Many years ago, I had a dream. He was going to be a great web designer. From there, I set up an independent business and was immediately successful.
Ah, the joy of being young and naive! Although I’ve been fortunate that things have worked out well in my career, they haven’t exactly reflected that dream. It was a much different path than I imagined.
I became a citizen, all right. It’s just that I was far from an expert when I started my business. You could even say that my skills were unpolished. Maybe I was a little silly as well.
But despite all that – I’m still here (survival equals success in my book). Running a freelance web design business turns out to be an incredible learning experience. And I believe that others have the same opportunity.
The truth is that you don’t need to be an expert to launch your freelance career. If you want to start a business, don’t let your expertise (or lack thereof) hold you back.
Here’s a look at why the barriers to freelancing may be in your head.
Work Knowledge and Passion is a Good Start
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be a knowledgeable web designer. You will still need to understand how to build websites in an efficient and standards-compliant manner. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting in over your head.
But if you’re waiting to be recognized as one of the best in your profession before launching a freelance career, you might want to reconsider. It is a great goal, but far from necessary when starting a business.
What is important is to have a working knowledge of the services you provide. This ensures that you can reliably help clients with their needs. And it provides a basis for expanding your potential.
On that last point – we all still have things to learn. So, there’s no shame in searching Google or developer communities to answer questions. This is a tried and true part of working within an ever-changing field.
It also helps to be passionate about what you do. If you truly love web design, you’ll be more likely to spend time honing your skills. Combined with a solid knowledge base, it will put you in a good position to make the necessary long-term commitment to freelancing.
Experience Provides a Great Path to Learning
There has long been a debate about the benefits of real-world experience over formal education. I think both have great advantages. However, the experiences you gain as a freelancer can be invaluable.
For example, learning basic PHP or CSS skills provides you with key skills. But how you apply them in client projects can help you reach the next level.
Every client and project is unique. Therefore, they force you to adapt what you have learned to a specific need.
They are also an opportunity to learn on the job. You are likely to come across situations that challenge your thinking or require a different approach. It is not always easy. But it can lead to significant professional growth.
In the long run, these experiences allow you to be more flexible when building websites. The result is that you can serve more clients because you have the skills and confidence to do so.
People Skills improve over time
Beyond the technical expertise of web design, some designers may avoid freelancing due to a lack of people skills. Whether it’s a little shyness or anxiety, it can be a big obstacle to starting a business.
This aptly describes my early experience. I wasn’t the most socially adept person, and I didn’t know how to handle client relationships. On the bright side, the idea of working from home was right up my alley!
But I discovered that my abilities in this area were not as bad as I had feared. And the more I communicated with clients, the better I got at it. That’s not to say I’m the most outgoing person in the world – but I’m more capable than I ever imagined.
Like code and design, people skills can be learned as you go. You may make mistakes along the way. But over time, you can achieve a level of comfort when dealing with clients, vendors, and anyone else you encounter along the way.
As a bonus, what you learn can benefit you on a personal level as well.
It all comes down to Confidence
Much of what we have discussed so far is about having the confidence to move forward. It seems like a natural reaction when considering a life-changing move. And starting a freelance web design business certainly qualifies.
That way, it’s not just about knowing a lot about WordPress or being great at remote meetings. Sometimes the biggest challenge is trying to find out if you can measure up to expectations – from your clients and yourself.
The good news is that freelancing doesn’t require perfection in any one area. If you have a strong knowledge base and are willing to work hard, you have the potential to succeed. And you don’t have to compare yourself to others.
Therefore, if you are thinking about becoming a freelancer, have an honest conversation with yourself. Figure out why you want to do it and identify anything that’s holding you back. If it’s a trust issue, you can start to move around it by taking that first step.