Web design makes for a very flexible career. Like almost every other line of work, you can use your skills to get a job in an established company. But you can also start your own free enterprise or small agency in short order.
If you choose the latter, you will definitely face some challenges. It takes time and effort to bring in clients, establish a good reputation, and build a portfolio. However, it is also a relatively cheap type of business to start and manage.
That said, it’s still important to weigh the pros and cons of the products and services you buy. All additional costs, while potentially tax deductible, also hit your wallet directly.
Today, we will look at some typical items that web designers may be tempted to spend their hard earned money on. With each one, we’ll also provide you with some guidance that you can use to decide whether or not it’s worth your money.
If you’ve ever shopped for web hosting, you probably know that it covers a wide range of pricing. Everything from a few dollars a month up to hundreds or thousands, depending on the level of service.
Hosting is important enough, however, that it should not be skimmed over. That’s true whether you decide to resell space to your clients or not. A shoddy hosting service reflects badly on you. If your site loads slowly, or doesn’t load at all, potential customers won’t have the patience to wait for a solution. They will simply move on to the next option.
The most important thing is the available resources (storage space, memory, processing power, etc.), the level of support, and stability. This requires some technical research and also some thought about your growth potential down the road.
This doesn’t mean you have to spring for the most expensive services out there. But it does mean you should avoid the bargain basement packages. In most cases, a moderately priced package from a reputable company is all you need.
The bottom line is that solid hosting is always a good investment, but there’s no need to overpay.
Have you ever seen a plugin for your favorite CMS, such as WordPress, that does something amazing? Or have you tried a free version of a plugin only to find that you want the extra features that come with the “Pro” version?
It is a common situation and also a very tempting one for web designers. Most commercial plugins aren’t too expensive, and the right ones can improve your projects.
But are they worth the investment? That depends on what they do and how much you will use them.
For a freelancer or agency, it’s generally a good idea to look for plugins that you’ll be using over and over again. Excellent examples are multi-purpose plugins that perform functions such as e-commerce, image galleries, or even page builders.
Remember that some plugins are priced depending on the number of websites you plan to use them on. So, more sites mean more money. Some niche offerings may not be worth the extra cost. In that case, the way is for your clients to buy directly from the author of the plugin.
Stock/Design Asset Subscription Services
Web design takes creativity. And it’s much easier to be creative when you have access to the right design assets. Stock photos, themes, UI elements, and mockups can serve an important purpose. They help improve efficiency and also provide you (and your clients) with more variety.
Speaking of variety, there are a number of free and commercial subscription services that allow you to download different design elements. But, while it’s great to have so many options, this also makes for a tough decision.
For some designers, the thought of paying for what they can get for free elsewhere makes little sense. It’s easy to see why, as many of the freebie sites offer quality items.
However, they don’t always have the depth of a good commercial service – let alone regular additions. On the other hand, commercial sites may pay for a large amount of assets that you will never use.
The decision comes down to budget and (again) how much you intend to use a particular service. If you tend to work on smaller projects and can get away with the limited variety of free design asset library, go for it.
However, if you are working on larger, more profitable projects, it might make sense to spend the extra money. For those who only need something different from time to time, a pay-as-you-go model can be a good compromise, as this gives you the best of both worlds.
Social Media Marketing
Remember when social media was supposed to make websites irrelevant? Well, that never happened. Instead, it became a mess of content – one controlled by algorithms designed to keep us scrolling and make money (for them, that is).
Therefore, getting your message across can be extremely difficult. In the case of Facebook, you can’t even reach the timelines of everyone who “likes” your business page unless you’re willing to pay for the privilege. Of course, other networks have followed suit.
The temptation here is that you can promote your posts to a relatively small and highly targeted group of people for a low price. However, success here is not that simple.
While spending $20 to promote something now and then may not seem like much, it can start to add up. And the question becomes: What kind of return are you getting?
If you’re after a few likes or followers, there may be better ways to recruit them (via a newsletter, for example). Otherwise, it seems that paying for followers would only be effective in rare circumstances.
If the aim is to increase sales, then it is wise to formulate a strategy first. Randomly promoting jobs without careful planning and targeting is probably a waste of money.
It’s Your Money
As a web designer/business owner, there is no shortage of opportunities to spend money. With the incredible range of products and services focused on our industry, making purchases is quite easy.
So how do you know which ones are worth it? Perhaps the old saying goes better: You have to spend money to make money.
In other words, look for items that will help you increase income. It could be a tool that saves you time, a web host that enables you to resell space, or a service that gives you tons of relevant design assets.
On the other hand, if you don’t see a clear financial benefit to something, it’s probably not worth buying.