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.
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.
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.
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.
Website 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.