Posts Tagged ‘freelancing’

Making A Website From Start To Finish – Introduction

I’m a self-taught web designer. I have learned almost exclusively from online tutorials, like the ones that I’ve written in the past. When there is a question I have, I Google it. There is a lot I was forced to learn from various projects I was working on, and a lot I chose to learn through my own inquisitive nature. But the one thing that I was never able to read about, was how it all came together. I never really had a good place to go to that helped me figure out if I had covered all my bases for an individual website project. I figured it might be helpful to write up a blog post (or multiple, because this is just way too long for one post) that explained the process of making a website from start to finish. At the end of this series, I’ve made a downloadable checklist to help ensure that for each website project you are working on, you’ve handled each item that needs to get done.

In Part 1, I’ll go over the initial phase of a website. I toyed with calling it ideation stage, the design stage, or the setup stage, but in reality, it covered a lot of different issues, and it just wasn’t fair to do that. Here’s what we’ll cover in Part 1:

  • Competitive Analysis
  • Hosting and Domain Name Setup
  • Color Palette Creation
  • Branding (Logos and Icons)
  • Developing a Site Architecture
  • Initial Designs

In Part 2, I’ll go over the initial setup of the development of the website. In particular, because I’m a big supporter of using WordPress for most websites, I’ll go over how to install and setup WordPress on your non WordPress.com hosted website. Here’s the list:

  • Determining CMS Needs
  • Installing and Setting Up WordPress
  • Building Out Site Content
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Link Building and Marketing

In Part 3, I’ll go over the actual development of the website and optimization of the website. Yes, that is a two parter! You can’t just make the website, you’ve got to follow up and make sure that what you made is working effectively.

  • Database Design and Creation
  • Site Development
  • Cross Browser Testing
  • Publishing Your Website
  • Installing Analytics
  • A/B Testing, Data Analysis, and Site Optimization

Some of those items have quite a bit of sub items, while others are very simple in nature. Head on over to Part 1 of making a website from start to finish to learn about the initial stages.

Finding Web Design Clients

Finding clients, especially when you are new to the web design business, can be both incredibly easy and difficult. It is easy because there are actually a lot of people out there in need of web design services. Small businesses are leaving the yellow pages en masse for the web, and most of them aren’t very web savvy. However, because most of them aren’t web savvy, they can be incredibly difficult to work with. So really, the better question is, how do you find good web design clients.

First let’s figure out some places you can look for any web design clients at all, and then we’ll tackle weeding out the bad ones.

  • Craigslist: That’s right, depending on the city you are in, you’ll probably see several posts a day related to web design and graphic design. The other good thing is that you don’t even have to limit yourself by city if you are alright working remotely. The only warning I give for that is that not being able to meet clients in person can cause some issues.
  • Guru.com: Guru is an online marketplace for freelancers and employers. I personally have never used it, and it does have a few fees mixed in there, but if you are looking to do contract work for the majority if your income, you’ll need all the help you can get, and this one is definitely worth it. There are other sites out there like this one too, just look around a bit.
  • An Online Portfolio: Make sure you have examples of your own work available to people. Then advertise this by passing out business cards, purchasing online advertising spots, or linking to it from sites you’ve already worked on. Just having something ready to go shows potential clients that you are viable, and will encourage them to reach out to you instead of you reaching out to them.
  • Business Cards: Making as many connections as you can is always a great idea. The more clients you meet, the more people in the web business you deal with, the better. So go mingle, and pass out a nice business card to everyone you can. They might pass it on to someone they know. A majority of my clients have come through word of mouth and other connections I have, as compared to searching myself on websites like Craigslist and Guru.

But that is really only half the problem. You’ve really got to be able to weed out the bad clients, the ones that will be a pain to work with. Trust me on this one, for every good client you find, you’ll run into two or three bad ones. So now just a few suggestions to clean out the grime.

  • If your client tries to swindle you down to a pay rate way below your average, or is incredibly surprised at “how high” you charge for your services, then keep in mind they don’t seem to value your work enough. Web designers can charge anywhere between $30 and $100 an hour in my experience. If they think that $30 is absurdly high, make it clear to them that is isn’t, and if they don’t understand, then drop them!
  • Make sure they have an idea of what they actually want. When clients don’t know what they want, then it’ll be very difficult to produce anything they like (at which point they blame you). Then let’s pretend you magically figure out what they want, they are just as liable to change it up on you and request alterations all the time. Either don’t sign with this client, or if you do, make sure you are charging an hourly rate instead of a flat rate, so you get paid for your iterations.
  • Often times, small business owners are looking to get on the web, but they have little expertise with computers or the web at all. This will make communication difficult, and you’ll often find them nitpicking over minute details that in reality are not important. You probably won’t get screwed over here, it’ll just be a huge hassle.
  • If a potential client doesn’t email you back for 5 days, then that means they are probably disorganized or bad at communicating. Either way, this could be quite dangerous. Set up a strict communication schedule, or ensure that if anything falls to the wayside, that they’ll recognize when it is their fault.

Those are just a few suggestions for weeding out the bad clients, so you can keep the good ones around. Got any other questions? Let me know, and maybe I’ll have a few suggestions for ya!

Web Design: Working With Clients

So I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert at freelancing, because I’m certainly not. However, I do have some experience, and I think after your first few times doing freelance work, you learn a whole lot. So I figured I’d offer up some advice to those of you who may be getting into the freelance web design or graphic design business.

1. The most important thing you can do for a freelance job is write a contract! A simple one page contract can go a long way in encouraging both you and your client to abide by specified timelines, payment dates, etc. In all likelihood you’ll never even need to threaten your client with breach of contract, but it is nice just to have the comfort. You should write you contract in a way that indicates a timeline for the project. This will encourage you to keep on top of your work, as well as make sure your client provides any materials that you need in a timely manner. It also makes sure you can’t get screwed over if they “aren’t happy” in the end (you’d be surprised how much people will try to reduce the price after you’ve already agreed on something). Clients also have the tendency to ask for something, agree on a price, and then ask for more without wanting to pay more. For these reasons specifically, ALWAYS get a contract written up and signed before you begin any work. (For sample contracts, check this out (make sure to edit this to apply to YOUR situation!), or if you’d like, shoot me an email and I can give you some advice).

2. Make sure your client is aware of their responsibilities (because even though you are the freelancer, they almost always need to provide you with something). The best way of doing this is to include deadlines for the client as well as yourself in the contract. These deadlines are often dates that you need content by to finish the website, or logo materials to work on the designs. Timeliness of your client’s deliverables will affect the timeliness of yours.

3. Ask your client for a list of websites that they like, with details of why they like them. Getting this information will help you understand the design aesthetic that your client appreciates, and give you an idea of how they might want their users to work through their website. It might also be helpful to sit down with them as they discuss this, and even ask them to visit their competitor’s websites if you are working with a business.

4. Make mock-ups before you start coding anything. When presenting mock-ups to your clients make sure to do four things. First, always make multiple options. Presenting one looks cocky and stingy. When you present multiple designs, ask for critiques (both positive and negative) on all of the design possibilities, but have them pick one. Then incorporate those critiques into the final design. Second, present your mock-ups in PDF format. PDFs are by far the most professional way to send documents. Sending Photoshop or Illustrator files is unprofessional, and they can rarely be opened by clients. Sending jpegs/gifs is lame because then your client is opening up your design in random programs. Keep it consistent with PDFs. Third, use “lorem ipsum” dummy text. It fills the page realistically without requiring actual content from your client or you. It isn’t worth wasting your time coming up with realistic content, just make it look good while you are working on the mock-ups. Fourth, it helps to present your mock-ups in a browser window skin. This will help your client imagine what the website will really look like live to their users. Looking at the design outside of a skin is like looking at a photograph outside of a frame. Sure there is information there, and sure it might look good, but it sends a much different message in the frame.

5. Figure out ahead of time how your client will be updating their content. There are many possibilities including you updating your client’s content, the client using a content management system, or if the client using Dreamweaver or plain markup after you tutor them. These three options will most likely impact how your code the website.

6. Find out what other things you can do for your client on top of their website! There is no better place for more business than the people you already do business with. Many clients just getting into the web also need help with other graphic design needs (such as logos, letter heads, business cards, etc.) or will want you to do updates on their site, or SEO work for their site. This extra work leads to extra cash. Just make sure to include it all in the contract from the start.

7. Get a feel for your client’s expected website users. If you have a good feel for the people that will be using the website you design and/or create, then you’ll be able to do an infinitely better job at creating the website.

Got any other questions? Let me know!