[thelist] Freelance Web Designer

Green, Janet JGreen at DesMoinesMetro.com
Tue Apr 3 15:47:54 CDT 2001

>>>>>Above all, it pays to talk around. Definitely look within your family
-- you
probably won't get paid much (if anything), but the first site or two will
get you a portfolio you can show off.<<<<

As a former freelance web designer, I agree with the notion that networking
is a great way to build a business. I built a solid freelance copywriting,
graphic design and web design business solely by getting involved in my
local Chamber of Commerce. (I liked them so much, I went to work for them!) 

HOWEVER, I strongly discourage anyone from giving away their work, even when
getting started. You *must* place a value on the work you perform, and it
*must* be competitive in your marketplace. People who give away their work
de-value it for the professionals in their community and will soon be
unwelcome when peers gather - believe me, you *do* want the respect of your
peers, because the day will come when you need to work together on a
project. You also de-value the work within the client base, and create the
impression that the work is easy. You don't want your clients to think they
can do it themselves, do you? Finally, if you give away your work, how are
you going to support yourself for those 2, 3 or 6 months it will take to
complete that first site or two? If you are working another job and
moonlighting, are you going to be available when your clients need you?
Simply put, giving away your work is unprofessional. There are other ways to
build a portfolio without giving away the store. If anyone's interested in a
couple ideas, email me off-list... or, if that's on-topic for this list,
I'll gladly post. 

I also agree it's smart to look within your family for possible clients, IF
your family members are business owners and decision-makers. If they are,
they will not hesitate to help you get started AND pay you a competitive
wage for your design work. After all, they understand that your fledgling
business needs money to operate. If they are not business owners, then
building sites for them will not really do you much good because you won't
be building the same type of sites that your "real" clients will want. (Just
because you built a pretty homepage for your sis and her family doesn't mean
you can build a functional e-commerce site or even a useful online

This may sound harsh, but if you are good at what you do, charge what the
market will bear for it. If you feel you are still in practice mode, then
now is not the time to freelance. Find an entry-level job in the industry
where you can hone your skills, then start your business after you've
learned something about the way businesses are run, what clients want and
how they act, and how to provide top-notch customer service. Remember,
freelancing is not just the many hours spent happily creating web pages. It
also means paying your own taxes, marketing your business, keeping your
books, and managing other vendors. This stuff takes time, and you NEED
billable hours to make up for the fact that a good chunk of your time will
be spent on these management tasks. 

Don't get me wrong, freelancing is a fabulous way to do what you love and
control your own destiny. But don't jump in without a clear picture of what
you're getting into. You can get a lot of jobs by networking, but if you do
not know how to follow through with great work, great service, and solid
business practices, your network will soon disappear. 


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