There’s a lot of pathways to get into freelancing, as a freelance web designer it’s difficult to decide where to even start.
The last five years have been a real learning journey for me and I started in a partnership, I freelanced by myself and then went into a company arrangement… and now back to freelancing.
I wanted to take all of those lessons and condense them down into something more actionable for you, i.e. this video.
Hi, I’m Ash, I’m a teacher, web designer & I’m passionate about helping other freelancers navigate their solo career.
I’ve been in the place you’re in right now.
Looking out into the vast void of the internet feeling empty, going down YouTube spiral after YouTube spiral and always having this bothering voice saying “I should be doing more”.
You may have dropped out of school or studied a bit before needing a career change, but you haven’t figured out your ‘thing’.
But you do know, you like web design or you’re interested in the web space.
Quick disclaimer, this is not a step by step guide how to create a website. If you want that, see How to Setup Your Own Website in WordPress.
What is freelance web design?
Not understanding these two elements will hinder your journey.
Freelance web design is providing a website service to a client for a fee.
Hello, I’m Ashley. I’m going to provide a website for you. This is what will make up the website, this is how much it will be and it will take this long. Would you like to proceed?
Paul Jarvis, an author, teacher and past freelance web design of 20 years wrote in ‘A Company of One’ “All of a freelancer’s relationships are one-to-one, meaning that each time paid work occurs, a freelancer has to do something and use his or her time.”
It’s important to understand freelancing is not a business. Yes, there’s overlaps, but they’re fundamentally different. Business is about solving ongoing problems for customers better while managing growth. Freelancing is about getting paid to provide a service.
Your freelancing journey will change over time and possibly become a business, but starting out, provide a website service for a fee. Simple.
Find your process
There are always repeatable steps you can track, measure and improve.
Freelance web design has three main processes you want to start implementing today. Write them down on paper, Notion, OneNote, Plutio, whatever you use and continually improve them with each client.
- During Project
- Exit Strategy
Onboarding is the process of taking a possible client, or lead and turning them into a paying client, or converting them. This involves a few elements we’ll talk about a bit later.
Next process is During the Project , which focuses on all the steps of turning what the client needs into a fully functional website. These are the in’s and out’s of what you do to build every project.
Lastly is the Exit Strategy, the process of handing over the website, training the client, getting valuble feedback and keeping in touch for future work.
These three processes will become your second nature as you mature as a freelancer. But it’s important to spend time managing these processes after each client.
Don’t get in the bad habit of always focusing on processes, rather spend small amounts of time
Discover Your Niche
A niche is the specific group of customer you want to make websites for. It might be booking sites for local restaurants, portfolio’s for personal trainers or brochures for hair and makeup artists.
You only ever have one niche, but it will change over time:
- Initial Niche
- Ideal Niche
Take into account your skills and location which will limit you to your initial niche. Have your ideal niche as your goal but choose a less glamourous and more realistic niche when starting out. If there’s a lot of real estate businesses in your area, start there as a real niche.
Decide on what industry excites you and motivates you to create. If you’re passionate about clothing apparel your ideal niche in e-commerce retail stores.
Overtime your ideal niche will replace your initial niche. This is because you’ll gain more confidence, craft better skills which attracts the type of clients you want.
Build Your Brand Around Your Niche
Branding is your professional reputation. It involves a lot, like the styling of your website to your Instagram upload schedule.
Think about your online brand like meeting a client for the first time. You introduce yourself, shake their hand (or elbow), might make some small talk, be friendly and then ask how you can help, listen, explain how you can help etc.
When someone goes to your website, visits your Facebook page or scrolls through your portfolio. Are they getting to know you and is it a good experience for them?
Don’t forget about your niche. Keep in mind every web page you create is not based on your needs, but your client’s needs.
When sharing to Facebook or Instagram you’re trying to get the attention of your niche, don’t worry about anyone else.
Craft a Perfect Portfolio
Start showing and stop telling.
Remember back in pre-school when everyone brought their favourite toy to show the class? Who cares what they were saying, just show me my plushy plush!!
People’s attention is shortening and they want to see your skills & ability.
Pick three pieces of work you’ve created that best display your abilities to your niche.
Don’t show off websites about car cleaning if you want to attract school or education clients.
It’s like a resume. Write for the job you want, don’t show everything, just the top three that will wow your employer.
Create Consistent Content
We’re in the age of attention.
If you’re not creating content, you’re not discoverable. It’s time to start putting your brand out there.
It doesn’t matter if your content isn’t good if you’re unsure or are unclear of your niche still. You’ll learn as you go and no one’s watching in the beginning anyway so who cares?
There’s a lot of platforms to create content for, pick one and stick with it. Either write blogs, emails or create YouTube videos. Whatever you choose, it’s more important you do it consistently, once a week, create and publish.
You’re thinking “what do I write about?”, answer, what does your niche need and how can I help them?
You may have picked up the theme by now, focus on your niche.
Follow Great Freelancer’s
Find content creators that interest you, even outside the web space.
Videography, photography or music freelancers. Find awesome people doing great things.
Freelancing can be a lonley journey if you let it. Don’t isolate mentally from people to focus on your work.
It’s important to remember your work is fitting around your lifestyle. That’s why we freelance, is to have freedom.
Learn and imitate the great freelancers you follow. The more you imitate, the more you develop you’re own style.
Master Your Profession
Your profession is not only about designing great websites as a freelancer.
We can break this up into two skill types:
- Hard skills
- Soft skills
Hard skills involve Wireframing, WordPress and Designing. What makes you a good website designer.
Soft skills are broader like onboarding clients, communicating effectively, time management and self discipline.
Give time to develop both skill types, focus on hard skills in the beginning and branch into soft skills to grow as a freelancer.
Remember it takes time, don’t feel like a failure because you’re not landing ever client or you’re not attracting your ideal niche yet.
Last point as an extra, invest in yourself and take care of yourself. You are it, so give yourself the love and attention you deserve.
I’m grateful for you watching and I genuinely wish you have more insight now then, when you started this video.
I actually think you’ll enjoy my video on setting up a coming soon page in WordPress & Elementor.
I’m grateful again and wish you all the best. Talk soon.