Franchising Website Design

Restaurants do it, printers do it, and even gyms do it. Looking around, it seems that almost every area of commerce has some sort of franchising opportunity available. So why aren’t there more in web design?

As far as I can tell, there’s no good reason why it hasn’t happened.

A Perfect Fit

I think that the area of web design is a perfect franchising opportunity. Granted, it’s a skill that needs to be learned, and you need a certain flair for creativity, but you also need a solid business plan and a sound strategy for success. A franchise in web design could provide this to freelance website designers struggling with the business aspect of their endeavours.

A typical franchise provides:

  • Permission to adopt its valuable brand
  • Usage of its proven business model
  • Support and Training
  • Pooled advertising funds
  • Access to established products and services

Stick to What You Know

From my experience, web designers are great at creating interesting websites and beautiful graphics, but not so great at running a business. A franchise could help with this aspect of the business.

The most difficult parts of setting up a web design firm are, in my opinion, the following:

  • Getting legal contracts drawn up (maintenance contracts, terms and conditions, software licences, etc.)
  • Generating best practices for business (lead generation, advertising, tendering, CRM etc.)
  • Creating a sound pricing structure (with recurring revenue streams)
  • Paper trail workflow management
  • Company branding

These are the kinds of things that could and should be provided by a good franchise.

Hit and Miss

Searching through Google, there seems to be a few companies offering this type of service already, but none of them have convinced me that by buying their franchise I would be any better off then if I went out alone.

What’s needed, is a strong brand with a proven track record to put together all of their successful business practices and package it up as a franchise offering. Allow the franchisee to sell their CMS or e-commerce package, and to use their legal documentation, and to adopt their best practices for lead generation and to pool their advertising budgets.

In return, the franchisee would pay an initial purchasing fee and a royalty from their gross monthly revenue (in 2006 the national average was 6.5% – Franchising in Ireland 2006 – PDF). Often, there is also a pooled advertising fee (typically around 2%).

Possible Opportunity

If there are any existing web design franchises that I’ve overlooked, please leave a comment and let me know. But to be honest, I think a franchise in web design is a great opportunity for some of the more established design firms to expand their brand and make some profit at the same time.

Heck, if someone else doesn’t do it soon, I might even give it a go.


4 Comments added. Add comment?

  1. Will Knott says:

    I may be missing something, but surely a franchise relies on a physical limit?

    Franchising a burger joint makes sense because it you can’t ship it round the country in time. A franchised gym makes sense because no one will travel 100s of miles to get to a gym.

    Web design is not limited by location. Remote working is the norm.
    The exception would be a highly personalised design house with attention to the details and highly sensitive to the client…
    the opposite of a standard product which is the norm of a franchise.

    The only exception I can think of, would be creating a web design section of an existing design house. However, that’s not a franchise either.

    Am I reading this wrong?

    May 6, 2008
  2. Iarfhlaith says:

    Hey Will,

    Take any designer and I’m sure the majority of their business comes from the area or city they work in.

    For me, almost all of my clients are based in Dublin. Yes, the web design game is geographically independent but it’s still far more likely that the work you get comes from your own area. I think this is due to one key truth:

    • People do business with people they know

    If you’re good, word spreads through word-of-mouth and you’re well on your way to building a mini empire.

    The point I was trying to make is that there are lots of talented people out there who struggle with the ‘business side’ of their work. Using a well known branded franchise with proven business practices would really help them out a lot.

    Do you not think that would be helpful to freelancers starting up?

    May 7, 2008
  3. Will Knott says:

    Hi Iarfhlaith,

    While it would help a freelance start up, a franchise operator doesn’t want a franchisee to go-solo with the same product. I remember the Pat Grace Fried Chicken / KFC legal situation in the 80s.

    An agency (as in a contract agency, or an art gallery) might work. Officially each designer is an employee of the main agency and work gets contracted to them.

    That way the designer does not have the business to worry about. And the agency gets it slice while the designer makes a name for himself/herself.

    Or alternatively there is a business for a Virtual Assistant to run the business side of designers. But that doesn’t sound viable.

    Does it?

    May 7, 2008
  4. Iarfhlaith says:

    Maybe something along the same lines to what Remax do for estate agents?

    They provide the brand, the office space, the business model, the equipment and even the stationary right down to customised pens and business cards. In return, the estate agent pays a fee for operating under the Remax brand and they pay them a small commission for all of the deals done.

    Obviously there would have to be contracts signed to ensure that the franchisee doesn’t take the business model and run off with it, but I think that’s something that could be worked out in the small print.

    May 7, 2008

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