10 Ways to be a More Efficient Freelance Web Designer

effective-freelancerWhen coming out of school, I noticed that a lot of people in my class were not as motivated as they could be in Web Design. Not to say that they were all taking the freelance route, but web design in general is a large commitment. It certainly isn’t easy, nor does it offer much free time. Here are things you can do to improve your freelance career.

1. Time Manage!
It doesn’t matter how you do it. There are plenty of programs out there to manage your time. Basecamp is an effective tool for project management, and bundled software like iCal (Mac) or Outlook (Windows) allows you to schedule meetings, breaks, and any event in your non-professional life.

For those who like to escape the digital grasp, Behance offers beautiful organizers titled “Action Books”, allowing you to write out project details, steps needed to create in checklist format (called action steps), and dot grids on both sides for sketches. There’s also a large following of people who like the legendary Moleskines. Although there are many other notebooks at a fraction of the price, Moleskines appeal to a lot of designers and some clients like to see top-end notebooks glued to the designer they hired.

2. Know how to Price Yourself
The project manager (@freakyweb) of Freaked Out and I were discussing contract pricing, and shared some valuable knowledge. Unless you have no or little items in your portfolio, pricing yourself low isn’t the best idea if you’re looking to love comfortably. At least giving yourself a mid-range or higher price, you allow your work to speak for itself. If you’re proud of your work and it’s perceived as well-valued (don’t forget to ask other people’s opinions!), then allow it to be priced well. If you spend the time seeking contracts and apply to many different ones, despite the fact that you will be rejected for many of them, getting one higher priced contract can be better theat three lower priced ones. Why? because (in most casees), doing one project is easier than doing three, depending on the size of it. This gives you more time to look for decent priced contracts and more time to enjoy your life.

3. Subscribe to the Freelance Switch RSS

The Envato Network offers a website called “Freelance Switch” for those who haven’t heard of it. Subscribing to their RSS will be an infinite supply of knowledge to help you acheive any obstacle in freelancing. Subscriptions are free and the articles are submitted by a wide array of freelancers. They also have a great forum and job board.

4. Plan Time Off
Really, this is crucial. It allows your mind to not get burnt out, and your spouse and friends will love you for it. If you have the dire addiction of expressing yourself creatively or coding, take some time to do some illustrations or read a book on AJAX. Your eyes will like the vacation from the screen radiation.

5. Keep Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Twitter, etc… closed while you work.

Twitter is an effective tool for web designers, but it’s an ineffective addiction that can sidetrack you from your work. If you feel the need to tweet, Hoostsuite has scheduled tweets. This way you can communicate while you’re still working and not distract you. Take breaks from designing to do all your ‘tweet replies’ at once. This could drastically improve your efficiency .

6. Communicate with Clients
Don’t allow the client to wonder about anything. Try to give them as many details as you can so they are more comfortable with the project. Even if the client is a ‘problem client’, keep your attitude professional, and expel the problem efficiently and quickly before it evolves into something worse.

7. Sleep
Yes, another time management point. Plan your sleep schedule. Your brain works by going through different cycles in sleep, falling in and out of unconscious states. When you wake up, the brain will organize itself to finish the final cycle of sleep, allowing you to wake up more alertly. When you get in the habit of having a normalized sleep schedule, you will find yourself waking up naturally at the time you usually wake up. This is called the ‘biological clock’. Ever have 6 hours of sleep one night and 14 hours the next? After 14 hours of sleep, you may be no more rested than having 6 hours of sleep. Keep your sleeping habits regulated.


8. Don’t get behind the times, keep learning
School meant nothing to me. I may have learned the importance of CSS, but just after 2 months of getting out of college, I realized much more than what I learned in college itself. That being said, college often won’t qualify you for a work environment. So treasure any knowledge you have and keep reading.

I’ve met many freelancers that don’t have any incentive of learning any more than they already know. It’s always good to learn more if you have the time to, and usually you do. Knowledge beats anything else in life, and with the help of books and the internet, it’s virtually free. So use it. If you get behind the times with scripting / programming languages, you’ll be swallowed whole by people that are more qualified. Stay on top.

9. Make an effort
This one barely needs to be said. Putting effort in everything you do will generate more future clients because it lets the work speak without having to open your own mouth . Easiest client-grabber ever. If you’re first starting out, It’s good to take on a lot of smaller projects and put a lot of effort into them to build up a portfolio that presents itself well.

10. Smile
Enjoy your career!

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Robin Bastien
Howdy! I'd the head of Ocular Harmony. I spend most of my time designing, reading beatnick literature, and pounding sound waves of experimental pulsation into my brain's frontal lobes. Contact me if you have any questions!

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  1. Elizabeth Saunders-Time Coach says:

    June 29, 2009

    Great points! As a full time freelancer for over 3 1/2 years, I agree that time management is critical.

    I’ve found for me and my time coaching clients that setting a schedule for processing inboxes, taking care of routine tasks, and completing projects really helps accomplish No. 1, 4, and 7 above.

    Have a brilliant day!

  2. Tiberiu says:

    June 29, 2009

    I am not a web designer but certain points that were mentioned in this article are valid for anyone if you plan to be successful.

  3. art blog says:

    July 8, 2009

    Number 4 is so very important. Freelancing for 4 years now has taught me two things..dont work too fast, and TAKE TIME off or you will burn out and churn out horrible work

  4. Mary Waugh says:

    July 14, 2009

    Recently, I have switched over to freelancing from being a full-time employee.

    The tips given by you in your blog post would really help me in building my online credibility as a freelance web designer and help me grab more freelance projects on the platform on which I have registered as a freelance web designer, LimeExchange.

  5. preston web design says:

    August 4, 2009

    My personal fav is number 9. Its similar with life, you get nothing without putting things in.

    Its the same with freelance, Ive spent many a Friday night working away on a clients site when I would much rather be watching TV with friends and a glass of wine…but that client will appreciate your effort and recommend you on. You simply must look after your clients. - Do everything you can, if you cant…learn how!

    Good Luck fellow designers!

  6. Emily says:

    August 4, 2009

    Great article! I agree with all of your points except the comment about school. Although often a degree is irrelevant, I do think that being in an educational atmosphere can help smooth learning code by explaining the inevitable frustrations that come with learning something new

  7. Robin Bastien says:

    August 4, 2009

    Thanks for the comment Emily! I certainly believe that it’s dependent on where you go to school and the atmosphere you’re in. School has a collective learning atmosphere where students can work collaboratively on projects which the people without degrees can miss out on.

    My personal experience was a school that didn’t have program prerequisites, and many of the students chose the program because they didn’t know what else to go into, and had little background and enthusiasm in design. This led a lot of people to fall behind, and the teaching resorted to a very basic level.


  8. Shawn says:

    August 14, 2009

    Nice post. I think you hit on one of the biggest things - the time sucks that social networks can be, verse the “staying up to date” they can provide. It is always a fine balance.

  9. Moose Jaw Web Design says:

    February 11, 2010

    This is great. So often I forget there’s more to life than working the days away, so I’m trying to manage my time better.