How to grow your freelance design business


Web design is one of the most flexible and in-demand skills in the technology market, a combination that makes it ideal for a freelancing career. It is, in essence, a skill that can be adapted and extended to meet a client’s requirements. Add to that the high demand for web and mobile development projects, and freelancers have the fortune of a wide range of job opportunities and working styles – if they grow their businesses effectively.

Tips on building your business

Every worker and target market has a different approach, but some key rules count for everyone. It is essential that you constantly promote your business. Promotion and marketing take time to pay off, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of stopping these efforts once business picks up, only to be surprised when your pipeline of work dwindles.

Use a good mix of promotional efforts, and don’t rely on a single channel. Freelance websites are a great place to start, but you might also want to partner up with businesses in similar fields. Free talks and seminars can be an excellent draw. The inherent flexibility of web design makes it easy to diversify, and you should always be on the lookout for areas where there is a lack of skilled people or where the pay is better than what you currently earn.

Don’t forget that a design business is not limited to geographic territories – modern communication methods make it very easy for freelancers to grow their businesses outside their local regions. Increasingly, entire contracts are executed without anyone ever meeting face to face.

An umbrella company provides great support

Clients often expect you to bill them through a registered company. Though many freelancers work through a limited company, an umbrella company is an excellent alternative. In the race to accumulate as many billable hours as possible, saving time on processing tax and National Insurance payments is a major benefit. You also avoid the responsibility of acting as a company director – administrative details are handled by the umbrella company, leaving you free of paperwork and tricky Government rules.

Common hurdles

Depending on the length of projects that you typically undertake, you can often invest a large amount of time in finding the next project and keeping your pipeline full. Effectively growing your business can have a big impact on your earnings: the less time that you spend looking for projects, the more time you have to do actual work and earn money from hourly billings. So, make sure that your marketing activities are targeted and effective, and only pitch for projects that are likely to be realised and are profitable.

Another problem that many freelancers run into is charging less than their service is worth. For numerous reasons, both clients and freelancers sometimes engage in a race to the bottom, which is bad for quality, customer satisfaction and reputation. Although you may need to enter the market at a low rate, focus on building your reputation so that you can offer quality work at well-paid rates.