Many students and college graduates are now joining the freelancing industry hoping to do freelance work and make some money in their free time.
This article is dedicated to all those teens, grownups, and everyone else who’s looking for a solid actionable plan to get into freelancing as a web designer.
In this article, I will show you a simple, easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan to get started as a freelance web designer with helpful tips on landing clients and making some real money.
In fact, it’s the same strategy I used to make my own web design agency. Keep reading to find out how I did it.
How Much Do Web Designers Make?
if you’re not sure about getting into freelancing as a web designer, you’ll be happy to know that it’s one of the highest-paid categories in the freelance markets.
In fact, there are freelance web designers who make over $5000 building simple WordPress websites. If they can do it, you can too.
Having said that, I should also note that web design is a very competitive niche in freelance marketplaces. Anyone who learns some basic HTML and CSS now calls themselves a web designer.
So, you should focus on finding a micro-niche in the industry. Like specializing in designing landing pages or product pages for business.
If you can find such a profitable niche, you’ll be able to find success more easily.
Now, let’s get on with the guide.
Step 1: There Are No Shortcuts To Freelancing Success
First and foremost, accept that freelancing takes lots of hard work and a considerable amount of time before you start generating money.
It will take some time, probably a couple of months, for you to understand the ways of freelancing and start making money. So prepare yourself and your freelance mindset.
If you’re trying to become a freelancer for the sole purpose of making quick money, you won’t last for long.
You need to have patience and be passionate about what you do to become a freelancer and survive the long journey.
Step 2: Web Designer or Web Developer?
People confuse themselves with these two terms all the time.
Web Designer – Is the person who’s in charge of the front-end side or the look and design of a website or a web application. A web designer arranges all the website elements in the right order, code the style sheets, and makes the front-end side of the website.
Web Developer – Is the person who does the heavy work of composing the back-end side of a website, like developing the algorithms for website functions such as checkout systems and user interactions.
Web design is a creative medium of its own. You can’t just look at other websites and design new websites that look just like them.
According to research done by FastPrint, 72% of the participants believed that most websites look the same. You need to learn user experience design and have a creative mindset to become a successful web designer.
Becoming a web developer is the complete opposite. You need to have an analytical mindset to create accurate algorithms and have the ability to make systems according to user workflows.
Be clear about which path you want to take.
Step 3: Assume You Know Nothing
After visiting all those “learn to code” websites and going through plenty of HTML/CSS courses, you must be feeling pretty confident about your coding skills.
But, how well do you know about User Experience Design (UXD) and Web Usability?
Thanks to all the great free online resources available today, anyone could easily become a coder. But, that doesn’t necessarily make them qualified to become a freelancer.
Unlike web development, website design involves a lot of creativity and proper knowledge of how the web works.
User Experience Design and Web Usability are two of the skills that you must master in order to become a professional web designer. These two skills will allow you to design websites with better engagement and help you understand the psychology behind web design.
For example, have you ever wondered why all websites have the main menu on the top of the page? Why do most landing pages have their Call-to-Action (CTA) on the top half of the page?
The answer is simple: It’s all part of the UXD.
If you’re interested in learning this subject, I’d suggest you start with Joe Natoli’s User Experience Design Master Course.
Step 4: Learn About Domains, Web Hosting, and Servers
When taking on a project to design a website for a business, most of your clients will expect you to buy a domain, a hosting plan, and complete the setup of their website.
It’s up to you to offer a complete service to your clients. When looking for a hosting platform, finding a provider that offers both domain registration and hosting is the smart move. To find the best-reviewed hosting companies, you can check out this great site.
You can also learn about how to buy and configure a domain name on a separate domain registrar. How to maintain web hosting and work with FTP clients. Learn to manage and maintain servers. Go here to get started on some of the basics.
Something to think about: I bought a reseller hosting plan and offered my clients to host their sites on my own server at a reasonable price and manage to make some money with hosting.
Step 5: Learn A Little Bit Of Graphic Design
Including graphics and illustrations, such as logos and animated characters, is a must-have for websites these days. Clients will ask you to take care of these too.
You can team up with another freelancer to get those designed.
However, you’ll make more money if you could learn how to do those things yourself. Find a Photoshop tutorial and learn to design logos, learn to design icons, and take up a fundamentals course in UX design. They will reward you well in the long run.
Step 6: Build Your Portfolio
When a client approaches you to get their website designed, the first thing they’re going to ask is to see some examples of your previous work.
This is where you show your kickass designs. If you don’t have anything to show your clients, get to work and design some great sites. Do some free work if you have to.
Design a great theme and release it online for free. Or reach out to businesses and offer to design them a website for free.
Here’s how I did it:
- I browsed Google Play and Steam store looking for game and app developers who don’t have a website.
- I sent them an email explaining why they need a website and offering to do it for free.
- A few companies responded back and I made their awesome websites.
After that, you can showcase your work on a website of your own or through a site like Behance.
Website of Sean Halpin
Step 7: How To Price Your Services
Different web design projects will require different amounts of work and time. So, figuring out the perfect price for your web design projects can be a little difficult.
But, if you want to get a basic idea about the right price, here’s what you can do.
- Go online and find the email or the phone number of your competitor’s web design firm.
- Grab your phone and call them or send them an email.
- Pretend to be a client and get a quote for designing your pretend website.
Big web design agencies have teams of designers. So they have expensive pricing schemes for projects. Since you’re working alone, you can take advantage of this.
Try to come up with a reasonable price for your project. Not too expensive or too cheap. A price that will make your clients say YES, but not get suspicious.
Step 8: Best Freelance Sites To Find Work
Avoid online freelance platforms if you can. These sites are too competitive and winning a client will be extremely difficult.
But if you have no other choice, choose a freelance site with less competition to offer your services. PeoplePerHour and Toptal are two of the most suitable sites for web designers and developers.
Step 9: Go Offline
You’ll have better luck finding clients if you go local.
Did you know that over 58% of small businesses still don’t have a website?
Going door-to-door and cold calling actually works better than finding work online. I managed to score a lot of clients that way.
Here’s what I did:
- First, I walked around the streets writing down the names and contact info for small businesses and shops without a website.
- I came home and looked up those names online to make sure they don’t have a website.
- Then I put together a small document that explains all the benefits of having a website.
- I printed out the document and mailed (snail mail) it to the addresses of those shops.
- I waited a week for a reply from those businesses, and then I called them referencing my letter and asking if they’d like to meet up for further information.
- 2 out of 5 times. That’s how well it worked.
Step 10: The Next Level
Once you’re off the ground, you’ll start getting referrals from your old clients and lots of new projects.
It’s time to promote yourself as a brand so that people can recognize you and the quality of your work.
If you’re getting more clients than you can handle, think about expanding your freelance business as well. Hire a couple of interns and make your work easier.
It will take a while for you to go through all these 10 steps, but you will get there if you’re consistent enough.
Also, keep in mind that web design is a giant industry that’s constantly evolving. So, subscribe to all the web design blogs you can and keep learning new stuff.
Did you find this article useful? Then you should check out my book Freelance Like A Pro. It includes 21 lessons and 5 secrets from my freelance career to help you supercharge your journey as a freelancer. Click here to learn more.
Hi, my name is Brittany, I’m a recent college grad from Oklahoma City, OK with an associates in Web Design. I’m a mother of two young girls & trying to get back on my feet & (once again) out of my parents house & back into my own! I read your article & wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed it! I think it’s great! Since I basically have all of the know-how for the first 6 steps, I am now at the “scary” part. I am mostly timid with steps 7, 8 & 9, I tend to get quite overwhelmed & give up. Since you tackled a great approach to finding people who may need websites, my question to you is how do I find people that want graphics made? I feel that in the meantime of looking for clients in need of a website or a website remodel, I could make a bit of extra cash by making graphics here & there, because they consume much less time than a website requires. 🙂
Thanks for your kind compliments.
If you’re referring to doing graphic design work on the side, then you’ll be able to find plenty of jobs on freelancing platforms and job boards, including content crafting for social media, creating infographics, etc.
If you’re good at crafting templates and designs, you could also sell your designs online. It’s much more profitable and requires very little work. Check out sites like CreativeMarket.com and GraphicRiver.net.
i have been looking for an article on the web that can showcase me a path to get started as a web designer , and i found your article , i really appreciate the way it has been written , i really commend you’r words.
I myself had completed my cs engineering in 2016 may its almost an year , i had always been a lover of design and used to appreciate websites with good design,,, but after my engineering i was not able to grab jobs in my campus recruitement (low % in 12th)
that kind of demotivated me to another level and i went back to my home started preparing for some govt job(as it’s the trend for engineering grads now a days here in india ) but now its about 5-6 months i realized that this is not for me,,, since my childhood i wanted to pursue a career in web designing .
hence i quit my govt job preparation and started brushing up my skills by taking some online bootcamps pertaining web design and wordpress development now i feel confidence in designing web design and wordpress , currently i am learning UX the same course which you have mentioned here (master version of the course).
i wanted to know that as i have no experience so should i start with freelancing or by doing a job.
my personal choice is to start with a job and side by side starting freelancing as i got threshold experience .
so basically i wanted to ask that as being a fresher how should i apporach the companies and what salary should i expect being a Web designer/wordpress/bootstrap developer as i live in jaipur rajasthan. but willing to relocate anywhere. in india
I would really appreciate you;r reply and one more thing to confess that this is the first time i told my actual story to someone, what i feel and through what i am going through.
Thanks for sharing your story. It takes guts to be open and share a personal story like that.
You are on the right track. I think the best thing you can do is to get a day job first, get some experience working in the field while you work on your freelancing portfolio. Because it usually takes a while before earning a reasonable income through freelancing. So it’s best to save up some money before going full time freelancing.
I’m not sure about the salaries in India. Despite my looks, I’m not from India. I’m from Sri Lanka. But you can try checking out the salaries on Glassdoor. Try this link – http://fhacks.link/2rmcx4b
Feel free to reach me via email if you need any tips in the future.
Hi Roshan, thank you so much for your tips and great articles. You give me hope that I will „Survive“ my 1 year plan to become a freelancer. I really like your writing style and that you are down on earth. Keep writing!
Hi there! I have designed websites for family and friends was considering starting to design for local clients. I was just wondering what happens if after you have designed their website they wish to maintain it on their own? How do I ‘transfer’ the website over to them if it’s on my own account on a host site? Thanks so much!
Most web hosts offer free migrations. Your friends can ask their host to do the migration. Or there are tools in the CPanel where you can export your site.
I have lost my job in pandemic. I use to design website in wix and WordPress for friends and family, just wondering can i offer this service as a freelancer ? Means can i use wix or WordPress for freelancing? I have not much idea about freelancing. I would appreciate your help.
Sure you can make money building WordPress and Wix websites. Reach me via email if you have any questions.
Hi Roshan, love the post thank you. I’ve been setting up the last month or so and working hard on a freelance website design business using nothing but WordPress, basically turning my hobby since 2013 into a business which I’m immensely motivated about. I’m also wanting to offer a monthly service where I host and maintain a client’s site – Only thing I need to get my mind around is where and how best to host and how to sort the SEO side, can you help? Basically I know there’s premium hosting platforms like Bluehost for hosting however is this the best solution? Also, with SEO, there’s plugins for WordPress such as Yoast which are free but obviously limited unless you purchase premium, and that price alone gets higher per site, just wondered if there would be better solution for this type of thing as obviously with many sites I’m hoping to bring in, I don’t want limitations in service for example using a tool that I can only use for a number of sites. Hope this makes sense, would appreciate a response regardless and happy to speak privately via email if you have any thoughts 🙂
Of course, I used the same strategy with my company. There is more to SEO than just using plugins. And you should consider using reseller hosting for managing client accounts. Drop me an email and I’d be happy to answer the questions in detail.
Hi Roshan, any chance you can email me to discuss about freelance hosting? Love the article!
Of course. Please use the contact page to send an email
Should I brand my freelance service as a business or as a personal service like myname.com vs herodev.com.
That’s entirely up to you. If you want to expand your business in the future with a team, go for a business name. I went with a business name for my brand since I was working with a friend of mine at the time.
Thankyou, the article is very interesting and i learned many things
please provide more information thankyou
I have been reading your articles and you are just what many of us need.
God bless you for sharing your knowledge.
Thank you for the valuable information, keep updating us with such amazing blogs.
For freelancers you can also use the Moon invoice tool for creating and sending invoices to your clients.
hi, thanks for this valuable information ,i am just a beginner,i learned basic html and css and some of java script,brother can you please guide me my way forroward?
Thank you for the valuable information, keep updating us with such amazing blogs.
Freelance Web Developer
Thank you for the valuable information, keep updating us with such amazing blogs.
Freelance UI/UX Designer
Nice blog. vary usefull❤️
I would like to add a couple tips: First, you can get started under just your name without investing in the costs associated with business formation. The cheapest thing to do would be to file a DBA, if you want to work under a different name. No one had told me that before I started freelancing!
The second thing I would say is to use a few free management/productivity tools to manage your freelance business, deal with clients, and manage your projects. These days, there are great SaaS tools, which help make a designer’s life easier!
Some lovely tips here! Always best to slowly but surely build your way into freelancing.