Whether you’re talented and knowledgeable about web design or are simply looking to learn more, read on.
Freelancing as a designer can be a great way to work for yourself, make your own schedule, practice your skills, and build your portfolio.
Not to mention, freelance web design can provide a very comfortable income. Experienced freelancers often earn more than $50 per hour.
But breaking into web design as a freelancer can be intimidating.
Working for yourself means you get to make your own schedule. It also means that you are more responsible for you own work. If you don’t find work and retain clients, you don’t get paid.
Even with the challenges, however, freelancing is definitely a rewarding option for web designers.
If you’re ready to start using your web design skills as a freelancer, then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Before you begin with freelance web design
It’s a good idea to take the time to think about everything that will be involved before jumping into it.
There’s more to being a freelancer than simply learning how to design and setting up websites. There are logistical, financial, and technical requirements that you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for.
Why do you want to freelance?
When you’re first getting started as a freelancer, it’s important to think about what your goals are.
Are you hoping to make some extra spending money from web design projects on the side? Or are you looking to quit your job and work for yourself full-time?
Answering these questions early on will help you to evaluate your priorities. It will also determine how much time and money you are willing to dedicate to getting your freelancing business off the ground.
What will the costs be?
No matter what kind of business you are running, there are always costs associated with it.
Since you’re your own boss as a freelancer, you need to consider what kind of costs you’ll be taking on to make your business work.
At bare minimum, you will need a professionally hosted site for your business. This site will be the first impression that potential clients will get of your web design skills, so you want to make sure it looks good.
You also might want to invest in some web design software that will allow you to do more complex work.
In addition to the necessary start-up costs, don’t forget that you will be responsible for your own taxes. When you are determining how much money you will be able to make, you must deduct the amount that you’ll owe to the government. It’s critical that you have great financial structure.
Do you have the right skills?
There are two questions to ask yourself to see if you’re prepared to work in the freelance web design space.
First, do you have the skills to design professional web pages? While you might have experience doing so as a hobby, that does not necessarily mean that you have the expertise necessary to satisfy the needs of your clients.
At minimum, you should be comfortable with principles of visual design. If you happen to also be familiar with using HTML and CSS, you’ll certainly have an advantage.
Second, you must ask yourself whether you have the skills to be a freelancer.
While freelancing can be rewarding and flexible, it can also be high-pressure and intense. Being a successful freelancer requires a variety of soft skills in communication and time management that not everyone possesses.
Remember, being a talented web designer does not guarantee you’ll be a successful freelancer.
Getting business as a freelancer
Once you’ve done the research and determined the commitment you are willing to make to freelancing, it’s time to get started building your business.
When you work in freelance web design, you will often spend as much time growing your client base and brand identity as you do actually designing web pages. This is especially true when you are first getting started.
While this work may not be directly related to your skills as a web designer, it is crucial to getting your talent noticed and recognized by potential clients.
Building a client base
As a freelancer, discovering and retaining clients is your top priority. Without clients, you don’t have a business.
Clients don’t just pay your bills. They also provide you with opportunities to create amazing work that will build your portfolio. This, in turn, will attract more clients.
The trick is to grow your client base exponentially by fostering good relationships with your first clients, who will then recommend you to other clients.
To build these good relationships, make sure to maintain a customer service attitude.
Remember, your client’s needs should always come first. Even if you don’t always agree with them, you should work to accommodate them, and meet their needs.
Marketing your business
While clients can help your freelance business grow by word of mouth, it is wise to not rely on any single strategy to build your business.
To be successful in freelance web design, you must constantly seek out opportunities to gain more experience and to make your brand more well known.
One great way to both market and differentiate your services is through social media.
For instance, perhaps you’ve identified a particular type of client whose websites you’d like to focus on designing. Connecting with people in this industry on social media is a great way to build your network, and find potential clients.
Differentiating your brand
When working as a freelancer, there is a fine line between casting too broad a net and carving out too narrow a niche for yourself.
On the one hand, you want to have a diverse portfolio that shows you can address a variety of needs. On the other hand, you want to have a consistent brand that clients will identify with you.
As mentioned earlier, one way to do this is by selecting a type of client you are most interested in working with. For instance, perhaps you are interested in mainly designing webpages for small businesses, or for medical professionals, or for non-profits.
Or, if you prefer not to stick to one type of client, you can build you brand by creating a consistent design. Many people in freelance web design work with particular color schemes or page layouts.
This strategy not only gives clients an idea of what to expect, but it also makes the designer’s work recognizable. The more your work is immediately associated with you, the easier it will be to build a brand that clients will trust.
Preparing for details
Since you’ll be working for yourself as a freelancer, it is important to keep detailed records of your work and to stay well organized.
Additionally, you must be prepared to deal with the nuts and bolts of what goes along with running a business. These practices are essential to ensuring positive relationships between you and your clients.
Whenever you provide freelancing work, it is important to draw up a contract that both parties agree to. This is in both yours and your client’s best interest.
On your part, a contract establishes an agreed upon amount that you will be paid for your services. It is important to get this in writing before you do any work.
For your client, the contract clearly outlines what it is that they have hired you to do. The contract will be used to determine whether you have done your job as a freelancer.
In addition to detailing the job you’ve agreed to do and what you will be paid, make sure that your contract addresses copyright. Your designs belong to you, and, as we’ve discussed, are essential to building both your brand and your portfolio.
You want to make sure that your contract protects your right to be recognized for your work and your designs.
If you are not comfortable writing a contract yourself, make sure to factor in the costs of hiring a technical writer or lawyer into your budget.
One of the trickiest aspects of getting started in freelance web design is determining what to charge your clients.
While you certainly never want to sell yourself short, it is unlikely that you will get top dollar when you are first getting started and have little brand recognition.
As a good rule of thumb, don’t advertise prices on your website. Instead, provide a form where customers can request a quote. There are a few reasons for this.
For one, each job you will do is slightly different. You don’t want to advertise a base rate, and then have to explain to a customer why their job is more complex and will cost more.
Additionally, as your business grows, you will begin to charge more for your services. It might turn off potential clients if they see your rates increase on your website.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider whether you should charge clients by the hour, or by the project.
When you charge by the project, you have a better idea up front of exactly what you’ll make. That said, you run the risk of being underpaid for a job if it takes much longer than anticipated.
At the end of the day, becoming successful in freelance web design is a marathon, not a sprint. There’s no doubt that you will make mistakes. But if you put in the time to develop client relationships, build a brand, and pay attention to detail, you can have a deeply rewarding career.
Have you made a career in freelance web design? What strategies made you successful? Let us know in the comments!