11 Ways To Earn More Money Freelancing

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?

Write Articles

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.

Sell Merchandise

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.

Enter Contests

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.

Buddy Up

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.

About the Author:

Blue Derkin writes for Web Hosting Help Guy, InMotion Hosting’s blog dedicated to all things web design, web development, and webhosting. You can follow him on Twitter @WHHG_InMotion.

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).

  1. April 13, 2010

    It’s the little things like this that really help beginning ‘lancers. Thanks.

  2. April 13, 2010

    Thanks for the Tips

  3. April 13, 2010

    Hi, this is a great post. Charging for consultations is an excellent idea. In fact, I’m in the process of completely redefining how I work, from merely being a freelance designer to someone who shows other creatives how to make more money from their talents and how market themselves online.

    I recently posted a list of 20 places to sell your artwork online on my blog at Cashdoodle.com. Not every creative is tech savvy, but they can use print on demand services to get their work out their, either as art prints, or on T-shirts, skateboards, you name it.

  4. April 13, 2010

    Great advice for any freelancer

  5. Wiggles
    April 14, 2010

    Sorry, but how will auctioning my skills in a contest for a lot less than my going rate (or more likely, nothing, as only the ‘winner’ gets paid) make me more money as a freelancer? Crowdsourcing only hurts the industry and freelance designers. An alternative suggestion could be to offer pro-bono work for a charity.

    It was a good article up to that bit.

  6. April 14, 2010

    Plus: make some websites, promote them well and sell them after a while, buy and sale domains etc… if you do not have a website/blog you can earn money from writting articles, ptc websites, reviews, answering questions for money

  7. April 14, 2010

    Nice article, great tips! tnx

  8. April 14, 2010

    Great list. I think charging for consulting is a great idea and something I will start doing right away. It just makes sense.

  9. April 14, 2010

    Those are awesome…who’s not looking for a few more ways to pay the bills?

  10. Peter
    April 14, 2010

    Try to keep you small project billing under $600 to forgo receiving 1099-misc income. Scan all invoices and billings, it’s easier reviewing them on screen than digging it thru the shoe boxes. It’s also much easier sending the files electronically than bring in the shoebox(s). Bookeeper / CPA hated touching receipts. One last thing, deposit every tenth project income into bank as payment to the local tax collector.

  11. April 15, 2010

    superb stuff…..loved it

  12. April 16, 2010

    Glad everyone liked most of the tips.

    As for the design contest issue, I can definitely see where people are coming from. I equate to places like Demand Studios and other “content mills” that pay $10-$15 per written article. It makes it tough to make living as a writer, to be sure, and it’s certainly not an ideal situation as it devalues your work. I viewed it as just one of many ways to sell some cast-off work between getting real gigs.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  13. Noor
    April 17, 2010

    thank you so much for these realy realy very important tips.

  14. April 23, 2010

    Lots of great tips.

    I’m also not a fan of design contests and even if it’s ‘just’ to use some cast off work, you’re still participating and therefore actively supporting that community which is arguably eroding the income from real gigs.

    I think there are probably better ways to use up cast off work – if it’s a website, I think that adapting it to a premium WordPress theme and selling it on somewhere like Theme Forest would be a much better idea.

    Other than that, there are some great ideas. I especially like the hosting affiliate idea. Most hosting providers do offer affiliate links these days, so why not take advantage?

  15. April 30, 2010

    Nice stuff… Thank u.

  16. May 1, 2010

    nice posting thanks for sharing this is a posting for all designer all ways are right but everyone know it required if heard work is key of success… 🙂

  17. Mohammed
    May 2, 2010

    Its really a great article i came across…it is of great help for the people like me who having skill but dono the way to utilize it..u rockin man…

  18. May 5, 2010

    I think most of these are pretty valid. I’ve gotten a lot of work from just participating in things like contests and group initiatives. Publicity is gooood.

    I think that you should mention though, that not all of your clients will enjoy being charged for some of these things. And, while they were otherwise good clients, you will have scared them off with all of your exorbitant fees! Just be careful who you charge for what.

  19. Mandy Kale
    May 6, 2010

    For freelance writing, you ought to link to a couple of the bigger freelancing market websites–like VWorker. Most sites are, naturally, going to be heavy on the tech stuff and light on editing and writing, but you can still find a lot of freelance writing work at those sites if you look.

  20. June 1, 2010

    Thanks for great sharing.

  21. June 16, 2010

    Much thanx for mentioning UserTesting.com
    I haven’t heard of it before.

  22. July 5, 2010

    Buddy up : that’s something different and attractive… but still how to find a developer buddy ? thats a big question…

  23. July 12, 2010

    Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this post so thoroughly.
    Your post is nice, I learned a lot of information from this post. I think oDesk is the best place for freelance job. Because it is a payment guaranteed site and hourly jobs available. If you want to learn & discuss more about oDesk visit oDesk.com or http://blsoftmarketing.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=13
    Thanks Guys.

  24. October 27, 2010

    most community college offers a good educational standard at par with the ivy league schools,””

  25. October 27, 2010

    well, sometimes it is difficult to earn a good deal of money in a short amount of time’~.

  26. November 8, 2010

    Great Article for Startup Freelancers! I love it!

  27. November 13, 2010

    well of course community colleges are part of a good educational system too -:”

  28. November 14, 2010

    you got to work hard to earn lots of money because it is not very easy to earn *.`

  29. December 2, 2010

    This is a great article. Advertising and blogging to increase web presence can really help boost business when you are a freelancer. Thanks for sharing!

  30. January 18, 2011

    selling cast-off’s is a great idea thank you – I never thought of that one 😉

  31. February 18, 2011

    Love finding some new ways to make money or even finding clients for that matter doing freelance work. Thanks for the good list of tips. Definitely added a few new ones to my list 😉

  32. March 15, 2011

    Wow, I’ve only engaged in 2 out of the 11 tips, but I guess that’s a beginning.

    Thanks for the extra homework.

  33. April 9, 2011

    Excellent tips, I offer consulting in social media next to my webdesign business.

  34. April 13, 2011

    Great Post.

    We’re in the process of putting our website / blog together and this is most timely for us.


  35. April 13, 2011

    Oops! Sorry. Enter my email incorrectly.

    Great Post.
    We’re in the process of putting our website / blog together and this is most timely for us.

  36. hello and thank you.

  37. July 19, 2011

    Freelancing is one of the options many of us are considering. Your article is an excellent summation on many of the ways to make it work for you. Bookmarked!!!

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