You wake up in the middle of the night with a splendid idea for a new business, something that – with a bit of luck – might just make your fortune. You get up the next day raring to go. After all, web design is one of the most exciting elements of creating a new business, something tangible to hang your brilliant ideas on.

But hold your horses… while it’s difficult to resist striking while the iron’s hot, taking a step back and smelling the coffee is a much better idea.

We work with lone consultants and smaller businesses all the time. A good proportion of them are new start-ups. We were once a start-up ourselves, so we’ve been there and bought the T-shirt. We know what it’s like to build a company. And we always deliver the same common sense advice about the stuff you need to think about before you get anywhere near the web design side of things, both from a practical and an emotional perspective.

We might be a website design agency. But we also know exactly how it feels to set up a new business, and we’re happy to share our experiences with you. Before you dive right in, read this and discover how to get your head in the right space and the practical side of things on the button, making the whole start-up process as pleasurable and profitable as possible. Then come back next week for part two of our special, genuinely personal start-ups guide.

7 things to do think about early

Straight from the horse’s mouth! Here’s some common sense advice about what to do before you come to us for a website design, redesign or just to find out how we can help you. Preparation is king, and here are our recommendations.

1. Sanity check – Will you be doing what you love and loving what you do?

If this isn’t your first start-up, you’ll already know the business world is a place where hard work and commitment breed success. Yes, some lucky buggers hit gold the first time around and don’t have to lift a finger for it. But they’re rare beasts.

Make sure you’ll genuinely enjoy what you’re about to embark upon building. Otherwise, it could become a rod for your own back. You’re going to have an awful lot to do, something needs to get you out of bed in the morning, and the whole process is a great deal easier if it’s a love thing. Does that make sense to you?

2. Formalise your business goals

Everything you do on the web should be informed by your business objectives, from web design to content creation, digital marketing to online advertising and promotion. So your first step is obvious. Sit down, put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – and figure out a basic business plan from which your goals will flow… on which, in turn, your website design will be based.

It’s also a great process to go through if you want to check your business idea isn’t so off the wall it’s doomed to failure, someone else has cornered the market already, or you’d hate it if it ever came to fruition.

3. Decide to smile at the world so it smiles back

We might sound like a bunch of hippies, but a positive attitude drives a smoother the start-up process. We love working with people like us, people who believe good manners, charm, kindness, generosity and efficiency are a great way to smooth the path to success.

If someone emails us, we email them right back even if it’s only to say we’ve got the message and will respond appropriately later. If we say we’ll call someone back at three, we call them back at three. Professional is best, and we enjoy working with fellow professionals. Does that sound like you?

4. Price your goods and services realistically

We’ve all been there. You charge peanuts just to get the job, hoping more work will come our way down the line. It’s great if you’re just starting out and don’t have any work. But invariably all you do is set unrealistic expectations: that you’ll do more or less anything and charge more or less nothing for it. Worse still, it makes things tough when you finally decide it’s safe to charge proper, grown-up prices.

We’re grown ups. We charge a reasonable rate for our professional expertise, and we expect you to do the same. Bite the bullet from the offset and you’ll be in a much better position later on when your business beds in. It worked for us.

5. Manage your cashflow mercilessly

Forget all the glamorous pitches, glittery jobs and huge orders. Cashflow can kill your fledgling business stone dead if you let things slip. When you get the cashflow side of things pinned down from the start, you can relax. You need to be Ming the Merciless.

We love working with business-savvy people who’ve got their cashflow act together because it means we’re both in the same relatively safe boat. And because we’d like to keep you as a customer in the long term, it makes sense to make recommendations.

The trick is to be careful with your cash and strategic with your invoicing. We did it, and it helped enormously. Make sure you contract clearly in advance and make sure your customers know that while you want to help, you run a business, not a charity. Our clients don’t expect us to work for peanuts, so don’t let your clients take the mickey. Are we on the same page?

6. Invest in a good accountant and a rock solid finance system

A good accountant repays their fee many times over. And they can take a lot of the complexity out of running a new business. They will keep you ship shape and accountable, steer you through the murky VAT waters and help keep your cashflow healthy. All of which explains why not using a professional numbers person is a false economy.

If you’d like some advice about making your start-up business as solid as you can, we run our entire invoicing system in Freshbooks, an online service costing us less than forty US dollars a month, about twenty-five quid in real money.

Our entire invoicing system is automated, reminders are sent, and clients can make online payments. It has kept our cashflow buoyant even when projects take longer than expected, and we’re pleased to recommend it to our start-up customers. If that sounds good, we’re singing from the same hymn sheet.

7. Allocate a realistic branding budget

Very like your business goals, branding is one of those fundamental things you need to address, one of the bedrock elements of any start-up. Your brand says everything about your company and who you are. The last thing you want to do is look cheap unless, of course, you are as cheap as chips and proud of it, with cheapness right at the heart of your sales proposition.

Here’s an example. We use Moo.com for most of our printing. They’re good value, but the main thing is, the results are always fantastic. If like us, you’re into making the best possible first impression, they’re the business. If you’re a quality monster too, we’d love to work with you to bring your start-up idea to reality.

Come back next week when we’ll share more about our attitude, our outlook, our priorities and our recommendations for start-ups. We’ve been there. You’re about to go there. Let’s make it work!