19 Rules For Starting Freelance Web Design

So, you’re interested in getting into freelance web design. It’s a great field to enter, especially if you’re looking for more freedom in your workday and more control over what kind of clients you take on.

That said, it can be a pretty challenging industry to break into, so we’ve put together a list of 19 rules to make sure you get off on the right foot.

Become A Freelance Website Designer in Three Months
Key Takeaways
Always set clear expectations with clients before starting a project.
Keep your portfolio up to date and showcase your best work.
Networking and word of mouth are powerful tools for finding new clients.
Time management is crucial for success as a freelance web designer.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek out resources to improve your skills.

Table of Contents

1. Get Experience First

Make sure you have the skills you need before you get started in this career. You can do this by getting an entry-level job or interning with a company that designs websites. It will give you real-life exposure to the kinds of problems and solutions that companies face when they need their website updated or redesigned.

2. Research Potential Costs And Expenses

If you’re going to be working on your own, it’s a good idea to estimate what kind of costs and expenses you’re going to have, so that you can charge appropriately for your services. These costs might include workspace rent, office equipment, technology (like computers), software subscriptions (like Adobe Creative Suite), and more.

3. Find Your Niche

It might be difficult at first, but the most important thing is to make sure you’re an expert in something specific. That way, you can build a solid foundation and start getting referrals from your clients. Don’t try to do everything—do one thing and do it well, and the rest will follow.

4. Be Careful With Non-Disclosure Agreements

While NDA’s are a good idea, in theory, they can be risky for freelancers who don’t have the legal support of an established firm behind them. If you sign an NDA and then don’t deliver on the project, the client may sue you—which means that if they win, they’ll be able to sue you for everything (including your house). That’s why it’s so important to only take on projects that you know you can execute flawlessly.

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5. Don’t Start With Friends Or Family

I know, I know—it seems like it would be so much easier to get started. Maybe your family has a friend who wants to sell his banana bread on the internet, but he doesn’t want to pay you a lot of money (or any money) because he’s your uncle and he loves you.

Or maybe you have a friend who needs a new website but doesn’t understand what that means, because they’re not really into technology.

This is a bad idea. It’s tempting, but trust me: don’t do it. You won’t be able to rely on them for an honest input about your work, and they’ll always expect you to do it all for free (even if they say they won’t) because they’re your friends or family members and they love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Plus, if you do a bad job (and let’s face it—you will the first time around), you’ll lose both their business AND their friendship/relationship with your family member.

6. Ask For A Deposit Upfront

When you’re new to freelance design, it can be hard to get your first client—and even harder to get them to pay! That’s why it’s important that they put down some money when they agree to hire you. This guarantees that they’re serious about working with you and will fulfill their financial obligations once the job is done.

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7. Be Clear About Project Expectations

Communication is key with any job, but it’s particularly important when it comes to web design. Defining exactly what you intend to do for a client before you start working will make sure that the end product meets their needs and that no one was expecting something different from what they got.

8. Be Careful With Requests For Revisions

Nothing is more frustrating than investing time and money into a project just to find out that it isn’t right. That’s why you should be very careful when considering requests for revisions: If a client wants more than one change after receiving their initial work, they may not be sure of what they actually want—or even if they can be satisfied at all.

9. Don’t Let Clients Make Edits Themselves

This might seem counter-intuitive, but if you let clients edit their own websites, they will absolutely mess them up. You’ll be stuck spending hours undoing their mistakes and then re-doing them (correctly) yourself. Make sure you have a contract in place that gives you the authority to not only build the site but also maintain it after the fact.

10. Don’t Do Anything Until You Have A Contract Signed By Both Parties

Seriously—don’t even send them an invoice until they’ve given you an official “okay” on your terms of service, or some other kind of contract with all of the specifics written out clearly and agreed upon by both parties.

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11. Make Sure Contracts Are Specific And Understandable

If you aren’t using a contract, start today. It’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared—don’t wait until someone asks you for one, because they might not. You need to be able to provide it yourself. There are plenty of resources online that can guide you through the process of creating a contract, so find one that works for your business, and make sure it’s both specific and easy to understand.

12. Know When To Turn Down Projects

Just because someone is offering you money doesn’t mean you should take it! Be clear about what kind of work you do, and don’t try to do something just because someone is paying for it. If part of a project doesn’t align with your brand or if it’s not something you’re comfortable doing, don’t be afraid to turn it down—even if that means turning down the whole project.

13. Work Out Payment Terms Before Starting Any Work

If someone wants you to build a website for them, make sure you know how much they’re willing to pay, and when and how they’ll be paying it. Do not start any work until this is nailed down! Otherwise, you could find yourself in an uncomfortable position later on if someone changes their mind about what they agreed to pay or decides to not pay at all.

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14. Have Set Office Hours Whenever Possible

This is one of the perks of being a freelancer, so take advantage of it! If you have children or pets or neighbors who need caretaking throughout the day, work out a schedule with them so that they know when you’re available and when it’s best not to disturb you. Otherwise, it will be very difficult for you to stay focused on your projects—and that means it will take longer to finish the project.

15. Don’t Do Work For Free—Ever (Unless It’s For Charity)

This might seem obvious, but it bears repeating: don’t work for free. This is especially true when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, and people are trying to take advantage of you by telling you that they’ll “give you great exposure” or “pay you later.”

They’re not going to give you great exposure (that means they’ll expect more free work from you), and they’re not going to pay you later (because they think they already did). If someone tells you this, tell them that if they want something done right, they’ll pay the right person—you!—to do the job.

16. Budget Time For Marketing Efforts Like Email Newsletters

If you’re not sending out an email newsletter at least once a month, you’re missing an opportunity to keep your clients engaged and excited about working with you!

17. Wake Up Early

Don’t hit snooze. Get up early. This seems obvious, but it’s really easy to just let yourself sleep in “just 5 more minutes”. It’s not a big deal if you do it once, but if you keep doing it, all those minutes will add up and you’ll find yourself falling behind and running out of time to get things done.

18. Understand What Your Client Wants

Don’t start designing anything without understanding what they want. You can listen in person or over the phone–whichever is easier for your client–but make sure you understand what they want before you start working.

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19. Ask Questions If You’re Confused

It’s easy to feel embarrassed or ashamed when you don’t understand something, especially when it comes to a topic like a web design that can seem so complex. But being able to ask for help is a vital part of the design process, and it will help you get better at your job faster. Never be afraid to ask questions!

20. Use Seo Keywords On Your Website

It’s important to remember that the keywords you use on your website need to be relevant and focused on the main point of your page, but they also need to be consistent with what other people are searching for. Find out what keywords are common in searches related to web design, and incorporate those words into your copy!

21. Practice Your Skills

This is the most important thing you can do. If you want to build websites for other people, then you should have a firm grasp of how to do it yourself. This means actually practicing by building websites for yourself or your friends and family. That way when you start designing websites for clients, you won’t be learning everything on the fly. And if there are any hiccups along the way, they won’t cost your client any money!

Final Thoughts

If you follow the advice above, you’ll be well on your way to making money with graphic design as a freelancer. There’s nothing that can replace hard work and self-motivation, but these rules will make things easier for you. Good luck!

People Also Ask

How Do I Make Sure I Don’t Feel Like A Fraud?

This is something a lot of freelancers worry about in the beginning. Not feeling like you’re good enough, or that you don’t have enough to offer, can be tough. But remember: clients aren’t telling you what to do—you’re telling them how it’s going to go. They hired YOU for your expertise and your take on their problem, so own it!

What If I Want To Get Back Into An Office Job One Day?

That’s totally okay! No one is saying you have to freelance forever. Just keep working hard and keeping your profile up-to-date with your new skills and experience, and when the time is right, jump back in!

What If I Don’t Have A Portfolio?

You can build an online portfolio by doing side projects for family and friends (or for yourself). If you can’t find any clients, get creative and come up with a few fake websites, then put them in your portfolio.

How Do I Know What To Charge?

As a starting point, you’ll want to check out the rates of other freelancers in your area. You can also reach out to other freelancers and see if they’re willing to share their rate sheets with you. Remember: You’re new! You should charge less than the established professionals. Your rate could be as low as $20 per hour at first. Keep in mind: There are many factors that go into pricing, such as location and experience level.

How Do I Get My First Client?

You need to start looking for work as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you’re ready; just start today! Start by searching for “freelance web design” on Google, and then look through the results for jobs you might be interested in applying for. You’ll also want to set up profiles on sites like Upwork and Freelancer so potential clients can find you online. You could even try cold calling local businesses.

What Are Some Skills I’ll Need To Be Successful As A Freelancer?

The most important skill for a freelancer is being able to communicate with your client—and making sure it’s effective communication. You’ll need to be able to ask questions and identify problems in order to solve them successfully, and you’ll need to understand the answers that your clients give back. In addition, you’ll need skills related to whatever service(s) you intend on providing—for example, in web design, proficiency in HTML and CSS is a must-have skill.

Do I Need To Have Coding Experience?

No, you don’t need to be able to code in order to be successful as a freelance web designer. However, it is helpful to have some knowledge of HTML and CSS so that you can create your own website designs without having to rely on someone else’s templates. If you know how to code in HTML and CSS, then this will help you create your own themes and templates without having to rely on someone else’s templates or themes.

What Business Model Is Best To Start With?

It depends on your personal goals. If you’re looking to make a full-time income right away, then freelancing is probably not the way to go—you’ll want to start with an agency type of model. But if you have another source of income already and are just looking to build some savings or get some experience under your belt, then freelancing is definitely a viable option.

What Is A Freelance Web Designer?

A freelance web designer is someone who builds websites for clients. They might also provide services such as user experience (UX) design, visual design, content strategy, project management, and more.

Can I Work As A Freelance Web Designer While Working In My Full-Time Job?

Yes, you can. In fact, many successful freelance web designers start out that way. It’s best to write down your existing commitments and then estimates how many hours you have per week to devote to taking on freelance projects. If you can only spare an hour or two a week, things will move slowly at first—but it’s better to start small and grow than not start at all!

Why Do I Need A Portfolio If I’m New To Web Design?

Your portfolio is what helps you get hired by prospective clients. It shows them what kind of work you’re capable of producing and whether or not it aligns with their needs. Even if you don’t have any paid client work yet, put together some examples of websites that you’ve built for yourself or friends/family members.

Do I Need To Be A Great Designer Or Developer?

No! You just need to know how to find great designers and developers. People who are hiring you care that you can manage the project well, not that you’re doing all of the design and development yourself.

How Do I Find Clients?

Start by searching online job boards, then look at sites like Craigslist, Upwork, and TaskRabbit for leads. You can also try posting your services on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn (but be careful with spamming people—you don’t want to burn any bridges!). Once word gets out about what you’re doing, people will start coming directly through referrals from friends who know someone who needs help with their website or blog.

What If I’m Just Starting Off And Don’t Have A Portfolio?

Start a blog with screenshots of your work, or find projects through friends or local non-profits that are looking for help with their web presence.

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