It’s no secret that times are tough all over, even for those who work in the Web design industry. Maybe you’ve found full-time work as a web designer, but in this economy it’s just as likely that you’re piecing together several part-time or contract gigs just to stay afloat.
Whatever your situation, you could probably stand to make some extra cash. We all could, right? Luckily, skills in design and development are in demand, and due to the downturn, companies are more likely to hire freelancers to do their web design and development work. And, even better, you can make extra money with the work you’re already doing! Here are 11 ways, then, that you can make some extra income as a freelance designer by adding some value to your existing services, or by leveraging your expertise in a more piecemeal fashion.
Become a Hosting Affiliate
When a client hires you to design their site, sometimes they have a hard time understanding that not only do they need a domain, but they need to host that site somewhere. And, usually, they leave it up to you to decide who will host it. You probably already host the majority of sites you design with the same company, so why not profit from that loyalty? Most hosting companies offer a commission for hosting account referrals, so give them a call and ask how that might work for you. Most hosting companies will also allow you to add an affiliate link to your own site, and that will pay off anytime someone clicks through the link and purchases hosting. Both scenarios will earn you some extra money with very little extra effort on your part.
Advertise On Your Site
One great thing about being a designer is that you’re part of a strong community with the same interests. You’ve probably noticed that you see the same kinds of ads over and over on your favorite design blogs, and that’s for good reason – people who read design blogs are interested in the same types of things. Well, you can help those companies AND yourself out by advertising their products and services on your site. You can either seek these advertisers out yourself, or you can use a service like Google AdSense, BuySellAds or The Deck Network, which will take the work out of managing your advertisers. If you can get traffic, you can make some money.
Add Value To Sites You Design
You probably know how to do some stuff besides web design that your clients need – stuff like content production, SEO services, debugging, and site maintenance. Chances are you know more about what works on the Web than your clients, and if you have examples of your past efforts in these departments, that’s better still. These are valuable services, and you should account for the fact that you’re doing them when you quote a price.
Charge For Consulting
Has this ever happened? You’re in the running for a pretty good gig, so you meet with the potential client at your local coffee shop for a few hours. You lay out, in detail, your plans for their site. They hire someone else. Of course you’re disappointed that you didn’t get the job, but you’re livid when you see that the finished product uses your ideas! Guess what? You were a consultant, and you didn’t charge for it. Lesson learned, so next time, be up front that you charge for consultations. Doing business this way will weed out the less-than serious prospects and, if do land the job, you can wipe the charge off the client’s bill.
Teach Your Skills
This can refer not only to more traditional, classroom-based teaching (like teaching design at a learning annex or community college), but also teaching your clients how to run, update, and maintain the sites you build for them. You can offer online webinars or tutorials in SEO, social media, database management, site updating — the possibilities are effectively limitless. And, with services like video chat, Skype, and GoToMeeting, you can do it from home. Pretty sweet, eh?
I bet you’ve wondered – how do my favorite design blogs keep pumping out such quality content, day in and day out? Here’s the truth – designers like you submit tutorials, review tools and software, and showcase brush sets. And sometimes, they even get paid for it, whether in publicity or actual money. Whether it’s about CSS3, jQuery, or WordPress, harness your expertise, put in in “Top 10” format, add some killer graphics, and submit it. A site like Smashing Magazine will offer some money for articles they accept for publication, and a site like CatsWhoCode will publish your link. Either way, if you can write a compelling, useful article, you can get some credit, some money, or both. That’s what we call a “win-win-win” situation.
Sell Your Cast-Offs
You could be the best designer in the world, but it’s a fact that no client is going to like everything you do. You’re going to go through different versions of designs, scrapping some altogether in favor of others and tweaking the best even further. So what do you do with the stuff a client passes on? Here’s a tip – you can likely sell some of it, especially things like social media icon designs, WordPress themes, and the like. You won’t make a ton of money, but you’ll certainly make more than if you just left them on your hard drive.
In this era of Web 2.0, crowdsourcing, and niche communities, you don’t have to mass-produce things to make a little bit of money. Threadless and Design by Humans are two companies that combine the old (silk-screening T-shirts) with the new (Digg-like social voting) by allowing designers to submit designs for T-shirts and then vote on their favorites to see which get printed. If your design is selected, you can earn some decent money. And Zazzle.com allows you to create smaller batches of shirts, posters, gifts, and other merchandise that an intrepid and entrepreneur-minded designer could sell on his or her own. Either method is an opportunity to make some merch for sale or get your designs out there in the wild.
Got a flair for logo design? Then truck on over to DesignContest and check out some of the logo design contests running. Besides a way to earn between $200 and $500, it’s a good way to keep busy between website projects and other major undertakings. It’s also a good way to hone your logo design skills and see what other designers like you are putting out there. Similar sites include 99designs, CrowdSpring, and Guru.
If you’ve got a programmer friend who can make great iPhone apps or desktop programs but has no eye for design or content creation, maybe you two can help each other out. Adding value to your services is something that can set you apart from others with your skill set, and if that means partnering up with someone who can do something you can’t, then you should consider it. It could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
Leverage Your Expertise
Who knows more about website usability than a website designer? As I’m sure you know, big design firms and corporations sometimes pay to have people test the usability and design of their new sites. Why not get in on that? You can go to UserTesting.com and sign up to test out new sites. Just like the offline equivalent of participating in focus groups or marketing surveys, your web experience is valuable, and some companies will pay to pick your brain.
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Editor’s Note: DesignM.ag does not support the practice of design contests or spec work (see Spec Work Can Damage Your Business by David Airey for a good explanation).