I was barely in college and I started to sell things on eBay. Stuff that really wasn’t worth my time to even list but hey, when you’re in college, you can get several meals out of $10. I had a friend who showed me how to use HTML tags to jazz up my listings a little. This really interested me and I started to teach myself more about this. I liked it so much that I changed my minor to a web design and development minor. That’s how I got started 10 years ago and I’ve grown and learned a lot since then. In the last 10 years, I have built many web sites. I’ve built sites for small Mom & Pop shops, I’ve built e-commerce web sites and I’ve built web sites for international organizations. Every site that I build I still feel like I learn so much on. My web design skills improve, my efficiency improves, my expectations are more accurate, my organization improves and most importantly, the final product improves.
Currently, I work with clients in the very early stages of the web site development project to find out exactly what we are trying to accomplish with the web site, how the site will be organized, how the user will flow through the site, what the user can do, etc. I also work with the client to help them determine how we are going to bring traffic to the web site, how we are going to keep those people coming back, what we are going to do with the traffic that we receive and how we are going to track everything. I really enjoy doing website design work which is why I continue to do the freelance web design work on the side of my full time job. I don’t do much design work at my full time job so my freelance work satisfies that need. Even though the whole process of a web design job going through an agency as compared to a freelance gig is completely different, it’s very similar in other manners. What I’ve learned through both positions:
-Always price yourself what you think it’s worth. Don’t discount your work just because you don’t think the client can afford you then. If they can’t afford you, it’s not a bad thing to have them move on. If they are going to always nickel and dime you, it’s not worth your time. Clients who are willing to pay you what you are worth are much better clients.
-You can’t expect to get any decent work if you don’t have your own site. I can’t tell you how many freelance web designers I’ve come across that don’t even have their own web site. If they expect me to use their services or refer work along to them, how can I do that when I can’t even see samples of their work. Not only do you need to have your own web site, but your site needs to always be the best site that you’ve done. This is the first place the potential client is going to look and it’s going to give them their first impression of you and your web design work. This may even be the only place that they look to decide whether or not they want to work with you. My freelance web design website is my favorite site that I’ve done and I think it represents the quality of design work that I do very well.
-Don’t be afraid to argue. I’ve had a lot of clients who want things that I really have had to argue to get them to change their mind. I’ve had clients ask me to “double bold” something (whatever that even means), I constantly am fighting the “bigger logo” battle… I’ve been asked many things by clients who have very little web design/usability knowledge but think that their personal preferences should determine how the website works and looks.
-Don’t be afraid to argue if you disagree. Obviously do this in a respectful manner and always be professional. In my experience I’ve found that clients aren’t bothered when you disagree with them. It shows that you have a passion for what you are doing and are confident in your work. You are the expert and that’s why they are paying you. Sometimes, they just forget it and need to be reminded.
-SEO is a great thing. Definitely get out there and read all you can and learn all you can about search engine optimization. Because I’ve gained a very good understanding of how to get websites to perform well in search engines, I’ve been able to bring a lot of traffic to my website which equals a lot of new business opportunities. Sure, you can do paid search (aka pay per click, aka PPC) but that can be very expensive and in my opinion it’s much less effective.
-Learn all different areas of the industry. My main focus is freelance web design but I also provide graphic design, search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) management services. I’m not saying that you necessarily need to offer all types of services, in fact it’s probably better if you focus on one area, but it’s good at least to have a strong knowledge of industry related topics. I’ve come to a point now in my career that I am debating becoming a full time freelance web designer. I have a strong list of current clients and have optimized my web site so that it’s consistently bringing in new business. It’s been a decision that I’ve debated for over a year and it’s been very tough to come to a conclusion. But, I know the option is there and through the knowledge that I’ve gained over the last 10 years, I feel that I would be well prepared for working on my own full time.
Article Written by Brent. Brent is a freelance web designer located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brent’s services include freelance web design and more.