Being a web designer or developer offers plenty of opportunities for your career. If working as an employee isn’t for you, starting a freelance business is very inexpensive and there are virtually no barriers to entry into the business. While this presents great opportunities, it also means that your competition is basically unlimited because others can offer services as a freelancer just as easily, plus you’ll also be competing with design agencies for clients.
With the level of competition that exists for designers and developers, being successful as a freelancer or working independently requires a combination of technical and creative skills, as well as business skills. Naturally, most freelancers are more comfortable with the technical and creative aspects and less comfortable with running a business. While you do need to have some capability to run the business, you do not need to be a business guru to be an effective and efficient freelancer.
Part of the struggle from the business aspect involves knowing how to encourage clients to use your services when there are a million other options out there. In this post we’ll take a look at the subject of competition for freelancers, and discuss some things that you can do to thrive in this competitive industry.
1. Embrace the Competition
Although this is an industry that is filled with “competitors,” the nature of the community of designers is completely different than that of most other industries. Designers generally are very approachable and other service providers aren’t usually viewed as competition. Take the time to get to know others who are offering similar services, whether they are freelancers, employees of an agency, or in-house designers.
When I first started freelancing I was happy to take any project that came my way. At that time without an established network and even without a portfolio site, most of the clients I picked up came through word-of-mouth referrals from friends and family. When I finally got to the point of getting a significant number of leads and inquiries, one of the most difficult things for me was to determine which projects I should take and which ones I should turn down, or at least delay until another time.
Before long I found out the hard way that just blindly taking projects was causing unnecessary stress (I still had a full-time job at that point and not much time for client projects) and more significantly, it was preventing me from doing my best work and taking the time to learn as much as possible through the experience, which should be a priority for any designer who is just getting started.
One of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes, so I did pick up some valuable knowledge that I have been able to use ever since. However, if you are facing situations where you are unsure about accepting a project or unclear about what factors you should consider, I hope that my mistakes can also be a help to you.
Unfortunately, making decisions on which projects to take (and also on pricing) is not always easy. In this post I’ll cover a number of different factors that I feel should be considered. Keep in mind that each situation is different, so not all of the factors will apply, and in some cases the significance of specific factors will vary greatly.
Freelance designers are faced with the challenge of constantly finding new work and converting inquiries into paying clients. There are plenty of different ways that you can market your services, but sometimes the most effective ways involve passive marketing.
In this article we will be looking at ten different ways you can passively market your services to potential clients. This includes some methods that involve work up front and then little to no work to continue marketing your services, as well as some methods that are passive in the sense that you are not actively pursuing clients or trying to advertise your services.
1. An Effective Portfolio Site
The portfolio site is a critical aspect to marketing for freelancers. One of the reasons that a great portfolio site can be so effective is that it will always be there to market your services to potential visitors. Regardless of what time of day it is or where the potential client lives, a strong portfolio site will promote your services for you. The portfolio site should showcase your best work, clearly communicate to visitors what you can offer, and allow them to get in touch with you about their project.
For more on portfolio websites, please see these resources:
Being able to communicate effectively with clients is easily one of the most important aspects of being a web designer. The communication process starts immediately as you’ll need to learn what the client wants and expects from you, and as you get to know more about their business. The need for communication will continue through every phase of the design process as you and the client work together to create a site that will be effective for the business. After the design is completed, it’s likely that you’ll provide some customer support at least occasionally, so the need for good communication will always exist.
In this article we’ll take a detailed look at the topic of communicating with clients. Many of the tips that are mentioned can apply to communication in general, but the article comes specifically from the perspective of a designer/client relationship.