Articles - 22nd March 2019

How to be a winning web developer and designer

Words by Nick Babich
Illustration by Jon McCormack

Web designer is one of the most in-demand jobs in tech. The role is both exciting and challenging because to create excellent web experience you’ll need to be good at working with technology and people.

Becoming a freelance web designer is a common dream among many designers. Freelancing allows us to create a better work-life balance and gives us an opportunity to select projects we really want to do.

If you already have excellent website design skills and want to switch to freelancing this step-by-step guide is for you.

1. Find your niche

If you’re going to become a successful freelance web designer, you need to find the type of work you love doing. Maybe you like to create a particular part of websites, such as landing pages. Or perhaps you prefer to solve complex problems, such as integration with 3rd party services? Focus on the type of work you love the most and hone your skills because this will make you stand out from the crowd.

2. Create a portfolio website

Having a portfolio is a mandatory requirement for every creative person, and website designers are no exception. Having a good portfolio makes it evident to everybody that you’re capable of web design work.

Here are a few ideas to think of when working on your portfolio:

  • Don’t put all you have in your portfolio

Keep in mind that your portfolio is your shop window — you don’t want to have a cluttered window. Thus, review your previous work and list only the best examples in your portfolio.

  • Showcase your work

Don’t just say “I design & develop websites,” show your designs. Ideally, describe each project in a case study format. This layout will help other people understand your design process.

  • Bring personality to your designs

Think what makes you unique and bake it into your models.

  • Provide testimonials

Testimonials build trust. Each time you finish a project, ask your clients to provide a few sentences about your work.

  • Manage your portfolio regularly

Each time you finish a project, spend some time adding the most important details about that project into your collection.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no to your clients

People will always want more. If something is out of the scope of your abilities, tell your clients. In many cases, clients will either skip the extra requirement or will pay extra hours for your work.

4. Stay organised

Working as a freelance web designer is a lot more than just web design. You’ll be your own project manager, salesperson and customer support specialist. It’s impossible to become a successful freelancer if you don’t get organised.

Here is what you will need to do:

  • Set your work hours

Being a freelancer doesn’t mean that you should have strict work hours, but it also doesn’t mean that you can work whenever you like. If you generally prefer to work 9 to 5, try to stick to this schedule and let your client know that (it’ll prevent you from having calls from your clients in your out of work hours).

  • Set up a file system that works for you

Store your files in a way that will make it easy to find all important details about any particular project.

  • Schedule all meetings with your clients on the calendar

When it comes to scheduling a meeting with anybody, don’t rely on your memory. Human memory is fallible. Instead, create a new event in Google Calendar.

  • Use a task management app

Having all your tasks laid out in a task management app will guarantee that you won’t forget a single detail. There are plenty of task management tools available on the market. I recommend using Trello; I think it’s an excellent tool for freelancers.

  • Manage your money

As a freelancer, you’ll dedicate part of your time to managing invoices and taxes. Tools like can help you manage your money.

5. Stay on top of current trends

By following the latest trends, web designers know what visitors expect to see on a site. It’s essential to think of reviewing trends as daily exercising. By spending 30 minutes a day watching other designer’s work you’ll train your eyes, and it will help you create better solutions. Behance and Dribbble are great places to go for inspiration.

6. Focus on building your personal brand

Having a personal brand is especially important for freelance web designers because it will help you find more clients. And building a personal brand is more about social interaction than honing technical skills.

Sharing your own knowledge with the design and development community is an excellent opportunity for web designers to build a personal brand. Here are a few tools that can help you with that:

  • Twitter

You can use this tool to share the latest news on web design as well as your own thoughts on current web design trends. It’s also good for having conversations with other web designers.

  • Quora

You can use Quora to ask and answer questions on design-related topics.


When you start out as a web designer, you probably will have a lot of troubles at the beginning. Maybe you won’t be confident in your skills, and perhaps you’ll face some problems in getting your work-life balance right.

But it’s important to take all the challenges that you meet, and keep trying until you overcome them. The truth is that the only way to become a better version of yourself is through hard work and focus.

We champion the freelancers and every entrepreneur who took a leap of faith with their idea.

If this sounds like you, head over to our Virtual Office and send us your best work via an UnderPinned Portfolio. We want to hear from you!

Make your UP portfolio

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