Are You Really Ready for Freelance Web Design after Graduation? Check Here First

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You’re about to graduate. Or maybe next year will be your last year of school.

After graduation, you have your career all planned out. There’ll be no traditional 9-to-5 grind for you. Your future is in freelancing… or so you think.

I have one question for you. If you plan to become a freelance web designer after graduation, are you really ready?

You may think you are ready to begin freelancing right out of school, but chances are that you’re not.

Fortunately, there are some steps to take to prepare yourself for freelance web design even before you graduate. In fact, the earlier you start preparing yourself for freelancing, the better.

So, if you’ve still got another year of school, be glad. That gives you some extra time to get yourself ready for freelancing.

However, if you’re graduating this year, don’t panic. There are still some steps you can take to get ready for freelancing.

In this post, I list over ten ways that students can prepare themselves for a future in freelance web design before they finish school.

If you like this post, you may also like Freelancers, Use this 22-Point Checklist to Find Out How Professional You Are.

10+ Ways to Prepare for Freelancing

You’re a student and you know for sure that you want to become a freelance web designer.

Good for you. If I had to guess, I’d say that many of your peers haven’t given much thought to their future beyond graduation. The fact that you’ve thought about your future is a good sign.

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You may think that you have to wait until you graduate to become a freelancer, but the truth is that you can begin building the groundwork for a successful freelance web design business right now.

Here are over ten things to do to get ready for freelancing:

  1. Take the right courses. If you’re in high school or college, take advantage of your educational opportunities. If your school offers web design courses, take them. You may also have to look online for tutorials and other online courses. While you’re at it, don’t forget to take a few business courses. As a freelancer, you’ll basically be running a business.
  2. Make professional contacts. Just because you’re still in school doesn’t mean that you can’t meet seasoned design professionals. Start with any design instructors at your school. Next, look for web design communities online. Also, many professional organizations, such as the AIGA, have student groups and student memberships available.
  3. Find a mentor. As a student, you are in an excellent position to find a mentor in freelance web design. Professionals are often more willing to help students learn. Your mentor could be someone you meet at a professional society, a teacher or instructor, or even a current or past employer. Once you find a mentor learn what you can about design, but respect their time.
  4. Establish an online presence. You may already have an online presence on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook. But you probably haven’t built a LinkedIn presence. LinkedIn has a high number of business and professional members and that makes it a good place to have a professional profile. Take the time to fill out details.
  5. Clean up your online act. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that your freelancing clients will look for you on social media. Take a serious look at the social media profiles you already have. Do they look like something you would want a client to see? If you’re like many students, they probably don’t look professional. Fortunately, on many platforms you can delete posts or untag yourself from unprofessional photos.

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  1. Start a professional blog. Now is a great time to start a professional blog. By a professional blog, I mean a blog that you want your clients to see. Use it to discuss web design solutions you have recently learned about. Or if you already have a few clients, share some client success stories. (Be sure to ask the client’s permission first.) A blog is a great way to show your knowledge.
  2. Get a client, or two. Just because you’re still in school, doesn’t mean that you can’t start freelancing yet. Many successful freelancers started their business while they were still in school and you can too. Just remember to make sure you have enough time to meet client deadlines and still get all of your schoolwork finished on time.
  3. Build your portfolio. As a web designer, you need a professional portfolio to show to potential clients. At first, your portfolio may only include the best of your student work. As soon as you get some paying clients, replace the student work in your portfolio with your paid design projects. Include a link to your portfolio from your professional blog.
  4. Save your money. I recommend that most freelancers have about six months worth of savings before they begin freelancing. As a student, your situation is a little different. You may not know what six months of your living expenses will be. If you’re lucky, you still live at home and your parents are willing to cover your living expenses for six months while you build your business. Still, save as much as you can.
  5. Work for a design agency. I know. I know. You want to be a freelancer. I get that. But working for the right design agency first can give you a more solid understanding of the business. If you don’t already have clients, or you don’t have many, consider spending a year or two working for someone else. You’ll get real life design experience you can’t get from the classroom.
  6. Don’t give up. You have a dream to be a freelance web designer. With hard work and dedication on your part, you can make that dream come true. When you start, keep in mind that some potential clients will reject you. Other clients will hire you and then criticize your work and ask for extensive revisions. Just a keep a smile on your face and learn everything you can from each project.

Good luck future freelancer!

Your Turn

Are you a seasoned freelance web designer? How did you get started?

Help our student readers. Add your tips and/or story in the comments.

Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.

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