In the past, nobody could have predicted how popular freelancing would inevitably become. And yet today, we find ourselves living in a world where a staggering 47% of workers classify themselves as independent freelance professionals. That’s just shy of half the global working population.
Web design and development have consistently been at the top of the list of successful freelance jobs. This is due to the high demand for this line of work and its seamless compatibility with the remote working infrastructure of the 2020s.
But even great web designers with years of experience may struggle to enter the freelance industry without the right approach to the marketplace, marketing, and prospective clients.
If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, these eight top tips for web designers are exactly what you need to set yourself on the path to success.
Table of Contents
Find A Niche, Capisce?
By now you’ve probably already heard about the importance of finding your niche in the freelance industry, but its message bears repeating. Time and time again, freelancers who specialize in a particular niche within a broader field find more clients and land more stable jobs.
But why? Doesn’t sticking to a niche impose limitations on growth?
Well, perhaps… in the beginning. However, in the long run, clients are looking for designers who can fulfill specific high-end needs. The big clients you want on your resume are the ones that are looking for someone with special expertise, not general skills.
While taking a jack-of-all-trades approach might land you some interim work at first, your resume or portfolio will end up looking scattered, making it much harder to get hired for the jobs you actually want.
You can determine your niche in a variety of ways. Such as:
- Platform – Specializing in certain platforms like Shopify or WordPress
- Industry – Web design for specific trades such as eCommerce or fashion
- Aesthetic – Focus on a particular visual style, like brutalism or minimalism
- Location – Specialize in supporting local businesses
Rather than making yourself available for anything and everything that pays, think again and choose a clear path for your career trajectory. This communicates a better understanding of your skills and ambitions while boosting your reputation as an informed, experienced, and in-demand web designer.
Develop A Strong Personal Brand
Regardless of the industry you work in, personal branding is important. However, when it comes to web design, the way you curate your online identity and skills becomes even more fundamental to thriving in the global freelance sector.
As a web designer, it’s your job to map out and create a digital interface for users to engage and interact with. Aesthetics plays a vital role in this process, which is why clients will be looking for designers that show a clear and comprehensive understanding of this subject.
Developing an online identity that is visually attractive and functional is what makes a great web designer. So, make sure you showcase this particular skill through your personal brand.
Whether you’re into whimsical, Avant-Garde design or simplistic functionality, make sure you use your online presence and portfolio to show clients who you are and what you strive for in your field.
Use Project Management Tools
There are several great reasons to become familiar with project management tools. But two stand out from the rest.
First, project management tools can greatly improve your personal and professional workflow.
As a freelancer, you’ll be tasked with supervising your schedule, which can become stressful if you lack experience with independent work administration. Using a project management tool such as Asana, Trello, or Monday.com will support you in taking care of long-term and day-to-day business.
Second, being proficient in project management tools makes you more hirable. Throughout your freelance career, it’s virtually inevitable that you will participate in projects that incorporate the use of these tools. If you already use them, you’ll be one step ahead.
Expand Your Portfolio
Never stop reaching for something more. Your portfolio should inspire and pleasantly surprise potential clients. The best way to do this is with a diverse background of skills.
If you think this tip conflicts with the “pick a niche” concept, think again. While it isn’t a good idea to advertise yourself as the Swiss army knife of web design, adding extra skills to an already well-established portfolio certainly is.
You want to flex your proficiency in a wide variety of skills while maintaining a clear vision for the kind of sites you want to create. Once you have defined your niche, providing evidence of your broader array of talents is something that can really push your client pool to the next level.
This also makes you more likely to get hired for bigger, longer-term projects, which tend to pay much better than the alternative. For example, web designers who understand servers, domains, web hosting, and a few different coding languages will appear much more attractive than candidates without those skills.
Stay In The Loop With Web Design Trends
Trends come and go, that much we witness every day, especially in the online world. Keeping up to date with current web design trends will help you stay informed about any big changes or errors people are making, as well as help you to gain as modern an edge as possible on all your competitors.
You can easily monitor web design trends by following design-focused sites like Dribbble, Muzli, or even Pinterest. All of these sites serve to inspire and inform designers from across the globe about what’s going on, what’s hot, and what’s not.
While staying true to your visions and having creative autonomy is always important, staying in the loop about what others in your field are up to will keep you stimulated while making you a more competitive candidate for freelance jobs.
It’s also important to keep your portfolio up to date with the newest trends. Having an outdated portfolio could cost you business, especially when working in such a fast-moving space.
Every few months, take the time to update your online portfolio to reflect current trends and recent projects. Doing so will keep you at the forefront of the industry and highlight your commitment to delivering the best customer and end-user experience.
Find And Use High-Quality Invoicing Tools
Like any other professional, you deserve to be paid properly and on time. But as a freelancer, much of the responsibility for making that happen becomes your own. The best way to avoid getting taken advantage of is to put matters into your own hands. You can do this by implementing a professional rate and billing system.
First off, rates. You need to establish a rate card or system that complements your work ethic and ensures you get adequately compensated for your efforts. Decide between hourly or project-based rates, and come up with a pricing plan that works for your design style.
Using an invoicing tool will take an astronomical weight off your shoulders and ensure your invoices look professional, are clear and concise, and leave no room for questions.
Invoicing software like Freshbooks, Zoho Books, and Xero get some of the best reviews from freelancers. Many invoicing tools available online are also free or offer free options that are ideal for when you’re just starting.
Set Short And Long-Term Goals For The Future
In any profession, in any working environment, setting goals is an essential part of the process. Knowing what you are working towards makes it much easier to focus and can yield results faster than if you were aimlessly wandering around.
As you embark on this new journey, consider where you want it to take you. Is this a part-time gig? Do you want to become a full-time freelancer? Is this your main passion, or do you have others on the back burner?
Knowing the why behind what you’re doing will help you to outline a trajectory for the future and allow you to make decisions that best align with your personal and professional goals.
While you should never undersell your skills, it’s always better to take a humble stance with your first few gigs. It’s far better to blow clients away with your delivery than it is to bite off more than you can chew.
Because realistically, the freelance industry is a unique job market that does require real trial and error to finally get right.
Even the most experienced web designers have to take time to navigate this new approach to work and sit tight before momentum can start to build. Instead of jumping the gun and promising the world to your first few clients, make sure you have time to find your footing.
It will be much more favorable for you to undersell your skills (just a little) and then over-deliver on the outcome to make a great impression. Once your reputation is a little more evolved, sing your praises as loudly as you can!
Freelancing has become an incredibly popular alternative to traditional work arrangements as the world continues to evolve. But this independent approach to work requires much more effort and self-discipline than those outside might realize.
With access to the right tools, resources, and opportunities, anyone can make a successful career as a freelance web designer.
- 8 Tips for Web Designers Who Are Just Starting Their Freelance Journey - October 11, 2022