Becoming a web designer is a dream for many budding creatives and tech enthusiasts but it is easier than ever before to make the career switch a reality. Web design roles will enable you to work in a growing industry and be independent, while solving problems for enterprises using the latest sophisticated technology and your own creativity.
Pursue a contractor career
Web designers are highly sought after in a range of industries in today’s digital-centric business environment, so pursuing a flexible working career may be best for you. Contract salaries are frequently high and the ongoing skills shortages should keep work opportunities plentiful. You will also be your own boss, have the freedom to choose your own clients and rates of pay, and the flexibility to move to interesting projects as and when they arise.
Going it alone does bring extra legal and financial obligations, so be sure to make sense of contractor pay and tax requirements before making the switch. Registering with an umbrella company can make this process easier, as they provide financial planning for contractors and offer perks such as fully employment rights, reduced paperwork and high-quality employee support.
Find a niche
While being a jack-of-all-trades designer with a broad focus can seem the most desirable route to take at first, your value is actually higher when you have a very particular, niche set of skills that enterprises really crave. “Becoming known as the solution to a particular set of problems is crucial to your freelance career, so you need to be willing to differentiate and then lock it in,” freelance developer Ted Johnson says.
Keeping track of up- and-coming programming languages can also help you to stay ahead of the curve. For example, open source framework Ruby on Rails, Apple’s iOS-focused Swift, and the Node.js platform are among the most popular skills among startups. Expert web developer Stephen Young adds: “Focus on the underlying principles and driving forces behind new technologies.”
Action plan and build
Setting out a plan can steer you in the right direction during the formative months of your career, so break down what you will do during the first year. For example, focus on basics such as HTML and CSS during the first month, then move on to design fundamentals and creating websites. After around six months, you can reach out to enterprises to gain experience, and once you have several credits, can get in touch with prospective clients for paid work.
‘Buildanything and everything’ is a useful mantra during this period, as you will need to learn your craft. Practice, build and exhibit, and continue to do so until you are confident and ready to secure highly-paid and rewarding contracts and employment.
Getting to know the right people is crucial for your job prospects, so do everything you can to showcase your abilities and build a network online. Begin by creating a portfolio site with examples of your best work and a profile detailing your full name, skill set and the problems you will be able to solve, that clients will search for. Do the same across social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. You could even create video tutorials on YouTube to highlight your expertise. You also need a quality CV, with samples and a contact form.
Finally, be organised and be brave in your decision making. A successful career in web development is readily attainable and once you have taken on your first big client, you will be well placed to thrive and grow in this fulfilling and rewarding industry.