Web design is a crowded market nowadays, but as a freelancer, you’re not competing with the $10 million agencies. The same goes for the big DIY website builders.
All you’re trying to do is create a small business with website mastery to achieve a lifestyle where you enjoy your craft and have a stable working relationship with your clients.
The internet often creates a monopoly at the top of an industry where there are only one or two massive players (i.e., Squarespace).
The overlooked part is it enables the individual to act as a large corporation because you have all the productivity tools they use at your disposal. Many are freemium subscriptions or $99/year which you can stack together to form your ideal workflow as a web designer.
Here are my thoughts on how to shift the odds of success with web design freelancing in your favor to make money consistently.
The first hurdle you have to overcome to start freelancing is mastering your mindset. When you make zero money on your own, you think it’s hard to find people to pay you.
Now that’s partially true because you have to find the right match for your skills.
However, we underestimate the volume of commerce and transactions that are happening all around us every day.
Not to mention all the under the table cash transactions and bartering among local neighbors.
You tend to think that whatever skills you possess are commonplace in the market and, therefore, a commodity.
There are people already providing the solution, so why would somebody choose me?
If there’s one massive piece of knowledge that I’ve learned over the years of doing business, your skill level doesn’t matter nearly as much as the trust you have with the person on the other end of the transaction.
The first way this translates to you is through your network. Chances are even though there are numerous web design providers ready and willing to work for a small business, your local connection will entice them to give you a shot.
They’d rather be with someone who’s able to meet or jump on a call before partnering with a company that shuttles them to a generic customer service rep.
Businesses care less about discovering the best option and more about mitigating significant risks.
Then, outside of your network, you can separate yourself by becoming an expert in one specific web design area. The industry is so broad that if you try going after everything, you’re not going to be an expert anywhere.
Recurring vs. One-Time
One of the giant leaps that I made, which turned into one of the best decisions, was switching from one-time project work to fully managing everything for a monthly fee.
This business model made everything so clear.
My income became much steadier, and clients were happier because we were talking more.
Selling got more comfortable after I created monthly packages instead of wondering if a custom quote was high enough.
I wasn’t as worried about the legal side because they could cancel any time instead of avoiding pay on a large contract (which happened to me twice).
When you go all-in, you start the compound interest effect that comes with recurring income.
As time goes on, you develop new skills, and new tools come out that make your job easier.
That’s when you change up your monthly package offers to upsell your current clients, and that takes you off the hamster wheel of always needing to find new people to sustain your business.
Long-Term vs. Fast Results
How much money you can make with web design freelancing is often framed through the context of the short term future. You’ve probably seen a slogan like go from zero to $100,000 in six months (or sooner) and question whether it’s possible.
I’m here to tell you two things, yes it’s possible, but you have to be a hard salesman to reach those numbers, and I’m guessing 95% of the people who are reading this aren’t in that bucket.
The problem with following advice like this is when you don’t come close to that goal, you become dejected and give up after six months.
The better path is to pick a skill and give yourself at least 2-3 years to generate momentum freelancing.
Do you think you can get five clients in two years paying you between $100 – $500/month?
Seems incredibly reasonable to anybody who has a little skill with web design.
That’s how I earned over $20,000 from two separate clients over many years. I don’t think either has written a check to me for more than $500.
Monthly recurring revenue is so powerful to your freelancing business when you prioritize long-term relationships!
Stay Small & Adapt
One thing I can’t handle as an introvert is too much daily interaction with other humans.
It has put a limit on my earning potential since I have no interest in growing an agency. I’ve always seen myself as a solopreneur with a long-term vision of never having a team bigger than five people.
I’ve seen enough stories of million-dollar businesses that have a small team enabled by all of the advances in technology that we’ve had since the internet age has arrived.
I also see workaholics who believe a fulfilling life is 14 hours of staying busy. That’s not me.
I need to separate from both people and tech and spend time in nature every day to stay sane.
So in this regard, your primary limitation is how efficient you are with your processes, tools, and communication.
My best work is after I shut off my phone and sit down with a few ideas. That’s how I figured out the processes and tools I now use to build a client website.
When you have three or more client websites, you often need that time to keep everything maintainable and build a little organization around the mess of launching a client project.
The same goes for unnecessary features on your websites. They add complexity that requires fixing and time wrangling with tech or design instead of higher-level goals like marketing and branding.
I am a minimalist, so I often use rounds of updates to delete plug-ins, simplify code, and eliminate unnecessary graphics. I’m looking to improve anything that will make my future maintenance work more manageable, or even nonexistent.
Making recurring income requires a certain amount of overhead in staying in touch with clients and working with them to push their online business forward.
In my experience, this isn’t a massive time investment like some people think. Sending a monthly report and getting on a phone call every three months is good enough. You can review analytics and discuss ideas to implement in the future.
If you are more of an extrovert, you’ll do a better job all around when it comes to selling and building a team to handle an influx of new work.
Learn with Client Projects
You aren’t going to live off one skill like web design for the rest of your life.
Use client work to boost your knowledge in areas you’re not as experienced, and climb the ladder of success through freelancing.
There are plenty of potential outcomes from running a successful one-person operation, building a marketing agency, or launching your own business in another area altogether.
The worst outcome is you continue to think about it or give up after 3-6 months, resigning yourself to be an employee forever. If you stick through the hard times and keep moving forward, the universe has a way of rewarding you for the perseverance.