Being a freelance web designer comes with many perks. You get to choose your hours, workload, pay rate, and clients. You get to pick projects based on your interests, skills, and strengths.
But freelance web design is also a business, it’s not just about creative work. And running a business is never easy. To succeed as a freelance web designer, you need to develop the right roadmap.
You won’t be able to scale your freelance web design business if you don’t have a business plan. Your business plan should show how your business will develop in the next 3 to 5 years.
You don’t need to create a formal business plan if you don’t plan on taking outside investment. The research and information that go into business planning will still benefit you greatly.
A standard business plan outline includes:
- Executive summary: A brief description of what your business does and what your goals are.
- Company description: Use this section to offer a more precise and detailed description of your business. It should mention what markets you serve, what makes you different, and what your strengths are.
- Market analysis: Look for trends and themes in your market research. Market research can show you what other successful freelance web designers are doing and why it works.
- Service Line: A closer look at the services you offer.
- Marketing and Sales: You need to thoroughly describe your marketing and sales strategies.
- Financial forecast: This section should talk about how much you expect to make and in what period of time.
Business Structure, Taxes, Insurance.
You don’t need to have a business license to work as a freelance web designer in the UK, but you need to get business insurance, choose a business model, and register for tax.
If you don’t have much experience with the legal side of running a freelance business, consider getting a Xero accountant from the start.
A seasoned Xero accountant has plenty of experience in dealing with small business and sole traders. On top of helping you launch your business, they can help you write a business plan and plan for retirement.
You’ll need to work out your rates before you start pitching to clients. If you charge too much, you might not get any business at all. If your rates are too low, you won’t be able to pay the bills.
Your experience and portfolio should dictate your rates. Basically, it all comes down to what the value of your work is, how much money you need, and what the market will bear.
You can bill by the project, by the hour, or even develop package prices. It’s best to determine an hourly rate and base your prices on it, no matter which structure you choose.
To see how much you need to make in a month, add up your personal and business expenses. Then, add a little extra for profit.
Determine how many billable hours you will have each month. Let’s say you plan on working 30 hours a week. On top of doing client work, you’ll be answering emails, working on your site, marketing your business, etc. Even though you’ll be working 30 hours a week, you might end up with 15 billable hours.
Develop Your Skills
When it comes to web design, certifications and degrees are not nearly as important as your skillset and portfolio. Make sure to develop skills for current trends. Some of the skills you need to develop include:
- HTML and CSS: For most design jobs, HTML and CSS are expected skills. You will have a better understanding of what’s possible and what’s not if you have a basic understanding of these two coding languages.
- Design Software: To design assets, modify photos, and create mockups, you need to know how to use tools such as Illustrator, Photoshop, and Sketch.
- User Experience (UX): A successful freelance web designer approaches their designs from a user-first perspective.
- Content Management Systems (CMS): Taking care of large blocks of content is much easier when you know how to use a CMS such as WordPress.
- Colour Theory: You should be familiar with the colour wheel and how analogous, contrasting, and complementary colours work together. You should also have some understanding of colour psychology to fit in with your brand and develop your soft skills further.
Let’s not forget that you are a business person just as much as you are creative. You should also work on developing soft skills such as conflict resolution, time management, communication and interpersonal skills.
Choose Your Niche
You don’t need to narrow your focus too much. But you will know how to better cater to a certain type of client and place yourself in a better position to charge more for your work if you specialize in one niche.
‘Niching down’ will help guide your skillset. It makes it easier for you to put yourself in front of clients who understand your value and need what you provide.
You could just focus on WordPress as your platform, or you could focus on designing websites for a specific industry, such as eCommerce.
Build Your Portfolio
To get prospects interested, it helps to have a body of work you can show them. Your portfolio website should include several projects you are really proud of.
It doesn’t have to include work you’ve done for clients, but it should showcase all the web design skills you have. Naturally, the site itself should serve as proof of your expertise.
Your portfolio should be easy to find and easy to remember. You can nurture your portfolio website by consistently publishing content and optimizing it for search engines.
When you have all of this setup, it is time to get the word out. There are many marketing channels you can use, and each has its own perks.
SEO and blogging are a great way to get prospects to stumble upon your portfolio when they are searching for freelance web designers on Google.
LinkedIn is a great place for networking and cold outreach. Doing pro bono work for non-profits will put you on the map and give you something to showcase on your portfolio if you are just starting.
Be sure to ask clients for referrals, because word of mouth is still one of the most powerful marketing tools we have.
Michael has been working in marketing for almost a decade and has worked with a huge range of clients, which has made him knowledgeable on many different subjects. He has recently rediscovered a passion for writing and hopes to make it a daily habit. You can read more of Michael’s work at Qeedle.