laptop mobile desktop screens with color web design

Do you already know web design or want to learn?

If you want to learn how to make money with web design, let me share some well-known strategies AND I'll clue you in on some of the underground methods people are using to double or even triple their earning power.

Let's set the scene here; why might web design be a fantastic industry now more than ever?

Well, the world just got flipped on its side in 2020. The pandemic forced a critical shift toward shopping online and remote working. If business owners want to keep sales coming in, they need an online presence now more than ever.

What does this mean for you?

Even the technologically-challenged are being catapulted into the digital world whether they want to or not. And the best part, biz owners need people like you to be their guiding hand and business savior because their livelihoods are on the line here.

So what are my top five strategies for making money with web design? Keep reading to find out.

1. Work for an Agency or Company

I'll be honest - working for yourself is not for everybody. Some people just aren't wired to be their own boss, and find comfort in holding down a steady 9-5 where they have a reliable income.

If that's you, there are two options on the table.

1. Work as a designer for an agency.

2. Be employed by a business or organization to manage their website.

Let's explore the differences here.

If you work for a design company or a digital marketing agency, you'll get the chance to be involved in many projects and work with different clients.

Depending upon the company's leadership, you could be working remotely with flexible or set business hours. That's something to discuss in the hiring process.

The downside here you're on to the next project without any sense of the impact of your work. If you swing more to the artistic end of the pendulum, this could be frustrating and leave you to feel more like a cog in a wheel than someone enjoys soaking in the fruits of their labor.

On the other hand, the role of managing a website for a specific organization provides the opportunity to make it your labor of love and shower it with maintenance.

web designer opening at universal studios & UCLA health on google search

Now, depending upon the size of the company, you may have additional duties. Things like managing social media or email databases and campaigns often get lumped with website management for smaller teams.

I'm not going to lie to you; there are two huge drawbacks to both of these options.

  • There's a lot of competition for these jobs.
  • There's a ceiling on your income.
  • Many of them don't pay very well.

Now, maybe the pay isn't such an issue if you have some free time outside of your regular job and want to combine it with this next option for making money with web design.

Check it out.

2.Freelance Web Design

How does freelancing work?

Freelancing is the process of agreeing to complete adhoc projects in an agreed upon timeframe.

There's a host of platforms dedicated to connecting freelancers with people needing help for all kinds of tasks, including website design.

Here are my Top 10 Freelancer Sites for Web Designers:

  1. Upwork
  2. Fiverr
  3. Freelancer
  4. 99Designs
  5. Toptal
  6.  DesignHill
  7. Guru
  8. PeoplePerHour
  9. LinkedIn ProFinder
  10. Dribble

You can set your rates or fees and choose what projects appeal to you.

I'm not going to lie to you; building a solid reputation is everything on these platforms. Customers are not going to trust you to work on their websites if you have a bad reputation. 

The downside is that is can be tricky to get jobs when you don't have a track record on the platform.

On the other hand, once you build a quality portfolio and have plenty of glowing reviews, you'll be golden. I know of people making 6-figures as freelancers on some of these sites.

logo for upwork on a dark blue background

Now, one of the drawbacks to freelancing is the uncertainty of incoming work. You could have plenty of baron spells with little to no income.

Additionally, these platforms will take their cut from what you charge your clients. It's worth adding that into your fee upfront if you're in a position of strength when submitting your proposal to the client.

table showing service fee impact on freelancer site upwork

The benefit of freelancing is the freedom to pick the projects you want to do. If you only want to build Shopify stores or design websites from scratch, you have complete control over what you choose to throw your name in the hat to do.

In some cases, you may even benefit from some repeat customers with who you enjoy working.

Now, if you want ultimate control and can thrive under pressure, this next option is where we start to get serious about making money.

3. Start Your Own Web Design Agency

Not for the faint-hearted by any means. Starting a biz is like being on a rollercoaster ride with all the ups and downs. 

The pros:

  • You're the boss - you own your schedule.
  • Unlimited earning potential
  • You choose who you want to work with - don't like how that client treats you, then fire them.
  • Hire people who you want to have on your team.
  • Become an authority in your market.

The Cons:

  • Super-competitive market.
  • The work that comes with running a business.
  • You need to find your own clients
  • No guarantee of income.
  • Having a team of people relying on you for their livelihood.

If you are like me, I've always thrived as an entrepreneur. I have tons of energy and drive to succeed. I also don't like the idea that my hard work makes my boss wealthy while sucking every last drop of my soul dry for a miserly wage.

Now, there are always risks when taking destiny into your own hands. Maybe you're someone who will thrive on that too.

One of the biggest challenges when getting started is finding clients. Are you good at selling? What strategies will work best for you? 

There isn't a one-style-fits all here. 

If you focus on giving value and creating wow-experiences for your early clients, it will be simple to ask for referrals. Once you get the referral track up and running, generating new business gets a lot easier.

How do you create wow for your clients?

Dan & Chip Heath wrote the superb "The Power of Moments" book on the ingredients of creating such experiences. If you want to deliver in a way that people will cherish, check it out.

blue cover of the power of moments by dan heath and chip heath

Speaking of doing more than designing websites, running a business means wearing multiple hats. It can be exhilarating but also a challenge to jump from one thing to the next. Here's what a day might have involved when I first got my agency off the ground:

  • Client meetings
  • Creating & sending out proposals
  • Managing my inbox & incoming calls
  • Market research
  • Content writing
  • Sourcing images & graphics
  • Dealing with servers & hosting
  • Invoicing and billing
  • email marketing campaigns

Overall, I was stretched thin and experienced a lot of growing pains. 

One of the biggest lessons I took away is there are two main functions to build in the early days, especially when you're running solo.

  • Working ON the business
  • Working IN the business

What do I mean:

Working on the business includes building your brand, landing new clients or repeat business, planning, and developing processes for getting things done.

On the flip side, working in the business is the meat and gravy. It's the website building and producing results. 

Managing it all can be a handful but don't fret - there are ways to make life easier and manage the workload through outsourcing.

In my own experience, outsourcing has been essential to not only scaling but staying sane in the long run. 

What is outsourcing?

Just as you can freelance and take on projects for other people, you can have other people completing tasks for you.

The advantages are many. For example, saving valuable time by passing off repetitive items or taking on more complicated projects by finding help for things outside of your expertise.

How does outsourcing work?

There are some obvious choices like hiring someone to handle your bookkeeping and taxes. Over the years, I've outsourced some or all of the following:

  • Writing content.
  • Sourcing and manipulating graphics.
  • Creating graphics (logos, infographics, and headers).
  • Adding content or graphics to sites.
  • Programming or development projects.

Now, this depends on how much you want to grow your biz and scale your earnings.

If you are looking for the easy route and okay with paying a little extra for the convenience, you can outsource to people who already have experience and who can hit the ground running.

The cheaper alternative is to hire VAs and train them yourself. There is more work involved in the hiring, training, and monitoring for accountability BUT the profit margin and opportunities make this super-appealing.

One of the critical aspects to outsourcing is that while the mundane day to day tasks are taken care of for you, you will still need to keep an eye on the work that's being delivered for you and make sure that it holds up.

Failing to do this could start a bad slide downhill, and your clients will feel the pinch.

Your focus is now on working on your business and bringing in more clients and jobs. Again, you can outsource some of the marketing and sales roles if you want to.

Just think about it; the opportunities are endless.

Speaking of which, check out my next strategy to skyrocket your income.

4. Expand Your Menu

This strategy works best if you have an agency (it's also doable as a freelancer).

If you've figured out how to outsource your web design workload, you're already more than capable of figuring out how to outsource related services.

black & blue word cloud for digital marketing

Why is this important?

I'm sure you've heard of ClickFunnels and some of the other self-proclaimed marketing "gurus" that sell information products with their fancy lifestyles.

While I'm not a fan of those courses with their false promises, there's something that many of them have got right. They know how to build a funnel system to 10x their revenue each time they land a customer.

Want to buy a cheap course? 

Okay, well, how about this book too on special offer? Oh, and a video training program. Hey, don't forget the private coaching.

You get my drift.

This is commonly known as a Value Ladder, and it's a cool marketing strategy.

And I'm not suggesting that you try to catch people in a funnel with persuasive copy.

Simply put, there's something we can take from these strategies and bring value to our clients in a highly ethical and helpful way.

You see, someone in the market for a new website wants it because they are trying to solve a problem.

In reality, most biz owners want to solve at least one or more of the following:

  • Generate more income for their business.
  • Reduce business expenses/increase profit margins.
  • Increased efficiency/get more done in less time.
  • Provide better service or value.
  • Feel like they're contributing to their community.

If you discover their motives or pain, being in a position to offer the right solution(s) is a win-win.

Most biz owners looking for a website believe it will be the magic lever to getting a hoard of new customers every week.

Realistically, website without SEO is like posting a billboard in the middle of nowhere - it's not going to see much traffic unless you're out actively pointing people to go visit (ahem, social media).

If the goal is more traffic (without forever being on the hook for paid ads or shackled to social media), having one company handle everything makes more sense. It should be more efficient to combine some of the processes, making it more cost-effective.

After all, it makes sense to have the content written with the right keywords and tone the first time around.

(If you don't know how to do on-page or off-page SEO, don't fret. You can hire a freelancer to do it or learn how to do it yourself.)

5. Partnerships / White Labeling

What is white labeling?

It's where you provide a service or product that someone else sells under their brand or name. 

The end-user or client is none the wiser.

I know it might sound questionable. 

It's a perfectly legit business practice.

Many well-known companies purchase identical products and label them with their brand. 

If you've shopped on Amazon for tech gadgets or fitness equipment, you've seen white labeling. 

Remember those items that all look identical except for a brand sticker?

Yep, that's white labeling in action. Nothing wrong with it if the product is as described.

And Walmart, you've probably seen their "Great Value" brand.

walmart great value brand food items which are white labelled

That's white labeling too.

So, how does white labeling work for a web design company?

Find a suitable partner company who's in a position to expand their menu by offering web design (or other services you offer).

When a client places an order with them, you complete that project on behalf of your partner company but without any sign it was handled by an outside entity.

Some partners may want you to include their logo or business name. For example, placing it in the website footer.

You might be interacting with the client as part of your business partner's team or they may handle all the customer communication. You have to establish these processes ahead of time. 

It's critical to deliver what you agree to and respect that they're not your client. Your business partner is your client

Of course you won't make as much as you would on each project as you would if it was your own business.

The business partner is going to expect to make a profit from the deal.

Often I've seen partnerships paying web designers a flat fee based on the scope of the work. You may be able to negotiate something else.

So, say you in and want to find someone to partner with for white labeling.

What kind of businesses want to partner with a web designer?

  • Print shops
  • Graphic designers
  • Digital marketing agencies
  • Sign shops

What's interesting is that once you start digging into this a little, it's amazing how often brokers are involved, and just how much money is spent with them taking their cut.

Very few customer-facing biz owners have time to build websites or write the content themselves if they're busy building their business and handling lots of clients.

Again, white labeling could be a viable option for someone who wants to focus on web design and let someone else land the business. 

Those who are in this market for web design have lots of platforms available specifically designed for white labeling.

While still more of an underground niche, you can find plenty of videos on YouTube from pros sharing their insight.

white labeling education videos on youtube

The downside is relying on someone else to provide you with work which might not be the most secure income.

The big decision about which of these strategies is the right fit for you is going to be your income needs and your tolerance for risk.

Like most things in life, fortune favours the bold.

Local Lead Generation

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