July 25, 2012

Working As a Freelance Web Designer

So, you want to be a freelance web designer, but you don’t know where to start. This post is going to cover everything you will need from learning how to code, to getting clients, getting paid, keeping your clients and maintaining your sanity. Becoming a successful web design freelancer takes a lot of hard work, dedication and even more stress, but it rewards you with being your own boss, getting to work with cool people and relaying on only your self.

Learning to Code HTML, CSS and Design Web Sites

This is going to be your hardest part, if you haven’t already started on this part. Learning to code HTML and CSS can be pretty frustrating and designing web sites can be even worse. You have to take your time and really concentrate on learning to code the right way. Skipping out on this and just using a WYSIWYG program is only going to kill you later on. Learn the latest tech and keep working at it. Learn all you can about HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript as your going to know all of those to be successful.

Do you need some awesome links to help you with these? I really suggest using CodeAcademy(http://www.codecademy.com/) it walks you through everything you need to learn and actually lets you type it out using its online interface. Starting out you will need their web fundamentals course (http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/web) but later on take a look at their Javascript and JQuery courses.

Designing is really an acquired taste. A lot of it is playing around, learning from others and experimenting. Download Photoshop and head over to PSDTuts (http://psd.tutsplus.com/) , they have a lot of great content that will really help you learn all about Photoshop and the techniques that we use to create all the elements. You also need to learn good design principles. Take a look at some of the best sites on the web by using a CSS gallery (http://csselite.com , http://www.awwwards.com/ , http://cssheaven.com etc) these are some of the best designed sites on the web and really give you inspiration and lets you see what is hot and what you need to work towards.

How to Get Clients

Getting web design clients is always one of the hardest part about being a freelance web designer, and its even worse starting off. Here’s some things you can do if you are just starting to design web sites:

  • Ask family, friends, acquaintances etc. if they need a web site designed, they may not bring you all the bank you need but it will definitely get your name out there.
  • Do non-profit design work. Get a hold of non-profits thats web sites need work and offer to help them. It will get your name out there for doing a good dead and also help you network.
  • Check Craigslist/web. Head over to your cities Craigslist site and put /web after the address. That will lead you to the web design section. There is always people looking for cheap work and interns on Craigslist and it can really help you.
  • Post an ad on eBay. This goes for really any body looking for web design work. People love eBay and they look for everything on there. I still have a lot of work sent to me on eBay and it’s pretty cheap (15 bucks for a 30 day ad).

Once you start to get a solid client base built up start to ask for referrals and build a referral program. Reward your clients for sending you work, maybe a certain percent or a base number. Take a look at creating a successful referral program.

Maintaining Your Web Design Client Relationships

When you are a freelance web designer you do not have all the resources that the bigger companies have, and that’s usually a good thing. You do need to have some basic business sense and communication skills. Constant communication between you and your clients is pivotal and means a lot to your success. Nobody ever wants to be forgotten about. You need to keep a list of all your clients and emails so you know everything that is going on. You also need to keep all your financials in line. The best invoicing software that I have used is called Pancake App (http://pancakeapp.com/) it handles all your invoicing for you, does client management and can do recurring payments, its well worth the initial investment.

You also really need to work out how you are going to communicate with your clients. Sure the phone, email, im, text, Skype etc will work but sometimes you need more. For that I suggest using Podio (https://podio.com). Podio is a great communication app that lets you share files, interact with clients, create lists, and do much more. Its a great system to keep your life less hectic and keep your clients informed and up to date.

Being a freelance web designer is really a crazy lifestyle. You have to be ready to put in longer days, challenge yourself, face some hardships and overcome challenges but its all worth it in the end knowing that you control your destiny and knowing that its all up to you. If your not doing what you love right now, why not take a shot?

Did I miss anything that you would tell a freelance designer or developer starting out? What would you tell your younger self? Sound in using the comments below!

  • http://profiles.google.com/authorandrew Andrew Joyce

    Excellent post! I agree on all counts as this is just about word for word how my own freelance business has shaped up. Mainly, I think the main requirement is patience and a real love for a design, because for a long time you’ll be turning out Photoshop tutorials and crummy websites, or getting work for ridiculously cheap, and it takes a while for things to build from there.  But those types of jobs are most important for the experience: you can’t really leave them out of a freelance career.

    Thanks for the excellent post, Jake!

    Andrew

  • http://ChrisFrees.com/ Chris F

    Great post! Also thanks for the app suggestions.

  • http://www.replicon.com/time-clock Employee Time Clock

    Is pancakeapp better than Invoicera? Because once I know this from someone who have already used it, I can make some decisions.

  • Melissa Evans

    As I freelance my web designs skills it’s my utmost concern to keep track of the time I spent on individual projects. Talygen time tracking and reporting system is the one I am using currently. A great freelancing tool!

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