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The DKDesigns Story of Bridging Web Design Gaps

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

The DKDesigns Story of Bridging Web Design Gaps

In this insightful interview, David Gilbert, the founder of DKDesigns, shares the compelling journey and innovative strategies behind the establishment and growth of his web design company. Based in Brooklyn, DKDesigns emerged from a desire to provide quality web design services to small businesses in one of the most competitive digital landscapes.

Gilbert discusses the unique challenges his company faced, the evolving nature of the web design industry, and the importance of client relationships and technology adaptation while also outlining the exciting future plans for expanding DKDesigns’ impact from New York City to international realms.

Let’s dive right in!

Background and Vision

SBS – Can you share with us the story behind starting DKDesigns and what vision drove you to establish this business?

David – DKDesigns started as an effort to do quality web design in Brooklyn for small businesses that needed a leg up in one of the most competitive digital landscapes in the world. For business owners In New York City, it seems like they either have to be a huge corporate entity that can spend tens of thousands of dollars on marketing services, or they’re left doing it on their own when they’d rather be actually running their business. We started DKDesigns to be an affordable solution that meets the marketing needs of the small but mighty businesses that make the city so great. 

Challenges and Solutions

SBS – What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while starting your web design business, and how did you overcome them?

David – For many companies, the biggest challenge can be finding that first client. For us, it kind of happened in reverse. As we met friends and colleagues who had marketing gaps in their businesses that our skillsets could fill, we suddenly found ourselves running a business before we’d even filed the paperwork.  

So for us, a big challenge was actually catching up to our workload and getting workflows, payment processing, and bookkeeping in place as we began.

Industry Evolution

SBS – How has the web design industry evolved since you started your company, and how has DKDesigns adapted to these changes?

David – We’re still relatively new to the game. There are two competing currents in the industry: designs built by web designers and designs put together by self-builders like Wix and Squarespace.

Many web design companies view these self-build platforms as a threat to their existence. We don’t. At best, we leverage them. Many if our clients go to us after already going the Wix route and finding it was still far more difficult to not only design a good site but get it to perform well as well. We step in and build a new site, fully custom, from scratch using WordPress. The difference ends up being night and day for them. 

Client Engagement

SBS – In your experience, what are the key factors in building and maintaining successful client relationships in the web design industry?

David – From the very beginning, we’ve realized if we’re only building websites for our clients, we’re missing out on ongoing opportunities and relationships. Two avenues we landed on that would help us continue to serve clients and build ongoing relationships were offering affordable social media management and web hosting/maintenance.

We offer to host and maintain our client’s websites for two reasons. One, it creates recurring revenue, and two, it gives us an excuse to develop an ongoing relationship. Within that hosting agreement, we’re proactive in checking in with our clients, making sure they’re seeing and responding to leads, and helping solve problems when they pop up. That, plus sending holiday greetings, has really helped us foster connections with our clients. 

Technology Trends

SBS – What emerging technologies or trends do you believe will significantly impact web design in the next few years?

David – We got started before the AI boom but have definitely felt its effects. I don’t think AI will end the web design industry, but like any major technology that emerges, you have to learn to wield it if you don’t want to get swallowed by it.

I believe staying relevant in web design and marketing for the future will mean understanding and utilizing AI effectively.

Business Growth Strategies

SBS – What strategies have you found most effective for growing a web design business in a competitive market?

David – I read something when we first got started. It said: “Work your ass off for your first clients, and they will refer you to others.”

We took that to heart and worked VERY long hours for our first six clients, and you know what? Every single one of those clients referred us to another. It was incredible. I think some of the most effective strategies any business can have are being really good at what they do and actually valuing the relationship the client brings. 

Team Building

SBS – How do you go about building a team for a web design business, and what qualities do you look for in potential team members?

David – We’re still in our growing phases, but this is something we think about often. The main thing we want from our team is joy and drive. We want people who enjoy what they do. It doesn’t have to be their biggest passion, but at least something they’re committed to doing well. And second, we want people who are willing to try something new, even if it fails. 

Marketing and Branding

SBS – How important are personal branding and digital marketing for a web design entrepreneur, and what tips can you offer to effectively market a web design business?

David – Branding and marketing are important for any business, but like any business, if you get too caught up in it, you’ll spend all your time and resources on something that isn’t the main driving force behind a client going with you. 

The main driving force behind getting a client is this: Can you help them identify problems, and can you be part of the solution? If you can do and communicate that well, you’ll be able to find work and grow. 

Client Projects

SBS – Can you describe a particularly challenging project and how your team managed to deliver a successful solution?

David – We recently had a client who was eager to sign on but really struggled to communicate her needs. This is normal, but this client was particularly volatile and felt like a flight risk at any moment.

One thing we realized was helpful with clients like these was to jump on phone/virtual calls, maximize communication, and manage expectations. Emails back and forth tend to be bad communication, and it can become easy to misunderstand each other. When we could maximize live conversations, it allowed us to reaffirm that we were for the client, repeat back to her what we understood she wanted, and allow her to give us clearer feedback.

Financial Management

SBS – What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs regarding managing finances and pricing services in a web design business?

David – On a practical note, get a good electronic payment system that can double as an assistant for bookkeeping and invoice issuing. We’ve used Wave, and it has been a lifesaver!

Pricing can be hard because there are web design businesses that price sites at $200 and others that price them at $20,000. We started out underpricing ourselves relative to our competitors but still high enough that our time and work still felt worth it. 

I do think it’s unrealistic to start out pricing yourself at 10K or 15K per website if you have yet to land a client. Affordable prices are useful for attracting your initial clients, and once referrals start coming in, prices can be raised.

Work-Life Balance

SBS – How do you manage work-life balance while running a demanding business like web design?

David – It’s hard. My wife and I work together, so it’s easy to let the business dominate dinner-time convos and make it difficult to unwind at night. For us, the key has been having other interests outside the business (like running and rock climbing) that provide outlets to decompress. Especially with intense computer work like web design, the more physical a hobby, the more it helps us take our minds off things.

Advice for New Entrepreneurs

SBS – What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone starting their own web design business?

David – It sounds simple, but just start. Don’t get caught up on your own website or building perfection before you even land your first client. In fact, we designed websites for six of our first clients before we ever designed our own website.

Focus on doing really good work for those first clients, and they will refer you to others. 

Future Plans

SBS – What are the future plans for DKDesigns, and how do you envision its growth in the coming years?

David – We’re excited about what’s to come. Our biggest plan is to extend our web design services in Egypt where we’ve built some relationships in the past and are now wanting to offer some of our services there too. We think business, when done well, can really bless a country and community — and we’d love to practice that in New York City and abroad in Egypt. 

We’re also trying to grow the offerings that come with our website packages, namely, producing social media content and reels for clients as well.

Overall, it’s been a wild ride so far, and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!


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The DKDesigns Story of Bridging Web Design Gaps