5 Things to Do Before Becoming a Web Designer

Are you looking to get into web design and start designing websites?

Perhaps you’re a virtual assistant or freelancer looking to add a higher paying skill to your list of services, or maybe you’re interested in becoming a full-fledged web designer.

Whatever the case, these are my top five most important things you should do before you begin offering web design services. Let’s get started!

1. Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Before you start your web design business, take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. When I started, I wrote a list of the skills I already had and the things I knew I was good at, as well as areas where I needed more practice and training. At the time, I knew I felt confident about building the actual website, but I felt that branding was a weak point for me. While sometimes branding is offered as a separate service, I knew that many clients prefer having it bundled together with their web design package, and I wanted to be able to offer this all-in-one package to my clients.

If you're afraid that your website design skills need some help I've got a course all about that called Design + Grow with Webflow, feel free to check that out for more info on building Webflow websites.

But, to increase my confidence and skills in branding, I invested in Jamie Spruce’s signature course, Spruce Your Studio. To this day, it’s one of my all-time favorite courses! The second course I enrolled in was Better Branding by Caroline Zook. By investing in the extra training and taking these courses, I boosted my skill-set and gained the confidence to offer a high-end package to clients.

While my weak spot was branding, yours might be navigating the different platform options, WordPress, SquareSpace, Webflow? So many options! (I recently made the big decision to move my site over to Webflow and even have a course all about it, so I’d urge you in that direction.) Maybe you’re wondering if you need to learn CSS coding or you’d like to learn more about logo design. Take an inventory of your skills. Think about what your good at, and if you’re having trouble ask friends and family, or past clients or bosses. Decide where you might need to brush up your skills or take a course, and get learning!

2) Decide on what Website Design Packages you want to Offer

The next step is deciding on your packages and pricing. When I first started out, I priced my package at a lower price, fully knowing that I would increase it over time as I took on more clients and my confidence and skills increased. I suggest choosing a price point you feel comfortable with when just starting out, but be sure to plan for those price increases as you take on more projects. 

Once you’ve decided on your price points, you’ll want to go ahead and decide exactly what is included in your package. When outlining your package, you’ll want to get clear on the specific problem your web design service solves (it’s not just about having a pretty website!). The more clearly you can articulate the problem your service solves, the more you’ll be able to show your clients how valuable your offer is. 

Sometimes I see advice online to charge hourly for web design services. I don’t recommend this, unless maybe you’re offering some sort of monthly maintenance package. Instead, write down exactly what’s included with your service. Is it a certain number of pages? What sort of features are included with it? Even if you don’t have these exact details listed on your site, it’s important that you know them well,  so that when you discuss with a potential client you can articulate your package with confidence.

3) Develop Your Process

Having a specific process, meaning a repeatable set of steps you follow each time you design a site, is going to really set you apart as a professional designer. If you have no idea where to start, you can look at others in your industry so get some inspiration, but don’t get too caught up in what others are doing. You’re going to want to make this process your own!

Once you have a rough idea of your process, write down each step of your process in something like Asana or Trello. Having it in a project management tool keeps it fluid and easy to edit, and if you use these softwares to manage projects, you can easily copy that list to each new project you do. It takes a lot of the overwhelm out of managing a project when you have all your steps laid out in front of you!

On top of the steps that go into designing a site, you’ll want to think about the administrative tasks involved in a project as well, like sending contracts and invoices. In the past, I used And.co and have now switched to Dubsado. And the last (and one of the most important!) parts of your process should include asking for feedback and testimonials. This will help you continually improve your service and massively grow your business!

4) Build Your Very Own Website

The best way to practice what you preach, and impress potential clients, is to build your own beautiful website! It doesn’t necessarily have to be complicated or fancy, but having something clients can look at so they can see that you really DO know your stuff and how to build sites is a great way to establish credibility. It can even be a simple, but sleek and professional landing page. 

Make sure you've got all the necessary pages, but not too much extra. People want things to be simple and customers/clients buy into what is simplest to understand.

Looking to build your own website, but completely lost on where to start?

Check out my free Facebook Group "Design + Grow: A Community of Aspiring Website Designers" for plenty of help prepping and planning out and then designing and building a website that's a great fit for you and your business.

Join the Group

5) Work For Free To Build Your Portfolio

Disclaimer: I know this opinion is a controversial one! While there are lots of people who say you should never work for free, for me it was a great opportunity to build my portfolio, increase my confidence and refine my process. 

I sent out a short survey to my community, explaining I was looking to take on a couple of projects for free to build my portfolio. I went through the responses with my husband, and together we decided who I could help the most with a free website. Because they would be getting so much value for free, I wanted to help people who really deserved the opportunity! If you’d like to do the same, you could help out a friend or a non-profit to practice your skills.

The feedback I got from those first few sites was truly invaluable. I had a few clients who told me the communication was within so many tools and softwares that conversations got lost, so I worked that feedback into my package and streamlined communication. I also got amazing testimonials and portfolio pieces which helped me land paying clients!

BONUS TIP: Track Your Time!

This isn’t something you have to do, but man is it helpful! If you’ve created packages and you’re estimating how long everything will take you, I’d suggest going ahead and tracking everything you’re doing and how long it’s taking you. This will help you see if you’re in the right price range, or if certain parts of your process are taking too much or too little time. I use a simple, free tool called Toggl for this. I still do this to this day and it’s helped me see my progression, as well as how much I’m earning per hour. 

And there you have it! While there are a lot more than five things you can do to become a web designer, I wanted to narrow it down to the top five things that were the most impactful for me! These are the things that allowed me to confidently call myself a web designer and build a work-from-home business offering web design services. 

Questions or comments about offering web design? Send me a message or leave a comment below! I’d love to hear if this was valuable for you, or what else you’d like to learn about starting your very own web design business!

You've been looking for the "right way" to design a website.

Lacking some confidence in your design skills? Wanting to start designing websites for clients but not sure where to start?
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