Web design is at its peak now—it’s relatively new, fairly affordable to learn and practice (to some level, at least), and, most of all, trendy.
It’s all the hype these days, being a web designer is cool. They are also rumored to earn nicely, though that bit is not always true: same as with many other professions, being good at what you do and having a good reputation in the field is what allows you to earn good money.
And, with it being a popular and new field in business, there is a number of things that can and most probably will go wrong unless you take time and effort to prepare.
Now, when you are a web designer working for a firm, you might never even encounter most of these, although it’s always good to know things just in case.
But every newbie freelance web designer is bound to make several of these mistakes if not all. So here are the 7 issues to avoid when you go into web design as a freelancer.
1. Forgetting That Freelancing Is Still a Job
Many people switch to freelance from an office job since it seems easier: no one nags at you each breathing second about deadlines, you can work at your own pace in the comfort of your room, you can choose the projects you like and reject those you find boring, offensive, uncomfortable, too simple, too difficult, etc. etc.
The list is long. Well, here is a catch—when no one watches, we people tend to get too laid back and prone to procrastination. “Because that’s precisely why I left the company, right? So I can work however I want!”
Working at your own pace is awesome, it really is. Just don’t forget to actually work. You still have those bills to pay, don’t you? And that vacation to see the sakura bloom next April? It costs money too.
Make a schedule and stick to it. If you’re not an early riser that’s okay, start your day at 11 AM; but do that consistently and lay it out on your work page so that your clients know when to contact you and when to expect the job done. And, of course, do the job in time.
Procrastination is your greatest enemy, especially in a creative field like web design. Don’t wait for the inspiration to down on you, start on time and catch it on the go. Do not have a job at the moment?
Hit a wall? Switch to your own projects—they’ll fill your portfolio and take your mind off things; when you get back to the actual paid task, it will come easier. Not letting go of your muse is better than waiting for it every time.
This is a double-edged sword, though. Do not load yourself with more than you can do just because the job is available. Actually, load yourself with just a little less than you can do. This will provide you with a time pocket if something goes awry. And remember to eat, sleep, exercise. Go for a walk occasionally.
2. Not Dealing With Money Issues on Time
This one is hard. When you’re new to freelancing, even if you are not new to the job itself, many designers think that freelancing is worth less. Almost like worthless, but with a space. This is unfair and, to be honest, a bit unhealthy.
Your time and resources deserve an adequate pay. Check out the industry average for the work you do and stand your ground when someone tries to underpay you. Remember that vacation.
Also, make it a habit to discuss the prices with your clients somewhere at the beginning stages of the job so they can’t ditch you after you’ve spent time (yours as well as theirs) to do the job to find out they are not ready to pay “this much”. Not right away—this may scare some of them—but don’t wait till the last moment.
3. Ditching the Legalities
A simple contract can be found on the Internet. If you need advice on how to handle it, there are fairly cheap online consultants and completely free forums to ask for help.
You are probably a member of some web design community of sorts, see if they have a legalities thread. It might seem unimportant at first but being too gullible might cost you in the future—not all clients are honest.
A contract is as good a warranty you’ll get paid as they come.
4. Avoiding Innovations
You’re a pro at some specific type of design and that’s really cool. But the world moves fast and being a pro in some one thing is not enough. In web design, things get outdated in a blink of an eye and a snap of fingers. Keep track of trends in coding (have you already mastered HTML5?) and in visual representation.
Even when your client knows exactly what they want and how it looks, you knowing the current trends and offering your input will be seen as your passion for the craft.
It won’t hurt to keep up with tech innovations as well. Yes, it costs money, but having an upgradable PC or laptop is a must in this industry, including peripherals. A newer graphic tablet with high sensitivity stylus and a high-resolution curved monitor will make your job easier and more comfortable.
You’ll be able to achieve more: expand your skill set, offer better things to your clients, level up your reputation within the industry and, hence, earn more money.
5. Refusing to Collaborate
The world today has become much friendlier to introverts, and the development of IT industry has played a big part in that. Web designers are artists, we all know that, and many artists love to work in solitude. However, there are benefits in having partners from time to time, especially for massive tasks.
Working in pairs or groups might help you learn new techniques and approaches, allows splitting the load so that everyone does what they do best; also, it’s nice to have someone at your back in the case of some unexpected situations.
Finally, there are well-paid jobs only offered to groups of designers for faster completion so having an established collaboration team is a way to land them. Being a lone wolf is good and all, but do keep the thought in the back of your head.
6. Neglecting Extra Promotion
There is no such thing as too much self-promotion. You never know when your old clients decide they have a perfect website that needs no upgrading; they are most certainly wrong and life will prove it but in the meantime, you’ll need new gigs.
Or it’s that time when everything is quiet. Why, you might even want to wander into some new branch, diversify your project range, or simply find new faces to deal with. The grapevine approach via family, friends, and existing clients is reliable but it’s old news today.
For a web designer, the actual web is the best place to promote themselves. Be your own social media manager. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest: there are tons of options right now to tell people about yourself and what you can do, lure them to your page and fascinate them with your skills.
Twitter is a home to thousands of artists who find clients there to sell their works to. Tumblr is the epicenter of ‘fandoms’ where all kinds of creators find jobs. Use them.
It will take some time but social media is where life goes on these days so what’s a better way to get yourself some of it?
7. Not Using (or Developing) Communication Skills
Once again—being an introvert is great. Many (if not most) unbelievably, outrageously talented people are introverts. Still, take time to communicate with your clients besides the “received job offer — agreed — received details — completed the task — got paid — bye” routine.
That is, if you want this client to come to you and not someone else when they need web design specialist next time.
Follow up with a message or email inquiring how it works and if they need any adjustments; visit the website, see how they are doing, maybe you’ll get some idea of your own you could suggest.
Show your interest once in a while (don’t bombard them with emails every other day, you’ll get blocked), people love it. Look at the bright side—at least, you don’t need to go meet them in person if you don’t want to.