If you’re considering a career as a freelance web developer, we have good news: it’s a thriving industry that will only get bigger! To be successful, though, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of your trade. Here’s what you should know about how to succeed as a freelance web designer.
Conduct thorough research
As a freelancer, you have the freedom to choose your clients—but as with any job, finding the right clients is key. To succeed in your business, you need to find clients who are on board with you and your vision for their website—and the best way to do that is by conducting thorough research.
Thorough research can differentiate between a successful freelance web design project and a failed one.
When you’re hired to design someone’s website, you’ll need to know what they want their website to look like, what features it will have, and what their business does. If you don’t do your homework on these details, your client will get frustrated with you for not understanding their needs—and eventually, they might hire someone else to do the job instead.
To conduct thorough research before starting a new freelance web design project:
- Research the client’s industry and competitors: You can learn by looking at other websites in the same field as yours. Look at sites that seem successful—what do you like about them? What makes them stand out? What elements would you want to include in your design?
- Interview your client: Be sure you understand what your client wants their website to look like and what kind of features it will have. Consider sketching out some ideas or even creating wireframes or mockups of what you think the finished product should look like.
Create a business plan
Having a clear idea of your strengths and weaknesses will guide your business plan, including market analysis, product descriptions, marketing strategies, and budget projections.
The first two years of your freelancing career will be the most difficult. Don’t let that discourage you, though! Instead, use those two years to figure out what works for you—it’s the perfect time to experiment and hone in on the strategies that will lead you to success.
Marketing is crucial for all freelancers, especially newbies who haven’t had a chance to gain recognition yet. Figure out where your target audience hangs out online (social media, forums, blogs) and establish a presence through regular posts about useful information about your field.
Become a brand
As a freelance web developer, it’s not enough to have a good freelance web developer portfolio—you have to build a brand around your work. Your brand is all the things that make you recognizable as an individual web designer. Everything that makes up your online presence is part of your brand, from your logo design to your website design and even your email signature.
If you’re starting in web design, it’s natural to wonder if you need to put time into branding yourself or keep working on perfecting your craft. To help you decide how to proceed, we’ve laid out three major benefits you’ll reap by investing in building and maintaining a strong brand! A strong personal brand will help you stand out from the crowd in the competitive world of freelance web design. Here’s why branding matters:
- You’ll attract better clients: The type of client who’s willing to pay top dollar for quality web design is also looking for a designer who’s confident in their skills—and that confidence shines through when you’re able to present yourself and communicate about what makes you unique. You’re not just any web designer, after all!
- Easy to build trust: When you brand yourself, it’s easier to build trust with potential clients because they can see what your brand stands for and how you present yourself.
- Seen as authentic: With a professional website, potential clients are more likely to believe that you’re an authentic freelancer. A professional website demonstrates to them that you’re serious about your craft and that you have the skills necessary to get the job done.
- Become an expert: Branding yourself as a freelance web designer shows people that you’re an expert in your field. It gives them confidence in your abilities, and if they know that other customers have been satisfied with your work, they’re more likely to want to work with you.
- Networking becomes easy: Branding yourself as a freelance web designer makes networking with clients easier. When you are branded, your clients know exactly who you are and what you do, making it more convenient for them to find you and hire you.
- Differentiating from competitors: When you establish your brand, it’s easier for potential clients to differentiate you from the other freelancers. You need to be able to stand out from the rest of the crowd to get hired by new clients. Branding yourself helps in doing just that.
Build legal documents as a freelance web developer
The legal documents you build for your freelance web design business can help you save time and money, attract more clients, and provide a better experience to those who work with you. Many of these documents are required by law, but it’s always good practice to have them even if they aren’t. Here are important things to include:
Terms & Conditions:
Every freelance web designer should have a set of terms and conditions that govern their business interactions. These terms and conditions include payment procedures, cancellation policies, etc. These can be posted on your website or emailed to potential customers when they first get in touch with you. You should also make sure that your customers sign these forms before you start working with them.
This policy is meant to protect the privacy of your website users. It should be written so that customers know exactly what information is being collected and how it will be used. Some examples include:
This agreement is meant to protect the confidentiality of any information that may be discussed during meetings between you and your client(s). A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is often referred to as a “confidentiality agreement” or “non-compete clause.”
Create a schedule
As a freelancer, you have more flexibility in your schedule than most people—which can also be a curse. It’s too easy to stay up late, sleep in, and work when you feel like it. But that’s no way to get things done! For this reason, it’s important to create a schedule for yourself and stick to it.
Here are some tips for creating a freelance schedule:
- Think of the hours you’ll work as if they were a job. If you’re more productive in the morning, wake up earlier to get your work done then. If you’re more productive in the late afternoon, plan your day to do your best work at that time.
- Set specific times for each part of your workday—and make sure that includes breaks! Schedule time for eating lunch and taking walks—for going to the gym or having coffee with friends if that works best for you.
- Keep track of your progress throughout the week, and at the end of the week, take note of what worked and what didn’t. You can use this information to adjust and improve your schedule in future weeks.
- Maintain a positive attitude about sticking to your schedule—even if it’s hard at first!
Get More Experience
Being a freelancer means that you don’t have the luxury of being able to learn on the job while someone else covers for you. If you’re not experienced enough, it will be challenging to find work as a freelancer. Still, you can gain experience in many ways: create your website or volunteer your services to local businesses and charities.
Be a good business freelance developers
Freelance web designers are often excellent designers, but sometimes they lack the business skills necessary to succeed. As a freelancer, you’ll have to handle:
- Managing your time
- Setting your rates
- Negotiating with clients
- Pitching your services
- Marketing yourself
- Managing client expectations
Many people become freelancers so they can design instead of having to run an entire business, but the reality is that if you want to be successful, you’ll need to master these business skills too!
Create a resume
As a freelancer, you need to be able to put your best foot forward, and that includes having a solid résumé. Your résumé should tell the story of who you are as a professional web designer, and it should give potential clients an idea of what they can expect from working with you.
To design an effective résumé, follow these steps:
- Use a template. You can find free templates online or create your style with a program like Microsoft Word.
- Include images. In most cases, people will be looking at your résumé on their computer or phone, so make sure the images are clear and legible when viewed on those devices.
- Write in the first person (I/me/my). This is your opportunity to brag about yourself—do it!
- List your skills and experience in order of importance for the position you’re applying for. For example, suppose you’re applying to work as a freelance web designer for a company specializing in e-commerce. In that case, it’s more important for them to know that you have experience with payment gateways than whether or not you’ve worked with databases before.
To succeed in freelance web design, you need to offer the client a well-designed solution to their specific problem. The best way to do this is to thoroughly understand the business domain and the facts and figures around the client’s business.
Taking this approach allows you to design a solution that best fits their needs without taking shortcuts. This allows you to achieve successful projects as a freelancer and multiple repeat clients as a result.