As I’ve said before, I’m an independent web designer. I went to school specifically for web design, and it did a pretty good job of preparing me for the technical demands of my job. However, there were some things that school didn’t prepare me for, and those are the things I want to talk about today.
Sure, I know how to design a web page. I’ve been doing it for decades. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to get work. There are so many options out there for people who need a web designer. There are beginners out there who will design a web page for cheap because they are in the “building a portfolio” stage. There are websites with names like cheapwebdesign.com (That’s not a real website—yet.) who have prices I cannot compete with. I’ve had to learn to set myself apart in other ways. It’s kind of like being a custom quilt maker. Why would someone buy a $300 quilt from me when they can get something similar from Walmart for $30? I’ve got to price myself right, and I’ve got to make my work worth the price.
I’m sure you’ve heard this expression before: “I’d love the job if it weren’t for the people.” Web design is an overlap of two fields that we think of as being very solitary—art and computer science. Depending on where you choose to work, that may be somewhat true, but there’s always the client, and there’s sometimes also the supervisor. Even if you strike out on your own as a freelancer, you’re still doing work for someone. You’ve got to know how to communicate with people, even difficult, demanding people. I’ve posted before about the complaints that I get from clients. That is my least favorite part of the job, but it’s something that I’ve learned to deal with because I love what I do.
As an artist, you’re a free spirit. You don’t like to follow rules. You want to catch people’s eyes, astonish them, and make them feel something. What you don’t want to do is organize a task list and plan out your workweek in 30 minute increments. Am I right? I know, because I’m like you. When you turn web design into a career, you’ve got to learn to do the bigger picture, organizational things. There is value in the ability to stay on task. You’ve got to organize your electronic files and make sure they’re backed up. You’ve got to be a reliable employee; after all, the job market is tough for a web designer. Don’t think that you’re escaping this requirement by being a freelancer. That will put even more demands on you. You will need to be your own CFO, keeping track of invoicing and more.
I don’t say any of these things to scare you. Heck, if I wanted to scare you, I could’ve written about my beginnings in tech support. Talk about difficult people! But, I digress. The point of this post was to teach you some of the facets of this career that you may not have considered before. These things completely caught me off guard, and I’d like to preparemy readers for the possibilities.
I still firmly believe that web design is an incredible career. I am passionate about my work, and I get to create new art all of the time! There aren’t many careers with steady income for creative types like us, and I feel lucky to have tapped into this particular market. The technology of our time has created a necessity for us, and we should be grateful for that.