I often get emails from students and employed web designers about how to become a successful and established freelance web designer. I wanted to create a post I could direct people who contacted whilst also trying to help anyone searching on how to become a freelancer. I’ve listed the top 5 questions I get asked, with an attempt to answer them the best I can.
How do I become a freelance web designer/developer?
This is the most popular question I get asked. Designers are often worried about the transition from a stable income to one where you’re not quite sure where your next job is coming from. My advice would always be to make sure you have experience in the industry, working with clients, gaining an insight into every aspect of running a business within the industry. That includes marketing, internal processes, gaining experience in finessing your own skills whilst making sure you deliver to timeframes and budgets. I cannot stress enough how important that experience is. If you’re a student wanting to jump straight into freelance, perhaps think about taking on a short-term contract at an agency to get that vital experience.
If you have the experience, then I don’t think there will ever be a ‘right’ time to make the switch. Start thinking about broader questions about your business process. How are you going to gain new clients? Are you going to target local clients? Will you use social media? Are you going to utilise local SEO? Do advanced analysis on the best marketing for you. I personally found that utilising friends, family, business connections I’d gained in previous jobs gave me such a strong foundation to build a comprehensive portfolio on the website to attract any new clients.
A final piece of advice would be to produce great work. Your work is your greatest asset to get noticed. As soon as you get referred, more than likely someone will want to check out the work you’ve done. If you’re good enough, you’ll stand out from the crowd. I’ve spent over 8 years in the industry, and every day I strive to do better. Running a freelance business often leaves me with less time to learn new things and not having a team leaves me having to work twice as hard to keep up to date with new coding techniques, new technologies but I always make sure I strive for better. This I think is one of the main reasons I’ve had longevity in the industry (fingers crossed!).
How much do freelance web developers charge?
From experience, rates from designers to developers change drastically. I’ve known designers and developers through quieter periods charge as little as £20 per hour, with experienced designers charging upwards of £120 per hour. I think you need to work out what rate works for you. I choose to change my rate to suit particular periods across the year. In times where my rate was too low, I found myself financially struggling with delivering the quality I desired within the timeframe that the budget allowed for. On the contrary, when I charged too much I lost out on a few jobs that I’d have loved to have got. We’re all learning every day so it does take time to find out what your work is worth. Don’t forget the more experience you gain the quicker you can do something without sacrificing quality, so make sure you factor that in!
If you’re early on in your freelance career, I’d definitely recommend working with the client to determine budgets, and try and do it for the best price you can to try and gain a client, whilst making sure the budget works for you. The quicker you can fill your portfolio with quality, reputable clients the better!