Creative and Technology • 19th Apr, 16
So, after all those late evenings in the back of some academy computer lab, turning your cardiovascular system into a mash of Red Bull and various things made out of potatoes, you’ve finally got the qualifications deeming you worthy to go out into the world wide web and carve your name into it with your mad web design skillz.
Now you’ve just got to find someone to pay you to do it – Dark Souls fansites are fun and all, but the odds of making a living off them just aren’t worth the gamble.
And this is where it gets really tricky. You probably realised this long before you graduated; but when it comes to web designers, the job market isn’t just saturated; it’s damn well soaked. There’s a ton of folks out there just like you, all scrambling for the nearest available spot in a nicely air-conditioned office, writing code for some glitzy domain name.
In short, regardless of how thoroughly trained or highly qualified you may be, getting your first few clients is inevitably going to be an uphill battle. So, just to give you a leg up, here’s a few basic pointers on various ways to snag your first few clients. Everyone’s always more inclined to hire the fellow with a few successful jobs in his portfolio, after all.
- Friends are footholds; jam your foot in ‘em
If you’re going to make it in the web design industry, you’re going to need references. If you’re going to get references, you need to get work. If you’re going to get work, you need to find someone who’s willing to take the risk of hiring a newbie designer for the sake of helping them build their portfolio.
Yeah, that last bit’s tricky, right? That’s where friends come in.
There’s no getting around it: regardless of how thorough your training may have been, or how much you may have towered over your classmates, the amount of folks out there willing to hire a web designer who’s never actually worked before is pretty limited. That’s why it’s essential to cosy up to folks in, well, any industry that’ll require web design work done at some point – and as we probably don’t need to tell you, nowadays, that’s more or less any industry.
And once you make those friends, it’s best to treat them well – you’ll want them to owe you favours. Favours like hiring you for web design work. It’s a simple solid that any friend ought to be willing to do; but once they have, it could make a world of difference to your career – as most of us learn before we’ve even graduated, while qualifications are all very well, it’s past work and references that really keep prospective employers from chucking your resume aside.
Of course, don’t mooch too heavily off their kindness; make sure that, if they have any issues with your service, they’re honest with you about it. As is always the case, few things are more valuable than feedback from honest friends – it’ll give you a chance to brush up your services, hopefully in a manner that involves less screaming and threats of lawsuits than it might if you were getting that feedback from someone else.
- Keeping the lobby clean
Another thing you likely already know, but which we’re gonna repeat simply because it can’t be stressed enough: you, like anyone who runs a business, have to keep a solidly maintained online presence.
Sure, you don’t have the website budget of an internationally renowned brand; but what you do have is the sort of skills that those brands spend that budget on.
That’s one of the wonders of being wise to the nuances of web design – you can have a hand in personalising your online presence in a way that almost no other business owner can. Whatever online platforms you choose to represent yourself, you, as an emerging business owner, will be able to give them the sort of personal, distinguishing touch that, oftentimes, will be beyond the capability or budget of up-and-comers in different areas of business.
And for goodness’ sake, make sure to diversify yourself – LinkedIn to snag the right people, Twitter to give them a bite-size introduction to precisely what you do, blogs to elaborate upon it, a demo site to show them just how thoroughly skilled you are.
Put simply: when you’re out hunting for clients, make sure you can point to your own online presence and say “your business’s site can look as flipping gorgeous as that”.
- Know What You’re Good At; Get Gooder.
As we, once again, really don’t need to tell you, web design probably wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if it wasn’t so multifaceted and constantly evolving.
Unfortunately, well, the flipside of that is that, even for the most thoroughly talented of web designers, there’s going to be some pesky element of the business that they’re not quite as sharp at – or, if not, there soon will be, what with the industry ballooning like it is.
So if you, as a web designer, want to be genuinely prepared when you enter the job market, you need to be absolutely honest with yourself. You need to consider yourself, individually, as a web designer – you need to reflect on what aspects of web design you’re best at, what aspects you’re most passionate about, and, perhaps most importantly, what aspects you’re not so good at.
And, above all, you’ve got to keep all of this hidden from your potential clients.
Seriously. The average business owner may be temporarily impressed by the fancy Flash effects on your site’s menu, or your blog’s layout, or your seamless implementation of Chris Rock gifs into the background; but they’re not going to hire you solely on those grounds. For the most part, business owners don’t want a web designer who’s simply going to stick a few features onto their brand’s webpage and called it finished; they want one who’s going to build a site that works for their brand as a whole, single entity.
To that end, once you’ve isolated precisely what you are and aren’t so good at in the realm of web design, the first step is to build on your strengths; the second is to improve your weaknesses. And above all, never let it slip to your potential clients that there are aspects of web design that you’re less good at than others. Oftentimes, they’re leaving management of their brand’s online presence almost entirely to you; and the possibility that you’ll do bits of it well while screwing up other bits…well, it’s not a good selling point.
It won’t be easy. It’s never going to be. Computer literacy is growing every day, and web design is one of the most popular subjects of study among the youth of today – and, modern entertainment being as tech-based as it is, many of the ones that aren’t studying it are half-consciously learning it in their spare time.
There are, simply put, thousands of folks clamouring for web design work. But at the same time, there’s also a limitless, and ever-growing, demand for individuals in that very field. The business world is growing ever more web-based – there’s already plenty of businesses out there that exist only in an online form. Where business was once deeply dependent on a brightly painted storefront, a polished display window, and a decent billboard budget, it’s now ever more dependent on a solidly maintained online presence.
The world of modern business depends on individuals with your skills. What’s important is making it clear that you are the particular individual they need.