Many years ago, I had a dream. It was to become a fantastic web designer. From there, I would launch a freelance business and find immediate success.
Ah, the joys of being young and naïve! While I’m fortunate that things have worked out pretty well in my career, they didn’t exactly mirror that dream. It was a much different path than I’d imagined.
I became a freelancer, alright. It’s just that I was far from an expert when I started my business. You might even say that my skills were unpolished. Perhaps I was a bit foolish as well.
But despite all of that – I’m still here (survival counts as success in my book). It turns out that running a freelance web design business is an incredible learning experience. And I believe that others have the same opportunity.
The truth is that you don’t have to be an expert to launch your freelance career. If starting a business is what you want to do, expertise (or a lack thereof) doesn’t have to hold you back.
Here’s a look at why the barriers to freelancing could be all in your head.
A Working Knowledge and Passion Are a Good Start
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t be a knowledgeable web designer. You’ll still need to understand how to build websites in an efficient and standards-compliant manner. Otherwise, you risk 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 may want to reconsider. It’s a wonderful goal, but far from necessary when starting a business.
What matters is having a working knowledge of the services you provide. This ensures that you can reliably help clients with their needs. And it provides a foundation for expanding your capabilities.
On that last point – all of us have things we’ve yet to learn. Thus, 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, then you’ll be more likely to dedicate time to improving your skills. Combined with a solid foundation of knowledge, it will put you in a good position to make the required long-term commitment to freelancing.
Experience Provides a Great Path for Learning
There’s long been a debate regarding the merits of real-world experience as opposed to formal education. I think there are major benefits to both. However, the experiences you have as a freelancer can be incredibly valuable.
For example, learning the fundamentals of PHP or CSS provides you with key skills. But how you apply them in client projects can help you reach that next level.
Each client and project are unique. As such, they force you to adapt what you’ve learned to a specific need.
They are also an opportunity to learn on the job. You’ll likely come across scenarios that challenge your thinking or require a different approach. It’s not always easy. But it can lead to some significant professional growth.
In the long run, these experiences allow you to become 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 with Time
Beyond technical web design expertise, some designers may avoid freelancing due to a perceived lack of people skills. Whether due to a bit of shyness or anxiety, it can be a major obstacle to starting a business.
This aptly describes my early experiences. I wasn’t the most socially gifted person, and I didn’t know how I’d handle client relations. On the bright side, the thought of working from home was right up my alley!
But I found that my abilities in this area weren’t as bad as I had feared. And the more I communicated with clients, the better I became at it. That’s not to say I’m the world’s most outgoing person – but I’m more competent than I ever imagined.
Much like code and design, it’s possible to learn people skills as you go. You may make mistakes along the way. But in time, you can reach 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’ve discussed so far comes down to 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.
In that way, it’s not just about whether you know enough about WordPress or are terrific in remote meetings. Sometimes the bigger challenge is wondering whether you can measure up to expectations – from both your clients and yourself.
The good news is that freelancing doesn’t require perfection in any one area. If you have a solid foundation of knowledge and are willing to work hard, success is within your reach. And there’s no need to compare yourself with others.
Therefore, if you’ve considered becoming a freelancer, have an honest conversation with yourself. Figure out why you want to do it and identify anything holding you back. If it’s a matter of confidence, you can start to move past it by taking that first step.