Where Most Freelance Web Designers Go Wrong: Picking Clients

December 29, 2016

5:50 pm

In the wild world of freelancing and remote work, website designers stand tall. Any business or operation big and small needs an online presence, and it’s a big, one-time project that’s best covered under a freelance contract.

But like any freelance career, web designers need to master a bucket of additional skills, from networking to cold calling to billing to taxes to money management. And one of those issues in particular tends to trip up your typical hard-working web designer: Picking a client. Here’s why.

Skip the Small Scale Clients

One user on the /r/entrepreneur subreddit offered the following advice, culled from a web design career that started in January 2016 and now regularly earned over $10,000 a month. The secret? Don’t pick the small scale web design clients that won’t benefit much from your refurbished site. Here’s the back-of-the-envelope math on how it works:

“Imagine for a second the website you build will only ever generate one sale per year. Maybe only one sale ever.
Now lets go over some businesses you could build a website for.
Client one: Jimmy & Friends Coffee Shop. One sale is a cup of coffee or maybe if they are lucky a lunch special. One sale profit: $3-10 profit maybe.
Client Two: Jimmy & Co Travel Agency. Maybe that one sale is a trip to Paris, or maybe even a round the world one year break. Profits on travel are slim though and the internet is really driving down those juice margins. One sale profit: $150- $1,000 profit maybe.
Client Three: Jimmy Inc. Industrial Clean Up Services. Now this website is not on the sexy side of things. It won’t exact be winning website of the year award or going viral on FB but… One sale of a large scale clean up at that oil refinery this winter… Maybe $500,000 to $4 million. Maybe more.
Now when it comes time to sell websites you always want to aim to get your clients ten times the results that they invest in you.
So let’s do the maths…
Client One: You can justify 30c – $1 Client Two: You can justify $15 – $100 Client Three: You can justify $50k to $400,000.
It’s the same amount of time dealing with the client, same amount of time coding, same amount of time hiring a pro photographer. Very different result.”

…But Go for the Blue Collar Businesses

So who fits the bill for a business that could genuinely benefit from a new website? The boring, unsexy companies that need to put a little more effort into not chasing away web-savvy customers. Here’s the list of potential web design clients that the Reddit user in question offered:

  • Construction
  • Industrial Services
  • Engineering
  • Oil
  • Legal
  • Medical

Note that those last two might require a little industry knowledge. Perhaps with a little research, you can locate a niche that will pay you the big bucks with relatively little competition.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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