Years ago, I had an intern who wanted to start her own web design business, but she always asked me what I wanted her to do next. She had no confidence when it came to taking the reins and making suggestions for implementing change. Granted, it was all new for her, but I realized she was used to having a job with expectations and “rules” she had to adhere to. She was used to being told what to do, but as a freelance web designer, that kind of direction is nowhere to be found.
If you’re thinking of starting down the path to becoming a freelance web designer, you won’t have a ton of direction. But we do have a few magic tips to make your journey successful.
How to be a successful freelance web designer
Provide stellar customer service.
Make enough to cover your bills.
Know when to say “no.”
Put yourself out there to find clients.
Before we dive into each of these steps, take a minute to download GoDaddy’s How to Start a Web Design Business worksheet. It will guide you through the multitude of tasks you’ll want to check off your list as you start your journey as a web designer.
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1. Stay motivated.
I know, I know. You won’t have a problem because you are thrilled with your new endeavor, but here’s the big secret: it ain’t easy (excuse the grammar) to stay motivated and positive especially if you are not clear on your “why.”
Why are you serving your customers? Why do you want to be a freelance web designer? And often, you’ll receive rejections (in terms of jobs you didn’t get) and think it’s all about you — but it’s not.
Have your goals in mind and on paper. Things to consider:
- How many clients do you want to serve in a month? Is that realistic?
- What are your expectations in terms of dollars per client?
- What do you have to do to make this happen?
Be intentional in what you want.
2. Provide stellar customer service.
Yeah, you’ve heard that one before. I started my web design and marketing business because another freelance web designer I hired rarely got back to me and worked on her schedule — not mine.
I knew that simple communication and viewing my freelancer gig as a real business would totally set me apart from other creatives. I mean, I can answer emails, deliver work on time and lead customers through a wonderful experience, which is what they deserve.
So if you’re serious about making money as a freelance web designer, treat your business, yourself and your customers with respect by providing excellent service and getting back to them in a timely manner.
And if you promise to do something, do it. If something unforseen prevents you from completing it on time, communicate why to keep everyone in the loop.
3. Make enough to cover your bills.
Until you have enough to cover your costs, consider freelancing on the side instead while keeping a full-time or part-time job for stable cash flow.
Having cash flow is vital so you don’t take projects that don’t fit or that compromise your psyche or values. Whether it’s a bad fit or if you’re undercharging simply to fill your queue, simply taking on random freelance work to make ends meet could put you in a pinch.
4. Know when to say “no.”
Last year, I met with an organization that I knew would be an easy in for a project because I’d worked with them before. But they had a new partner, and the new partner was telling me how we were going to work before they even hired me.
It wasn’t easy, but I walked away from the project immediately. The way the new partner interacted foretold how future meetings would proceed, and I respected myself much more. It was empowering to say “heck no, I’m not working with you.” Yeah, I could have used the income, but I knew it wasn’t a good fit.
While it’s OK to do some jobs pro-bono or at a discount to build up your portfolio, it needs to feel right to you.
You must value your business, and in turn yourself as a freelance web designer, and feel good about your projects. If you don’t, you might resent your customer and not provide your best work.
5. Put yourself out there to find clients.
Ah, my favorite topic — how do you market yourself as a freelance web designer?
For in-person networking, join your local chamber of commerce and attend business Meetups. There are many free Meetups you can join to get to know other business owners. I find chamber of commerce organizations to be great because everyone has legitimate businesses, but they do charge.
If you feel intimidated about attending events, not to worry. Everyone else probably feels uncomfortable, too. Reach out to someone standing or sitting by themselves and ask questions to build rapport.
As far as Chambers of Commerce, volunteer to help and get involved in committees. But always follow up with people you’ve met, and if you have a newsletter (another excellent marketing opportunity), ask them if it’s okay to add them to your list.
I’ve received several job referrals from people I met at coffee shops, but it’s because I’m willing to spark a conversation. For online networking, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are my favorites. Organic interaction on Facebook for business pages has gone down, so join business groups or try Facebook Live or videos.
If you’ve got the time, consider starting a blog. Show off what you know, and provide helpful tips on your blog. Then, share posts with your network and in groups. Repurpose blog posts for LinkedIn Pulse and Medium.
You could even take it a step further and share your expertise as a freelance web designer by speaking at events. Just remember: always have a call-to-action, whether it’s a signup sheet for your newsletter or a strategy session.
There you have it!
A few magic tips to make you a super-successful freelance web designer. Rock on.
Editor’s note: Looking for a great way to source new clients? Try out GoDaddy Pro to connect with customers and build amazing sites.