Running your own company is a very daunting challenge and task. It’s not for the weak or the easily defeated as most business owners give up within the first year of opening a new business. Running your own low budget re-seller hosting company requires a lot of technical knowledge, great customer service skills, great design and great development skills as well. I speak from experience coming from one of the most mismanaged development studios I’ve ever encountered.
Why Be a Reseller?
It’s hard enough finding clients that will pay an appropriate price for a design or development but when you do acquire those customers, wouldn’t you want to lock them in for a recurring fee? You’re in complete control as a reseller. You host their websites on another host and they pay you a monthly fee that you set so they don’t have to deal with the host when website issues occur.
Choosing a Host
This is one of the most important aspects of running a successful web development company. You want your customers to be on a reliable host with great uptime, quick loading times and excellent customer service. Believe me, there are a lot of horrendous hosts out there. Here are a few qualities we look for in a host:
Fast Customer Service – When there’s an outage or something happens, you want quick technical support. For this reason, we prefer to look for hosts that offer live chat or 24/7 support. You don’t want your site down all night only to leave a voice mail or submit a ticket. These hosts are often backed up with tickets when they show up to work because they don’t have the budget to hire a 24/7 support staff.
cPanel – I know people have different preferences but we highly prefer cPanel access. It allows you to easily install server software, manage databases, manage emails and access anything needed server side with the click of a button. Some hosts require you to contact them before you can even export a database or access it. This is unacceptable for anyone running a reseller business.
Load Times – What’s the response time like of sites hosted there? Do they have a lot of downtime? You can look up a hosting provider on isitdownrightnow.com and easily see how often they’re down. Also, people can leave their angry reviews in addition to seeing the main site’s response time throughout the day.
Choosing a host is vital but the most important aspect outside of hosting is what will impact your business the most. We can go into detail about choosing a company name, establishing your brand and developing your logo but at the end of the day, a lot of those things will come down to personal preference. Take some time and gather your thoughts to think of a company name that represents who you want to be and how you want people to see you.
Look up other web development companies around you for some inspiration.
Running a successful reseller business can be broken down into several different parts. First, there’s the design aspect of running a development studio. If your designs are bad or lack user experience, the only clients you’re going to obtain are difficult and cheap clients. They’re a headache and will keep you up all night, in addition to wanting 24/7 free technical support. High end clients that pay the big bucks know what to look for in terms of a good design. Your designs need to be brilliant, make sense and have a lot of user experience coded into them.
Next, you need to have a line of customer and technical support for when things go inevitably wrong. Unfortunately, things go wrong sometimes without any warning or clear reason. You need to have someone you can rely on that can be there to fix things when that happens. Next, you need to have a project leader or CEO that’s well managed and knows how to make good use of time. A mismanaged office is chaotic, projects never launch on time, the sites launch with low quality and clients are often angry.
Finally, there’s the matter of acquiring the clients in the first place. This is time consuming and hectic when you first start out, especially when you’re new to the game and you don’t have a network of resources to help get your name out there. Everyone runs their company differently but here, we’ll go over the core aspects of ensuring you run a successful reseller hosting development company.
As a general rundown, this is how things should go:
- A proposition is sent to a client to try and obtain their business
- An outline is made based on their needs and their budget
- Research is then done to come up with a well thought out design
- The design draft is then sent to the client for approval
- A milestone payment system is setup and once the terms are agreed upon, the design process begins
- Once the design is finished, it is sent to the developers
- The developers implement the design on a testing website for functionality testing and quality assurance
- The project manager/leader is in close contact with the client to ensure things are going smoothly and on schedule
- If not done previously, a domain and hosting is purchased by the client and at a location of their choosing (preferably your reseller server but sometimes clients have their own hosting preferences)
- Once the client approves the site for launch, the site can then be launched on the domain of their choosing
- The user access and everything needed is then handed over to the client and the final payment is made
- Any further contracts or agreements that continue after the site launch are then carried out
There seem to be a common theme with small development studio designers. A lot of them think in terms of artistic vision and their own personal preference rather than using logical thought process and user experience when designing a website. This is the first step in building a website before it’s sent off to the developer. A design is usually made in a PSD format and sent to a web developer to be implemented, usually on a CMS platform like WordPress for user customization.
Believe me when I say an “artistic” designer who has the thought process of their self-preference on designs is one of the most frustrating things to deal with as a developer who understands user experience and how users will navigate a website. A design needs to encompass a company’s brand, have a great color scheme and have logistical thought put into it as to how the user will use the site.
Customer & Technical Support
As a reseller and a development studio, you’re going to hear from your clients a lot. It’s important that you’ve set an hourly rate for your studio that isn’t cheap to dissuade people from getting into the mindset that they’re entitled to free technical support around the clock. At the time same time, it’s equally as important that you have a line of support that is technically capable of handling common issues and figuring out complicated ones.
Hiring a friend for cheap that has no idea what they’re doing makes the company look foolish and usually results in people trying to fix things they shouldn’t touch like emails. As a result, this can cause emails to disappear or websites to go down. Don’t cheap out on the technical support.
Project Management & Time Management
The #1 most frustrating thing for a web developer is to deal with mismanaged project managers and CEOs. As a small business, CEOs will more than likely be involved with multiple aspects of the site such as design and client management. Managing your time is highly important to running a successful development studio.
It is a project manager’s job to make sure a developer has everything they need to ensure the outline for a website above is being followed. Launching an incomplete website will set you back weeks or even months ahead of schedule as you’re frantically trying to find content to put on the site or trying to fill up a space that the client never asked to be added in the first place.
You need to effectively manage your time according to the outline above and make sure it is followed. Mismanaged project managers are incredibly frustrating to deal with.
Obviously, the most important part of business is acquiring clients. Finding clients online is difficult without a portfolio or genuine customer reviews. Having an established Linkedin with people who can vouch for you is a great start but one place you can start is your Chamber of Commerce. This place is ripe with business owners who are looking to expand their operation and get more customers.
Local advertising isn’t something you should underestimate as you can get a good portfolio built up on the people around you. Not only that but the word of mouth spreads fast and leads to more clients. As said above though, without a good design, a managed project manager and great technical support, you could ruin your own brand locally before it even has a chance to get off the ground.
For local advertising, go door to door (that allows it) and advertise your services to help them expand their presence online. If they already have a website, offer to do a re-design. Print flyers and newspaper ads to help raise awareness of your company.
For online advertising, pay per click for local search terms such as “web design Columbus Ohio” are highly effective. Funneling local traffic to your own website (which is hopefully well designed) is an excellent way to build up a portfolio and spread the word of your business, which brings in more customers.