A Beginner’s Guide: Stepping Into Web Design Industry

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.

Stepping into Web Design Industry
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.

Stepping into the Unknown
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.

Resources:

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.

Door way
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.

Resources:

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.

More resources:

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.

Recognition
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.

Resources:

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.

Unblocking Creative Blocks
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.

Resources:

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.

Getting Clients
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.

Naming Your Price
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.

Resources:

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.

Networking
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.

More Resources:

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.

A Reachable Goal
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.

Krishna is a web designer based in Cambridge, UK. She is passionate about all things design related and loves learning about new techniques and technologies.

Comments

  1. / Reply

    I wish this post are created just before I’m starting my web design jobs. This is very helpful Krishna. I will link to this post on my website for my friends who just started a web design industry. :)

    1. / Reply

      Many thanks Baloot. Yes feel free to link back to this article if you feel it will help fellow designers!

      :)

    • Brian Jones,
    • April 9, 2010
    / Reply

    Love the article and thank you for the resources. As an aspiring designer / developer still in my studies, these resources will help tremendously. Thank you for sharing the post!

    1. / Reply

      No problem Brian. Always happy to help! :)
      Thanks for the comment…

    • Josh,
    • April 9, 2010
    / Reply

    Thanks for this! Great tips for all of us starting out!

    1. / Reply

      Thanks! – Hope you find them useful….
      :)

  2. / Reply

    Don’t forget to guest blog on well-known sites. An easy way to drive lots of traffic to your site, wouldn’t you agree Krishna?

    1. / Reply

      Definitely Tony, thanks for pointing that out! – Guest article writing is a great way to increase traffic!

  3. / Reply

    This is a fantastic article. Lots of amazing info and resources here. Thanks for sharing!

    1. / Reply

      You are welcome Carlin….happy to help! :)

    • Jackson,
    • April 9, 2010
    / Reply

    Wow, amazing and comprehensive article for new guys like me! It make me feel even more motivated and determined to join the design industry! Wish me luck and thanks Krishna!!!

    1. / Reply

      Glad to hear you are inspired!… Good luck for the future Jackson… :)

  4. / Reply

    Very thorough and helpful post. Thanks

    1. / Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the read…

      Thanks for the comment.

  5. / Reply

    Hi Krishna!
    I found very interesting your post and would like to ask permission to publish a version translated into spanish in my blog and of course with a mention of your blog and a link to the original publication. Thank you very much for sharing! ;)

    1. / Reply

      Hi Pixelizar,

      Feel free to republish this on your blog, and yes please don’t forget to mention my website, and provide a link to this publication…
      Glad you enjoyed the article!

      thanks for the feedback.. :)

  6. / Reply

    This is a great article. I’m a graphic design student and I’ll definitely have to tell class mates about this one. =)

    1. / Reply

      Thanks…. sharing is caring so pass on to whoever you think will benefit from reading this! :)

  7. / Reply

    Excellent article Krishna, this will be very useful for students or professionals looking to get into the world of web development.

    1. / Reply

      Many thanks, I hope it reaches all those in need of a little guidance! :)

  8. / Reply

    Great read. This compels we to learn coding a little bit more. Looking forward to reading more from you!

    1. / Reply

      Thanks for your comment Florian, glad you feel compelled…

      :)

    • Satishkumar,
    • April 11, 2010
    / Reply

    Great post.. Thnx for sharing :)

    1. / Reply

      No problem.. Glad you enjoyed the read! :)

  9. / Reply

    A very good post! I like it :)

    1. / Reply

      Thank you!! :)

    • Mohammad,
    • April 12, 2010
    / Reply

    excellent article..inspiring indeed

    1. / Reply

      Many thanks!!

  10. / Reply

    A great article on how to get started in the industry. Really good pointers for someone starting out.

    1. / Reply

      Thanks Mark, I hope it helps as many people as possible! :)

  11. / Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this article, thanks! How would you feel about me rewriting this article into Norwegian?

  12. / Reply

    Just as you know, I won’t do it without your permission of course. Forgot to tell.

    This ought to be a matter of course.

    1. / Reply

      Hi Helge-Kristoffer,

      Feel free to rewrite and publish this article in Norwegian, however please provide a link back to the original article, and don’t forget to mention my website too!!

      Thanks..

      :)

  13. / Reply

    Great article Krishna. You know, I feel that some of us seasoned designers/developers need these kind of reminders once in a while. I looked at the article and was not sure whether to read it or not. But after reading it, I’m quite excited at the prospects of becoming more better at what I do. I’ve always played around with the idea of doing guest articles but don’t have the courage so look out, might just be reading my article soon. Once again thanx and for those new guys around here, you’ve chosen a great industry. Have fun and don’t let anybody shoot you down, be courageous and stand your ground. One LUV!!

  14. / Reply

    Hi..

    Many thanks for your kind words… :)
    Yes, once in a while we all need reminders and encouragement to carry on.

    Hope to possibly see your work being published soon…good luck! :)

    All the best.

  15. / Reply

    This is a great article, lots of good insight. When I first started in my career the hardest thing was to get my mind out “school” mode and into “professional designer” mode. It was really overwhelming to start in a career that I wasn’t confident in yet. It takes a lot of perseverance and pushing through at times when you would rather just be apathetic.

    The difference between me and some of my classmates that didn’t stick with their design career is perseverance. I wasn’t the best designer or the most educated, but I decided to apply myself and make this thing work.

    Great article!

    1. / Reply

      Many thanks for the compliments and sharing your experience Nate.
      Its always encouraging to hear how other people have overcome their personal doubts with regards to their career paths…

      Perseverance is definitely a good quality to have!

      Keep it up!

      :)

  16. / Reply

    Great article – I would say one of the most important things is to have a web-presence and make that web-presence reachable to your local market. Most of your business will come from work of mouth however %25 of your work will come from search engines.

    Great read . . . keep up the good posts

  17. / Reply

    Nice article newbie like me will learn lots from this post. Thanks for sharing

  18. / Reply

    Really good article. As someone starting out in the industry it’s good to read some advice about how to succeed.
    Loads of good resources to check out, I especially liked the ones on creative block.

    • tejaswi,
    • April 15, 2010
    / Reply

    thanks for such a nice article! it guides you in a exact way! i will benefited with this in the future!thanks once again!

  19. / Reply

    Gr8 article !!! The image-1 used “entering into dense forrest” i felt the same when i start Web Designing :-)

    • wais,
    • April 17, 2010
    / Reply

    Thx for this great article , i’m also just starting actualy alredy strated and seeking clients and kinda desparet .

    Thx for sharing this with us .

    and ooh btw nice smile Krishna.

    wais

    • Dan,
    • April 20, 2010
    / Reply

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of always taking on your uncles friends dogs vets website projects. Especially when your just starting out. Family and friend recommendations are rarely the clients you want to build a successful business (hint you can skip this step if you already know what your doing or know someone who does).

  20. / Reply

    Awesum….article

  21. / Reply

    This is absolutely creative and inspirational for beginners like me.. thanks for sharing such motivational and inspirational resources..

    Thanks and regards
    Shabbar Suterwala

    • Tarik,
    • June 21, 2010
    / Reply

    hi Krishna, great article and has really inspired me too…..

    i actually kinda screewed up at college (was with the wrong crowed) and just didnt have a clue what i wanted to do at uni so ended up not going and instead get a job (working as a management accountant)

    i have no clue how i got the job as im really crap at it but i also really hate it! i been thinkign hard of chagning my career but just dont know what im good at…….actually i am really godo at maths but i really hate it lol but i also love do practical stuff like design on pc etc however in gcse art and 3d design i got E =[

    just wanted some advice do you think it is still possible for some like me who also has no tech knowlegde bwt pc etc can still get in to web design?

    i mean i can put the effort n time to study the tech stide like html css php etc and also the design part but looking at what i got in gcse for art n desgin makes me doubt myself n sometime think i should just stick to accounting seeing as im only 23 and practically got up the ladder faily easily =[ i need some advice….
    web design is something that sounds fun to do and something i will be motivated to do as i do enjoy doing practical stuff rather then theory………even doign the coding and that is still more practical then doign accounts right?

    sorry for the long essay lol….i actually decided to forget web design till stumbled across this site and kind of gave me hope and plus i did get an B for desgin and technology in gcse =] maybe that could also help?

    anyways thnx for your post and good luck to you in whatever you do thnx x

  22. / Reply

    Hello Dude , i read w/ Your web blog. LOL Please come to my blog

    • outsourcer,
    • February 27, 2011
    / Reply

    How about that: you can learn all you want about webdesign and you can go to the best universities in the world but the fact is – YOU WILL BE OUTSOURCED by 3rd word country people like me. Have a not so nice day :(

  23. / Reply

    really really…. awesome article, thanks for the guide

  24. / Reply

    Really nice guide for beginners.
    I liked it.

  25. / Reply

    this is nice post which i am looking for

  26. / Reply

    This is a very good weblog. I have been back more than once within the last few days and want to subscribe to your rss feed making use of Google but cannot work out the best way to do it accurately.

  27. / Reply

    Excellent job! Thanks for the great posting and your all efforts. I think the above article is valuable for all concerned people. At least, if was very useful for me. I’ve bookmarked this page for future reference, thank you again.

  28. / Reply

    nice concept for us newbie in designing world. I will follow this one.

  29. / Reply

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  30. / Reply

    Thank you. Very nice tutorial. I also would like to add for a beginner webmaster out there a suggestion.

    If you don`t have a budget or knowledge on how to use a Photoshop and still want to create a stunning website buttons for your website then check Cool Button Designer software. After trying 10 different web button maker softwares I found that Cool Button Designer is the best piece of software that cost 9.99 and delivering stunning professional web button in the matter of minutes. It is easy to use as well.

    Have a look a trial version of Cool Button Designer for free. Just google for Cool Button Designer.

    Try it, you will not get disappointed with abilities that little but powerful software can deliver. it is a nice tool for a beginner webmaster with low budget.

    • Derek Bowes,
    • July 3, 2011
    / Reply

    Why doesn’t anyone make a post about the TRUTH about web design?

    Why doesn’t anyone tell people to save their hard work and sweat and quit trying to make a living off of web design… it’s not a feasible industry any more.

    Web design is like music and film and poetry, they are creative art forms. These things are being devalued more and more in today’s society because everyone with access to a computer can gain entry.

    Bottom line is that businesses just aren’t interested in paying well for web design… how much of a revenue increase is their website REALISTICALLY going to generate? Is it really worth paying for? Maybe third world rates, but definitely not what the ‘locals’ charge.

    Outsourcing has pretty much destroyed web design. It just hasn’t made a MASSIVE impact because big businesses are relying on backlog to generate money, but new clients aren’t turning to local agencies or even freelancers in the area, they are looking online.

    It’s all about money and perceived value, and web design is a broken, misleading industry because of this.

    So please, if you’re interested in learning web design, I implore you to. It’s fun. It’s challenging. It can be a creative outlet, much like painting or creating music.

    But you WON’T make a living off of it. I can guarantee you that.

  31. / Reply

    Of course there is the rule of web design industry.. hihihi…

  32. / Reply

    I won`t agree with you Derek. I`m a web designer from 2+ years, I`m really happy with what I`m doing and Never faced a situation where there is lack of work for me.

    Yes, Its an art like painting, creating music etc. But, Its an ART that have a large scope of income that can truly makes a living. and the example of it is Me.

    And a nice useful article by Krishna, keep it up

    Thank you

  33. / Reply

    Great resource for all of us here Krishna. I am still learning and to be honest I am never going to understand html and all, but hopefully things will slowly move towards wordpress and easier content management systems and then I can use all your great tips about how to get clients etc. Until then back to the drawing board.

    • Ahmed,
    • April 21, 2012
    / Reply

    Very helpful article, thanks a lot.

    • amanda,
    • April 25, 2012
    / Reply

    This may sound like a stupid question. I am looking to get into freelance web design, and don’t understand exactly how it works. If you bid on a job from a freelance site do you just upload the files you’ve worked on to them or do you work on an already existing website I am at a complete loss here. Any insight into how this process actually happens would be great ! thanks

  34. / Reply

    Hi Krishna, great post. Do you have any stats on the current size of the web design industry? (in billions)

    • theway,
    • July 31, 2012
    / Reply

    Hi thanks for the useful info just wondering how you start this career though. do all web designers need to go to uni or can you do an apprenticeship or diploma?

    • POPOZ,
    • February 20, 2013
    / Reply

    Loved the article, truely inspirational, thought provoking and most definitely motivating. As a newcomer into the industry its amazing considering the magnitude i still have to gain…

    • ontargett,
    • August 29, 2013
    / Reply

    Having undertaken a Introductory Web Design course I was in the dark where to go next…

    This article gives some great links that look very useful- will be coming back for more. Thanks for the info Krishna!

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