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Standing out as a freelance web designer in a competitive market

September 21, 2015

Working remotely as a freelance web designer can sound idyllic, but the reality is often more difficult. In the field of web design alone the competition is vast. If you are new to freelancing trying to build up your list of clients and winning work can be challenging. Here are my top 5 tips which are tried and tested that will help you to get and keep good clients, ones that value you and give you referrals and repeat business rather than one-off jobs.

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Image credit: People Per Hour – remote freelancer working on his laptop on a sunny beach.

1 – Become a specialist, find your niche

Nobody can know everything there is to know when it comes to web development. There are hundreds of differing programming languages, frameworks, systems.. and these are all constantly changing and evolving. The web design industry is fast-past. Try to find your niche and become an expert in your field whilst building on what you know and keeping up to date with latest developments.

2 – Be reliable

There is nothing that scares potential clients more than working with a ‘flaky’ freelancer that is unreliable. Having a proven track record of reliability can be a huge selling point if you are trying to secure work. Be sure to deliver on time for new projects and adhere strictly to project deadlines. If things change be sure to communicate early with the client and keep them in the loop. Honesty is the best policy here, but try to make sure any missed deadlines are for valid reasons, not because you preferred to watch the latest episode of ‘x,y,z’ or got distracted on Twitter.

3 – Keep channels of communication open

Have a system in place and make sure to stick to it. Avail yourself of online communication tools such as slack and basecamp, both of which have a free plan. Be quick to respond to emails during normal office hours and be clear to state your working hours and availability.

4 – Avoid competing on price, sell on quality

It can be tempting to sell on price if you are struggling to secure work. Especially if you have found yourself on sites such as elance or people per hour, the pressure to cut prices is huge as more often than not lowest price quoted is the biggest deciding factor for clients. If you are living in the UK for example living costs are relatively high compared to some other parts of the world, so really it is impossible to compete on price in some circumstances, however the right client will value quality and be prepared to pay a better price for the right person (whilst still wanting to get the best value for money of course). Showcase yourself to potential clients with a portfolio of good quality recent work and when pitching for work try and reference examples that show why you would be a good fit for the project.

5 – Create a useful, free resource and release it to the community

Creating a JavaScript resource, a WordPress theme or plugin, a free HTML template or other resource will not only sharpen your skills but will also raise your profile especially if it is well received. Many developers have secured work by having a link to their profile at the top of the style.css or function.php file for example.