In today’s internet-powered economy, businesses choosing to stay offline do so at their own peril.
A company's digital identity greatly influences its performance, and yet, as of 2022, a sample of just over 1,000 small businesses in the US found that 27% of them still didn’t have a website.
A solid online presence and an appealing website create a recognizable brand identity that encourages sales. But entrepreneurs lacking the technical know-how to design and run a website may be wary of taking their businesses to the web.
For this reason, there’s no lack of opportunities for web designers. This guide will explain all there is to know about freelancing for web designing to help beginners get off the ground.
What is a freelance web designer?
To understand this, let’s start with the basics.
Web design is the creation of websites and pages that reflect a brand or company's identity and provide a platform to inform the viewer of their products and services. It involves blending aesthetics and functionality to create a website that’s both useful and visually appealing.
A freelancer is someone who doesn’t work for a single employer and is free to take on short-term contractual projects. Freelancers choose their work and often set their own rates.
Why freelance as a web designer?
Over 70 million people took on freelance work in 2022. This number is expected to go up another 20 million by 2028.
But why are so many people choosing freelance work? Isn’t it risky when you don’t know where your next paycheck comes from? Sometimes, sure. But we’ll let you decide if the benefits outweigh the risks. Here are three reasons why freelance work is attractive:
It allows flexibility and freedom
Freelancers often negotiate deadlines with their clients. Once you begin a project, you’re responsible for getting the job done and turning in your deliverables on time. Because of this, freelancers have the freedom to choose their hours and workplace. You could travel to new locations and work in new timezones all while managing a few projects. The world is your office if you have a laptop and a reliable internet connection.
It lets you be your own boss
You'll enjoy the freelance life if you can stay disciplined and honor your deadlines. Freelancers aren’t company employees, so you won’t have to attend countless meetings, report to managers, or worry about performance reviews. That said, you still have to meet your clients’ expectations. Keep in mind that being your own boss makes you solely accountable for wins and losses.
It allows you to scale up to earn more
With the pace of technological advancements and the popularity of freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork, your earning potential and client opportunities are always growing. Freelancers can find clients worldwide to earn in currencies with higher exchange rates, too.
As a freelancer, you aren’t confined to a single project or skill. A Fiverr study revealed that 70% of freelancers juggle 2-4 projects simultaneously and 61% offer 2-3 skills as part of their pitch. For example, a web developer skilled in Photoshop can offer clients both website development and the corresponding graphic design work. Creating graphics for the site you’re building streamlines the process and means companies sign fewer invoices.
4 steps to take to become a freelance web designer
If you’re ready to leave your office job behind to take on projects you’re passionate about, we have some advice. Here are four things to do before you start your freelance career:
1. Master the skills
While some industries require degrees, freelance web designers are often hired based on their knowledge, portfolio, and expertise rather than their educational background.
For design skills, become familiar with color theory, graphic design, design principles, and web typography. Figma is an incredible tool for everyone from beginner to advanced designers — you can even move Figma designs into Webflow to create your website.
To build your experience, work with clients from multiple industries. This will also boost your exposure to new jobs and demonstrate your versatility.
2. Research the field
Once you’ve built up your skills, scan the market. A few vital things to consider are costs, rates, resources, and clients. Check out what other freelancers with similar skills and experience charge for their work before you set your rates.
What does it cost you to cater to a client? Do you need to buy specialized software? How much time will the project take? Do you have the resources to deliver quality work on time?
Factoring in these additional costs will inform your prices. Your skills and experience also allow you to adjust hourly or project-based rates as your business grows. Depending on the size of the project, you might even be able to negotiate lucrative contracts with big companies.
3. Create a portfolio website
Once you’ve set your pricing, it’s time to design an online portfolio. As a freelance web designer, this is the most important way to market yourself. You’re asking clients to pay you to design their websites, so yours must be top-notch.
Our 21 day design portfolio course is a free resource that will take you through the full build in just 3 weeks.
4. Promote your work
Promote yourself on various platforms, especially social media, to attract your first clients. Making a solid first impression is important, so having previous projects in your portfolio is a must. Clients won’t want to buy your work if they don’t know what to expect.
Create an account and showcase individual web design projects on sites like Webflow, Behance, and Dribbble. We recommend adding tags and attractive cover images to all your projects. Tags help potential clients find your work in an oversaturated marketplace, and cover images are what clients see first while scrolling— so make sure yours stand out. Study other designers’ work to see where you can contribute something new.
Consider doing freelance design jobs for charitable organizations near you or taking on projects for friends and family at discounted rates before setting up accounts on freelancing sites. These projects will build up your portfolio and showcase your experience.
Set up social media profiles on Instagram and LinkedIn where you can share screenshots of your designs. These sites are powerful marketing tools for freelancers — they contribute to your personal brand. Make your brand profiles cohesive and recognizable by using the same logo, color scheme, and fonts. If you have the budget, try buying ads to push your portfolio and increase your reach. The more people who see you and your work, the higher your chances of landing new clients.
How much do freelance web designers make?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual freelance web designer salary in the US in 2021 was around $78,300, or $37.65 per hour. Web designing is an increasingly in-demand profession, with jobs in the industry expected to grow 23% by 2031.
Freelance earnings depend on your experience, the industries you cater to, and the complexity of your clients’ designs. Pay can also be influenced by charging hourly versus project-based fees for web design services.
Hourly rates ensure you’re getting paid for the work you’re doing. If you go over your quoted hours, you’re compensated for that time. But you’re also constrained to billing by the hour, so completing projects faster means earning less.
More experienced freelancers opt for project-based rates, which typically earn more per hour. If a $500 project takes you five hours, you’re looking at $100 an hour. That’s a rate clients may not be willing to pay when pitched to them as by-the-hour work — especially if you’re less experienced. However, if a project is harder than expected, your extra hours might significantly decrease your pay rate.
Keep in mind that freelance work may not be consistent, so the number of projects you're working on can fluctuate, changing your income with it.
Kickstart your freelancing career
If you’re ready to dive into freelance web designing, check out our large collection of free lessons and courses in Webflow University. Learn from courses like the Ultimate Web Design course or create your own path by selecting the lessons you’re most interested in.