A Beginner’s Guide: Stepping Into Web Design Industry
Perhaps you've got some experience in the web industry but unsure what to do next. Or perhaps you are new to web design and you’re just starting out. Whatever the case, you are not alone. There are many others like yourself who are still feeling their way around in the dark.
The web design industry is a big machine. Whatever dreams you may have of becoming an established designer might seem close to impossible. Especially since you run the risk of facing major problems like the lack of financial stability, lack of clients and jobs, and insecurity due to the lack of confidence in getting jobs etcetera. However, take heart. Nothing is impossible, but also know that nothing is easy.
If you are a new designer hoping to make a name for yourself in this industry, here are a few useful tips to help you keep afloat.
Image credit: Jaganatha
Your First Foray into the World of Web Design
You probably have many questions and concerns as a newcomer. Regardless of your background, knowledge or skill, you might still feel at a loss as to where to begin.
Image credit: Artofthemayerniks
It all comes down to the individual. There is no right or wrong in regards to how to, or whether you should even become a web designer. However, like any other career path, you must have drive and passion to succeed and be at the top of your game in the industry.
If you have a degree, don’t be complacent; having a degree doesn’t automatically mean that you will have a successful career in web design. However, as discussed in our previous article – Self Taught vs. Formal Education with Showcase of Design Schools, having a degree sometimes can give you an advantage.
In order to be successful, one must always be willing to continue learning. We continue learning every day of our lives. A web designer especially, will continuously learn something new because he or she can never know everything about web design.
With the rapid advancement of technology, it is necessary to constantly update yourself in order to keep up with the latest trend or technology and succeed in this field. This is where passion for the industry and the drive to excel come in handy. Self improvement is a must for all web designers.
Becoming a freelancer might come across as an easy path to take. If you have the technical skills, having the freedom to work when it suits you sounds like a great idea. But is it really? There are plus and minus points to being a freelancer. However, most experienced web designers will advise any newcomer that it is best to work for someone else first.
Don’t knock working for others right off the bat. Whether you start out working for a small agency or a large company, the experience you gain from those first years and projects there will teach you many things necessary to survive when you’re out there on your own. Working for others will allow you to learn how to communicate with clients without the pressures of messing things up while handling every aspect of the job. Also, working for someone else ensures that you have a stable income and be able to focus on the creative aspects and developing better technical skills of the job.
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Portfolios – The Doorway to Success
Every web designer’s must have is a good portfolio to showcase their abilities. If you can’t even create a decent portfolio to advertise what you can do, how can you instill confidence in potential clients that they can entrust their projects with you? Put lots of effort into building a good portfolio website and your hard work will pay off eventually.
Image credit: Rob
Design software doesn’t come cheap. As a newcomer, you might not be able to afford a professional version of various design software. However, there are options you can consider. You can take advantage of a fully functional 30-day trial version of Photoshop. A more permanent alternative could be to use Photoshop Elements or to purchase a second hand version of the more pricey software in the market today. There is also free software that is available for download online like the ones shown below.
- Free Web Design Software - PersonalWebKit
- Free Web Design Software - NetObjects
- Free Image and Photo Editing Software - Paint.Net (Windows)
- Adobe - Adobe Creative Suite
Not every designer can be good at both design and coding or programming. However, learning how to code and how to translate your designs for the web by reading online tutorials and books is a reflection of the dedication and passion you have for the field. Your willingness to learn and to upgrade yourself is an essential trait that will be attractive to both employers and clients alike. If coding is not your strong point, it can of course be outsourced. However, that would defeat the purpose of striking out on your own as a freelancer when you still need to rely on others to complete the jobs you take on.
Yes, your portfolio must be creative and give others a sense of your personality and style. However, you must not forget that it is first and foremost a showcase of your work and your skills. Prospective clients will need to see your previous work to be able to determine if they like what you can offer them. Prepare to be judged. Your portfolio will be one of the key deciding factors as to whether potential clients hire you or not. The problem with design or any creative field is that everything is subjective. Not everyone’s likes and tastes are the same. We are all entitled to our personal opinions. As such, not everyone will like your work. Learn to accept criticism and how to differentiate between the constructive criticisms from the negative ones. A designer must be able to handle criticism to grow and improve.
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Here are a few simple but inspiring web design portfolios:
Blog Your Way to Recognition
Blogs are a popular trend at the moment. They are easy to create and maintain. In fact, having an online blog can work to your favour to support your creditability and to connect with your audience. With the many resources available to help you create a blog, the real question is not how to create a blog as a web designer, but why it is useful.
Image credit: D to the Kath
Blogs, short for web log, are basically an online journal or diary. People keep blogs for various reasons. Some use blogs to advertise their business and boost sales; others use blogs to network, or purely for personal reasons and purposes.
Web designers can use blogs to support their portfolio and to promote themselves as designers. It is also a very good way to boost search engine rankings. Each time you publish an entry, you increase the likelihood of your blog being discovered. This will in turn help you to be recognised as a designer.
It is also a good way to allow your clients to get to know you better and to determine if you are a person worth working with. It is not just important to be a good designer. You must also be a person of good character in order to attract potential clients to trust you and seek you out to handle their projects.
As such, ensure that the quality of your blog is relevant and interesting to readers so that you will gather a following and make a name for yourself.
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- WordPress (Blog Tool and Publishing Platform)
Unblocking Creative Blocks
Writers get writers block. Web designers are also susceptible to some form of “creative block”. As a newcomer, if you are facing a lack of creativity for the first time, it might be even harder for you to regain your momentum and find your muse. Even with experienced designers, it is a constant challenge to be inspired and creative and it is not unheard of for even the best designers to occasionally face a lack of creativity. The good news is that this “creative block” can be conquered and there is a cure for it.
The medicine is not the same for everyone. There is no one way to fix a “creative block”. However, there are several methods and cures one can try to get out of one.
Image credit: Perpetually
Trawling on the net help may be of some help. The net is a massive library of inspiration you can tap into to overcome a “creative block”. When you see something that attracts you and engages with your mind, those creative juices might just start flowing again. Often times, when you are not overly focused on a subject or problem, you will be find that the solutions become clear as day. You can also try doing some online tutorials. There is so much to learn and doing tutorials can help you improve yourself and you may even pick up some cool tricks while doing so.
Offline inspiration come in the form of print work, design books, magazines and even newspapers and brochures can help give you some fresh ideas. Listening to music, talking to people, catching up with family and friends will also help you to relax and take a break from all the stress of a “creative block”. In fact, sometimes, all you need is a nice warm shower and you will find that when you relax and slow down, your mind gets a boost and you will regain your creativity and inspiration again. Still stuck and in need of more ways to find your muse? Check out our article on Ways for Freelancers to Get Inspiration for Design Work.
- How to Create Creativity
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- Creative Block: Getting Your Hands Dirty with Creativity
The First Hurdle – Finding Clients
You will meet all sorts of clients. Not all of them are hard to deal with, but some of them can be extremely difficult to work for.
Image credit: Christa D
When faced with a difficult client, take it as a learning experience. They will help you to become a better designer and person. If you can professionally deal with difficult clients, other clients who are not like them will be a joy to work with.
Finding work when you are new in town will be tough. Start by letting friends and family know that they can rely on you to help them with a website just to get the ball rolling in your new career path. Approaching small local businesses is also a good way to start. Some experience is better than no experience at all.
Landing a job is just one hurdle. Freelancing is like a marathon with many hurdles to jump through. The next hurdle is the discussion of quoting your fee. Setting a price to charge a client can be a complicated process. However, it is something every freelancer must face.
The Second Hurdle – Naming Your Price
As a newcomer, it would be very difficult to charge the same rates as an established designer or a small agency would. In order to break into the market, some new designers will under charge clients so that they can land the job and gain some experience. However, there are designers who feel doing so can put you in a bad light and you might only end up getting a bad reputation.
Image credit: Cayusa
The better option is to estimate the cost based on the requirements of the project. Knowing what the client wants and how many hours you will need to finish the project will help you determine the adequate quote to offer clients.
In our previous article – Freelancer Custom Quoting: How to Quote per Project by Secretly Charging per Hour, we offer some tips as to how to estimate a reasonable and smart quote to give to clients. As mentioned in the article, always be clear to your client that any work requested for but not stipulated in the contract is subject to additional costs.”Small changes” are often discussed and requested. Some “small changes” are reasonable and indeed small. However, more often than not, clients do not understand the actual magnitude of the changes they are requesting for. Should the client request for any “small changes” to be made, explain to them what the changes would translate to in terms of its cost and they might reconsider if the changes are even necessary.
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The Art of Networking
Be involved and socialise in the community you’ve decided to build a career in. As a web designer starting out in the industry, networking can help you go a long way and push you forward. Build a good name for yourself within the online web design community. Join in discussions and give constructive and meaningful comments on articles from prominent sites. Offer to write guest articles and join social networking sites so that you can “rub shoulders with the cool kids”. Being involved and contributing to the community will help you attract positive attention you will need when first starting out.
Image credit: gkwan
Trying to network within the community can be a little intimidating at first, especially since the industry is very competitive. Be confident and face your socialising fears. Everyone needs to start somewhere, even the highest rated designers of today had to work their way up to the top.
Increase publicity for yourself by establishing a brand identity. Get yourself a Gravatar (Globally Recognised Avatar) so that you will have an image that “follows you from site to site, appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog”. People connect better with images than with just text. In fact, writing guest articles can help you gain the recognition you want while showing the community that you know a thing or two about the industry. Never tried writing guest articles before? If you need some tips regarding guest articles and how to write them, check out our previous article – A Complete Guide to Writing Guest Articles.
- Social Networking for Online Promotion
- Networking Tips for the Busy Designer
- 5 Ways to Promote Yourself as a Freelancer
- Using Twitter To Bring Traffic To You and Your Blog
- How to Set a Price for Web Design Work
Success – A Reachable Goal
Patience is a virtue worth having and a much needed trait freelancers should have. Don’t expect to gain recognition overnight or just after writing one guest article. You reap what you sow; the harder you work and the more effort you invest, the better your chances are of succeeding in this industry. If this industry was easy, everyone would be in it. Regardless of the road ahead of you, I hope this article has been a source of inspiration and will help you with the days ahead.
Image credit: JoLoLog
What was it like for you when you were first starting out? If you have any advice to offer to new designers, feel free to share them with us all in the comment box below. If you’re just starting out in the web industry, and looking for answers that we have not covered with this article, don’t feel shy to ask your questions here.