Choose a geographic or specialty area to start with--say, small businesses in your community or real estate agencies--then send direct-mail pieces explaining the values of a website and your services. Put up your own website both to attract business and to serve as a sample of your work, and establish links with other internet sites so potential clients can find you through as many paths as possible.
As a Website designer, your most important tool will be, of course, your computer; make sure yours has a fast internet connection. You'll also need a scanner (inexpensive is OK), Web page creation software, and a graphic design package. If your Web page software doesn't have the oomph to upload files to the internet service provider, you'll want a program to carry out this task.