5 Things A Freelance Web Designer Must Remember

If you’re a freelance web designer, or are thinking of getting started in the web design industry, then there’s a million articles and videos out there telling you what to do and what not to do.

Rather than hit you with a definitive list, I’ll be talking about things I’ve learnt over the years as a freelance web designer.

A Freelance Web Designer Must Be Inspired…

…not steal.

Thankfully this has only happened to me once. My Google analytics started to ping some weird results and it turned out another web design company had view sourced one of my designs and was using it including all copy and my Google analytic snippet.

That clearly crossed the line between inspiration and theft and was swiftly dealt with…

Inspiration is the bread and butter of the design industry. I’m willing to bet you only got into design because you were wooed by a particularly beautiful piece of work and wanted to learn how to make something just like it all on your own.

A couple of good sources of inspiration are Behance and Pinterest.

Behance, A freelance web designer must have
Adobe Behance is a great source for inspiration. Just enter a keyword you’re interested in and narrow down the results to the area of design you’re interested in.

A Freelance Web Designer Must Practice

OK, I know this one is obvious, but I often come across people that call themselves a freelance web designer because they stick a prebuilt WordPress theme on some hosting once every two months.

As with every skill, you’ll earn your design chops by practising, the more you practice, the better you’ll get. I aware this isn’t a ground breaking insight but you’ll be surprised how many freelance web designers don’t seem to grasp this small detail.

Adobe has a series of Daily Design Challenges they run which are perfect for sharpening your design skills or even taking you out of your comfort zone.

A Freelance Web Designer Must Listen to the Client!

This one is super frustrating but very often this is where my work comes from. Freelance web designers who think they know best, and no matter what their client ask for, deliver what they, as the designer, want to deliver.

Don’t be that guy

While it is true, you are the paid professional. Chances are your client knows their business better than you do. This is going to be controversial but LISTEN to your client. If your client wants a simple promotional one-page site, don’t try to sell them the top of the range eCommerce, CMS with Zoho integration and GoCardless payments.

Talk to the client, ask them if you can offer them some basic advice. Many clients will come at you with what they think they want, and it may sound like what I’m saying flies in the face of the example image above but it doesn’t. Listen to the client and offer options, but keep these options related to the wants and needs of the client, not you as the designers wants and needs.

A Freelance Web Designer Must Be Approachable

Despite the inevitable rise of AI, and humanity’s inevitable end (due to an inability to look after the actual world that supports us), chances are as a freelance web designer or a freelance web developer that your client is human. You know what humans like to do? Talk to real people.

In the past I’ve had a real problem with this as I live in a very rural part of Stirling in Scotland that suffers from terrible infrastructure problems, but I’ve always done my best to make sure clients know I may be unreachable at certain times on certain days.

Local mobile coverage checker – Tip: The orange is a lie!

In order to alleviate client concerns, there’s a few things you can do to ease the friction…

  • Set an auto reply email for those times you can’t warn clients in advance
  • Have a professional sounding answer machine message for those times when your mobile or landline can’t be answered. Explain why you can’t answer the phone. Rather than just “Leave a message” try “Thanks for calling Miniman. We can’t answer the phone right now due to planned infrastructure works in our area. Please leave a message and we’ll get straight back to you. Alternatively drop us an email to hello@miniman-webdesign.co.uk and we’ll reply as soon as we can. We estimate to be back up and running by 2pm”.
  • Let your clients know from the very beginning of your working relationship if there’s going to be potential sticking points in contacting you. In my case I’m aware that mobile signal availability here is patchy at best and therefore this is one of the first things I tell potential clients and I always offer alternative contact methods such as email and Skype
  • Reinforce your opening hours with potential clients from day one! I can’t push how important this is enough. If you don’t make your opening hours or availability abundantly clear from the start, you’re going to encounter friction on the client / professional process. Think of it this way. If a client phones you at 7pm on a weekday and you don’t answer, to the client that’s an ignored call. If you’ve already told them you leave the office at 6pm, then to the client it was just them “Taking a chance” you might still be there.

A Freelance Web Designer Must Have Fun

You know what all successful freelance web designers and freelance web developers have in common? They all do what they do because it’s fun. We’re born creators and we create because we enjoy creating.

Many things eradicate the fun from the job, so do your best to avoid these things. Try not to take on to much work. Avoid taking on work you know you won’t enjoy. Don’t take on clients that you don’t feel a connection with, or clients that you feel uncomfortable with. Even if they may be the nicest people in the world, doesn’t mean you’ll work well together.

We all need to work, we all need to earn money to pay the bills and eat so don’t expect 100% fun 100% of the time. There will always be deadlines, work you’re not completely happy with, and late nights wondering if it’ll ever end. The trick is just to be honest with yourself, honest with your clients and crack on!

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