Turn your hobby into your profession: Freelance Web Designer

April 18, 2012

business

 

Each month we look how people have successfully turned their hobby into their profession. This month we continue this feature with web design.

Here we will be discussing the most important factors and issues you may come across when you set up your own business as a freelance web designer.

Image from adactio via creative commons license


Freelance Web design

In today’s internet-driven world, having a well-designed website is essential for running a successful business. A huge proportion of business is conducted via company websites. Therefore web designers are in great demand and play a very important part in the online business environment.

There are many factors to consider when developing a web site. It is often the initial point of contact between the customer and the company so the website should be visually attractive but also be functional. The website must help the user find the information they are looking for and make it easy for the user to make a purchase. Because of the technical requirements and huge importance of web design many companies call in professional web designers to develop a robust website.

Getting started: Creating your portfolio

As with all trades it is hard to get started with no contacts. The most important thing to do is to build a good portfolio which shows off the high quality of your work to potential clients. If you studied a related course at university or college then it would be fine to include this work and website examples in your portfolio. To get some “real life” experience, consider offering your services for free to either charities or friends and family who run their own small business and don’t have their own website yet. This way you can build a more diversified portfolio before you’ve even obtained any work yet.

Another option is to create a website or blog for any hobbies you have. You could discuss the web design industry or any sports you enjoy. This is another way to show of your skills and add more websites to your portfolio. You can see some examples of freelance web designer’s websites in our collection of resources.

Developing your business

A large amount of business may come from other freelancers or small businesses who have either just started up or are getting the online side of their business up to speed. Therefore it is important to network with other freelancers and small businesses.  You should also network with other freelance web designers. Instead of seeing them as competition; view them as a people you can share knowledge with.

One way of building links with other freelancers and web designers is by establishing a strong social media presence, on sites like Facebook and Twitter, to accompany your website and portfolio. Make sure you regularly discuss the latest trends and developments in the industry via these channels, add lots of influential contacts and even blog about your thoughts. This will help you build up a wide range of contacts in the industry and you will be more likely to attract work from prestigious clients.

Legal documents

It is important to create legal documents with your clients to protect your rights and deal with problems, should there be any. The first thing you need to do is create a contract with your client that sets out all the terms and conditions of the project.

The way you charge for your work should also be discussed with the client before any work is carried out. There are two ways you could chose to charge for your work. The first method is fixed-price. This means that you charge a fixed price for a set project which you agree with the client ahead of time, irrelevant of how long it takes to complete the work. It can be difficult to determine a fixed-price for a project before actually completing the work, however this method also means that designers with efficient methods for saving time won’t be unfairly penalised with a low cost.

Alternatively, you could choose to charge your clients per hour. This method means it is much harder to be under or over paid for a project. However, this also means that you will need to fill out timesheets and there needs to be an effective way to transfer timesheets back and forth between yourself and the client. For this you should look at small business accounting software which allows you to track the time you spend on each project and generate flexible timesheet reports to pass onto the client.

Summary

Success as a freelance web designer ultimately depends on your ability to establish yourself in this highly competitive industry, and also your ability to network with others. There are relatively low entry barriers to establishing yourself and experience will be your greatest asset. It is a fast moving industry so you need to take a proactive and innovative attitude to finding work and keeping up-to-date with industry developments.

Check out our summary of our top tips for becoming a freelance web designer or you can find this guide in a downloadable format via our PDF sharing account. If you have any other tips for starting out as a freelance web designer please leave a comment!
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