Starting my own website building business and not a freelancing business


I develop web sites for over 10 years now (among other programming jobs), and I'm burning inside to start my own business, for a long time now. And, of course, I'm afraid to begin yet another "lost business ". I'm not looking for a seller partner, tho.

On the good side, I've got few clients who would probably be interested if I give them a good deal, and this is yet a big market with plenty room to grow. Plus this has great potential because it requires minimum investment (as opposed to my last idea ) and now I'm wondering if I can get it off the ground.

I think I'm one step behind making checklists here, and many steps behind doing the hard numbers.

On the bad side, I can't come up with a single "service product" (which should be a rival of shopify on the initial idea to begin with) that fits to all possible clients. I can't find such product that fits even just two of the potential clients I already have.

So I'm feeling the risk of not being able to do what I wanted to initially and sell the service as finished products, with subscriptions plans, on a web site I'd build as a showcase of its own features and thus falling back to working just as a freelance again.

Disclaimer : Maybe I'm just using this to organize my thoughts and take a chance if anyone has yet another wise advise, but I hope this is broad enough to help more people identify with this issue.

Getting Started

asked Aug 6 '11 at 04:17
120 points

4 Answers


If you want to create something similar to Shopify, try to attack it at a different angle. Shopify is most likely well-funded and experienced. It will not be wise to launch a frontal attack against a giant.

I know this is obvious but you need to build some feature that is so valuable to customers yet very hard to copy. It could be hard to copy due to technical innovation(not likely given the resources Shopify has), patent(definitely possible), or require overhaul of shopify's core business.

answered Aug 7 '11 at 01:07
173 points
  • +1: don't try to compete *directly* with giants – Chris Morgan 13 years ago
  • Definitely on the list! I wouldn't dream to compete directly with shopify. I just meant where the original idea came from. I only met shopify after having the idea, and of course was overwhelmingly intimidated by it. – Cawas 13 years ago


A "service product" could be as simple as a "Standard 6 page website". It's a definable chunk you can describe and market (and possibly price), even if every 6 page website is completely different.

Obviously if every website is different, then there are limits to your productivity in producing them, and thus in how much profit you can make.

You might find the Gerber book "The E-Myth" useful: it elaborates on the distinction between a business (can you sell it and walk away?) and simply creating yourself a job.

answered Aug 6 '11 at 04:33
946 points


I think the key is the client who can be a partner or at least help you in exchange for a discount on the site if they put in some expertise equity. Find one who has enough contacts in their field and is willing to get you in the door by introducing you and endorsing your product. They probably have made contacts at various trade shows and other industry organizations. You may want to focus on the more mature company who has the time and is interested in growing.

answered Aug 6 '11 at 06:12
Jeff O
6,169 points
  • But wouldn't this be a much higher risk to be just a freelancing, and thus dependent on the current client? – Cawas 13 years ago


Who is your customer
What is their problem
How do you solve that problem

Once you have that decided that the rest is much easier...Don't start the way most failing businesses do by trying to fit the market to your product :)

answered Aug 6 '11 at 17:37
Allison Reynolds
394 points
  • Huh? Lost me right there: "who is customer" vs "don't fit the market to your product". – Cawas 13 years ago
  • @cawas, I think what Allison meant is don't create a product first then try to mould the entire market to fit your product. Instead, you should create create/mould your product to fit your market. It's easier to change your product than to change the entire market. To create a matching product for the right market, you need to know exactly what your customers want. – Nick 13 years ago
  • Stacks's line division made it hard to read sorry Cavas. Nick had it right, you are asking the wrong questions in creating a product first. Find a market that will BUY then find what they WANT then make it :) – Allison Reynolds 13 years ago
  • Then I think I was not clear enough on the question, @Nick and Allison. I agree but that's what freelancing is all about... Making everything custom made to 1 client, not 1 market. Moving out of that to selling a product requires less customization or else I'll just be full time 1 client per time. I do want to make a product to fit the market, tho. I guess I'm just not sure where to begin. – Cawas 13 years ago
  • @cavas No I am talking about a MARKET which is where the term MARKET RESEARCH comes from. Which is what I am suggesting you do first. Who is your market? What is their big problem? then build the service/app/saas to fix it... get out there and survey the people you want to sell to, read their forums, have coffee and talk to them...99% of people that build first then ask the market are doomed to failure (hence all the time wasted pivoting ) – Allison Reynolds 13 years ago

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Getting Started