Just like the best of technology, the internet hasn't stood still...
Building websites is now a commodity that often goes to the lowest bidder. Chances are, if you build web sites for clients for a living, you aren't getting their business because of your talents. Actually, there are very few web design firms that exist on the merit of their own design. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure your web design talent is stunning and your sites are better than anyone else's... the problem is, we're talking about opinions of taste. You needn't look any further than the 2016 presidential election to see how different one person's taste is to another.
Herein lies the deeper issue - how does a web design firm establish themselves in an increasingly ridiculous arena? If you're an American firm, you can't compete on price (and stay in business). If you're a small company of one or two people, it can feel impossible to land larger clients - which can be the lifeblood of your business. We get this pain more than anything. It's hard to make a living off of $500 - $2000 web build clients. It's also hard to value what you do when you make that little and it shows to your clients.
America has long lost its status as a manufacturing nation. That waste basket you purchased at your local big box store was, more than likely, made in China or Thailand. As a business owner, you know why - wages are MUCH less and, therefore, products can be produced at a much smaller cost. Check out the chart below. This shows (from an employment perspective) the difference between service and manufacturing growth.
"OK, so you've shown me a boring graph and gone on about service vs. manufacturing. Web design is a service."
This is the primary problem with most small web design companies. Web design is no longer a service. It's a product - a commodity. Gone are the days of $100,000 web projects for most of us. Even building custom code, it's hard to get the numbers companies could once ask for.
If you're a web designer, the question is - "Now what?"
Well, there is good news. Businesses around the globe are looking for more than a web designer. They are looking for a relationship. It's not enough to sell a product - anyone can do that. You need to sell yourself. Selling yourself is more than being a good looking person or being able to have a good conversation. It's about selling your capabilities. Sure, you can build a website - but you can also maintain that site. You can be on call when something is needed and find a way to turn around that request as soon as humanly possible. You can offer so much more than the client even anticipated. This is TRUE service and this is what brings them back for more and, ultimately, provides for your bottom line as well as your customers' bottom lines.
If you want to grow your web design company - I'm sorry. I have no tips for you. If you want to grow the ways you can serve your client, however, get out of the mindset that your company is labeled a "website designer" and realize that your clients just want you to take care of their needs. If you do that, the sky is the limit.