How To Get Your Freelance Web Design Project Started [16 Tips]

Starting a freelance web design business can be a challenge. Whether you are doing it on the side while keeping your full-time job or going 100% freelance, the main obstacle is client acquisition. But that shouldn’t stop you from succeeding in this business. I’ve been designing websites for two years and learned a lot of the best practices to brand your business and increase your chances of getting clients.

Today, I’ll share these tips with you so that you can get started designing websites by tomorrow (because who has time to wait).

1. Clear Goals And Objectives

You by now have a broad understanding of what needs to be done and how your client wants those things done. Your next step is to get down to the specifics. What are the project goals? You should be asking yourself this question right around now, not once you’ve already started coding or designing, because it will help you make all of your decisions moving forward.

When setting goals and objectives, aim high but stay realistic. Starting a website is ambitious enough as it is, so don’t make excuses if you can’t achieve everything you want in one go-around. It’s better to set short-term goals (3 – 6 months) that are attainable than long-term ones (1 – 2 years) that aren’t. Here are some tangible examples:

  • Launch within 3 months
  • Gain 200 visitors per month after 1 year
  • Generate $1,000/month through eCommerce after 2 years

2. Determine The Scope Of Work

Before you can get started, you need to determine the scope of work. This is a fundamental and important part of any web design project. Needless to say, this is also one of the most crucial aspects that will have a significant impact on your project. It’s essential to define everything in advance. Scope of work includes, but is not limited to:

  • Target audience
  • User experience (UX)
  • Technology used
  • Content-type(s) required for your website
  • Timeline for project completion, and deliverables along the way
  • Budget for both parties, including responsibilities of all participants

3. Make It A Priority

A great way to make sure you’re on time is to set a clear schedule for yourself. If you can set aside a couple of hours every day or week to just work on the project, do it!

Find out what your client’s budget is and work with them. You might want to charge more than they want to pay, and that’s fine! But be upfront. Be honest. Be realistic about how long the project will take and how much it will cost, even if your client isn’t as realistic as you are.

4. Ask Questions

It’s important to ask questions throughout the whole project.

Ask questions at the start to get a better understanding of the project, and ask questions as you go to ensure that you are on the right track. Asking questions is also a good way for your client to understand why a certain decision was made that they might not be happy with or agree with.

Ask them what their budget is, who their target audience is, what they like and dislike about their current website (if they have one), how they want visitors to feel when visiting their site, and what is important for visitors to know about them and more. The more information you can garner from your client, the better!

5. Plan Your Time And Budget Realistically

It’s important to be realistic about your time and budget. That means two things: don’t take on projects that you can’t complete within the time and budget you have estimated and don’t agree to a lower budget than you can afford.

This involves planning your time carefully. It seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many freelancers get themselves in trouble by not managing their time efficiently enough on a project.

Freelancing is almost never steady work; there are lulls when there isn’t much work to do, followed by rushes when you’re overwhelmed with deadlines. So try to plan ahead for this—you’ll have some months where money is tight (though if you’ve been smart and saved up some money in these busy times, it won’t be a problem).

6. Outline Your Project Workflow And Deliverables

This is an important step because it will help you better manage your time, resources, and client expectations by outlining the steps you’ll take, the deliverables you’ll provide, and the timeframe for this project.

The following are some questions to consider when outlining your project workflow:

  • What are the steps you will take?
  • What are the deliverables you will provide?
  • What is the timeframe for this project?
  • Do you need any other resources (such as a writer) to make this happen?
  • How will you manage the project?
  • How will you collect and organize feedback from your client?

7. Find Inspiration In Other Creative Work

The best places to find inspiration for your freelance project are all around you. First and foremost, look at the work of other designers – especially those that are working in your particular niche or industry.

When you see a design that appeals to you, try to figure out what it is about that design that speaks to you. Is it the use of color? The choice of typeface? The layout? Try to find a few similar designs and then analyze them together. What do they have in common? How can you incorporate some of these qualities into your own work? 

There’s nothing wrong with “stealing” ideas in this way; designers do it all the time! But remember: be responsible for this information, especially if it comes from an active client project. Never use an idea as-is on a freelance project, and never send any references to clients directly. Your job is not only to inspire them with new ideas but also to make sure their projects remain unique.

8. Balance The Creative With The Technical

You will need to balance the more technical aspects of the project with the more creative ones. Here are a few key elements to consider:

Understand your audience and how they will be using your website.

Make sure you understand all of your technical requirements.

Make sure you understand what skills and resources you have at hand, as well as those that you may need to hire for.

9. Determine What Kind Of Goals And Priorities You Have For This Project

Determine what kind of goals and priorities the client has for this project. For example, is completion by a certain date an absolute necessity? Or is there some wiggle room?  Finding these answers early on will help not only with budgeting but also with timelines, communication expectations, and other details that need to be worked out upfront.

10. Create A Sitemap, Mockup, And Wireframes

A sitemap is a helpful tool for keeping your website structure organized. It helps you think through where you want the main sections to go, what secondary content will exist, and how the flow of your website will work. 

The purpose of a mockup is to show the client what their site will look like. There are multiple ways to do this and many free or inexpensive software options out there. I personally use Adobe Illustrator for my mockups because I prefer using vectors when designing mockups in case there are any future changes to any of the design elements.

But you can also create mockups with Photoshop, Sketch, or InDesign. Wireframes are intended only for layout purposes and should not be mistaken for design finalization.* It gives clients an idea of how their pages will function without the distractions of the design elements (e.g., fonts, images) so they can give feedback on how their copy fits into each section.*

11. Build Your Architecture And Navigation Systems

Smashing your way into every project is not a very dependable method of getting that first job. You need to be able to demonstrate what you can do from the start, which means knowing how to build an architecture system and know how exactly the user will move through it.

To get the ball rolling, creating a sitemap is key. A good sitemap will be easy for you (and anyone else) to understand later on when you’re building wireframes and mockups. The sitemap should include all elements of your website, but with a special focus on the navigation system—this includes both internal links and external links, as well as different types of pages like single-page apps.

12. Start Building Templates And Ui Elements

Most of the elements above are familiar to anyone who’s spent much time on the web. Buttons, forms, and icons—are the building blocks of any web design. They’re what make up the look and feel of a website, which is called its user interface (UI).

The elements you choose for your site should flow together seamlessly in order to create a cohesive experience for visitors. That means if you decide to use a particular icon set that uses squared edges, it should be used throughout your entire site. The same goes for color schemes and fonts.

If you don’t have access to graphic designers or UI kits, start by creating low-fidelity wireframes with simple shapes and symbols. Once that’s done, you can use those as templates to build out all the necessary UI elements like buttons and forms.

13. Lay Out Your Content Using Placeholder Text/Images

The next step is to lay out your content using placeholder text/images. When creating a new design, you’re probably going to be creating a sitemap and/or wireframes to help you design the site, but these should really be done after this stage. In this stage, you’re simply trying to get an idea of what goes where on a page.

If you have access to the real content for the site, use it for your mockups. If not, use some lorem ipsum or even cat Ipsum (but make sure your client doesn’t mind). As long as it gives an idea of how much text there is and how it will flow on a page.

14. Decide On How To Implement Interactivity & Animations

Interactivity and animations help enhance the user experience. It can also help with storytelling, branding, sales, user experience, and user engagement.

It is important for you to know that not all users have the same needs or preferences. Some users may not want interactivity or animations on their web pages like music playing on repeat when they visit a web page.

Here are some things to remember when thinking about creating interactive content.

  • Think of your target audience – This will help you decide if using interactivity and animations will be beneficial to the user experience. For example, a marketing site for an online learning platform would be expected to have a simple design and no distractions whereas a game-playing website would be expected to have great graphics, sound effects, and lots of movement on the screen.
  • Keep it simple – Do not overuse animation or interaction as it can get distracting to the user and take away from their overall viewing experience. There should always be a balance between animation/interactivity and the content itself so that there is something for everyone’s likes/dislikes involved in your design.

15. Test Your Site Across Browsers, Devices, And Use Cases

Testing is a crucial step in the design process. There are many different browsers and devices to test your site on, which can be time-consuming. You don’t want any unpleasant surprises when you launch your site and your users tell you how it doesn’t work – this can lead to costly rework and delayed launches.

It’s not necessary to test on every browser, operating system, and device out there but choosing which ones to test will depend on your audience and the purpose of the website.

You should test that all key elements of your site look right across the most popular browsers (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer/Edge), as well as a mobile, tablet, and desktop devices. It’s also worth testing across different operating systems (iOS vs Android). This will help ensure that what you see as the designer is what your user sees when they visit your website.

Don’t just check it looks right though – makes sure functions such as links or buttons work too. Test use cases for your site by clicking through all pages from various entry points so you don’t miss anything.

16. Deploy Your Site

Now that you’ve got a great website on your hands and all the right people interested in it, it’s time to deploy it. This is the final step of getting your project ready to go out into the world. It is also one of the most important steps of the process because this is when everything can go horribly wrong if something wasn’t tested earlier.

You will want to make sure that you have made a backup for your site before doing any deployment so that if something does go wrong, you have a copy of your site as it was and can try again.

If you’re working solo and aren’t able to use automated testing tools or integrate with an automation service like Jenkins, make sure you test everything manually prior to deployment.

You will be able to get started on freelance web design projects with confidence.

Final Thought

The key to having a successful freelance web design career is building relationships. That, combined with your unique skill set and experience level, will ultimately determine how much you can earn overtime. 

If you’re just starting out, it helps to hone your skills and learn as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential clients, either the worst thing they can say is no. And once you’ve landed that first project or two, remember to build on those relationships so that you can continue finding new clients for your freelance web design business. With consistency and hard work, this endeavor has the potential to pay off handsomely in due time.

You’ve already learned a lot from this article. You have the tools to be able to do it. You can learn from others. The steps in this article are not as hard as you might have imagined them to be. And if you follow through, you will enjoy the process!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Freelance Web Design Project?

A freelance web design project is the process of creating a website that exists online.

What Should I Expect When Getting Started On A Freelance Web Design Project?

You can count on getting answers to all your questions about a freelance web design project, clarifying any doubts you have, getting estimates for the cost of the project, and knowing how long the project will take to complete.

How Can I Show The Value Of My Services?

You’ll need to establish yourself as an expert in your field and demonstrate the value you can provide to clients especially if you’re not charging very much, to begin with. Consider blogging or vlogging about industry trends, techniques, and tips for potential clients. 

Likewise, don’t be afraid to share completed projects on your website and social media profiles. If a client is considering hiring you, they’ll likely want to see some examples of your work!

What Kind Of Payments Should I Accept?

It’s important that you choose a payment method that works well for both you and your client. Cash or checks can be convenient if the client is working with a limited budget, but they take much longer to process than electronic payments do. 

You may also be able to accept credit cards directly, although this will incur fees that may eat into your profits. Once you’ve decided on a preferred payment method, make sure it’s listed on your website.

What Is The First Step I Should Take When Getting Started On A Freelance Web Design Project?

The first step should always be to have a conversation with your client. Go into this conversation with the mindset that you’re trying to gather information from your client and not sell yourself. At this point in the process, you’re still not sure if this person is going to be your client or not, so it’s important that you don’t seem desperate.

Listen to your client’s needs and figure out whether or not you can help them solve those problems. If you can, then move forward with getting more details about the project. If not, then tell them you’re not the right designer for them (but don’t leave it at that—try to make a referral!).

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