Beginner Tips: Getting Started in Web Design

Some freelance web designers just dive in, while others take the time to learn the ropes before launching their web design career (biz). By any means, you can learn on the job, but don’t you think it would be wiser to arm yourself with a few web design tips to make your work easier from the get go? I did not read a guide such as this when I started, and this fact slowed down my transitioning to a fully-fledged web designer.

Tips For Getting Started

Today’s post will stop you from making the same mistakes I made. Have fun and wow us with your thoughts in the comments below.

Plan

When I started out, I did not plan for anything. I mean, I just started learning HTML and CSS as a hobby. I wanted to build websites for fun, and it never occurred to me, not even once, that I’d make money from the same later on. Since I didn’t have a business plan, I did not commit to the training fully, something that slowed my transitioning to a professional web designer. I dove right in and learnt the code, but when business came my way, I had no idea what I was doing. Apparently, design and business are two different things entirely.

If you’re to progress from absolute beginner to a paid pro without wasting time, you will need to start with a solid business plan. From my experience, having a sound business plan is far much important that learning web design. After all, you don’t need web design skills to run a successful web design business – you just need the passion, some business skills and a couple of web designers to push the code work. Without a plan, you will either take ages to realize your goals or fail miserably.

Learn the Ropes

You can’t just wake up one morning, drive to the nearest airport, hop on the first jet you see and fly the thing around the globe. You simply can’t – you need the relevant skills.

Learning web design should not be compared to flying planes, the latter is way too complicated. Regardless, you should invest time in learning HTML, CSS and PHP among other web programming languages.

Read books, blogs and follow expert web designers for updates, inspiration and news. If you must go back to school, don’t hesitate one bit. Learn and keep at it since the web landscape changes fast.

Get a Comfy Office

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If you’re going freelance (and I’m assuming you’re), you will most likely spend a lot of your time working from home. You will be working on projects nearly all the time, balancing books and doing all manner of business administration tasks, and the last thing you want is an uncomfortable work station.

Keep your desk clean since cleanliness is closer to Godliness it boosts productivity. You will also track work and items easily if you’re well organized.

Distractions can eat into your work time, resulting in decreased productivity, missed deadlines and a thinner bank balance. To avoid distractions and any kind of discomfort, you will need to set up a separate area in your home to act as your office. Eliminate all distractions, including that television set.

Working from your couch can be so much fun, but you’re susceptible to unplanned naps (I know right?) especially after lunch. Once in a while, I work from the couch, and the temptation to set the tools down and just kick back is too hard to resist. Food coma is a sucker. You just need a working desk and a comfy office chair. That’s all.

Get the Right Tools

You can’t till your garden without the right tools. A chef will need a (sharp) knife to dice onions and tomatoes. Never will you find him/her using a spoon for this purpose. You will most probably hate your web design job early on if you don’t have the right tools. Having the right tools, on the other hand, can mean all the difference between success and failure.

Get a computer that meets your technical requirements. Get the right software – from code editors to photo manipulators (hello Adobe Photoshop) to project management tools among others. Search the web for tools that meet your specific needs.

Network

Don’t wait until you’ve established a web design business to start networking. You can start building professional connections right this instance what with the numerous social networks at your disposal. Create business pages for your young web design business and start posting updates.

When posting updates, tweets and photos starts feeling like the only thing you do, it’s time to get out of the house and meet people in person. Carry a few business cards with you to hand out but never come across as creepy or desperate. Nobody likes that.

Networking be it offline or online can open many doors for your business, so don’t take it lightly. Start doing it now.

Pay Yourself

money-paycheck

As a freelance web designer, you have many hats to juggle. You’re the lead designer, human resource manager, accountant and CEO among others all in one. Growing a business largely involves re-investing in the business. Split the revenues appropriately, factoring in your own wages.

If you don’t define your pay beforehand, you might face financial woes down the road. I had to work so hard to get this working for me, since I didn’t define my own salary. Without a salary structure to follow, misappropriation of resources is inevitable. All the proceeds from your freelance web design business should not go to your pocket – pay yourself (handsomely if you must) and re-invest in your business early on.

Be Friendly

Working alone from your house day in day out can drive you insane. You might develop bitterness (especially if a client disappears with your hard earned pay) and antisocial tendencies seeing you spend a lot of time alone. On the other hand, you might love working from home so much you will always have a smile on your face. It all depends on you.

At the end of the day, just learn to be sociable and friendly when dealing with clients, no matter how difficult they might be. Nobody wants to work with an unpleasant person. Kick ass with a nice personality but never kiss ass to get your way with a client. Fire yourself early on if the client is driving you up the wall.

Respond to emails on time and keep in touch with old clients. Oh yeah, check in on them once in while to see how they’re doing. Generally, just adopt a pleasant (but non-nonsense) personality that oozes self-worth and confidence in your abilities.

Manage Your Time Wisely

Time management can be tricky when you start your freelance web design career. Will you design websites on a part- or full-time basis? How much time will you dedicate to actual design work and other areas of business such as marketing? How much time will you need for breaks and personal time off? Sit down and chart a working schedule that will help you to achieve your business goals.

Get time management tools such as RescueTime among others. I use the Ben Franklin schedule, which has been working wonders for me, at least most of the time 🙂 .

Market Your Web Design Business

business-cards

Without clients, your web design business will eventually fail. You need a constant flow of work to maintain cashflow – the lifeblood of any business.

There are many ways of marketing yourself as a web designer for hire. For instance, you can start by building an online portfolio to showcase your skills. You can then market your website via social media ads, SEM (including PPC) and the many other methods available to you.

Print out a few brochures and business cards (nothing too fancy – just your email, URL, phone number and some services for your brochures) and pass them around. Keep doing it, and as you’ll notice, something will stick once in a while.

Don’t Fear Challenges

Instead, feel excited when facing them – there is always a way out, and when it’s web design, there is usually more than one way out. Challenges come and go, but most importantly, they give you the opportunity to learn and grow. Therefore, embrace all the challenges (technical, personal or business-related) that come your way.

On technical challenges, be careful not to lie to your clients. If you’re not well-versed in a particular design language, be frank about it – don’t mislead the client in the name of “overcoming challenges.” Am I getting through to you?

Contracts and Pricing Accordingly

Before clients started contacting me via my portfolio website and social media, I would stake out various forums and job boards for gigs. One discouraging fact about some of the job boards is the low rates offered for web design jobs. The even more discouraging fact is there are web designers outbidding each other for these low-hanging fruits.

If you want to go that way, well and good, it’s your prerogative. To get the high-paying jobs you desire and deserve, sit back and devise a pricing structure that will work for you and your target client. Before you go freelance full-time, you need some form of emergency fund to cover your expenses and keep you from the low-paying jobs – they are simply not worth it. Prepare a contract template that you can serve your prospect at a moments notice, without having to craft one from scratch.

Share with Others

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No man is an island and what goes around comes around. Start a blog and share web design tips and hacks. You get to give back from where you’ve gained so much, form relationships, earn clients and learn more about your trade. Are projects bogging you down? Share with the next door web designer who could use a project – you will lighten your load and put a smile on another’s face. And you know what they say, “What goes around, comes around.”

Practice Makes Perfect

The more you lift weights, the better you become at it. The more you write or play Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the better you become at it. Keep designing websites (not necessarily for clients) and you’ll eventually become better at it. Build websites for your friends, and for religious or charity organizations in your local area pro bono – just don’t stop writing the code.

Conclusion

Here we are, several points down the line. Take and run with as many as you can and build the web design career of your dreams. Other than that, always exceed the clients’ expectations and get support whenever you’re stuck. Cheers and may your business be profitable so you can buy us coffee next time we meet. Haha 😉 . Let’s talk in the comments, we always look forward to your input!

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About The Author

Freddy is a WordPress theme reviewer at WP Theme Raves, writer, web developer and founder of Vista Media Enterprises, a nice place dedicated to the online entrepreneur looking to boost conversion rates using effective web content.

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