Web designers who have gone through formal qualification channels probably wouldn’t be reading a blog post about how to get ahead as a web designer, simply because there is a certain set way of doing things within the formal qualification structures. For those web designers who seek to look beyond the established blueprint however, in addition to the self-taught designers who want to put their newfound skills to good use, getting ahead basically just requires you to demonstrate your skills in the most practical of ways possible and to offer your services to the right people.
It’s an extremely competitive environment to be in these days, but there is plenty of work for those who know how to find it.
Building your portfolio
I cannot emphasize the importance of a portfolio enough if you want to survive as a web designer, let alone if you want to get ahead. You simply need a portfolio, something which presents you with a chicken-or-egg scenario since you’d need projects to work on in order to build up your portfolio, while you’d need a portfolio to land projects. What to do?
Just start building websites for yourself, even if these will be dummy websites. What you need to make sure of though is that these dummy websites you build are real, in other words they have to be fully functional. The best approach would be to go the route of building different types of websites to demonstrate the widest variety of your skills and try to operate those sites as independent businesses.
If you build an e-commerce website for example, that e-commerce site could in itself earn you money in the meantime, while at the same time it’s something you would use as part of your portfolio to show prospective clients what they can expect from you. If the online gods are looking upon you with favor then you might even end up ditching your entire web design business and focus solely on the online business you originally built to add to your portfolio since platforms such as e-commerce sites tend to take off in a huge way after having been online for some time.
There’s been a bit of an underground war going on between two types of web designers, namely purist designers (as many of them refer to themselves) and designers who use Content Management Systems (CMS) such as the WordPress platform. The purist web designers seem to have a growing concern eating away at them as the CMS designers seem to be landing clients just as easily as they are, if not even easier than them.
That’s where the secret to landing clients resides – clients are more likely to give you the business if they can get some kind of preview of what you can do for them, so there’s nothing wrong with using templates as somewhat of a preview for the completed work. Give the prospective client a feel for what they can get and not just by way of the design, but also by way of what the features of their website could do for their business.