Design free or cheap websites for any small business or non-profit and soon you will own a top-class web design studio in 2020. Not so fast, not so easy. Becoming a seasoned web design expert requires much more than exchanging your time for a growing portfolio. In my capacity as both a freelance and agency designer, I built over 400 websites, and being profitable comes down to the value of your network. Once-off designs are a super bad idea. You get paid for a design then walk away.

The short-term injection of cash is cool but you need more than that to be sustainable. As a designer, you may also just under-quote if you only focus on getting a website out. What about time spent on review changes, web hosting fees, content updates, and theme and plugin updates if you are using a Content Management System? You must sell your services as more than just a design.

Website design in its technical sense is only the design and not developing the design on a CMS or writing the code for it. Being a web designer means that the key outcome of your work is a stunning, functional web property but there are other elements that will lead up to that online property and there are certainly far more elements that drive website success post the design.

What are you selling? Is it just a CMS-based design? You are going to find it hard to make web design your primary source of income. There are thousands of WordPress template tweakers out there so as with most things in our modern society you may be competing with individuals far less qualified and experienced than you. If you treat your web design business as a freelance gig, be prepared to be remunerated accordingly. People want to work with professionals so step up and give your business the classy vibe it deserves.

The Setup

Register your business

You will be miles ahead of most freelancers if you have a registered business. When you register your business your customers will appreciate your diligence and it’s a sign that you are in this for the long haul. There are too many fly-by-night designers around. I’ve lost count of how many customers have told me “someone designed my site but I don’t know where it is or where they are”.

Be found online

Almost all startup designers neglect their own websites and social media profiles. Get someone else to build your website. You are never going to be happy with your own design for your business website. Trust someone else in your network to handle it for you. It also gives you insight into the journey of being a web design customer. This is where most small web design businesses fall short. Capitalize on this shortcoming and learn all you can from the experience.

Do not Gmail

Please. You create the image of your business. Using your Gmail account to quote and invoice looks really bad and it communicates that you are not serious about your business. If you have a website hosting plan it means you have access to private domain-based email so please use it.

Your offer

Selling web design means you sell a prototype of what the real thing is going to look like. Most designers get involved in developing the customer’s brand which is great but you must bill accordingly. Ensure that you provide a complete breakdown of how you arrived at the point of designing a website. You need a brand guide to create a professional website. Does your customer have one? What about the web design brief? There’s so much to consider which means you can develop an appropriate pricing model. We all know that thriving businesses are not created with a 3-page website design. Broaden your knowledge and offer it to your customers.

Get offline

Being referred is the sweetest way of getting new business. Interact with business owners, especially offline. Find out where the business network events are in your area and be ready to show up. Business cards are a timeless gateway.


All the best with your website design business.