The Website Marketplace
You read the Non-Technical Introduction and it whet your appetite so you worked through the primers. Suitably initiated, you dug into the tutorial series and then expanded your horizons beyond HTML. Pretty soon you discovered that your web development skills had developed far beyond those of the average person. So did the people around you!
The next thing you knew, they were asking you to "help them" with a little web development work here and there, a request that you soon discovered actually means "do it for me." And then it dawns on you.....
This could be more than a hobby. This could be more than intellectual fulfillment. This could become something more important. This could make money for me!
As with any business, getting started can involve a lot more than you might at first think. Providing a website development requires resources beyond your personal computer -- many of which have been discussed in that Non-Technical Introduction that you read. It also needs customers. Not the kind who need you to "help them" (since you're now in the business, this phrase takes on the new meaning "do it for me -- for free!") but the kind who actually need you to help them and are willing to pay you to do so. Who are these people? Let's think about it for a moment.
Potential customers can be categorized by size. Along with their size commonly go such factors as the urgency of their need, the reality of their vision and their ability or willingness to pay. Commonly -- definitely not always! These factors are very important for you to assess if you wish to succeed. It's important to remember that these observations are generalizations and that any individual or entity may or may not follow the common rule. Generalizations like these are, however, a useful tool for keeping your perspective. When perspectives get out of line, it's frequently to developer who winds up with the rough end of the stick -- "all work and no pay makes Jack an out-of-business developer!"
The smallest of potential customers is the home user. They can also be the ones to present you with the biggest problems. The problem of dealing with the home user is that they frequently have wants far in excess of their budgets. Often, they will try to make up for this by getting an education from you as you work. Teaching while you work is much more than twice the workload. It is all too easy to end up with a huge amount of work and very little pay under these circumstances. It can also be very difficult to impose limits on friends and neighbors. You have been cautioned!
A very small business falls almost into the same category as our last group. There is the difference, however, that there is a business need to be filled. In other words, it is necessary to spend a little money in order to make a little money. This can make it a little easier to lay down some parameters and specify a price for a particular task - "five informational pages for this amount of money," for example.