May 2, 2019

7 Tips on How to Start a Web Design Business

For any freelancer, including web design specialists, the ability to develop your client base and maintain the clients you already have involves the same professional skillset. In order to build good relationships, you need to develop the business skills that help you better stress your value as a designer. They also lead to greater understanding of what your clients are looking for. Here are some tips on how you can promote your own career and keep clients happy.

1. Sell Yourself

That sounds very basic, but it's also possible to do it wrong. Bragging, over-selling, hyperbole, and false claims will only put off clients. When considering how to market yourself, you have to think in terms of establishing your own brand. Think of your strengths - experience, skills, creativity - anything you can use to set yourself apart from the competition. Recommendations, a good photo, and a few insightful posts can produce results in your social media management. Start a blog. Add your LinkedIn URL to outgoing emails. Do whatever it takes to get noticed - just keep it professional.

2. Start From a Plan

Artistic types who feel they have to wait for inspiration are really wasting time. Don't wait for it - start planning with pencil and paper, and the ideas will come. Start with a simple formula:

1. Research the client's company and take notes.
2. Ask the client what they expect to get from their website.
3. Look for web design trends in the client's industry, and check search engines to see what their top competitors are doing.
4. Start sketching out the possibilities.

Planning may be more boring than true inspiration, but it can help to ensure you're able to fulfill the client's needs. Even a great idea needs some planning to accomplish that.

3. Get Some Business Training

If you have the skills and technical knowledge needed in becoming a web designer, congratulations. But it's important to understand what the real objectives are. It's not about dazzling graphics or clever menus. Businesses want their websites to produce money. In order to best accomplish that, you need to have some understanding of sales and marketing principles, techniques, and trends. If you're working with one client or a dozen, you're providing a business service and it will certainly benefit you to communicate on a business level, rather than basic design ideas.

4. Know that Communication is an Asset

In web design, you'll likely be asked to demonstrate your skills, as well as show your knowledge, adapt to changing client requirements, and be open to feedback. One of the most important skills in how to be a successful web designer is the ability to communicate effectively with your client. You are your own customer service specialist. It starts with the ability to listen and try to understand exactly what the client wants. Ask for clarification on vague directions, or when to use your own discretion. Client requirements can vary widely, but your goal is always to present them a finished product that they'll be thrilled with.

5. Put Usability First

Many graphic artists dabble in web design, and many designers are skilled computer graphics. But understand that these are two separate disciplines. There are few web designers out there capable of producing high-level graphics consistently. The intent of most website design is not to bedazzle visitors, but to provide functional layouts in attractive forms. There are many popular websites that are outdated in terms of its design, but they are highly functional. This means that usability should not be just an afterthought in website design. You should start a design project with the user experience in mind. Usability testing should also be added during the setup phase.

6. Design, Test and Develop

Web technologies are also changing. While hard-coding web apps as a developer is yet another related discipline, designers should still be updated on the basic technical skills. Your sites need to be able to work on the latest browser versions and web platforms, or they'll be obsolete from day one. You need some familiarity with the latest versions of JavaScript, HTML, CSS, UI trends, and design tools and utilities. Your clients will expect it, and so will their visitors. Having in-depth skills beyond basic design will land you more clients and better fees.

7. Analyze and Gather Feedback

It's always important to close out a project by establishing what you did well, and what you could have done better. Constant improvement on the client experience is the best way to please future clients. Keep a list of key points and concerns and address each one. If you can't honestly provide an answer, ask the client for feedback either on specific points or via a simple emailed form. The ability to accept and evaluate criticism and suggestions is important to your professional growth. Making self-evaluation a part of the design cycle is something that should become second nature. It should also be methodical so you don't waste too much time between projects.

Coming up with an eye-catching design is less meaningful if it doesn't make a positive impact on your career. To be a professional designer, you have to look upon yourself as an independent web design company. That means not just marketing, but improving on your own quality, efficiency, and reputation. This requires a varied skillset, but the above ideas should set you on the right track.

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