Become A Freelance Web Designer
Leaving a full-time job
Leaving a full-time job to become self-employed is a big change and can be very scary to do especially when you have bills to pay. You need to be sure that you can cope with the leap, emotionally and financially. If you’re not completely ready to leave the safety of having a job, you could reduce your employed hours down to part-time while you build up your freelance business. Once you are ready to commit to running your own business on a full-time basis, say goodbye to the days of making profit for someone else.
No job security
If you are looking for job security, freelancing may not be the best route for you as there’s no guarantee of regular work and it can take a lot of effort to get new clients and keep them coming back. However; a good designer may find it easier to fill their books and keep busy.
It’s always a good idea to plan for periods where there may be a lack of work and so it’s important to put money aside so that you can still pay your household expenses during those quiet periods, especially when starting up your business.
Am I good enough?
You probably are but you’re just lacking a bit of self confidence. Take a step back, look at your work and don’t be afraid to shout out ‘Hey! I’m a great designer!’. You need to have confidence in yourself and what you do to run a successful business but there’s always room to improve. There’s so many tutorials online nowadays to help you to improve and build up new skills and techniques. You can never get enough practice.
Building a portfolio with no clients
To attract clients you need a portfolio so that they can see your skills and the style of your work, but how do you build a portfolio when you don’t have clients yet? If you’ve previously worked for a design company, you could show examples of the projects which you have worked on during your time employed there. You’ll probably need to acknowledge the company but there’s no harm in that. If friends and family have a business, see if they need any design work or look to see whether any charity groups may be needing something designed. Charities may not have much funds to spare but at least the work will help you build your portfolio as well as doing a good deed.
You have to be fairly disciplined to work for yourself, especially if you are working from home. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of working longer hours or putting things off and getting sidetracked. Plan out your work routine and at the end of the day, shut the door and walk away — after all what’s the point in having the freedom of freelancing if you don’t enjoy your time off too. The great thing about freelancing is that you can choose the type of work you do and so if you enjoy what you do, it’ll be easier to keep yourself motivated.
Not knowing how to start a business
It’s actually quiet easy to start your own freelance business — all that you have to do is to make a quick phone call to HMRC (if you’re in the UK) and inform them that you are going self employed. For other countries you’ll need to check with the appropriate tax authorities to find out what you need to do.
It’s important to keep track of your income and expenditure but with a simple spreadsheet and by keeping a copy of all your receipts and invoices it’s easy to do. Although for a one person business handling the finances is relativity straight forward, you can always hire an accountant to do it for you.
These are some of the most common fears about becoming a freelancer and as someone who has left regular employment to be a freelance designer, these were the fears which I had to work though to get to where I am today.
It can be hard to get your own clients when you are starting out as a freelance designer, especially when design can be a ‘word of mouth’ kind of business. How do you get referrals when you need to have clients who can recommend you to others? Sounds a bit of a vicious circle right?
First of all, create your brand and put together a portfolio showcasing your best work. Bear in mind that if this work has been done while employed by an agency you may have to acknowledge that you did the work with them.
Like all businesses, you need to get yourself visible by marketing your services. Get your business listed on Google maps and in free online business directories and then promote it through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. If you have some cash available, you may want to look at advertising in the local newspaper and getting business cards printed so that you can hand them out to potential clients. Your friends and family can help too — get them to spread the word about your business to people they know.
Not knowing what to charge
This is a very common worry and rightly so because how much you charge determines your income as a designer. First of all you need to figure out what your experience, knowledge and skills are worth. Take a look at other designers in the area who are similar to you so that you can judge the going rate for freelance designers. Work out your hourly rate and use it as a guide even when you quote for work ‘per project’ rather than ‘by the hour’.
If you are quoting a flat fee per project, work out how long it will take you to complete and multiply that by your hourly rate. If you charge an additional cost for alterations, you may wish to charge a lower hourly rate basing the cost on the time it has taken to do the changes. Some designers allow for a round or two of alterations in their initial quote because a client nearly always comes back with changes. However, there are times when a client will just keep making changes which you’ll need to charge extra for otherwise you’ll start losing money on the job.
Not knowing what to put in a contract
It’s important to have some form of written contract between yourself and your client even if it’s simply a document containing your ‘terms and conditions’. This will let the client know what to expect from you and what you expect from them.
It’s important to cover issues such as terms of payment, any penalties for late payments, copyright and ownership of material and what will happen should the project be terminated. It’s also a good idea to include a statement telling the client that you have the right to use the designs in order to promote your own work in your portfolio.
Competing with the ‘Logo Designed for Peanuts’ guy!
It does happen. You come a cross someone who says they’ll design something for next to nothing. How the heck do they make any profit!?! Ignore these guys — don’t waste your time worrying about them and don’t be tempted to lower your rates to compete.
A good designer is worth their money and good clients are happy to pay the designer what they are worth for their style, experience and professionalism. The client also knows that they are getting a unique design and not something from a template which the bloke down the road may also be using for his company. Anyway, do you really want clients who are looking for something on the cheap? Probably not!
When work slows down
It’d be great to be busy all the time, but most designers go through quiet spells and this is when it’s a good time to look at your business and what you can do to improve it such as:
- freshening up your self-promotion
- working on your website/portfolio
- learning new skills and techniques through tutorials
- networking with others in your industry
- writing a blog
- earning extra money by submitting designs to stock websites.
For ideas on how to improve your business when work is slow, check out this useful article at designm.ag
Every designer gets an awkward client or ones which never pay on time and this is were your contract (or Terms and Conditions) come in. For these clients, stay professional but be firm and don’t let them push you around. It’s your business, not theirs. It’s also up to you which clients you take on. At the start of a business, it’s hard to think about turning away a client because you need the work but you also need to think ahead as the client could continue to be difficult further down the line causing you more trouble than you need. Sometimes clients just need a reminder of the contract (or terms) which they have already agreed to in order to pull them back into line.
For all the awkward clients you may encounter, you’ll also have plenty of good ones which are a pleasure to work with and remind you why you love what you do!
Hopefully, this article has given you more confidence about starting your own freelance business and has helped to eliminate some of your fears.
Originally published at cssmatter.com.