How to Become a Freelance Web Designer

How to Become a Freelance Web Designer

The road to becoming a web designer.

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It takes a lot of talent, business savvy, committment, and time to become a web designer. One can become overwhelmed if they become self-employed, which can make them hesitant to try. It takes a lot of talent, business savvy, committment, and time to become a web designer. One can become overwhelmed if they become self-employed, which can make them hesitant to try.

This post is meant to be a step-by-step guide for those who have already started their career in web design, as well as a list for those who have not yet started.

Hopefully this guide can cover all aspects of being a professional web designer, from business aspect and working with clients to creating an effective portfolio and advertising one’s work.

Also consider our previous articles:

1. Do the Necessary Research

It’s the first step into a career as a freelancer. One needs to look into exactly how freelancing will change life before jumping in.

After a jump! Steven Hoober has a brand-new guide on designing for mobile with proven, universal, human-centered guidelines. There are 400 pages of in-depth user research and best practices. Jump to table of contents.

Research the Costs

Making money on one’s own terms sounds appealing until you realize that it’s a lot less money than working at a company There is a short list of expenses. Make sure they are protected when they start a business.

  • Domain name and hosting services
  • Stationery, Business Cards, and other marketing material
  • Needed software
  • A desk space and supplies
  • There are subscriptions to stock photo sites.

Basic living expenses and additional emergency or living money can be considered. It is not necessary to have a formal budget at this point, but it is a good idea to go over the basics of starting and maintaining a business. Designers need to save up before they start a career.

Taxes & Insurance

It is important to look into taxing information, insurance, and other assets that will be changed with self-employment because most aspiring freelancers will slowly transition into the lifestyle, not quitting their day job cold turkey. Designers should research this area on their own because local laws and personal circumstances can vary a lot.

Research the Time

It is a good idea to look into the time requirement for work each day, per week, and even per month to handle a lot of clients. Time is not currently available for this type of career path.

Take into account current social or family events, career responsibilities and even school. It may not be a good time to start a full-time career if you don’t want to change your focus. Sometimes dreams are put on hold. Setting a realistic date to begin a true freelancing lifestyle, whether that means just easing into it now or setting a time in the future to go full-time, is important.

It can be time to start a career in web design if the idea is well researched. The remaining steps are listed.

2. Become a Brand

There are many differences between a young web designer just trying to make ends meet and a successful web designer who has a plan for their future. Successful designers pay close attention to branding.

Even if only one person runs the business, it can still do a lot of things. A good brand builds credibility, client loyalty, delivers a target message to clients and even aids in marketing strategy

What’s in a Name?

Another option is to use a specialized name. It is wise to think about an official name for the business.

A name other than the designer’s given name is more appropriate if one plans on turning an individual business into a firm. Also, a specialized brand name may be more memorable than the designer’s given name, and the possibilities are endless as far as finding anseo friendly name or a name that gives off a portrayal of the business it represents.

It is easy to see the benefits of using a given name as a business name. Something personal to the designer is what distinguishes using a given name. It is a decision that is often times taken too lightly. This decision affects the way the brand is marketed. There are two successful examples of this.

There are four great examples of using a specialized name.

Here are four examples of using the designer’s name as a brand.

The portfolios of individual designers are shown above. Designers who choose a specialized name for their brand are often called a studio. This gives the impression that they are more formal than they are. A more personal appeal is what many clients look for in the portfolios with given names. They get more of the true freelancer feel.

Depending on how a designer wants to operate their business, the clients they want to attract and the future goals of the business, the final decision of the business name can have many possibilities.


It is time to create a logo around the official brand name. Many beginners don’t understand how important a logo is to a brand. A logo should not be created in the process of designing a portfolio template, but separately.

There is a small showcase of excellent logo design.

The designers have the chance to expand the logo design to stationery, business cards, advertisements, and more because they took the extra time to create a good logo. The purpose of logo design is to create a brand, build business loyalty, and create an image that aids in recognition.

A client that is looking for that type of web design will be attracted to a logo that represents their design style. To create a great logo, read up on logo design principles.

There are a few of these.

An Elevator Pitch

Being good at web design is only one part of being a successful web designer. An elevator pitch is a rule for entrepreneurship.

It is a well thought out introduction to one’s services or a person’s business for those that don’t know. A better definition can be found here. Excuse the use of Wikipedia for a professional reference, but the definition of an elevator pitch in the encyclopedia is perfect for a web designer.

An elevator speech is an overview of an idea for a product. The name reflects the fact that an elevator pitch can be delivered in less than 30 minutes.

An elevator pitch can be created for a business. It can go beyond the traditional use of a speech in an elevator, to the introduction to a portfolio, the about page, or as an introduction to an application for a freelancing position.

The creation of an elevator speech can increase the client list dramatically. This is usually not the case. It is still useful.

  • Save the designer a lot of time coming up with a good introduction.
  • A professional atmosphere is needed for a portfolio or where it is used.
  • An elevator speech will make sure that any new introductions don’t leave out important information about the services or business

An excellent elevator pitch for a 45royale web design studio can be found here.

45royale is a web design studio located in Georgia. Every single day, we bring energy and commitment to our work.

An example for a small business is the above. The principle can be used with a more personal approach.

Brian Wilkins is a web designer and front-end developer who lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I work at Reelpoint. I build interfaces. With a hunger to constantly grow and evolve as a designer, I have a genuine passion for art.

The detailed elevator pitch can be seen on the about page. He included a much shorter, but equally effective pitch on the front page.

I create clean and modern content for the internet.

The use of business tactics can help launch a career as a freelancer. There are resources for creating an elevator pitch.

An Overall Style

Creating an overall style for the business is the last thing to do. Most of this is done by the above factors. The style of work a designer completes should reflect the overall style of the project website design near me.

To promote consistency throughout the life of the business, designers need to look at branding in a broader sense. Creating a color scheme, design style, and other overall design guidelines based on the logo design and information presented in the elevator pitch As the business grows, stick to the brand.

3. Create a Portfolio Website

The third step is to create a website for your portfolio. Designers are our own worst clients so it deserves a close look. People just starting out in the web design world of business will open the program and start working. Think about what your portfolio can do.

A mediocre portfolio can show off a designer’s past work. An excellent portfolio will do a lot of things.

  • Reflect and grow a designer’s brand.
  • Show the designer what they can do for the client.
  • Great talent, but also savvy and professional.
  • Potential clients should stay on the website for a long time so that they can make contact with the designer.
  • Provide a user-friendly interface for the client.

During the design process of a web design portfolio, remember all of this. It is important that a designer’s portfolio is their best work. The following items should be considered when creating a design portfolio.

Consider a 1-Page Portfolio

Direct response marketing has been proven to be one of the most effective forms of marketing to get the most sales. It involves making a huge impact in the most direct way possible. In the world of web design, this means an effective and amazing portfolio in one page.

It isn’t a great method for everyone, especially those who offer more than just basic web design services. A designer can still use this knowledge by applying more direct-response marketing to their portfolio if they have a one-page design. The contact form may be put on the front page.

Provide a traditional email address but also include an email form. It makes it easier for potential clients to get in touch with the designer. The designer can now sell their work.

The form above (Komodomedia) gives the visitor various options for the form, rather than just requesting a quote. An excellent way to gain more clients is by making yourself accessible. There are other ways to contact the designer, which may be suitable for different people.

Make the Most Important Things Noticeable

The most important components of a portfolio design should be easy to find. The contact form, portfolio pieces, and the logo are what most people mean by this.

There is a perfect example of this. The largest text on the page isPortfolio. The logo is placed in the top left.

4. Build Legal Documents

A designer has to create legal documents. These must be made initially to deal with potential problems later.


A contract is necessary for any kind of work. It will outline some rules and guidelines for the designer and the client. There is more information on how to create a contract.

One can hire a technical writer to do the job.

Terms & Conditions

The rules between the web deigner and the client are more in-depth in terms and conditions. One can hire someone to write a terms and agreement paper for them, but this template is a great one.

Copyright Agreement

There is a separate copyright agreement. Designers are at risk of being miscredited. A copyright agreement protects the work and sets further rules for who can use it.

We won’t get much into it because it can be different in different countries. It is important to know your own rights and apply them to your circumstances.

5. Find a Starting Wage & Budget

It’s difficult to decide on a starting wage because we don’t know how much we’ll make. Someone just starting out in the business will not be making a lot of money. A new designer needs to make sure they have enough money in the bank to cover basic living expenses and emergency costs.

Pros and Cons of Fixed-Priced Projects

A fixed-priced project is one where the designer and client agree on an overall cost for a design project ahead of time, and the payment is completely unrelated to how long it takes the designer to complete. There are pros and cons to this method.

  • It is easier to apply a project to a monthly budget.
  • Designers with efficient methods will not be punished with a low cost.
  • It’s easy to see how many projects need to be completed each month.
  • It is not easy to determine a fixed price for a project.
  • Sometimes designers are underpaid using this method.
  • Payment doesn’t come at regular intervals, which is not suitable for all lifestyles

Pros and Cons of Hourly Wage Work

While hourly work may be what we are used to, there can be some equal pros and cons to consider.

  • It’s easier for people to budget a daily or weekly.
  • It is more difficult to be paid for a project.
  • The final cost of a project is easier to explain.
  • We can’t determine our own hourly rate based on our skills.
  • It’s difficult to work with a budget.
  • Timesheets need to be filled out and there needs to be a way to transfer them between the designer and the client.

A closer look at the payment plans can help a beginner make a decision. Check out Effective Strategy To Estimate Time For Your Design Projects. is an all-in-one money managment application that allows one to connect to bank accounts and even invite a personal accountant to help watch money. LessAccounting has all of the basic money management needs for people who work for themselves.

One of the best tools for taking control of one’s own money is Mint. It’s perfect for new business owners that need to pay attention to their cash flow.

A time management tool called is used to organize time so that it can be hit on budgets. It breaks up time so a person can enter hours worked, hourly pay rate, and more. is a time and budget management tool. One can create tasks, time their own work, run reports and manage their money in a more efficient way. is a very simple invoicing tool that can help you keep track of your invoices.

Freshbooks is a great invoicing tool that can be used for many different reasons. Designers have plenty of time to decide if FreshBooks is right for them because it is free up to three clients.

The creators of QuickBooks have created a free alternative invoicing system that is perfect for designers just starting out that need to save money. allows a person to manage all of their invoices, and will even tell them what they owe the tax man.

6. Create a Résume

A strong portfolio is needed by new web designers. This is a great opportunity for a designer to show off their skills. A good portion of us probably still hold on to our last one, even though most of us learned how to create it in high school. It is time to adjust the career path for a new career path in web design.

There are some resources that can be used to create the perfect piece of work.

If the client is looking for a download link to a designer’s full work, it may be just what they are looking for.

7. Find “Portfolio Building” Clients

It is time to take action after everything is set up. Nobody wants to hire a nobody so it’s hard to find the first few clients. It may be hard to find good, well-paying clients yet, so take on the first few.

Consider Offering Free Services

Image source: On the Block

It is not fun to work for free. Do some volunteer work for a non-profit. If you want to sell these services, you just need to put an ad up for yourself on websites such as Craigslist.

To avoid failure, be sure to offer free services. No designer wants to spend a month on a complicated job. Offer only PSD templates, 1-page websites or something like that.

This isn’t an option for everyone because we all don’t have time or patience. If that is the case, you can explore some options to get paying clients that will work with a new designer.

Advertise Locally

Not every potential client knows where to look online for web design services. They can’t afford the top web design businesses.

If a new designer comes to them offering cheaper services, such as a newspaper ad, a flier at a grocery store, or through word-of-mouth, they’ll be very happy to hire.

Offer Freebies or Sell Templates

No actual clients are required for this option. Many designers choose to make free templates in their spare time, and use them to advertise their services, show off what they can do, and in some instances, sell them for residual income.

At ThemeForest, Collis has sold a $10 template 168 times. He will have over a thousand dollars in his pocket and a great piece to show off.

This isn’t going to be a good option for making monthly living expenses unless one makes a lot of money with their full-time business. It is possible to get a designer to create some portfolio pieces, to get the designer’s name out in the community, and to let the designer make some extra money.

It’s important to try a few real clients for the experience.

Then what?

Keep a few things in mind after you find a few clients.

  • The first few clients should be connected in a personal way. Word-of-mouth clients and testimonials may be welcome.
  • Start out with a variety of services. One can try logo design, web design and basic coding. This will make adding a new service to the business much easier.
  • It doesn’t mean designers should offer low-quality work because they have to deal with low wages. Put in the time to make something great. There is more to the first few projects than the money.

BaseCamp is a very popular tool for project management. A freelancer can use BaseCamp to share files, assign tasks, organize feedback and more.

The online word processer is called Zoho Writer.

Big Contacts is an online contacts solution that helps share files, email, have meetings, send notes and more between the freelancer and client.

8. Create (and Stick to) a Schedule

Finding a schedule that fits the designer’s needs is one of the most important parts of being a designer. It is the first step to becoming a professional web designer.

Find the Hours Necessary

To find a schedule, a designer needs to know how long it will take to complete the tasks. How long does it take to create a simple PSD template and how long does it take to code it is a question that a freelancer has to ask. Depending on the skill sets of the individual designers, this time can change a lot. Work from previous clients can give a rough estimate.

Decide on a daily hourly input for work and work only if you want to.

A Daily Schedule

A general daily schedule is something that needs to be set in order to be successful. A daily schedule for themsleves should be created by a designer after he or she knows how long it takes to complete a project.

A daily schedule will help the designer stay on track, instead of constantly checking email, jumping back and forth between projects, or ignoring client work altogether

A Weekly & Monthly Schedule

A weekly and monthly calendar is a must for professionals. A bigger calendar can be used to plan out longer projects.

Track deadlines, payment schedules, and other checkmarks along the way of a project with a calendar hanging on the wall or a web-based calendar.

Find the Motivation

The benefits of a steady schedule can be seen by anyone, but it can be difficult to keep up. If there is an urge to break a preset schedule, there are some things to keep in mind.

  • The same thing is done at the same time every day. First thing in the morning, check email and then work on client work.
  • Wake up at the same time every day for those who have already quit their day jobs. It is fine to sleep in a few extra hours. Even if things are done in the same order during wake time, having a constantly changing start to the day can ruin a schedule.
  • In the morning, make a to-do list of items that need to be done.
  • Track your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks with a calendar and dailyplanner.

This application tells you when to stop working, unlike most time managment software that tells you when to work. The tool can help a person have a more relaxing career.

It will be all in the same place for those that use the other tools of the company. It is free, versatile, and very useful.

Ta-da List is an online to-do list. It is easy to make lists for yourself or others.

9. Create a Business Plan

A business plan is one of the most boring and tedious tasks one can do. The benefits of taking the time to create one are what most might feel free to skip.

Benefits of a Professional Business Plan:

  • It creates a real business in the eyes of the designer and client.
  • A business plan can be used in tricky legal situations to different the business from a hobby.
  • Future plans, direction, and goals are identified.
  • The designer is on track with the development of the business.
  • The budget is upgraded to a long-term structure.

The benefits range from business growth to financial growth. To learn more about creating a business plan, read the article on

10. Know How to Gain Recognition

Not all designers are marketing experts, but a bit of knowledge about how to get noticed in the web design world is needed to be successful. Designers need to research marketing and create a long-term plan for their career as a designer.

Expand with Social Networking Sites

New designs and projects can be promoted through social networking sites. One can use a similar method to get feedback on a current project. You can find more ideas on how to get the most out of Twitter as a web designer in a post by Ramsay.

People who use social media for self-promotion benefit more than people who are active in them. Find other designers and even discover some interesting finds along the way. Gaining recognition as a web designer while enjoying social media websites is possible.

Get Recognized in a Crowd of Applicants

It’s important to know where to look for more work in order to get a decent income. It can be hard to get noticed when thousands of people are floating around in forums, job boards, and other sources of potential clients.

Follow a few simple rules to get noticed and win a job.

  • It is a waste of time to apply for jobs that are a few days old.
  • You can use multiple job board websites and forums.
  • A good designer. It seems like a dumb tip, but often times clients will apply for web designers who are either not good at design or have designs that are very ordinary.
  • Don’t apply for jobs that don’t fit you. I haven’t done a design for the style you’re looking for, but I have been creating websites for years and could probably do it. The next designer that comes to them with a good portfolio will be the one to get the job.
  • It shouldn’t have to be said, but Capitalize your sentences, use correct grammar, and don’t make spelling mistakes when applying for a gig.

Don’t sell work cheaper than you need to get a client, that’s the best tip of all. If a client can’t see why a logo design costs $200 when the kid that applied the day before is offering the same service for $20, it’s their own loss. Losing jobs is a part of the difficulty when you are just starting.

You should pay attention to the quality of the posts.

Whether designers have a lot of time or barely enough, a blog showcasing interesting finds or discussing anything related to the web design can gain an audience quickly.

Some websites use blogs to promote their careers as web designers. only updates once every two months, but it is still a well respected design website. Andrew spends most of his time on that. Through his sidebar and about page, he can easily get traffic to his website because of his following.

Steven talked about how the Vandelay Design Blog was intended to bring more traffic to the Vandelay Design portfolio. The mission was a success and the blog changed direction to fulfill the needs of a different audience.

The goal is no longer to bring portfolio traffic, but to be updated every few days. There is a link to the portfolio and further information about the business.

Chris started hisBlogging experience with some simple experimentation and as a place for him to explore and share his thoughts. He now does great work in promoting his portfolio as well as the blog, which gained a lot of popularity.

The lesson to be learned is that no matter what reason a designer has to start a website, it can be a great source of traffic and recognition. The extra income from selling advertising spaces.

Get involved in the community of web designers.

Don’t be a one person band. To grow as a designer, you need to get involved in the community and meet other professionals.

Join a design network like Envato and use forums to make contacts. One could try to do guest posts.

A good social network in the community can help a web designer.

  • There is a support group. Having an online support group for your field of interest can be very beneficial, as many web designers don’t have many offline friends or family that do the same thing for a living. You can get feedback as a designer if you join the community.
  • Being active in social networking sites and participating in forums is a great way to improve your skills. Being a part of a community will help you to explore new things and find inspiration, instead of grinding away at what needs to be done or what needs to be learned.
  • Become an authority and let people in. Being the best designer in the world doesn’t mean you’re an authority figure. As skills and wisdom improve, others in the web design community will refer to a designer’s work, portfoio, and services.

Attend Conferences and Other Face-to-Face Events

It’s a great way to network with other designers and keep up with the latest trends in web design, but also a great way to learn new things. Become a real person by attending some conferences.

There are many popular conferences in the community.

An event apart is an intensely educational two day conference for passionate practitioners of standards based web design An event Apart is the conference that you have been waiting for, if you care about code, content, and design.

Web Design World

Thousands of web designers have been helped by us to learn what they need to know to make better websites, manage projects and get home at a decent hour.

It can be easier for others to raise funds than for us to attend these events because we have the ultimate schedule. In order to succeed as a web designer, you need to attend these events to socialize, learn, and grow your career.

13. Reinvest the Income

It takes money to make money, so when you start out, invest some of your income into the business. It is tempting to pay off bills or buy something nice, but dedicate a certain percentage to the business growth.

Software upgrades, hosting and domain renewals, desk space upgrades, stationery, and more are some of the things that need to be kept up. Some of the income may be turned into a luxury web design item for fun and work.

If you want to go back into the business, you need to know how much of the income is needed for living expenses.

14. Get a Professional Space

It is possible that finding a place to do work may help a new person. A good workspace is needed to create an effective work flow. Two great workspace that are fun and effective are below.

The workspace of Ben Mautner has a lot of space to work in, with plenty of inspiration on the walls.

The office space of Jay Hilgert is clean, neat, and trendy.

It can make anyone feel like a professional web designer if they stay organized and get some work done. You may want to look at the work of other designers.

15. Keep Learning New Tricks

As the final stage of the transformation comes to a close, there is only one thing that needs to be done to maintain the status of a professional web designer. Keeping learning is the final step. Designers should always be looking for new practices, techniques, and standards for their work.


Hopefully, this guide can help web designers who are just starting out. Freelancing in the web design niche is an exciting and freedom-filled career path that requires a mix of design, development, and entrepreneurship. Success as a web designer is only possible if you have a good grasp of all three.

For anyone who has already accomplished a freelancing career, feel free to share any further tips and advice that you have. It is always great to discuss more tips.

Further Resources

These extra references may interest you.

  • A post by Carl Heaton shows you how to attract users and make them want more.
  • There is an ultimate list of freelancing resources.
  • If you want to become a web designer or developer, you need to follow 53 steps.
  • A list of over 60 websites for web designers.

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