On the good days, becoming a freelance web designer might look like the best decision you’ve made in your life. You don’t have a boss, you can set your own hours, you have a lot of flexibility, and you’re a part of a growing movement that’s transforming the way work is being done across the world.

On the bad days, however, things look completely different. It’s not easy to be a successful freelancer. You can easily end up working more hours than you would with a traditional job. You can get into deep financial problems. You can have very little control over your business and personal life.

It’s not always easy to be a freelancer. But if you know what mistakes you need to avoid, you can have a fighting chance to develop a decent career as a freelance web designer.

Leaving the Wrong First Impression

You probably already have a sense of the importance of first impressions. It even seeps into your line of work — people who visit the websites you design will form an opinion on them in seconds. If the opinion isn’t good, they won’t stick around. Your interactions with clients follow the same pattern.

It’s tricky to manage first impressions, especially if you’re only communicating with your clients through online channels. But you shouldn’t leave things up to pure chance and your current mood. It would be much better if you learned at least the basics of business communication and work them into your routine.

For example, you shouldn’t take more than one business day to answer an email. But it’s also not a good idea to answer emails right away. That’s why you schedule exact times when you read and reply to emails. You won’t seem unprofessional or undisciplined, but you also won’t seem too eager and desperate.

Failing to Demonstrate Additional Value

Freelance workers spend a significant amount of time managing client relationships. You have to attract clients. You need to make the good clients stay. You need to make the bad clients leave. You need to figure out ways to get more money from your clients.

If you’re not using all that communication to demonstrate value beyond what’s asked of you, you’re making a big mistake. You don’t have to perform work for free, but you should never skip an opportunity to give advice to the clients that matter the most to you.

For example, you are contracted to create a website, but you notice that the hosting package your client uses isn’t what they need. You can say nothing. But you can also speak up, explain to them the different hosting options they have, and let them decide. Even sending them a link to a good article could help them. And you get their loyalty in return.

Getting Too Comfortable

When you get the hang of the whole freelancing thing, you’ll probably reach a point where your career is very okay. You’re not doing challenging work and earning tons of money, so it’s not great. But you’re not having problems with paying the bills, and you got used to the people you’re working with.

That’s the point where you need to shake things up, a lot. Complacency is a luxury you cannot afford as a freelancer. If you’re not striving for something, you’re missing out on opportunities. It’s a hungry mentality, sure, but it will serve you well until you reach a point where you can safely rest on your laurels. Until then, you must stay hungry.

If you find yourself with a couple of steady clients that allow you to make a decent living, don’t sit back and relax. Find another client that will need you to do more challenging work. Or do some work pro bono, especially if it’s for a cause you’re passionate about, or if it will look good in your portfolio. Get yourself in a position that will open new opportunities.

Being a freelance web designer means that everything is up to you. You have to find your own clients. You have to figure out how much to charge them. You have to find ways to pay for health and social insurance. You have to create your own pension plan. To some people, that kind of a deal sounds appealing. To others, it can be their worst nightmare. If you want to succeed as a freelance web designer, better be sure that you’re one of the former. And then work on your skills, self-discipline, and understanding of the business.

About the Author

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Mirko Humbert

Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic designer and the founder of WP Expert.