7 Tips to Successfully Start a Freelance Web Design Career

Freelance is an area that attracts both beginner-level designers and experienced experts at professional UX/UI design agencies. It gives them the chance to learn something new by working on exciting projects. Plus, they can earn some money on the side. However, some people dream about being full-time freelancers, while others are actively living the dream.

In order to properly start your freelance career, you need to prepare, research and follow several guiding principles. In this article, we’ll walk you through the following 7 steps for freelance newbies that will help you start your web design career on the right foot.

Build a Mind-Blowing Web Designer Career in 7 Steps

Web design exploded in the past couple of years, and many freelancers are starting to take notice. If this list of web designers convinces you that anyone can find success as a freelancer, then our list of tips should inspire you to take a chance on yourself and your career.

Step 1: Research Cost, Taxes and Insurance

Career changes are packed with multiple unknowns and variables, but you can ease your anxiety by researching everything you need to get started. A freelance web design career requires an upfront cost, different tax forms and insurance coverage, and time requirements. 

All freelance web designers need a domain name and hosting service, marketing materials, software, desk space, and subscriptions for stock photo sites or other resources. If you aren’t quitting your day job, you can use your existing career to fund your new one slowly. 

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, take the time to consider if this career is right for you. You’ll need to spend your free time finding clients, developing a portfolio, and working on projects. Ask yourself if this is the right time to change focus or if you need to hold off a little longer. Make sure you’re not delaying your transition out of fear but due to finances or time constraints. 

Step 2: Start Branding

Professional freelancers will keep future branding opportunities in mind while starting their careers. Many high-profile clients will pay close attention to how you market yourself via branding, so you need to get this part right. A good brand builds credibility, delivers your message, and sends a clear picture to your clients that your business means business. 

While by no means a comprehensive list, most brands will consist of the following:

  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null

Your brand doesn’t just cover who you are but what you offer. As a creative brand, you need to pay attention to the overall style, colors, and textures related to your business. 

Step 3: Create a Website

Creating a website can be intimidating as a creative, but you need to have a designated place on the Internet for your work. Clients want to know what you can offer them, and the best way to do this is through an online portfolio. Even if you don’t have anything to show off, you still need a website for when you do. To limit the time you spend coding a website, consider the following:

1-Page Portfolio

A 1-page portfolio is the easiest way to show off your designs without confusing the client. From the homepage, your clients will see exactly what you can offer them. However, if you’re offering more than one service or operate in multiple niches, link them from your homepage.

Contact Forms

Include a contact form on your website as a pop-up and in other convenient places, like at the bottom of a blog post or portfolio FAQ. A contact form that includes a name, email, website, and comment section will make you seem more approachable, which will help you find clients.

About Me/FAQ

You can save a lot of time answering the same questions by completing an About Me and FAQ section. State your general price range, years of experience, and availability on this page. While it may limit the number of people who contact you, it will also weed out uninterested clients.

Step 4: Collect Legal Document Templates

To make things official, a designer needs to create a few legal documents. Instead of making them yourself, buy well-structured, legally binding templates for the following documents:

Keep in mind that these documents must be signed by the client, or they won’t be held responsible for breaking your terms. You cannot make the client agree to terms that are considered illegal in your country or state, even if they sign off on doing so. If you’re concerned that any of your freelance documents aren’t legally binding, ask a lawyer to review them first.

Step 5: Wage, Budgets, and Invoicing

Deciding on your personal wage is difficult because it’s hard to determine how much we should pay ourselves. Your starting wage will be low, but you’ll make significantly more as you gain more experience, presence in the industry, and higher profile clients. Some web designers make six figures during their second year freelancing, and that could be you if you buckle down.

To price your services, determine how much you need to cover your basic living costs and add more based on the number of clients or samples you have. If you have no samples, experience, or clients, bump up your salary to cover emergency costs or budget mishaps.

You’ll have an easier time budgeting if you stick to one of these two pricing models:

  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null
  • null

Managing your money as a freelancer can sometimes be harder than deciding on a pricing model. It’s easy to forget that you need to pay taxes based on what you earn and that work won’t be steady at first. Keep track of your finances using an app (like TickSpot) or in a journal.

Finally, you’ll need to prepare invoices for your clients. Templates are easy to find, but SimplyBill, FreshBooks, and FreeAgent offer the most versatility and customization.

Step 6: Establish a Schedule

Becoming a freelancer means you can set your own schedule, but if you have a hard time sticking to a routine, you may disappoint your clients. A huge part of being an independent contractor is finding a schedule that fits your needs and gives you enough wiggle room to make up for lost days. To figure out the amount of time you need to complete a project, ask yourself:

How much time does it take to do X?

As you’re drafting a website design, writing code, and retouching images, track how long the process takes from beginning to end. It’s good practice to separate each service you offer by the hour, so you can easily add up the number of days you’ll spend with one client. 

How many hours per day will I work?

Freelancers don’t have to work a standard 9-5, Monday-Friday schedule. If you work best on weekends, at night, or in 2-hour stretches, create a schedule that supports it. Keep in mind that most entrepreneurs work 60+ hours when they start to build a portfolio and stay afloat. 

How many days of the week or month will I work?

Planning in advance is never a bad thing. Using free calendar software like Google Calendar, you can easily track your deadlines and payment schedules. You can also determine if you can take on an extra client or if you need to focus on an upcoming deadline.

How will I stay motivated when I don’t want to work?

We all have days where we don’t want to work, but freelancers can’t slack on their clients. If you do, you’ll produce lackluster work, which can affect your reputation. To stay motivated, write a to-do list, use a daily planner, and wake up at the same time every day. Establish a routine early on in your career, or you’ll be wrestling with yourself every time you sit down to work.

Step 7: Fill Your Website With Content

Blogs are excellent for improving your rank on search engines and for obtaining popularity in your community. You’ll gain an audience faster with a blog because it gives your users another reason to visit your site. Blogs also create communities that want to learn from you or promote your work. If you’re not interested in writing, you could create a podcast or Youtube channel.

Every type of content takes time to produce; time you could have otherwise used on client work. If you have little time to commit to a blog, try and post as often as you can on a schedule you can stick to. Once a month is better than breaking a commitment to your fans who expected a post every other day. Remember, your blog is a marketing opportunity, not a waste of time!