Web Design: Routes into the industry

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Studying different courses and networking with individuals are just some of the ways to begin your freelance web design career. Courses can be online or in person, teaching you the fundamental skills of becoming a freelance web designer, whilst also opening up routes into the industry and gaining valuable knowledge. Starting your freelance web design journey can be daunting without the right skills and experience, however there are a number of different routes you can take to kick-start your career as a freelance web designer.

What university and college courses can I take to become a freelance web designer?

16-18-year-olds off to College and University can choose to learn about the web design industry. With a wealth of different courses available, taking up a course in web design or similar can help develop skills to become a knowledgeable freelance web designer.

University courses which will help you to begin a career in freelance web design include:

  • Creative media production (web and app development)

  • Computer games development

  • Digital media computing

  • Web design and development

  • Web and mobile development

College courses which will help you to become a web designer include:

  • Level 5 Diploma in Web Application Development

  • HND in Creative Media Production: Game Development

Web design training courses that will also benefit you include:

  • HTML beginners course

  • CSS beginners course

  • Coding and programming courses

Taking a course in web design will prepare you for the types of coding and design work that a freelance web designer undertakes on a daily basis, and will open up many routes into web design including becoming a front-end or back-end web designer. They will often teach you the basics of web design and information on how to use specific tools. Some of the key skills you can expect to learn include coding, animation, and web application, but it is not until you are in the real world and putting these skills into practice that employers will start to focus their attention on you.

How to develop your skills and become a freelance web designer

What skills do you need to become a freelance web designer? Other than the abilities picked up from courses, or skills that you already know, you’ll need to be able to build a website and design a successful layout. Adobe have some great tools to help freelance web designers build websites and design images for themselves and for their clients, therefore the Adobe suite is a popular tool for freelance web designers.

Some of the Adobe software programmes which are advantageous to freelance web designers include:

  • Photoshop

  • Dreamweaver

  • XD

  • Fireworks

These all provide different benefits to freelance web designers, depending on whether you are a front-end or back-end designer. Design skills are just as valuable as technical skills, so take your time with designing the perfect website for you or your client. A professional-looking website will help your freelance business or client’s business flourish, so getting it right is key to business growth.

It is essential for freelance web designers to have good knowledge of HTML. With the help of tools that are compatible with HTML and CSS, freelancers can create a simplified coding system. Having a coding system helps freelance web designers save time with templates being available.

As well as web design skills, soft skills are just as important. Becoming a freelance web designer takes up a lot of time so time management is crucial, as well as communication between you and your client.

With the help of some of these skills, freelance web designers are more likely to be approached by clients who are looking for help with their websites.

Create your own website for your freelance portfolio

Using your web design skills to create your own freelance portfolio can attract clients to your work. Focus your portfolio on a niche area of web design if you are hoping to target clients looking for a specific skill. This will make clients aware of what you are selling as a part of your service, and they will see you as an expert in your niche if you have a targeted portfolio.

Creating a portfolio establishes credibility as a freelance web designer, suggesting a stable reputation in the creative industry and a platform to build connections. If you think of yourself as a coder in web design, create your portfolio from scratch rather than a website builder as it highlights your skills in this area, and therefore another reason for clients to hire you. Seeing your work first-hand illustrates what clients can expect from you when creating their website.

You should also consider writing an ‘about me’ section on your portfolio to let clients know who you are and what it is that you do - this will help advance you into that area of web design. Remember to include only relevant pieces of work in order to stand out, as well as your best work.

Network and expand your social circle

Joining groups on social media or online forums such as the FreelanceUK forum can be a great way for freelance web designers to connect with other freelancers and future clients. Meeting others in the same industry online and becoming part of a community can help you keep up to date with best practice, hints, tips and relevant topics in web design. Joining creative groups can also further your understanding of web design as well as other creative industries.

Expand your social circle, but perhaps start with who you already know in the industry and build on that. The impact of mutual connections will help you expand your network and build relationships.

Networking events are a great way to introduce yourself to the industry. Discover conferences and listen to other working professionals who could provide valuable advice and lessons to freelance web designers who are starting out in the industry. The opportunity for both developing skills and gaining new clients is best seen when networking.

There are a variety of routes to start a career in freelance web design, with specific courses available to enhance your understanding of the industry, as well as to develop and strengthen your web design skills. The practical element is just as crucial as the theory in web design so remember to act on the skills you have learned and get hands on experience wherever you can.

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