The web designing industry is ever-growing and is a forefront to businesses of all sizes. It’s important to learn the foundation and basics of the trade to begin, to grow and to maintain your business. In his book, Starting Your Career as a Freelance Web Designer, Neil Tortorella communicates his advice and techniques for those entertaining the idea of a career as a freelance web designer and for those already in the field who need a jumpstart to their career. He touches the tough and important subjects to ensure success: education and experience, business plans, accounting, taxes, legalities, insurance, portfolios, marketing and promotion, sales, and growing your business.
The term freelance encompasses so much. Essentially, it is a one-person business that works by the job and does not have a regular salary from an employer. A freelancer needs to be organized and efficient in time management, be self-disciplined and skilled in technology, and have confidence and good work ethics. You not only need to be good a designer, but equally as good in marketing, sales, and accounting as well.
How you intend to learn the skills necessary to become a designer and how you intend to acquire new skills and learn about innovative technology is very important to your design education. Attending college, trade school, a design school, online training, and continuing education classes are all options to learning the basics of design and staying in-the-know in the industry. But there is more to being a web designer than just your website; it also includes email marketing, maintaining a blog platform, your portfolio, and social media management.
Creating your business plan encourages you to achieve the successes you desire for your business. They are visual tools to keep you moving towards your goals. Review your plan as time moves on and make necessary changes to inspire growth and new ideas. Tortorella suggests these ideas to include in your plan:
- Executive Summary – A simple summary with highlights of your plan
- Company Overview – Basic details of your company including the name, address, contact info, etc. and an overview of the current trends and the state of the design industry
- Mission Statement –Why are you in the business?
- Vision Statement – Where do you want your business to be in 5yrs? 10yrs? 20yrs?
- Services and Products – Detail your services and products and their features and benefits
- Marketing Plan – How do you plan to promote your business?
- Management Plan – Include your background, list your advisors and the legal structure of your business
- Management Resources – List your project partners
- Financial Plan – Create an expense report
- Financial Projections – Detail your profit and loss projections
- Financing Your Business – Where will you get your startup money?
- Business Licenses – Do you need operating and vendor permits? How do you file taxes?
- Operations Plan – This is your daily schedule of how you plan to run your business
The next step is deciding whether to work from your home or an outside location. Tortorella lists the pros and cons of both options and the business expenses both require. With those expenses in mind and your business plan, you’ll be able to better decide how to figure your rates and billing methods. You may prefer to bill by the hour or by the project or you can set retainer fees.
A team of advisors is a vital investment to your business achievements. It’s risky to operate solely alone but easier to have a set of people to lean on for advice or help. A good professional team includes an accountant, lawyer, insurance agent, and banker. Your team members are professionals in their industry and will have your businesses best interest at all times. Let your accountant deal with IRS codes, EINs, taxes and deductions. Your attorney understands the legal structures and realities of businesses, contracts and agreements, and copyright laws. Choose an insurance agent or broker to help you with health insurance, life insurance, liability insurance, business interruption insurance, disability insurance, home-based business insurance, web designer insurance, and the list goes on. Who knew there were so many types of insurances? Your selected team of professionals are skilled in their area of expertise, allow them to do their work effectively so you can focus your time on your work and true passion.
Marketing your business is all about the 4 Ps – product, price, promotion and place. Your product (or services) needs to stand apart from everyone else’s. Find your specialty within the need of the marketplace and promote your services. Know the market you are working with (the current trends, your competition, and your target market) and develop a marketing strategy. Creating your website and portfolio are equally important in your marketing plan. Tortorella says, “To be successful, you need to become your own best client.” Know what your clients want, present to them a need and a solution offline and online.
Selling your services is about making contact with potential clients, building relationships, and concluding the sale. It’s imperative to seek out qualifying prospects that are truly interested in your services then build a relationship through trust. Tortorella helps you close the sale with a resourceful how-to guide for creating your proposals and presentations. Once you have a sale, your focus then needs to shift to project management. He delivers advice and techniques to the developing process, time tracking, maintaining clear communications, and software. After the project is complete, you need to follow through with the billing process, gathering testimonials and acquiring the right referrals.
As your design business grows and thrives, it’s important to know how to handle the workload. You don’t want to turn work away but knowing how to handle the multitude of offers is essential. Teaming up with partners or hiring subcontractors or employees are your best options. Tortorella leaves no stone unturned. He teaches you how to plan for growth, how to be a trusted delegate in your company, how to balance your professional and personal life, and of course how to retire.
Tortorella provides an in-depth sample proposal and a large appendix of references and resources to help readers run an effective and prosperous business. “The trick is to build a solid, sound foundation for your freelance business. It is a business and should be treated as such. When done right, you can realize freedom, flexibility, and other benefits so many seem to miss.” The book is packed with advice, tips, lessons and inspiration. Whether you are just beginning to ponder a career in the freelance industry or already have your feet in the water, this book delivers useful tools for survival and success in the design industry.