How much can a freelance web designer earn per month?


Just out of curiousity: Does a career as a web designer / web developer really make sense?

I just graduated with a Masters degree, but I love making web sites and can’t think of a better way to make a living. The only trouble is that I find is enormously hard to attract customers. Right now, I manage to attract one customers about every 2 months, which isn’t enough in the long run.

Is there anybody out there who’s actually earning good money as a freelance web designer? In the long run I want to hire other people and grow my business, but right now, this simply isn’t possible… So how much can a freelance web designer actually earn per month, if he’s not working for any particular company but on his own?

It’s going to be VERY tough starting out. I’m in my second year, and it’s proving to be far from rose-tinted glasses and days on the beach with beautiful women, if you catch my drift. I’m spending about 15 hours a DAY six days a week trying to build up a sustainable client list, and it’s not easy.

You’re going to have to generate multiple income streams if you plan to be successful. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your POV) this may mean having to sell advertising space on your sites. But that won’t work unless you can get people to come to your sites and keep them coming back for more anyway.

If you are simply selling your time for money, it’s very tough to make a healthy living. If you want a lot, you need to start a firm, invent something, get famous, to increase your value in some way. Otherwise, you’re income is capped at x per hour.

That too. In fact, that’s part of my overall plan.

Well, I’m kind of hoping that I’ll “invent something” along the way… Building up a web design business with a strong brand name would only be a first step…

It can be done but it takes time to build up. When you get going and you consistently do a good job you should start to get new work by personal recommendations. If this happens the more you do the more enquiries you should get.

If you are sure this is what you want to do why don’t you start part-time? You could get a part time job to pay the bills while you build up your business.

You can make a lot of money.

You can make even more if you create a studio.

It will take a few years to get into swing

The first few years will be a reputation building hell

But, if you are good, unique and inventive, then you could start making a lot out of it.

Something a bit out there, but I think these are a key to where to go (Interactive Advertising Agencies), me thinks they make a lot.

WDDG (I love the theme)

Blitz (possibly one of the most famous agencies)

2Advanced (another really famous one)

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You can make a lot of money.

You can make even more if you create a studio.

It will take a few years to get into swing

The first few years will be a reputation building hell

But, if you are good, unique and inventive, then you could start making a lot out of it.

I like this…
I am in favor of this

As a sole freelancer, I feel it’s important that you get out of the ‘hourly rate’ frame of mind, because even if you somehow mangage to line up enough work to keep you busy 9-5, 50 weeks a year, your income is always going to be capped by the number of hours you can physically work.

The solution is not necessarily to start a company with employees - this is not for everyone, you need to be of a certain personality to a boss and a manager, plus will need a lot more start up cash. Some people are happiest working on their own, in the comfort of their own home, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so there are several solutions to increase your income from being a freelance web developer:

  1. Don’t charge by the hour - if you charge fixed rates for a project, you can theoretically be paid 10 or 20 times more per project than you would if paid the equivalent in an hourly rate

  2. Develop repeatable solutions and/or use ready-made third party solutions and generally steamline your work processes. This will save significant time, but obviously youll only benefit from the saved time if you are charging fixed fees, and not being paid by the hour.

  3. Charge higher fees - contrary to popular belief, price is not top of most people’s priority list when they shop, and the reality is that there’s always someone cheaper than you so competitng on price is doomed to failure, especailly for a freelancer. Concentrate on the things people do really care about - value for money, convienience, confidence, trust etc.

  4. Create additional income streams - sell scripts, set up your own ecommerce sites selling whatever works, set up content sites with ads, write books, basically anything that once set up can to some degree run itself with only minor effort from yourself to keep it all ticking over.

  5. Look at referral schemes - for example, most payment processors will offer you ongoing commision if you recommend your clients to them, marketing comanies will do the same. Before you know it, you’re getting £1000 a year for doing absolutely nothing.

  6. Get better clients and better projects - so what if you get only one client every two months? If you focus on say, ecommerce, you could charge them £XXXX-£XX,XXX for the site (based primariliy on a ready made solution, so minimal work anyway), plus an ongoing hosting and support fee (say 10%). At the end of the year, you’ve made a respectable income from set up fees, plus you have ongoing hosting/support fees bringing £XXXX a year. Do this every year and after 10 years, your hosting/support fees alone will be eough to live off (plus all your ongoing commissions etc). Plus each year expect many of your existing clients to request additional work. In fact, you’ll find that after 3 years of doing this, you’ll be turning work away as you are too busy. Obviously all this requires focus on the right type of client - these clients do not turn up on your doorstep, so you need to find them and it helps if you target a specific niche.

  7. Outsource - maybe a hassle and a bit of a step for the ‘I work alone’ types, but if you can find someone who designs good layouts, why not pay him £xxx for something you charge £xxxx for, and save yourself even more time to concentrate on other things?

Just some ideas - these won’t suit everyone, but you can incorporate some to at least boost your income somewhat.

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Gets my vote for post of the month!

It was already mentioned in Shadow’s excellent post, but I will mention it again … diversify. Just like people tell you that you should have a well diversified portfolio for your money, it also holds true for your business income. Don’t rely only on one thing (if possible).

Say you usually look for clients who need a website since they don’t have one … well you can also market those clients that already have a website but may want a re-design. Or maybe they need some maintenance here and there that you can offer. Perhaps their website is just fine but they could use a more reliable web host. If you know print, maybe they could use some work with their marketing campaigns? How about offering your consulting skills or teaching? Maybe write a script and sell it on the side …

The possibilities are endless really. But the more avenues you have for income to come in the better off you will be. It’s not easy by any means … but it can be very rewarding! :wink:

You can do very well working for clients freelance style but you have to be VERY, VERY talented and better than everyone else. Like others have said, this approach is good but usually will burn you out after a while. It becomes very hard to grow because you’re only exchanging a service for your time.

If you are more entrepreneurial and can effectively create new businesses I would highly recommend moving away from working for clients and building your own web assets once you have the time and money to do so. This way you are making money without even doing anything. It’s basically why your clients are doing so well online because they are business oriented, but just don’t have the tech skills to really kill it online.

shadow… nicely put! i’m with you 1000%!

make living as a freelancer/consultant could be made, sure. but it’s better if you got some experience as an employee before. it helps you build contact list, learn how the industry works, get familiar with workflow and so on.

You have to try if you don’t try you’ll never know how it’s. Some people are just born for freelancing, other learn along the way and get better with time, other just cannot handle all the hassle and need to have 9-5 job. You have to find which one you are. Sometimes fun and reality aren’t in the same realm.

Give yourself some time 6 months to an year. If you see you aren’t moving up during that time you’d probably need some more time to learn about the business, get a 9-5 and come back to freelancing later on when you have more information how handle your projects.

ye… it’s very individual.

Every post here seems to say: it’s possible to earn a decent income with a web-development business, but it’s very difficult.

The original poster has a master’s degree. Would it really be worth the uphill struggle for him? Unless the webdev company is something specialized, he may as well be a high-school dropout. Does it make sense to throw away a master’s degree, to compete with every 15 year old kid who’s trying to break in to web development?

seems he loves web! maybe doing more managerial work within web is better way to go.

I planned to avoid print, but my clients kept wanting posters and stuff. If you’re able to do that work you may become some clients’ sole graphics and web person.

Establishing trust is maybe more important than anything. If people can see that you’re honest and really doing your best for them, it will help you a lot.

My advice; Get in bed with the right people…

No, get your mind out of the gutter, I mean strategic partnerships.

Take Nexternal for example, we send clients to GoDaddy, LivePerson, and web designers all month every month. This year before Christmas, all of our partner designers were backed up till February.

If you’re just trying to SEO your site and hook clients, you’ll be glad you have that master’s waiting…

Absolutely superb post. No! let’s scrub out the word post and call it an action plan for success.