8 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a Web Designer

May 12 2011 by Jason Schubring | 75 Comments

After nearly fifteen years working as a web professional, there are many things I wish I’d known years ago when I was just getting started. You might think that the top items of regret are about not learning or mastering technical skills or tools like Ruby on Rails, jQuery, Node.js or Fireworks. Not so.

In fact, I believe the tools and web programming languages you use are one of the least important factors.

Anyone who has worked in the industry of building websites for a while has seen many trends start, prosper and burn out. They understand that tools and certain technical proficiencies boom and bust constantly, but the person behind the work stays put.

In this article, I’ll share with you 8 things I wish I had known about web development as a profession and as an industry.

1. The Tools You Use Don’t Matter

Today, using FrontPage professionally will get you a lot of flack. The <blink> tag went extinct (thankfully). Yahoo! has gone from hot property to ghost town. Terms like Perl, WAP, WML, and FBML are becoming or have become relics in spite of once being requirements for many web projects. MySpace was steamrolled by Facebook. AOL was crushed by broadband internet connections.

Ten years from now, will you still be able to impress prospective clients with your insights on HTML5, CSS3, and Flash/ActionScript?

Because the tools we’re using now will be vastly different or completely gone in 3-5 years — which seems to be the average lifespan of many web technologies — the means to get the job done are almost irrelevant. The experts of tomorrow are the complete novices of today, and the gap between today and tomorrow is especially short in the web industry.

Those who are open minded, constantly learning, and in a never-ending state of growth and education are those who will stand out and succeed in the long run.

2. Depend on No One for Experience. Create It Yourself.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have interviewed many web designers and developers for full-time positions and projects over the past decade. One of the things that always shocks me is how many aspiring applicants have a weak or non-existent portfolio and are counting almost exclusively on their employer to provide growth and interesting projects.

Nothing screams laziness like an idealistic, up-and-coming web professional with an empty portfolio.

Every community is peppered with nonprofit groups, churches, clubs and small businesses who would love to have help with their websites. Sure, the budget might be low or even non-existent, but the value you get from a solid portfolio outweighs any check you might be able to pull out of a small client of this type.

Just remember that you are competing with people who have broad portfolios packed with polished samples and client testimonials whenever you go into that interview.

If you can’t find someone to do projects for, show some passion for your craft by creating projects for yourself.

If you don’t have enough interest in design and technology to do any of the above, you seriously need to reconsider your choice of career path. Without some passion for learning, growth, and without the desire to be a self-starter, a career in this field will not be very fruitful.

3. Specialize in Something

From the outside looking in, clients see a world overflowing with web designers and people who claim to be experts at everything from usability, to programming, to SEO, to design.

These prospective clients have few ways to separate the true pros from the hobbyists. The result? Your unique talents and abilities are drowned out in a sea of self-proclaimed gurus and become a commodity like potatoes or turnips.

To stand out from the pack, you need to come up with a specialty. A flag to fly. Something that makes you specially suited for specific projects. It might be small e-commerce sites. Maybe it’s websites for churches. Perhaps it’s social media marketing sites.

Whatever it is, you should focus on it and turn it into the differentiator that will help you cut through the noise and establish yourself as a niche expert. Telling people you’re a "web developer" is selling yourself short.

4. It’s OK to Say "No"

Assuming you’ve put together a solid portfolio and know where your passion lies, it’s time to get picky. I’m not suggesting that you turn down projects just to be a snob, but you can differentiate yourself by only accepting projects that make the most out of your skills; projects that shine a spotlight on what you do best.

If you’re a great designer, focus on projects that depend most on your skills; allow yourself to fail or succeed based on that. Don’t overreach and try to tackle an e-commerce site if that isn’t something you have the desire and passion to do. Don’t take on a Drupal project if what you really enjoy working on is WordPress. You’ll end up producing a project that you won’t be proud of in the end. Your lack of passion will show in the outcome.

Every project you choose to do will represent you to your next client. What do you want them to see?

It’s OK to turn down projects that simply don’t feel like a good fit. Perhaps the client wants to drive all the design decisions and how site layout will be constructed. If that’s not going to fit with your work style, you’re probably better off declining the project.

If the project is being managed by a team and there’s no clear decision-maker, that’s also a red flag warning you to consider moving on. There are many questions you can use to help get projects off to a great start and avoid pitfalls.

5. Defining Project Scope at the Start Is Extremely Crucial

Assume only one thing is true: Your client is skeptical and probably believes her 14 year-old nephew does exactly the same thing you do for 10% of the cost you charge. Other than that, you need to work with the client to carefully define and document everything before beginning any work.

The purpose of this scope-definition and discovery phase is to make sure the client completely understands what they’re getting. If they make an assumption about something that you failed to address, that’s your fault. You are the expert in the relationship and they are counting on you for clarity and guidance. Take your time and walk them through it in a professional way so you completely understand their expectations.

Scope out the entire project and specifically describe the deliverables and timelines. Social media integration, content development, SEO — all of this can easily fall into the category of "I thought that was included!"

By carefully detailing what will be provided to them, you won’t end up with a project that becomes an endless margin-eating monster.

6. The Smaller the Budget, the Bigger the Pain

Okay, this is a rule of thumb that’s not true in every single case, but I think most freelancers and contractors would agree that this is true more often than not.

It’s just a matter of economics. If you have a million-dollar budget and are only spending $50,000 of it on your website design, you will tend to have a more hands-off approach to the project than if you had a $2,000 budget and are spending half of it on your website design.

Larger clients tend to be managing numerous other projects, so they count on you more heavily to manage things for them and make the correct decisions.

Like many of you have found, smaller projects tend to have decision-makers who want to be much more hands-on and less willing to listen to your professional guidance and decisions. They simply have less money to spend and are putting up more risk.

7. The User Always Comes First

This can be one of the most difficult points for web developers to accept. Especially for beginning web developers, each project is an exciting opportunity to express yourself and let your creative genius shine. But it’s only appropriate if it enhances the experience of the users, and you are not the user.

It’s often argued that design is a vital part of the overall user experience and that the design needs to help the site stand out. I agree with that. However, some users simply don’t care. See Craigslist as an example. It’s a perfect example of an ultra-boring site with virtually zero branding. Yet it’s an undeniable success. I’d like to think that it would be a bigger success with an amazing design and interface around it, but the audience for classified ads simply doesn’t care.

Before you dive in head first and assume that a gorgeous design is a requirement, study and understand the users and get your arms around the purpose of the site.

Rely heavily on the business owner for additional insights into the minds of their customers, but always validate their assumptions with the end users.

8. Let It Go. It’s Theirs, Not Yours.

Once the project is finished, many clients will begin to make updates and changes to the site on their own. Even with a rigid CMS in place, many of them will find creative ways to take your baby and turn it into an unwieldy monster made of clashing colors, low-res photos and a disproportionately large logo.

Do your best to guide them, offer your services (at an appropriate fee), then allow them to move forward as they see fit. They are the customer, it’s their site, and you’ll need to let them take it where they want. Don’t hold a grudge, and be sure you capture the site in its original form for your portfolio!

What are some of the things you’ve learned? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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About the Author

Jason Schubring has built more than 100 Websites and delivered e-mail campaigns for companies of all sizes. His strategic, design, and Web development background creates a unique perspective on effectively combining digital and traditional marketing. To connect with him, follow him on Twitter @jasonschubring or find him on LinkedIn.

75 Comments

Michael Gunner

May 12th, 2011

Good article, but yet another which blurs the lines between designers and developers. Whilst I know a lot of people code and design, we still need to distinguish, this article is titled “web designers”, but you actually drift between talking about design and talking about Ruby on Rails.

Simon Berta

May 12th, 2011

Great article, all of it so, so true. My favorite is #2: “Depend on No One for Experience. Create It Yourself.” How often has THAT happened?

GiveMeCoffee

May 12th, 2011

#8. Let it go, it’s theirs not yours is the most important but hardest thing to adapt.

Lenny

May 12th, 2011

Excellent!! Especially that last item. I almost NEVER link to a clients live site for those exact reasons. I always show my design concept or a day of launch screen shot.

Philip Hodges

May 12th, 2011

Jason

Good list. I especially agree with number 2.

“2. Depend on No One for Experience. Create It Yourself.”

This is probably the best piece of advise for new people trying to get into the industry and at the same time the one I think most people ignore.

I have been working commercially for 12+ years and have a portfolio with 100+ projects but I still allocate time to doing my own projects to gain experience in new areas.

Even if you can’t think of anything to do yourself, the amount of high profile non-commercial work available out there for volunteers or enthusiasts is huge and there is no excuse for anyone not able to gain viable experience. NGO’s, charities, open data initiatives etc check them out.

Despite all my commercial experience I still win contracts primarily because of some of the non commercial projects/experiments I have been involved in. Also the networking opportunities of being involved in these sort of projects can be amazing.

Point 3 is probably the one that I wish I had listened to. I definitely need to focus my energy. Too many things going on these days to know them all. :-(

Brandan

May 12th, 2011

Great insight! Thanks

Ryan Swarts

May 12th, 2011

Nice post. You’re right. The tools, while you need to know them today to get things done, don’t really matter. What matters are ideas, drive, curiosity. If you can consistently work on improving all three, you’ll be set wherever the Web takes us.

Brandon Corbin

May 12th, 2011

Another point I’d add is learning importance of testing designs – both with usability testing and A/B – Multivariant testing. UserTesting.com is a great place to get cost effective usability analysis, and then Google Website Optimizer for testing different variations for problems that came up during the usability analysis.

Mees Boeijen

May 12th, 2011

Be prepared for Internet Explode.. I mean Internet Explorer.
Sad enough, lots of users are still using this big-’ol browser.
Create two kinds of websites: one for normal, good browsers (And make use of tons of CSS3) and one for the nasty one which might attend the user that he/she should switch browser.

Chris Steurer

May 12th, 2011

Great article! As a student and a part time freelancer, I would have to agree with most of this, especially 1,2, and 8. I feel like there is a lot that they will never and never will be able to teach you in school about the real design world and that is why articles like this are so important for students to read!

Peter Iliev

May 12th, 2011

Hey, that’s a cool article I wish I had a few years ago before learning all these lessons the hard way.

I’d like to add something extremely important: Networking! Not only freelancers, but all web designers should allways be well connected and keeping their personal brand shiny. You never know where an opportunity can come from.

Patrick - SneakyMedia

May 12th, 2011

This is a nice list, I found myself nodding along in agreement. I definitely found some affinity with point 8; I’m very protective of my work! But, as you rightly said, it belongs to them!

Maria Malidaki

May 12th, 2011

That’s some great piece of advice here, Jason. Thanks for this reading.

SL

May 12th, 2011

Good info, I would add to that “Formalize Your Business and Treat It Like One”. What I mean is have a business and marketing plan if you’re a freelance or starting a company. Formalize the process you go through with new clients from first contact, sketches, scope, features/requirements, etc. Especially, have a standardized contract or agreement, it makes you look far more professional and reduces time spent modifying one for the first client who asks. Part of a good work contract is protecting your client and yourself from unreasonable/unfair competition, unfair business practices, etc. You probably also want to agree to pricing and payment terms at the same time.

Hope that helps,

Young

May 12th, 2011

Couldn’t agree with #2 – it took me a while to break into the industry cuz it’s always a catch-22: you can’t get jobs without experience, but you can’t get experience without jobs. Though it’s pretty outdated now, I won over a lot of clients / jobs with my personal site which showcased my design skills.

Not sure about #1, however. At first I thought you were talking about IDEs, and without a doubt whether you use notepad or dreamweaver doesn’t matter if your product holds up to standards. But then you started talking about web tech like HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, etc… and choosing which of those to use carefully is extremely crucial. Sure, they evolve and a lot of them become obsolete, but most new technologies to come along use the same principles of the old ones and knowing what tools are available, most up-to-date, and most appropriate for each job is a big part of our job description.

Jon

May 12th, 2011

hmmmm, I agree with only a few. I think this is geared towards more: If you’re thinking of becoming a freelance webdesigner, you should know this.

What about things like “there’s not as much freedom in webdesign in a corporate world” or “your generally the first ones to get fired” or even “small agencies stay small for a reason, they are very VERY selective of who they bring on”

I’ll fly more towards that angle.

Ejaz

May 12th, 2011

Love the line “The experts of tomorrow are the complete novices of today”. Yes, constant learning and keeping yourself is the way to move forward.

DRoss

May 12th, 2011

#9 – It gets boring. Hate to be a downer but after sitting in your chair for 8–12 hours day for a few years it gets a little boring. Even working on multiple projects, learning new things, etc I’m getting slightly bored and tired of sitting in front of a computer ALL the time.

Sure, I take breaks, vacations, etc but you’ll get burnt out after a few years of high-intensity work even if you take those few days off here and there and vacations every so often.

Darlene Motley

May 12th, 2011

It’s OK to Say “No” – anyone have suggestions on how to artfully said no? I get referred a lot and haven’t found a way to avoid projects that don’t fit.

Wasim

May 12th, 2011

very useful article :)

Yvonne T

May 12th, 2011

Really good list. I can confirm that #6 is so very true. I’ll add another tip – be even more careful if said smaller project client is a friend/family.

I had a problem with #8 in the past when I just started out, but now I’ve learned to let it go. I’d try my best to explain to them why my design is a good solution (tip: pointing clients to articles/research has proven to help), but when they refuse to listen, I just give them what they want.

komiska

May 12th, 2011

Couldn’t agree more on #6 and #7! Except that I have often found it the other way round – it was more difficult to convince the client to think of their users, and to explain that certain things they’d want me to do will not do well in readability, contrast, UX and all those fussy things a common visitor of their site would actually appreciate.
It’s really an effort to try and educate someone on the usability of their website, when the idea is completely fixated in their minds…

Moondogg

May 12th, 2011

Great article. This is valuable information for someone like myself who is getting ready to graduate and enter the workforce. Greatly appreciated.

Joanna Ciolek

May 12th, 2011

This was a good read. It’s important to remember these basics at any point of your design career.

TheAL

May 12th, 2011

Good article. Only thing that seems out of place is the title. The article itself reads like, and often literally confirms, that it’s referring more-so specifically to web developers. The title using “web designer” is a bit misleading. I don’t know many designers who do actual, heavy programming, let alone things like node.js and servers.

And I agree with almost everything. #2 is the only one I don’t fully agree with. If I graduated college and went right into a job hunt, my portfolio is minimal. It’s unfair to ignore my skills and education when considering me for a corporate gig just because I don’t come off as a boss freelancer.

Tif

May 12th, 2011

Wow, very true. It definitely takes a long time to accept a lot of these rules too. I remember when I started, I tried to master actionscript and though I had it made…haha.

I think for me the hardest of all was forsaking design because the audience doesn’t care. It took a while to let go of that one.

Thanks so much for posting this!

Dino

May 13th, 2011

Jason,

Thanks for the great and timely article – I’m a computer tech trying to add web design and development. I don’t agree with Michael’s comment that you need to separate the two; it has become one discipline.

Web sites are advertising copies. If you look at the sports sites: MLB NFL ESPN. Those are ad copies for people who like sports. It is a singularity with the web coding supporting interactivity, live games, etc. If Michael thinks that design had nothing to do with those sites, he is mistaken. Coding should be about 10% to 15% time on a project with 85% or more spent working on the design.

I’m new to this industry so I’m speaking from what I have learned so far. You can’t code a website any longer – most of you probably can, but that’s not the point. Jason’s last point: it’s their site tells me that we need to be designers rather than developers. You might be a developer on the MLB team, and that is a role you play, but your overall title is that of a designer.

I find that the IT industry is a paradox: I’m a computer technician yet I install software, train people on how to use it, answer questions about it, and offer advice on when to upgrade. Does that mean I’m a trainer now? No. I’m a computer technician; training is just one role I play.

If I use PowerShell, does that make me a programmer? No. It is a role I play.

Note to DRoss: Who said you have to code sitting in a chair? 8 to 12 hours a day? If you are working for a company who demands that you stay in one place working on websites, I’d prepare your resume and get out of that place. They have no business hiring a web designer if they shackle them to a chair.

Granted, security is always talked about and your situation might require security policies. However, there is no reason you can’t move to a more relaxing enviroment, VPN into your computer at the office through your laptop or use VMWare’s converter and use your desk in a virtualized environment where you can save multiple snapshots while you are working on a project.

That’s why I think web design has trumped the development aspect. Seriously, how many of you write a large amount of code (HTML doesn’t count because that isn’t code; I’m talking scripting).

I wish I would have paid more attention to web development in the past; I look forward to learning more about the industry.

Maude

May 13th, 2011

I think it’s important to provide a great CMS to the client, which allow them to update and add new content, but not let them have too much freedom about the font for the main content (by example) and crucial elements such as navigation and header.

Henrik Hedberg

May 13th, 2011

Thanks for the reminder. #5 is one that I find extra important. Every client is different, and to describe the process and what goes into it, and what they can expect and what is included is crucial.

One thing that I can add is that frequent communication with the client during the project is very important. Working with clients that you can’t get hold of and that answer emails every other week or not at all is a nightmare.

And who hasn’t bumped into this: The client agrees to supply the content (text and images), but realizes that it is more work than expected, and you end up waiting or they ask you to write the copy. That is not good, because you know little about the business and the products. Phew!

Lee Agosila

May 13th, 2011

Another great article! I learned a lot! thanks sixrevision!

Bora

May 13th, 2011

#8 is so true…
Thanks for putting together.

Ian Harte

May 13th, 2011

Point 3 is great to implement within a small web design/SEO business! For example have your design specialist, SEO specialist, e-commerce specialist and programming specialist! Doing this keeps everyone on top of there area!

Chad Reitsma

May 13th, 2011

Great article, thanks!
Now how to we get the clients to ready it? haha.

Cheers.

Chad Reitsma

May 13th, 2011

*READ, not Ready, haha.

Amos Vryhof

May 13th, 2011

Oh god how I wish my company would let me do #3.

Maybe another thing to put on this list is to never work for a small enough company where you are doing Front-end and back-end development as well as IT Admin and Tech support jobs…. if you do, you will go insane…. I know from personal experience.

Dave

May 13th, 2011

8. Let It Go. It’s Theirs, Not Yours.

This is the hard part for me – when you have your company name in the footer of the site – you only want them to butcher their site only so far, before you want to remove your name from anything to do with it.

Reputation is critical in web design – having your name attached to a site that the client has mucked up is not cool – nor does it do any favors for your portfolio.

Part of my “gathering of requirements” in the beginning is to determine if they are willing to pay for maintenance, or if they will “do their own” updates. If they elect to do their own, I try not to get too attached in the first place ;-)

sanji

May 13th, 2011

“Those who are open minded, constantly learning, and in a never-ending state of growth and education are those who will stand out and succeed in the long run.”

Really try to read everyday, just to keep up with the trend and add more knowledge.
Great article!

Evert Albers - Streeff.nl

May 13th, 2011

Super. As soon as I find the time, I’ll write about the other 88 things thay don’t tell you about being a webdesigner.

Chris Bennett

May 13th, 2011

#2 is priceless. Now I just need to figure out how to gently tell my staff this.

renn jackson

May 13th, 2011

*If you’re looking to play a role in a business that is going to be so public, I think you need to be a better, more complete business professional than simply someone looking for a job. Otherwise your value is totally diminished!
* Advances in technology have made it easier for many to do their won sites…so designers need really defined SPECIALITIES just to remain relevant, like many professions
*There’s a difference between designers and developers!
*Business Owners are enriched with a plorthea of experiences and “desires” for their client experience…tap into that via extensive conversations and workshops with them, and try to avoid the creation in a vacuum atmosphere
*If you didn’t realize you would be turning it over to “them” then maybe you’re not ready for prime time still!

Butch V.

May 13th, 2011

I applaud to this article. Eight great points that every web professional must keep in mind!

Kyle Keeling

May 13th, 2011

Well written article that is useful for beginners and experts alike. I stand behind the importance of always designing for the user. Without the user there is no business.

paiiap

May 13th, 2011

I have one project. It has been 5 months. The client keeps changing. What would you suggest?

jana brubaker

May 13th, 2011

Hurray, amen, beautifully written, and loving the chalkboard/old school desks as your intro image! Adding my voice to Dino’s and disagreeing with the folks who think design and dev are separate worlds. Design is about listening and solving problems, not about spraying on some cosmetic tulips. If you don’t get that, as a developer, you’re bragging about your visual illiteracy as well as communicating your lack of respect for design professionals. Little did I know that some “web designers” can’t code until I started reading job announcements and listening to other “designers” talk about what they do. Wireframing? Huh? Layouts in Photoshop?? And someone pays not just you but also the coding geek you hand it off to?? Cool, how do I get that job? I’ve been going to waaayy too much work… Remember chalk? Sigh.

Greg Babula

May 13th, 2011

Great read, and all very true

Eric

May 13th, 2011

@Darlene, wanting tips for saying no. I”ve had a lot of experience turning down projects, and here’s what I’ve learned.

First, if there are generic types of projects you categorically won’t accept, put that on your website. For example, I don’t do political campaign sites, and when I’m approached about building one, I can say, “Well, as I said on my website, I don’t do those.” Problem solved.

If it’s something less clear-cut, say, a bad feeling about the client or project, learn to say something like, “that’s just not a good fit for my services/skills.” The client will actually appreciate your honesty. It also helps if you can refer them to someone else (but only if you think they’ll do a good job).

Dorothy

May 13th, 2011

Fav. two tips:
4. It’s OK to Say “No”
8. Let It Go. It’s Theirs, Not Yours.

I totally agree with tip #4:
It really “pays” to be picky.

I need to work on tip #8:
Case in point; prior to reading this post, I noticed that a page header I had designed for one of my new clients looked a teeny tiny bit “off” in quality (not sure how that happened; the same image looks perfect on my Mac)…

Anyway, I promptly emailed letting my client know to please replace said image with a newer image—you see, It’s hard at times to “let it go;” but I’ll work on that.

Thanks for this awesome article.
:Dorothy

CyberTramp

May 13th, 2011

bull to #2. I offered to do a website for free for a charity group i belonged to (and was a regular attender) only to find my bid was completely ignored and a part-time staff member “won” with a “lowest bid” of £6000.

And no, most people don’t need websites. If they need them, they have them. Even charities are hard to get work from – even for free.

I have my own projects – I did as much as I could without a real project to work on. Most of it isn’t “portfolio worthy” though.

And no I’m not lazy, I’ve done many many things throughout the whole time, and before. This is just one thing I can do – and easily.

And a warning: I spent about 15 years building an art portfolio. Had to throw every damn thing away the other week when I got flooded out. How useful was that? I could always draw. The portfolio was NEVER any use as a portfolio.I did love my pictures and it’s heartbreaking to see them go, but really all it actually takes is for one person to tell another person about this great person they know who does XYZ and then you are ROLLING.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know (but you do have to know SOMETHING)

It’s not that at interviews etc people won’t expect portfolios, it’s the conclusions that you draw from “lack of” portfolios that bugs me. I know how hard it is putting together a formal portfolio from a 4-foot high stack of drawings. There’s a difference between being able to put a portfolio together and not having done a lot of work for yourself.

João Carmona

May 14th, 2011

Great article.
It makes really sense for me at this point. I’m at 0-2 years of experience with no “live” portfolio.

For me the most difficult part of creating a portfolio, is that… I work with a team and I don’t make all the website (and even we divide the front-end dev) so, how much of one project can I say is part of my portfolio ?

Carol Bales

May 14th, 2011

Sound advice – I will be passing this on to my students. Thanks!

Philip Davies

May 14th, 2011

Thanks for a great article, Point #2 is so right. I have to
say some thing to Dino you are wrong to say that html is not
coding with out html you would have no site to build.

Jason Schubring

May 14th, 2011

Wow. Amazing comments and discussion, all! Really appreciate it. As the comments show, there is no answer that’s 100% correct in 100% of situations, and I’m super pleased these 8 points got people thinking and talking.

Vince

May 15th, 2011

Great Advice. Although I am not a designer/developer, I work for one of the largest domain registrar on the net and I can remember many of the following examples as true. @Dross: I’ve considered the field and your point is what I see usually happens.

Zap Media

May 15th, 2011

“Let It Go. It’s Theirs, Not Yours.” So true. A great list.

Irina

May 16th, 2011

Great article, thanks for sharing. From my experience I’ve learned that ‘designer’ is not a job, it’s not something you do but it is what you are 24/7. Being a designer means being passionate, constantly improving and wanting to learn more. I think it’s important to keep the passion despite any problems and difficulties you may come across with.

Alexander Filatov

May 16th, 2011

An interesting read.
I completely agree with the points above. I started out without a solid portfolio and had a really difficult time convincing employers that I actually know what I’m doing. But it wasn’t because I was lazy or anything – I simply had no time over to work on those “great” projects you would want to show off with even if they were my own ideas.
I’m also missing a point about cranky clients which applies both to freelancers and web designers who work for larger companies and deal with clients.

Benke

May 16th, 2011

This is one of the articles I like to read and it really adds something to our field! Especially point 3 is an important point. You just can’t do it all anymore. Our field has become too large and complex to be a “Jack of all trades” . So you have to focus on 1 or 2 things and become King in that. But keeping the focus an not let others take away that focus, is the hardest part.

Đuro

May 16th, 2011

#2

Good advice how to get a decent portfolio, by doing pro bono web sites or for a small fee.
If one can find time at all :-/

Anne Ominous

May 16th, 2011

Quote: “Nothing screams laziness like an idealistic, up-and-coming web professional with an empty portfolio.”

And I can say exactly the same of those who expect people newly out of college or trade school to do volunteer work without pay for a couple of years before getting hired. What does that say about you? It says you want something for nothing.

Not everybody has that luxury. They went to school to learn something they could make money with. They are likely in debt up to their eyeballs (a lot more than you were after college… costs have gone WAY up, even in adjusted dollars). Not all of them have rich parents who can support them while they sit out there in the “real world” and “gain experience” without getting paid.

Sheesh. What a crock.

hamim ferdous

May 17th, 2011

Great Article. very much helpful!

Christian Krammer

May 19th, 2011

Well, the problem is not the motivation but the time. I really often wonder when the “web design superstars” do all of their “cool stuff”. Everybody of us wants and needs some spare time and not all of us are lucky enough to spend some time for “cool projects” on their regular job.

So when to do it? In the evening, when your wife and kids want to spend some time with you? Or the Xbox360/PS3 scream “Play with me, pleaaaase!”. I really would love to have more time to do some personal projects, but I often lack the motivation in the evening after coming home from my regular job.

Casper

May 21st, 2011

#8 is my favourite – I need to work on that, though.

Tinjo Thomas

May 23rd, 2011

Great article. I am a newbie in this field and I think it will help.

Julian Gaviria

May 27th, 2011

Good read. 5 & 6 I found to be most useful. 6 I was totally unaware of. 5 I’ve dealt with before but until now is when I came to realize that I should solve this problem at the start.

Rachel Reveley

May 28th, 2011

Point 3 is surprisingly true. I took a job working for a national newspaper rather than a fashion company to broaden my experience after working for a major fashion chain and an online lingerie company because I knew I was going to move out of London and figured that my unplanned specialism wouldn’t be of any use outside of the capital. Turned out I was wrong, my specialism got me at least two interviews and a job.

Festus

June 7th, 2011

Great article. I’m a novice web design. I have taking all points into consideration. It is just like a father giving advice to his upcoming son!. Thumbs up!

MundoCaco

June 10th, 2011

wise words, I’m glad that my intuition has not failed me in this short time as a freelance, thanks!

Fazreen

June 10th, 2011

Nice information. I like point no 3.

Emrico

June 16th, 2011

Great article. Clean and clear points.

In my relatively short freelance career I have found it hard to pander to some clients desires to control all aspects of a process they have little undertanding of.

It can be frustrating but I have learnt to bite the bullet and do my very tongue biting best to give them what they want, even if I believe it is detrimental to the project. Often, in retrospect it really didn’t matter, it was just important to me because I loved my idea.

So I’d like to add my own to this list if I may.

#9 Love your ideas, but don’t fall in love with them.

Be prepared to slash and burn all that you love about a project. Chin up, deep breath, remember the age old addage ‘the customer is always right’.

It has really payed off for me being able to swallow my pride at times, being recommended by a customer who has crushed your dreams is quite enlightening.

Derek

June 21st, 2011

I have to agree with Amos Vryhof, I worked for a small company where I did full stack development, and full IT support, it was very trying on patience, little time to focus, and everything needed to be done so quickly that nothing was ever done well enough – in my eyes.

xelo

July 4th, 2011

great article. i like to read more articles about the buisnes from experienced people. as a young webdesigner it’s verry interessting so read stuff like that.

Simonartist

August 10th, 2011

Nice stuff. Depend on No One for Experience. Create It Yourself. That very much me as a fine artist, I love to create things, but it is important that you believe what you have created and why and to seek other views. When I hear Web Designer, I am never sure if it is coding or make up pages in Photoshop.

Stafford

September 1st, 2011

Hi Jason, really great list of things which will definatelt help web designers out there, young and old. As a young website designer in Stafford I would definately have put these tips into practice had I have read these earlier in my career. Thanks

Melanie Reyes

October 12th, 2011

No. 8 is heartbreaking really. :D

Big South

December 12th, 2011

I got my degree in graphic design in 2001. From 1999-2004 I worked exclusively as a graphic designer, mostly print work for several different companies. Later transitioned into full time web design and now work as a web designer/developer for a pretty large company in Charlotte, NC. Take it from me, I’ve got over 10 yrs in this field. It does burn you out. A lot. If you are good, you’ll eventually transition from design into programming. Years ago there was a fine line between graphic and web. You can’t really call yourself one or the other now.. Well I see the field is changing again and if you want to be a designer you better start learning to program. If you can learn .net or php, you’ll become more of an asset to the people you work for. The days of just graphic design/print work are coming to an end, everyone is moving to web and mobile platform. Don’t get me wrong print will always be around, but if you want to make a living it will get harder to find clients willing to pay what they do for web. The last thing I want to mention is the hard reality that even though design is probably the most creative field in the business world, it has it’s ugly side too. Throughout history designer/artists have never been taken seriously. You will have to face the reality that you WILL have clients and probably even supervisors who will boss you around, make you feel like dirt and design things you would feel embarrassed to show in your portfolio. In the end you have to come to a point where your realize someone else paid for the work and ultimately you are trying to please them, not your ego. You can’t take your work too personally. It does not really belong to you unless you designed it for yourself. After 10+ years though I am finally burnt out and looking into something that will fulfill my life more. I am tired of 8-10 hrs a day of staring at a screen and endless meetings with clients who are still stuck in the 70s. Good luck to you guys.

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