If you want to work as a freelance web designer, there are a couple of things you should consider first. We will run through:
- Are you good enough?
- How to get started
- How much do you charge?
- How to define a project in advance
- Prevent common problems
After this article you know how to freelance web design your way to financial independence.
Are you good enough?
This really is the wrong question, if you have any basic skill you are good enough. The right question is:
Are you good enough for the type of clients (and pay) that you desire.
For example, if you know how to use Microsoft Word and can save that document as an .html file. You can strictly speaking create websites. The type of customers you can serve however are limited.
Likewise if you know how to make a WordPress website using a downloaded theme, without knowledge of CSS you can charge quite some money.
You would however be able to charge a lot more if you knew how to use CSS.
The most important thing is to know how to choose jobs you are sure you can complete. Ask yourself:
Can I fulfill or exceed this client’s expectations?
If the answer is yes, great. Is the answer is no, you either need to:
- Adjust your client’s expectations
- Turn down the job
Have a backup
Always have a backup plan. If it turns out this job is too much for you, you need to have a plan.
You never, ever want to cancel a job half way. It destroys your reputation.
If you host your website with Hoasted, we are your backup plan. Worst case scenario you hire us to fix things up. If you don’t host with us we recommend having 1 or 2 freelancer friends who are better than you that you can hire in times of need.
Pre-calculate for every job whether you could outsource this without turning a loss
If you estimated your skill to highly, you want to have the option to give away the project. Having no profit on this is fine, turning a loss however is very undesirable.
Whenever you ask yourself whether you are good enough for a client, run through the following:
- Is this the type of client you want?
- This concerns communication style and budget
- Is the job clearly defined?
- Can you do everything in the specification?
- Can you match or exceed this clients expectations?
- Do you have a backup plan?
If you have freelanced before, good. You can probably skip this section.
If not, there are some things you need to realize.
First off, the more serious clients do not do business with people. And the less serious clients think twice about leading you on if you appear as a serious player.
Businesses do business with businesses. So be a business.
When you are ready to seriously start freelancing, set up a business. Get a tax number, commerce registration and whatever else needed in your country. In the Netherlands this takes about half an hour and €50.
It is ok to start with some small jobs with familiar people to get used to the playing field, but if you have any serious intent register yourself.
If you are getting serious check if you did the following:
- Register your company and got a tax number
- Have bank accounts set up
- Get an accountant, they earn back their costs in frustration and tax returns
- Get a professional looking email
- Have a quote and invoice template
- Have a set pricing protocol (see next section)
How to decide your pricing
First time freelancers pretty consistently make the same mistake. They charge for their time.
Do not charge for your time, charge for your value
You are not selling your time, as a webdesigner you are creating an online presence. This will increase their professional identity and lead to more revenue.
Your client is not paying for your time, they are paying for your experience and insight.
Factors to consider
Not only should you price based on value, you should charge based on what you need.
If you want to live off of your freelancing, charge enough to do that
If your monthly expenses are €1500, it makes no sense to charge €200 for a website. Unless you can find an average of 7 clients a month and build websites for them.
1 to 2 websites a month is already quite a high number if you consider planning, meetings and iterations.
As an indication, try (monthly income) x (taxrate) / (clients per month)
Assuming you need €1500 a month assuming 40% income tax while building 1 website a month:
(1500 / 0.6 ) = €2500 ex VAT
If you are building for slower clients (like big organisations) you may need 2 months for a website because they request a lot for small changes. This means you need to double your tariff to €5000 ex VAT.
Don’t be afraid to charge money
Your work is valuable and worth money. Your client knows this, especially if they have had websites made in the past. In negotiations you can always make your price go down, but asking for more is harder once you mention a lower starting price.
Defining projects in advance
From experience, i can say the following: The worst thing you can do is have a vague and unsigned plan. This will allow for a lot of’little’ extra requests that will cost you a lot of time.
Always have a bullet point list of requirements, and have is signed
When you think the job is done, you need to be able to say you fulfilled all requirements. Without a signed plan you will end up with scenarios where your client can say:
But I actually meant X instead of Y, can you change it?
These things will cost a lot of time. This person doesn’t understand what does and does not cost you a lot of time.
When you have everything defined, extra tasks bring in extra money
If your client wants more than they initially indicated, good. Make sure this is work you can send an extra invoice for. Not because you are being greedy, but because they are asking you to do more, which means you rightfully need to charge more.
Prevent common problems
There are a number of things I wish I would have known before I started out.
The job you are starting should be so clearly laid out you can literally tick off all requirements. This creates clear expectations.
Pay half up front unless you really want this client
This creates a level of commitment from the both of you. A client will take the process a lot more seriously this way.
Be in control and combat micro management
You are the designer. Your client tell you what they want, and then you set out to build it. Whenever anything is unclear, take control and strongly suggest a course of action. Leave as little decisions as possible to your client. If they actively ask you to do something else is fine, but minimize their influence.
Always over deliver
Since you have defined everything, you can very clearly over deliver. When you are done you can do a speed optimization, or a security audit. Doing them for free (or offer them at a big discount) creates a very positive experience for your client.