How Tos

A 10-Step Guide To Getting Started As A Freelance Web Designer

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Many students and college graduates are now joining the freelancing industry hoping to do freelance work and make some money in their free time.

Last month alone, I received nearly a dozen requests from students, on both Quora and via email, asking for advice on how to make money doing web design/development work.

I’m truly proud of the kids these days. Instead of killing their free time playing video games, they are looking for ways to make some money. That’s the true entrepreneurial spirit.

This article is dedicated to all those kids, grownups, and everyone else who’re looking for a solid actionable plan to get into freelancing as a web designer.

In this article, I will show you a simple, easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan to get started as a freelance web designer with helpful tips on landing clients and making some real money.

I did some freelance web design work for about two years. Rest assured, if you follow all the steps in this guide, you will be able to become a professional web designer in no time and earn a living from home.

 

BONUS:  Join my FREE email course to learn valuable tips, secrets, and expert advice on building a successful freelance career.

 

Step 1: There Are No Shortcuts To Freelancing Success

First and foremost, accept that freelancing takes lots of hard work and a considerable amount of time before you start generating money.

It will take some time, probably a couple of months, for you to understand the ways of freelancing and start making money. So prepare yourself and your freelance mindset.

If you’re trying to become a freelancer for the sole purpose of making quick money, you won’t last for long.

You need to have patience and be passionate about what you do to become a freelancer and survive the long journey.

Step 2: Web Designer or Web Developer?

People confuse themselves with these two terms all the time.

designer-vs-developer

Web Designer – Is the person who’s in charge of the front-end side, or the look and design of a website or a web application. A web designer arranges all the website elements in the right order, code the style sheets, and make the face of the website.

Web Developer – Is the person who does the heavy work of composing the back-end side of a website, like developing the algorithms for website functions such as checkout systems and user interactions.

Be clear about which path you want to take.

Step 3: Assume You Know Nothing

After visiting all those “learn to code” websites and going through plenty of HTML/CSS courses, you must be feeling pretty confident about your coding skills.

But, how well do you know about User Experience Design (UXD) and Web Usability?

Thanks to all the great free online resources available today, anyone could easily become a coder. But, that doesn’t necessarily make them qualified to become a freelancer.

Unlike web development, website design involves a lot of creativity and proper knowledge of how the web works.

User Experience Design and Web Usability are two of the skills that you must master in order to become a professional web designer. These two skills will allow you to design websites with better engagement and help you understand the psychology behind web design.

For example, have you ever wondered why all websites have the main menu on the top of the page? Why do most landing pages have their Call-to-Action (CTA) on top half of the page?

The answer is simple: It’s all part of the UXD.

If you’re interested in learning this subject, I’d suggest you start with Joe Natoli’s User Experience Design Fundamentals course.

Step 4: Learn About Domains, Web Hosting, and Servers

When taking on a project to design a website for a business, most of your clients will expect you to buy a domain, a hosting plan, and completely setup their website.

Learn about how to buy and configure a domain name. How to maintain web hosting and work with FTP clients. Learn to manage and maintain servers. Go here to get started on some of the basics.

Something to think about: I bought a reseller hosting plan and offered my clients to host their sites on my own server at a reasonable price and manage to make some money with hosting.

Step 5: Learn A Little Bit Of Graphic Design

Including graphics and illustrations, such as logos and animated characters, is a must-have for websites these days. Clients will ask you to take care of these too.

You can team up with another freelancer to get those designed.

However, you’ll make more money if you could learn how to do those things yourself. Find a Photoshop tutorial and learn to design logos.

Step 6: Build Your Portfolio

When a client approaches you to get their website designed, the first thing they’re going to ask is to see some examples of your previous work.

This is where you show your kickass designs. If you don’t have anything to show your clients, get to work and design some great sites. Do some free work if you have to.

Design a great theme and release it online for free. Or reach out to businesses and offer to design them a website for free.

no-website-app

Here’s how I did it:

  • I browsed Google Play and Steam store looking for game and app developers who doesn’t have a website.
  • I sent them an email explaining why they need a website and offering to do it for free.
  • A few companies responded back and I made them awesome websites.

After that, you can showcase your work in a website of your own or through a site like Behance.

portfolio-websiteWebsite of Sean Halpin

Step 7: How To Price Your Services

Different web design projects will require different amounts of work and time. So, figuring out the perfect price for your web design projects can be a little difficult.

But, if you want to get a basic idea about the right price, here’s what you can do.

  • Go online and find the email or the phone number of your competitor web design firm.
  • Grab your phone and call them or send them an email.
  • Pretend to be a client and get a quote for designing your pretend website.

Big web design agencies have teams of designers. So they have expensive pricing schemes for projects. Since you’re working alone, you can take advantage of this.

Try to come up with a reasonable price for your project. Not too expensive or too cheap. A price that will make your clients say YES, but not get suspicious.

Step 8: Best Freelance Sites To Find Work

Avoid online freelance platforms if you can. These sites are too competitive and winning a client will be extremely difficult.

But if you have no other choice, choose a freelance site with less competition to offer your services.  PeoplePerHour and Toptal are two of the most suitable sites for web designers and developers.

Step 9: Go Offline

You’ll have better luck finding clients if you go local.

Did you know that over 58% of small businesses still don’t have a website?

Going door-to-door and cold calling actually works better than finding work online. I managed to score a lot of clients that way.

Here’s what I did:

  • First, I walked around the streets writing down the names and the contact info for small businesses and shops without a website.
  • I came home and looked up those names online to make sure they don’t have a website.
  • Then I put together a small document that explains all the benefits of having a website.
  • I printed out the document and mailed (snail mail) it the addresses of those shops.
  • Waited a week for a reply from those businesses, and then I called them referencing to my letter and asking if they’d like to meet up for further information.
  • 2 out of 5 times. That’s how well it worked.

Step 10: The Next Level

Once you’re off the ground, you’ll start getting referrals from your old clients and lots of new projects.

It’s time to promote yourself as a brand so that people can recognize you and the quality of your work.

If you’re getting more clients than you can handle, think about expanding your freelance business as well. Hire a couple of interns and make your work easier.

It will take a while for you to go through all these 10 steps, but you will get there if you’re consistent enough.

Also, keep in mind that web design is a giant industry that’s constantly evolving. So, subscribe to all the web design blogs you can and keep learning new stuff.

Roshan Perera
I’m Roshan Jerad Perera, a freelance writer/blogger and the founder at FreelancingHacks.com. My goal is to help other people get started in freelancing and guide them toward a successful career and financial freedom.
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4 Comments
  • Mohit Verma May 31,2017 at 6:50 PM

    Hello Roshan,
    i have been looking for an article on the web that can showcase me a path to get started as a web designer , and i found your article , i really appreciate the way it has been written , i really commend you’r words.

    I myself had completed my cs engineering in 2016 may its almost an year , i had always been a lover of design and used to appreciate websites with good design,,, but after my engineering i was not able to grab jobs in my campus recruitement (low % in 12th)
    that kind of demotivated me to another level and i went back to my home started preparing for some govt job(as it’s the trend for engineering grads now a days here in india ) but now its about 5-6 months i realized that this is not for me,,, since my childhood i wanted to pursue a career in web designing .

    hence i quit my govt job preparation and started brushing up my skills by taking some online bootcamps pertaining web design and wordpress development now i feel confidence in designing web design and wordpress , currently i am learning UX the same course which you have mentioned here (master version of the course).

    i wanted to know that as i have no experience so should i start with freelancing or by doing a job.

    my personal choice is to start with a job and side by side starting freelancing as i got threshold experience .

    so basically i wanted to ask that as being a fresher how should i apporach the companies and what salary should i expect being a Web designer/wordpress/bootstrap developer as i live in jaipur rajasthan. but willing to relocate anywhere. in india

    I would really appreciate you;r reply and one more thing to confess that this is the first time i told my actual story to someone, what i feel and through what i am going through.

    • Roshan Perera Jun 1,2017 at 4:46 AM

      Hi Mohit,

      Thanks for sharing your story. It takes guts to be open and share a personal story like that.

      You are on the right track. I think the best thing you can do is to get a day job first, get some experience working in the field while you work on your freelancing portfolio. Because it usually takes a while before earning a reasonable income through freelancing. So it’s best to save up some money before going full time freelancing.

      I’m not sure about the salaries in India. Despite my looks, I’m not from India. I’m from Sri Lanka. But you can try checking out the salaries on Glassdoor. Try this link – http://fhacks.link/2rmcx4b

      Good luck.
      Feel free to reach me via email if you need any tips in the future.

  • Brittany Killgore May 29,2017 at 11:10 PM

    Hi, my name is Brittany, I’m a recent college grad from Oklahoma City, OK with an associates in Web Design. I’m a mother of two young girls & trying to get back on my feet & (once again) out of my parents house & back into my own! I read your article & wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed it! I think it’s great! Since I basically have all of the know-how for the first 6 steps, I am now at the “scary” part. I am mostly timid with steps 7, 8 & 9, I tend to get quite overwhelmed & give up. Since you tackled a great approach to finding people who may need websites, my question to you is how do I find people that want graphics made? I feel that in the meantime of looking for clients in need of a website or a website remodel, I could make a bit of extra cash by making graphics here & there, because they consume much less time than a website requires. 🙂

    • Roshan Perera May 30,2017 at 6:48 AM

      Hi Brittany,
      Thanks for your kind compliments.

      If you’re referring to doing graphic design work on the side, then you’ll be able to find plenty of jobs on freelancing platforms and job boards, including content crafting for social media, creating infographics, etc.

      If you’re good at crafting templates and designs, you could also sell your designs online. It’s much more profitable and requires very little work. Check out sites like CreativeMarket.com and GraphicRiver.net.

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