So, You’re Looking To Get Hired As A Freelance Web Designer?

Finding a career in web design can be daunting- after all, the industry’s more competitive than ever. How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

This year, the US web design industry reached a net revenue of $24 billion, encompassing 215,562 employed designers and 150,898 web design businesses. That’s a pretty huge market – and the expansion of the Internet to all corners of the glove ensures that it’s not going to stop growing any time soon. Seems like a perfect time to seek out a career in web design, right?

Yes and no. While the market for web developers is livelier than ever, most businesses are going to be extremely picky about who they hire to design their site. If you want to break into the market, you’re looking at competing with a stable of well-established, highly-skilled professionals (and a bunch of not-so-skilled ones).

A tall order, right? So what can you do, then? How can you differentiate yourself from the competition, and break into a market that’s oversaturated at the lowest levels, and highly-critical at the highest?

It’s easier than you’d think.

So, You’re Looking To Get Hired As A Freelance Web Designer?

Keep In Mind – You Aren’t Going To Land Huge Clients Right Away

Here’s something you’ll learn while taking up a career in any field as a freelancer, whether web design, development, or graphic design: you’re not going to be making a mint overnight. While there are certainly stories of freelancers who hit it big with a corporate client right out the door, those are few and far between. Instead, you’re going to have a bunch of smaller clients – a small business owner who wants a few pages done for his store, an independent blogger looking to create a website; and so on.

Pick up those jobs. Floor your clients with your awesome designs. Make them happy they chose to work with you.

Then eventually, you’ll start climbing.  

“The way I look at it is like this,” explains web design trainer Mike Locke. “When you’re looking at a particular field, like web design or becoming a doctor or lawyer – something that takes a particular skill that you have to work at – there’s going to be a dip between the idea and the end goal. That dip means a lot of people will fall off, and that creates value for those who succeed.”

In other words, if you take the time  

Know What Your Work Is Worth

No one wants to overvalue their work to their clients. Certainly, you might land the odd business who’ll pay an exorbitant rate for what you do…but mostly, people are going to pass you over for your more affordable counterparts. At the same time, undercharging could lead to eventual burnout, as you slave away for hours with an unreasonably low payoff as the only reward.

So how can you figure out how much your work is worth? How can you get that ‘sweet spot?’ There are a few steps, according to Fortune Magazine:

  • Know your target income. Ideally, how much are you looking to make?
  • Know how long a particular project will take you to complete. That’ll help you determine an hourly ‘rate’ based on your client’s offer.
  • Figure out how much a particular client is willing to pay. Are you willing to work at the rate they offer, or is it too low?
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. Seriously – some clients simply aren’t worth working with. If someone consistently undervalues what you do, there’s nothing wrong with terminating your relationship.

Remember That Certifications Only Get You So Far

Here’s the thing about freelance work – certifications and degrees are nice bonuses, but on their own they’re essentially worthless. Most clients don’t care that you graduated with honors from University B, or that you’re certified with organization Y. What they’re interested in is what you can do.

They want to see your skills in action, not a piece of paper telling them you have those skills.

In other words, you need to start putting together a portfolio. Design a website for yourself; one that sells your skills and establishes you as a brand. Include everything that could possibly work in your favor – sites you’ve designed, client testimonials, etc.

Stay On Top Of Industry Trends

I’ve saved the best for last. As some of you may or may not know, the web design field has been wholly disrupted over the past several years by technology such as smartphones and tablets, new design tools, content management, crowdsourcing, and automation. Stay abreast of those tools and trends – adapt to that disruption.

Think about it – as a small business owner, would you rather hire a veteran designer with no understanding of the requirements for a mobile website, or a young up-and-comer who knows exactly what a page needs to be mobile-friendly?

Closing Thoughts

Web design’s a highly competitive, highly-saturated industry. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to break into, though. By playing to your strengths, building a strong portfolio, and keeping yourself apprised of what’s going on in the industry, you’ll ensure that you’ve a competitive edge as strong as anyone’s.

About Matthew Davis — Matthew works as an inbound marketer and blogger for Future Hosting, a leading provider of VPS hosting. Follow Future Hosting on Twitter at @fhsales, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog,


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