So at this point you should have a grasp of the basic elements of HTML, CSS, FTP, and Photoshop and you should have your own website. If not, go back and read Part 1 in this series and work on that before going further here.
Now you are ready to start doing some business. Before visions of your mailbox or Pay Pal account being stuffed full of checks or direct deposits start dancing through your head, just remember this will take some time and you don’t actually have any customers yet. Yes having paying customers is the pre-requisite of the aforementioned money stuffed mailbox. In this post we will talk about how to start getting clients and how to develop your web design portfolio.
3. Announce yourself to those around you.
Nothing is better for business than word of mouth. You would be amazed just how many people you know, or they know someone, who need a website. Start by telling your friends you have started a web design business and you are open to new clients. Also announce it in your status update on Facebook. If you are uncomfortable or shy about doing this, then I have three words of advice for you… Get Over It. If you want to become an independent web designer you will have to be bold and get over some of your shyness. Be confident in your ability to learn as you go and take a step of action. You can do this and if you can tell your family and friends about it then you won’t do much better with strangers.
This alone is likely to drum up some interest. Be honest and mention to perspective clients that you are new to the business but you are hungry to develop your portfolio. This means that you will be inexpensive and eager to please. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, they can help you as you help them.
If announcing your intentions on Facebook and mentioning it to everyone you know doesn’t get you any business, post it on Craig’s List. If all else fails you can start looking through the yellow pages at local business’s and checking out their website. If it isn’t too complicated and you think you could do a better job, call them up and tactfully let them know about your services. Since you are new you should probably price yourself somewhere around $300-$500 for a basic website.
4. Develop Your Portfolio
Having a good portfolio is vital to your business. Potential customers want to see what you can do before shelling down their hard earned cash. If after trying the strategies to get customers mentioned in step #3 for several weeks you still don’t have any bites, then you will need to create a portfolio first. I think it works much better to make your portfolio as you create websites for real customers, but you may have to create a portfolio for fictitious clients. It works better with real clients because there is more motivation. It serves the dual purpose of completing a real job where you get paid and building your portfolio at the same time.
Your web design portfolio needs to be impressive and there is no other way around it. It needs to catch the attention of your prospects where they say “yes, I think this person can do what I need”. Not only do the items in the portfolio need to look good, but the presentation of the portfolio itself should be impressive. Scour the Internet for web design portfolio’s to get ideas. I would recommend staying away from Flash, I know every beginner thinks that Flash is the end-all of web design, but you need to just trust me on this point for now… it is NOT. I will have to go into detail about why in a later post. Instead find some kind of nice looking Jquery slider or lightbox and learn how to implement it on your website. Remember you are learning as you are doing!
- Like I said, don’t use Flash, just trust me.
- Don’t rely on the link to the site to showcase it.
- There are a lot of reasons for this, primarily because you don’t know when the website is going to change. They could go out of business and close down at any point, or they could hire another designer who takes it in a different dirction, or worst of all they could try making updates themselves which are guaranteed to look like crap. You don’t want that to represent your work.
- Use thumbnail images to showcase the design right on your website, maybe even zoom in on one particular element you are proud of.
- Give a brief description of what you did for the site. Remember you aren’t telling about the business that owns the website you are highlighting design and development elements that you used in the site. It is your showcase not your clients.
In the third and final part of this series on how to become a Web Designer I will talk about how to market yourself and how to specifically target the customers you want.