>>> AndieR, how do you overcome the time differences, not being able to go and see you customers?
Well I get up late and work till late in the night. I suppose that's not very exciting as a plan but one gets used to it. Also most of our clients are American and they don't feel not "seeing" me as a problem: we can schedule meetings over the net for instance. The worst is not having DSL in most French areas, therefore you really have to make sure the place you're going to does offer you that...
>>> How do you find customers with the distance?
Mostly with snail mail campaigns and email based ones.
>>> how open/developped is the french market (from a web agency point of view and mom and pops)
Not very open I'm afraid for a real agency, for "mom and pops" down right closed: most people would still rather spend their Sunday "creating" their small company's website - therefore no great chance for very small structures.
>>> how competitive is the web design line of business and seo line of business
SEO is not very developed here, therefore there's still much to be done. Web design is becoming more competitive but you still can practice with medium-high rates. The problem is finding work in France.
>>> how aware are people about the net in France (been in the UK for 5 years now - lost tracks of figures)
I think I've read something like 55% of households having the net... I'm not sure the figures are up to date though.
>>> what kind of growth do you see in awareness and development of the French Market(from a web agency point of view and mom and pops)
I hope that in the next five years there will really be a break through in France... people are becoming less resistant to it...
>>> legal requirement of running a french business (web agency or mom and pop) as a one man band to start with
There is no middle way solution I'm afraid: either you're declared or not. If you are then you have to pay around 2000-3000 euros for different charges per year and per person minimum... This is really the most difficult as when you don't make money you still have to pay... and then there are the taxes at the end of the year... around 30% of your benefits (don't believe those that tell you otherwise).
>>> what type of literature (paper or web based) do you read to be kept informed of what happend on the french internet scene
Are you kidding? :) Is there a French based internet scene and I wasn't aware of it?! lol Now more seriously, there is much paper based stuff but not serious enough to really be of use for someone making a living out of it.
>>> do you have to relocate in Paris to run a viable web agency (I was hoping to go under the sun - south)?
We are in a small village about 350km south from Paris but then we could afford that because we aren't mainly working for France but if that's the market you wish to go after then you should try a larger city (perhaps not Paris though), such as Lyon or Bordeaux...
Hope this might have been of some help!