How do you stand out from the pack? Sure, there are more than enough websites to be designed. How do you show customers that you are the one up to the task of handling their website?
Unfortunately, there is no one magic solution that will ensure you will get work. As a web designer, you will have to cover your bases and market yourself in many different ways. Yes, SEO, online marketing, and social media presence will also be needed. But the big one is to learn to sell yourself. Here are 5 different ways to do this:
1. Start With Free Work
You can do a couple of things if you are having a hard time breaking into the web design industry.
You can start by looking for non-profits that require some front-end web development. Usually, charities are not very picky with who works on their site, and more importantly, you're helping a 503 c3 organization. This is a great opportunity for you to get some experience and create a website to add to your portfolio.
Helping other Developers on GitHub
There are many open-source projects that you can contribute to on GitHub. In fact, if your work is good enough, the project manager may accept your submitted changes. Besides building a network of go-to web developers and web design agencies, you will also have an addition to your portfolio.
Open Source Web Projects
You should also be looking for web design and online marketing companies that you would want to work for, especially if you're not looking to set up your own web agency or freelance. Such web design agencies sometimes will have opens source projects posted on GitHub. Adding to these projects is a great way to show your worth for the company. Imagine someone working for you before they even send an application. Such relationships and networking opportunities will no doubt open doors for future projects, as well as being hired.
2. Promote Yourself and Participate in Competitions
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many designers don’t market themselves. Or at least not as well as they should.
First off, as a web designer, you should have at least one personal website. Please think of this as a dynamic resume where you constantly update it. For example, you can link all of your work, skills, and credentials. This will give prospective clients a snapshot of who you are and what you can do.
Not having any social media exposure will only limit your exposure. That being said, you should have an active social media presence. Don’t be shy. The more active you are online, the easier it will be for web design projects to land on your laps! So, don’t be an undercover designer, be active an active and extrovert web developer. Get a Twitter, a Facebook, a Linkedin, a Snapchat. Anything that you can link to and market yourself. After all, selling yourself is about getting the word out. Naturally, as a web designer, you should know all about social media presence too.
Are you web designing as a private web design contractor? The biggest thing you can do for yourself is to solidify your brand. You are your own company, so treat yourself as a commodity and sell yourself.
If you are going down a more traditional route, you should market yourself a bit differently. Mainly showcase your ability to work on group projects. Get involved in open source GitHub projects. Make sure your resume highlights your communicative skills.
If you don’t already have a Linkedin profile, get one. LinkedIn has become an industry leader in professional connections. Data suggests that 96% of job recruiters use LinkedIn in some way to conduct their hiring process. However, only 36% of job seekers have an active LinkedIn profile. Having an updated LinkedIn profile puts many professionals such as web designers in a great position. Exposure to Social Media will allow you to be ahead of the pack.
One resource that web designers don’t utilize enough in is web design competitions. There are plenty of places to submit personal website designs to. Most of these sites announce awards to people every month. Some even do it daily. This is a great way to flex your proficiency and cross-promote. Your next client may even find you through one of these competitions.
Here are 5 design competitions that you can submit to right now:
3. D&AD Awards
5. CSS Winner
There are also other places you can get yourself out on—for example, the likes of many directories and review sites. For example, our web design agency has established ranking on Clutch, The Manifest, UpCity, and Expertise, to name a few. Also, not forgetting Google My Business.
3. Don’t be a jack of all trades. Find a niche
If you’re hungry for work, you might be inclined to canvas a wide area for jobs. This means that you will have a higher chance of landing a gig. Right? But, this is not the case. In fact, doing this will put your portfolio up against a huge array of web designers. You will find that your odds of getting a job decline substantially; hence, it makes sense to try not to spread yourself over multiple web areas. This should be left to web design agencies with the leverage, resources, and staff skilled in each of the niche areas. For example, a social media marketer may be clueless in terms of back-end development. Likewise, an SEO expert will have limited knowledge in front-end web design.
Instead, find a specific area of expertise and stick to that. Web design firms, as well as customers, may want a specific skillset. For example, a small business may already have a website but may be looking for a WordPress developer to update some plugins. Hence, a web designer that's found to be advertising many skill sets may dilute their expertise. Don’t get me wrong. Some qualified full-stack developers and designers can handle complete projects. But, they’ve built such skillsets of years, if not decades. As an entry web developer, it would make sense to market your core skills and then diversify.
Specialize in specific industries
You don’t want to land a job and then have to ask your clients the details of what business they are in or trying to sell. That will destroy your credibility. This can create a sense of unease with potential clients that you are inexperienced and don’t understand their business. You want your clients to feel like they are in good hands. After all, keeping your client happy is web design 101. A sure way to do this is to know what they want without them having to tell you. Hence, it would make sense to understand the industries you will be focussing on. For example, small businesses like dentists, attorney’s at Law, landscape Supplies, even websites for dentists, towing companies, tattooists, or auto junkyards!
Working on a specific niche will allow your portfolio to stand out from other generic web designers scrambling for work. Also, potential clients will be more inclined to hire you due to your experience in their disciplined businesses. Following these simple rules will allow you to be locked down in a niche market. In fact, you will find that your clients are more willing to put trust in your work. Since you are a niche web developer, you can be considered a professional web designer!
Also, you will start to notice that you will not have to look for work nearly as often. If you market yourself in one specific area, word of mouth can spread pretty quickly. Potential clients are much more likely to hire a specialist in their field than a generalist.
Tons of web designers do not think about locking down a niche market. They promote themselves as generalists and take what they can get. Only to realize it's a trap. Don’t fall into this trap. Be specific in your web services and expertise. Simple measures will help you as a web designer.
4. Use Your Clients to Get More Clients
Have you gotten a few jobs but find it hard to get work consistently? You might want to think about starting a referral program. Use your previous interactions with paying customers to find more work.
Start offering services such as discounted website maintenance. Limited specials on website design can spread like wildfire and get your name out fairly quickly.
Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to find work. That is true in any field. Studies show that a whopping 92 percent of consumers say that they trust media recommended by friends or family. This statistic is staggering and cannot be overlooked. Use your clients to find more work for you by offering. Simple strategies can offer discounted services if your clients are willing to recommend your services on their social media platforms.
5. Fighting it Out with The DIY Developer
By now, you should be confident that you can compete with other web designers. Well, guess what? They are not the only competition you have. Nowadays, companies like Wix, GoDaddy, and Squarespace all have solutions for the do-it-yourself web developer. Such web services have drawbacks and limitations and are short-lived for businesses that will scale and grow down the road.
Yes, small businesses with budget constraints can create their own websites. But, custom solutions will only be available via an established web designer or web design agency. Also, expertise and know-how of how the internet works and how websites sell products is your leverage. For example, you will need to equip yourself with SEO basics and how best to market websites for your clients. Use that. Hence, you should be a web developer and a marketing strategist, and a social media expert.
Creating an aesthetically pleasing website is half the battle when using website builders like Weebly or Wix. Clients that do go down this route eventually end up hiring an online marketer or digital marketing agency. So it would be best if you were ready to explain the pros and con’s between you and affordable website builders. Also, you need to tell potential customers how you build websites focusing on their user experience. What does the user need? How can you keep them on the website longer? How can your design be as straightforward and intuitive as possible?
Get Out There and Show Clients What You Got
Now that you know how to compete with other web designers, it is time to take action. The quicker you get to work on taking steps to be competitive, the better. The world of web design is constantly growing and evolving. You want to keep pace with the competition.
Promoting yourself in as many ways as you can enable you to stay ahead. You want everybody to be talking about you and the services you provide. You want your clients to have nothing but good things to say about you.
Once you have a decent start, it would be a good idea to lock down a niche. This is when web development can start to turn from a job into a career. You could be the go-to person if someone wants a specific website made.
The only thing you have to worry about is the DIY developer. Home brewed websites are the future for most websites. This is just the state of the industry. The only way to compete with this is to know what you provide, which is more than just a website.