Now more than ever, people are using the internet to connect with each other, but also with businesses and organizations that interest them. That gives rise to plenty of opportunities for building sites that will make a lasting impression. Freelance web designers are in an excellent position to offer such services, but the competition is stiff.
Having a formal education in web design is a good start. Still, continued self-improvement is crucial to furthering your career as a freelance designer. Getting better at the technical aspects of your job is only part of the equation, though. You’ll want to look at the bigger picture and immerse yourself in the culture surrounding the profession to reap the most benefits.
You can start by focusing more attention on these five areas, some of which you might not have even considered up until now.
- Proactive inspiration
- An active interest in professional growth
- Community engagement & relationship building
- Interpersonal communication
- Understanding the business side of things
Let’s take a look at what skills to develop and which steps to take to accomplish this.
Even the most talented web designers need a source of inspiration. Where better to start than sites that have a proven track record of attracting visitors? You’ll never grow if you just copy and combine the look of a search bar from one website with another’s menu structure, though.
The trick is to look at a site as a whole with a critical eye and see how specific elements contribute to the user experience. Observe concepts rather than specifics, like the subtle use of colour to direct a visitor to a part of the page or a simple menu system you can’t get lost in. Such elements will give you a tangible goal your creative mind can work with much more easily.
An active interest in professional growth
Staying relevant as a freelance web designer means keeping your finger on the pulse of current developments and always learning. It’s a good idea to follow industry-related news & podcasts or become a member of an internet community where like-minded professionals share their experience.
There’s never been a better time to pick up new web design skills from online sources. YouTube is brimming with tutorials on everything from core web design principles to advanced Adobe Illustrator lessons. You can even save videos for offline use.
You don’t need to know how to download from YouTube as tools like MP3Studio make it effortless. It’s a YouTube converter that works with Instagram and Facebook, quickly downloading and saving either single tutorials or entire playlists locally in various audio or video formats. You can then access the videos or MP3 files when you have time while not being bound by an internet connection or mobile data caps.
Community engagement & relationship building
No web designer works in a vacuum, and neither should you! It might feel intimidating to reach out to groups of strangers and accept criticism, but it’s one of the fastest ways of improving. Plus, you’ll get exposed to information and resources you never even knew existed.
It’s essential for you and the community alike to also give back. Participate in group activities, and don’t be afraid to offer honest criticism in a constructive way. You may want to consider helping out novice web designers get their bearings. Reviewing the basics might help you discover gaps in your own knowledge, and that promising newbie may one day become a trusted colleague.
Your portfolio and professional competence are sure to land you a job eventually. However, it’s how you deal with people once you’re there that will cause clients to keep coming back and make team members happy when you’re working on large projects. Clearly communicating your needs and concerns while making yourself understood by anyone will make you stand out from the crowd.
The easiest way to start is to observe how you talk to different people in your professional life. Jargon is essential when brainstorming ideas with colleagues, but you’re better off sticking to straightforward explanations when dealing with clients. Being able to outline what you can and can’t accomplish while working details out with a client as a project unfolds will save you from misunderstandings and excessive changes once most of the work is already done.
Understanding the business side of things
It’s highly likely most sites you’ll be building as a freelance designer are made to get people to invest in a product or service. Demonstrating to clients that you can whip up some compelling copy and understand the basics of search engine optimization will do much to get you picked over others.
Being savvy when it comes to stuff like backlinks and page ranking will also increase your chances of getting repeat work. Search engines constantly come up with algorithm changes that affect a site’s visibility, so you might find yourself optimizing a site you already completed a while back to keep it relevant.