How to Make Money With Web Design

Geek!This is Ashmiester’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Do you want to make money with web design? Almost every organization has some kind of web presence on the web today. Does that mean there is no room left for new designers to get into the business of designing bespoke websites? No. In fact, it is a good thing, because a huge fraction of the existing websites out there are full of issues including bad design and technical errors. This can be for a majority of reasons with any bad website; perhaps the buyer was on a low budget, made it themselves with little experience, or just got completely ripped off by a bad service.

Whatever the reason, this opens a door for designers to do website redesigning. This is not much different from designing a website for a business that does not have one. The only difference is that it can be a bit easier because at times you will be transferring content from the client’s old website, or perhaps using an existing structure. I would say around 80-90% of my clients already have some kind of web presence, and they are at a stage where they are willing to spend some real money.

Getting Started

As long as you have some kind of skills in creating websites, you can absolutely do this. And you know what? Even if you do not have any website creation skills, I have provided some great resource links at the end of this article for those that would like to get started on the skills necessary for this lucrative industry. The first time I was paid to make websites, I only knew the basics, and then the more I did the more I improved. It is actually not that hard becoming a web designer, all it takes is some time commitment. It is good to start off learning HTML, CSS, and some basic interface graphics. Scroll to the bottom if you would like to check out the learning resources right now. Otherwise, read on.

A Safe Investment Opportunity

A great thing to keep in mind is that web design can be such a low-investment business opportunity as long as you go about it the right way. The only costly things tend to be some of the one-off costs, such as having the right software and actually having a computer to work on. I am not saying that these do not need upgrading ever, but to me a one-off cost is something where you are not paying for it on a recurring basis. Here are a couple of important tips on keeping this all a safe investment:

  1. Work from home. At least to begin with. It means you are saving money on the rent and bills involved in having an office. In my experience, it is best to start small because you then do not have to put as much funding into things that are not so necessary to have right away.
  2. Buy cheap but quality hosting. This is done by finding a small package offered by a reputable hosting company. I use the smallest package at www.1and1.com, because it is all that is needed for the hosting of a web design company’s website. It costs $3.99 per month ($23.94 per 6 months) and includes a domain.
  3. You do not have to quit your day job (if you have one) straight away. You can start by doing the odd project here and there while you are still employed. I actually do part-time studies and work full-time with my web design business. I love it, and I would not have it any other way.

Name or Business Name?

You have two choices, you can work as a freelance web designer under your full name, or you can operate under a business name. In my eyes, the latter is much preferred. Freelancers can be awfully undercut these days; you are more likely to make good money as a business. Not only will people take you more seriously but there will be the opportunity to get staff or partners later on if you so please.

The first thing you need to do is secure a .com for your business. Having a .com is pretty standard, I would ignore .net and .org if I were you. You can always have them additionally later on if you like. When thinking of a business name, do not try to be too smart with it. "[Something] Designs" or "[Something Media]" are the kind of names that give people an idea of what your business does when they hear the name. What goes at the front does not matter too much as long as it is not particularly ridiculous. It is also more appropriate on a corporate level if you eventually get some big-time contracts. Create a shortlist of the names you have thought up that you like, and see what is available for domain registration (I use GoDaddy).

If you are having trouble thinking of a business name, you could, for example, try combining colors with animals. Black Crow Designs, Red Wolf Designs, Purple Monkey Media (or not). You do not have to worry too much about thinking of a name, because it is your service that will be defining your company’s quality.

Setting Up Your Web Presence

Whether you are looking to deliver to clients locally, across the country, or all over the world – you need to have a home website for your web design company. The website is to show information about what the company does, what work it has done (a portfolio), how you can be contacted, what services you specifically offer and what the prices are. There are other things too, such as providing the general terms for contracts and the payment options. The more details, the better. But don’t cram your website with too much, keep things neat and spaced appropriately. This website is going to be a big part of selling yourself, so it should be a breeze to navigate and read.

Also, the design and layout are going to show what you are really capable of (besides your actual portfolio). And make sure you have a nice and recognizable logo in your header somewhere. If the website looks bad then you could be losing out on a crazy amount of business. So put your all into making it look great!

Putting a Portfolio Together

So, are you wanting to get into web design business but lack a strong portfolio to get people interested in your services? I will be honest, this will take some work if you really are at square one.

Do not worry, you can rapidly build a portfolio by doing some free websites for businesses, bands/musicians, artists, freelancers, etc. These are also the kind of clients you can get paid business from in the future. And while you are doing work for free, you are in return getting the experience of working for clients and having something to put into your portfolio on your company’s website. Once you have built these sites, you can charge money for any maintenance they would like from you in the future. They just got a free website from you, so that is completely acceptable.

Getting Clients

To be honest, getting clients is not actually too difficult. Back when I wanted to start my own web design company, people would tell me it was a bad idea because there would be “dry patches”. This means going for a while without any business. Put it this way: if you put effort into marketing yourself effectively, you will absolutely get clients. Before I learned to become more organized, I had queues of clients that I just did not have the time for. This excited me though. I really enjoyed marketing myself because I believed in what I was trying to sell. I truly believed that my potential clients needed my services in order for them to further their business, and I still do believe that.

The best way to start getting clients is for you to find them, rather than them finding you. It costs a lot of money advertising for people to come and find you, so do not worry about spending that kind of money just yet. Here are some tips on marketing yourself effectively at low-cost:

  1. Get some business cards printed. I started by getting a few hundred printed for cheap, with my company name and business logo on them. Include important details such as your own name, along with your cell number, e-mail address, and of course the URL of your company’s website. I used cardsmadeeasy.com as I am based in the UK. If you are in the US, uprinting.com has some good value printing services. 1000 cards for $25 is pretty awesome.
  2. Walk into small businesses of any sort and tell a member of staff who you are and what you do, then just leave your business card with them. If they show an interest and ask questions, give them as many details as possible. And remember, you are selling yourself, so give them the reasons why your services will benefit them greatly. You may get their business there and then, or you may have to wait for a call. Do this to as many local places as possible, especially independent businesses.
  3. For potential clients that are not based quite as close by, write a short letter explaining your services just like you would face-to-face, then mail multiple copies, with a business card, to places that have bad websites or perhaps even no website at all. I got a good few clients by doing this, but the only downfall is that they may want you to travel to them if they do business with you. That is why local clients are best. It can be very worth it anyway though, especially if it is someone paying you a lot of money.
  4. Referrals. Ask all of your friends and family if they know anybody who needs a website doing. Hand out more business cards and tell them to pass them onto people. If you are not getting results, then put a twist to it. Offer potential referrers a small percentage of what a client will pay you if they find that client for you. You could offer around 5-10% depending on what you are being paid. Advertise it on your website too. This is useful for getting those first paying clients in, but to be honest I still use this method today because it does get me good business, and word about the company spreads.
  5. Similarly to the above, you could do a special offer that is to take place for limited time only. You could offer 10% off of any quoted price, or something like $50 off with a promotional code. I now only do this with some of my fixed-price services, such as website packages and my hosting services. These kind of things are really great for drawing customers in, trust me. We all love discounts.

Be Prepared…

I have met some great people through my design business, but there will always be clients that are difficult to deal with. To avoid clients walking all over you, make sure you put everything into writing if someone is going ahead with your quoted service. Also, take a deposit upfront. Usually anywhere from a third to a half of the full amount is a good idea, then they can give the rest during and after the development of the product. Or the rest of it could be put into the form of a monthly payment plan if the client is budgeting.

The last thing you want is a client refusing to pay for many long hours of your hard work. Yes, people can be this cruel, even if they seem very nice! So secure some money upfront before going ahead with the project.

Extending Your Services

Doing bespoke web design is great to start with and as your primary service, but why stop there? As you grow, your services can too. Why not also offer logo design, video creation, Flash animation, DVD authoring, media printing, or perhaps multiple-use web templates? How about buying reseller hosting so that you can provide a hosting service to go hand-in-hand with your clients’ websites? You can also look at offering services for certain types of websites such as e-commerce, database-driven websites, CMS (Content Management Systems), etc. You could do work for marketing campaigns. I have also seen design companies provide website management training at hourly rates.

There are so many possibilities in this industry which gives you the opportunity to make more than a comfortable amount of money. Just be sure not to offer too much from the beginning, because you may find that it is just too difficult to deliver. It may also mean more investing in one go.

Conclusion

Thank you if you had the patience to read this little guide, and more importantly, I hope you got something out of it. I think that anybody is capable of starting a profitable web design business, and to top it off, it is something that is so flexible it can be worked around your job or studies if you wish not to do it full-time.

If you have any questions or suggestions then please post a comment. Keep in mind that everything I have written is based on my own experience in becoming a self-employed web designer. Perhaps you disagree on a part of the guide due to your own experiences. If so, please do post a comment. Other established designers reading may well have other methods of becoming a good business. I am interested to hear.

Thank you again my precious readers, and good luck on your quest to making money with web design.

Learning Resources

Learning HTML/XHTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) is definitely the first step. It is the code that structures and formats the appearance of a web page, and is particularly easy to learn and use.

Here are some great HTML guides to get you started. Plus a whole array of different HTML tutorials for once you get some basics down:

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is a very structured language for formatting websites more efficiently, also enabling more enhanced formatting. It is also easy to use. Here are some great CSS guides to get you started. Again, there is a ton of different tutorials you can try out once you have some basics in mind:

It may be worth investing in a copy of the latest version of Adobe Photoshop if you are serious about web design. There are some nice and basic web interface design tutorials at these links:

Free learning is the way it should be. Enjoy your learning experience.

45 thoughts on “How to Make Money With Web Design”

  1. I really like this guide. It answers to many questions I’ve had for a long time in my mind :). I think I’ll follow parts of this guide when I’ve come to start a web design business of my own. The only thing I wonder about is when it comes to price my work, I don’t want to overprice my work or be too cheap, how should I do?

    Thank you again for this great guide.

  2. Excellent article to get someone started in web design. I have one question though, what would be the going rate to charge someone to build a website? I know there are a lot of factors that go into this, but I’m thinking if someone came up to me and said, “can you put my business on the web?” Just looking for a price list to get an idea of where to start.

    Thanks.

  3. Thank you for writing this article. It was very informative. I have often thought about entering the design field. I am planning on taking some classes next semester to learn HTML and CSS. I want to be able to make good looking websites even if my career goes more towards IT.

  4. Dan, thanks for your comment, I’m glad you liked the article. Pricing your services can take some experimentation at first. But basically, it comes down to two options; you can charge your clients by a fixed hourly rate, or you can provide one fixed sum for all of the work. I prefer the latter, but it means you still need to have an hourly rate in mind. You then need to estimate how many hours of work a project is going to take. Clients tend to like just having that one number completely in advance. However, If a client makes ammends to what they want, then you’ll have the right to extend the price if you’ve already started work that they want to change.

    Some designers charge as little as $15 by the hour, some will charge 3 or 4 times more than this. Reasonable prices are good, but be sure not to sell yourself short. Look at the prices of local web design businesses and compare the quality of your work with their portfolios. You could try setting prices similar to a business that you feel has a similar quality of work to yours. You’re right though, there is a lot of factors, which means I might write up another article on my blog to cover all of the details. Stay tuned to this comment section.

    Ben, you’re welcome, and I’m glad you intend on taking some web design classes. Although most of my learning came from self-teaching, it is great to have someone teaching you face-to-face whenever possible. Even if you do a career in something else, web design is of course fun to do and can serve many purposes, such as being able to share information on a chosen subject. Definitely a valuable skill to have.

  5. hey Ash, lol didnt realise just how much you had written its like an essay. but cool guide. i’m more into animation and stuff but some of the stuff in this guide still sort of applies so its still helpful.

  6. I would also add one thing, develop a partnership with a web content management provider. If you work with a reputable company they can do all the coding and you can focus on web design and client management.

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  8. Thank you Chris for that information it gave me an idea especially in the marketing field – the section you mentioned to write letters. I operate a web development business in Jamaica for some 8 months now. There has been some challenges, but I am still hanging on in there. You gave me an idea

    Thanks

  9. thanks John for the spam post. I plan to copy your post word for word in my literature for my new design business.

    I you weren’t spamming I wouldn’t do it.

    thanks again

  10. if want to earn money by designing web sites .

    if u could give me money to design any website i m always with u……

  11. As a student with a developing knowledge of html, Flash & PHP I found this post very useful and will definately give me a push in the right direction.

    I’ve just entered the web design world and looking to develop websites for clients that operate small businesses, nothing to spectacular at the moment.

    Having the majority of my knowledge self-taught, it is easy for me to adapt the principles mentioned in this post.

    Thank-you for your useful information,

    Kaidyn

  12. Thanks for the tips on how to make money online, there is always something more to learn.

  13. Excellent article; very informative . I am a student and I have just started a website development business and the biggest challenge I am facing is in getting clients. Could you please elaborate on how to get clients. If possible I would like to chat with you online to clear some doubts I have and to learn from your experience. Thanks a lot.

  14. It all saounds very nice. I have a webdesign bussiness for 2 yeras, and it is a struggle, we are 4 people and live month by month. Have a good portfolio, have a very good designer, but clients are scarce, what am I doing wrong?
    Please contact me ib the email.

  15. Wow this web site was a major hit for me.
    I was just just searching on google for that.
    I recently lost my job and have been thinking of web designing and multimedia for quit some time but wasn’t sure if it really would work out for me.
    On the other hands I think more of designing a unique website with some major hits that I can make money on that .I know its not easy to do but its not rocket science on the other hand. To be honest i book marked your website. Very useful and inspiring to me.
    thank you so much Chris.
    Darious

  16. Excellent article; very informative . I am a student and I have just started a website development business and the biggest challenge I am facing is in getting clients. Could you please elaborate on how to get clients. If possible I would like to chat with you online to clear some doubts I have and to learn from your experience. Thanks a lot.

  17. Very good article, and very informative indeed. I am a student , hoping to open a web devlopment of my own along with hosting. Your article will surely help me in smoothing some rough edges. Thank you

  18. Hi:
    Your article is great. My question is about all these tools such as Intuiit and similar offered to busineses and people, this makes is very simple for a business man or woman to just built their own website. Any comments about this?

    thanks

  19. Hi Sam, thanks for bringing up a great point.

    DIY software for website creation is limited in comparison to what a creative web designer can do, and to what a web developer/programmer can do. Most clients need something tailored to their specific needs, such as intuitive design and particular programmed functions. In most cases, software cannot replace a skilled professional.

    Thanks to everyone else for their comments, I hope the information in this article has helped you in some way.

  20. i m interested in web designing but donn know mark up languages want to develop social networking site…..give me suggestion i m a mechanical engineer working in aerospace field .

    your suggestions seems to be helpful but i want more information

    Regards
    Gaurav Yadav
    IndiA

  21. Guarav,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s great that you’re interested in building something for the web.

    First of all, you need to learn HTML and CSS, and read up a bit about FTP. These things aren’t difficult, they just take some reading and practise.

    Once you’re comfortable with HTML and CSS, start learning PHP and MySQL. PHP is a proper web scripting language used for building functional websites such as a social networking website.

    Learning all of the above can take some time before you’re able to build a social networking website. Even experts tend to work in teams to complete such a project, because it is so much work.

  22. hi great work. Thanks for da guide but i have some queries. how to start initially means any permissions frm govt or any recognitions required to start own business? And how to buy a good software. And what are the softwares required for web desigining? please reply i wanna start within couple of days.

  23. All what he said is true. I’ve been doing web site design for 12 years. I can tell you that this business is cut throat. I’ve been underpaid an ripped off ,more times then you can count. Get everything in writing and always get a deposit. Never trust anyone! They will rip you off. Also, there are a ton of people doing this now from housewives to 15 year old kids. Not everyone is trained and some peoples work is questionable. What does this mean, low pay and no respect. Customers generally want top of the line work for very low pay. I’ve had people give me a list of things that they wanted and then turn to me and say that they can only pay $300.00 for my time and effort. So you can see where this is going. Low pay and hard work.

  24. I am also a student looking for some experience in webdesign. It would be nice to have some extra money from building websites, but, as I’m 14 it may be hard to get work.

  25. srilalitha, looks like I’m a few months too late to reply to your response! Sorry! But I’ll still answer your questions. You’ll have to look up your local business laws in order to know what you need. I’m in the UK and I didn’t need to register with any kind of association. You also don’t technically need qualifications. As for the necessary software, Photoshop and Dreamweaver are industry standard, but very expensive. You should be able to download some free trials from Adobe.com.

    Robert, I can relate with your experience. I think the best thing is to politely turn down anybody who doesn’t have the right budget, and hold out for the ones that are willing to pay for what they’re asking for.

    Matt, your age is not as much of an issue as you think. You could focus just on getting online clients that aren’t local. That way, they won’t know your age (unless they ask and you give them an honest answer) as they’ll probably not be meeting you face to face.

  26. Nicely put together, one thing I’d add is that it’s important to have a good “home” site – I often check out other’s webdesign sites & am surprised at how many out there aren’t advertising what they can do by having a good site as a base – this will be the first thing potential clients will want to look at.

  27. WoW! Very impressive, I am so glad you have written and shared this with everyone. It has a lot of information and more.lol Thanks, love your work!

  28. I am interested in design and art trends and I am pretty sure that people earn a lot of money selling art work on the web. Well, as you can see, it is possible to earn money online with the help of your design and photography skills. (^_^)

  29. Great Article, very informative. I also run my own Freelance Web Design business and i am going to start using some of the tips you have talked about here and hopefull it will get me more business. Thanks for writing this.

  30. Thanks everyone, I’m glad the article has been helpful to many. It’s been a while since Chris first published this for me, but looking at it now I can see quite a few errors in my writing haha. 

    I have even more industry experience in web design at this point than I did before, so if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. 

    – Ash

  31. thanks alot!! 🙂 i was thinking that web design was not a good thing to be on but you are right, old website can be re-designed! thank you again for sharing your experience! it is appreciated

    from
    Canada,Québec,Montréal

  32. Wow Thank You so much…really enlightening, I’ve been learning web design for some time now and getting frustrated due to no result. But this has enlightened me.. it’s nt about the learning alone but also implementing. thanks a lot…

  33. Web Design is in much demand today,If you properly use the skill then
    you can make some where $500-$2000 depending on design.Take a look at SEOClerks

  34. Web Design is in much demand today,If you properly use the skill then you can make some where $500-$2000 depending on design. Take a look at SEOClerks

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