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So, You Want To Be A Web Designer?

Quite a few aspiring website designers have been asking me for advice lately. Why me? As you can clearly see from this site, I'm no design expert. Perhaps it's because they've noticed that website design is now a service offered at my site.

For starters, let me clear one thing up. Although I personally tend to this site (you may be able to tell from the simple layout!) I do not personally handle client sites. I have a website designer who handles those accounts. And yes, offering this service has forced me to learn quite a bit about the subject. Today I'll share that knowledge with you.

Here's a step-by-step guide to starting your own successful web design business...

Step 1: Get the Tools

Before you can offer web design you need to fill your design toolbox! While you can spend a ton of cash in this phase, the best strategy is to acquire the bare minimum, at least until you have a few clients under your belt. When we decided to offer web design, it took about $2500 to get started. That covered a new iMac, (while many designers use a PC, we went with Mac since we do both web and print design) a scanner, and lots of software.

As far as software goes, we went with the Adobe suite of design tools. This included Adobe Illustrator, PhotoShop, and Quark for print design jobs such as book covers and catalogs. While Adobe turned out to be a solid choice, many other designers work with straight html or WYSIWYG editors such as FrontPage, HomeSite, HotDog and more. Whatever tool you are most comfortable with will do.

Just be prepared to make ongoing purchases. Since we got started, my designer has invested in lots more software such as BBEdit, Mac FTP software, DreamWeaver by MacroMedia, a high end printer, a drawing tool and more. Remember, being a web designer means keeping your arsenal of design tools current.

Step 2: Practice, practice!

Before you open for business, you need to put in some serious design time! Start by putting together your own website, where you will offer your services. Use all the tools at your disposal and make sure you know how to perform every service you plan to offer.

While your own site should be simple enough to navigate quickly, you should also show off some of your skills. Post some sample logos or sites if you can. Rather than "tell" prospective customers what you are capable of doing, show them!

Step 3: Decide on Pricing

How much should you charge for your design services? Well, the answer to that question really comes down to two equations; your skill level and the amount you need to make.

As to the skill level, you can get a good idea where you stand by surfing the web a little. Go to your favorite search engine and enter "website design". You'll find designers that charge anywhere from $25 to $250 per web page and a few hundred to tens of thousands for an entire site. Check out their work. Is yours comparable?

Next consider the amount of time it will take you to design a basic 10 page website. Remember to factor free consultation with your client (this can take hours), the design of a basic theme, buttons for navigation, and a logo. These are the items usually included in a basic website design package. Once you've figured out how many hours it will take to put all this together, figure out how much you need to make per hour. Too many would-be designers do not take this step and end up doing their first few jobs for less than $10 an hour. If you can pay the bills with that, then by all means, go for it. But more than likely you'll need to make much more than that.

Also remember that design jobs can take up to 50 percent longer than originally anticipated. Factor that in too. You are better off starting your pricing a bit on the high side. You can always have a sale when things are a bit slow.

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