Recession Survival: 9 Ways To Make More Money As A Web Designer

By Alyssa Gregory
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batch of dollarsIf you’re feeling the pressure of a sinking economy, there are things you can do to bump up your income without dropping your rates or taking on non-ideal clients. Here are nine ideas that may make you more money during these tight financial times.

1. Offer Training

Have you ever been asked by a client if they can maintain the site you designed, but they don’t know how? Consider offering training services to teach them what they need to know to update their site themselves. Even if you have no desire to sit in a client’s office to train them, you can do it all remotely using services like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Yugma.

2. Write

If you have an interest in writing, look for freelance writing gigs. Websites, blogs, magazines and freelance writing sites are all good places to look. Another option is adding content writing services to your offerings. It’s a huge benefit to a client to be able to hand off drafted content and have someone edit and beautify as they place it in the site. And if you’re really into writing, you can even write a book or e-book on your area of expertise, offering tips, how-to’s, and resources.

3. Design Beyond the Web

For some web designers, logo, ad design and general graphic design are peripheral services or something they don’t offer at all. If this is the case for you, give it a try. You could even think about offering print design services — postcards, brochures, business cards, etc. If you’re successful, you can develop complete branding packages for clients.

4. Pitch Maintenance

It may be time to revisit clients’ websites to see if they’re in need of an update. Consider going through your list and approaching clients to refresh their sites. Perhaps the site has not been touched since the design two years ago, or the client has a new facet of their business to feature, or your design skills have improved since you initially designed the site and you have more to offer the client. Research, prepare and then pitch it.

twitter bird5. Hit Up Social Media

There is a market in the realm of social media of people who want to customize their profile pages on various social media sites. You can design custom backgrounds and landing pages for Twitter users, create custom MySpace themes, and even enhance SEO and graphics for Facebook fan pages. Blog customization is also in demand since many businesses want to create a unified look and feel across all of their online elements.

6. Become an Affiliate

This is probably not a hugely lucrative endeavor, but for some potential steady income, look into becoming an affiliate or reseller for services your clients need, like domain name registration, hosting and shopping cart functionality.

7. Monetize

Another option is monetizing your website and/or blog. Of course, this is not for everyone, but if you can make it work in a tasteful and strategic way, this could be a nice source of passive income. A great read is “10 Ways to Monetize a Design Blog” by Steven Snell on He covers things like selling custom themes and creating a membership blog, as well as the more traditional advertising methods.

8. Diversify

Try looking beyond traditional design services. Do you like to help others? You can offer fee-based mentorship or even an apprenticeship to up-and-comers. Do you have a critical eye for what people can be doing better on their sites? Site analysis services may be the perfect option. Think about other areas you are passionate about and you will probably come up with a few non-design but design-related services you can offer to potential clients.

shaking hands9. Partner Up

If you’re feeling the crunch, chances are your colleagues are, too. Approach another designer or developer to create a partnership. You may find more success by having two (or even a team) of people marketing a larger service base. And don’t limit yourself to other people who do similar work; you may benefit from creating a partnership across many industries — writers, marketers, public relations professionals, and even virtual assistants who have clients in need of design services but no desire or ability to provide it themselves.

Give it some creative thought, and you may be surprised what you come up with to boost your income. I’d love to hear your ideas!

Image credits: Alexander Kalina (money), Sanja Gjenero (shaking hands)

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

    Wonderful ideas! I’d also suggest building a free 7 day or 14 day eclass/course that contains links to your paid resources – the continued exposure to your name helps people remember your brand.

  • Good post Alyssa.

    One thing to add is that web designers – and generally any business – should not cut on marketing during recession. It is an investment instead of cost. When I worked as a web consultant years ago, my friend who was (and is) a web designer and I often referred businesses to each other.

    I can see how we could just partnered up successfully by offering integrated services. Clients who need design often also look for marketing strategist and people who offer technical maintenance of their web sites.

    Offering training is a great way to diversify income, but still many enterprises would prefer outsourcing, so unless web designers have this kind of service, they may end up losing that opportunity to generate more revenue.

    • Hendry – Thanks for your input. Excellent point about maintaining a solid level of marketing during a recession.

  • Great post. There are a couple of good ones there that I just don’t remember to think about.

  • Yes great post. Funnily enough I had started doing or thinking about doing half of those suggestions myself but not because of the recession but just as part of the push I am doing. One I have done lately is “hitting up social media” as I have just got a Twitter account but I particularly like the “offer training” point and training people remotely is not something I had thought of. I also like the “pitch maintenance” one which is arguably likely to be successful quicker since they are your existing clients and your not searching for new ones who don’t know anything about you.

  • dev_cw

    This is a great post. I have been considering a few of those options for myself and some I had not considered. Offering training is a good idea and being to do it remotely is even better.

  • There are a lot of freelance opportunities that is listed online. Only thing you have to seek the right opportunity which matches your skills.

  • Andrew Donnelly

    Hi Alyssa,
    Mikogo is a great free tool for such online trainings. It allows you to share your screen with up to 10 participants over the Web, so you could train groups of clients remotely. All features are included and it’s available for commercial and private use.
    If you’re interested in further info, drop by our site and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


    Andrew Donnelly
    The Mikogo Team

  • Abby

    I use Yugma for web conferencing. It beats WebEx and GoToMeeting for sure in price by a long shot and I also prefer the interface much more. There is a free service and paid service unlike both WebEx and GoToMeeting. I can also go ahead and subscribe for a month and then downgrade for a month when I know I will not be using the service that month. It has saved me a great deal of money! I would highly recommend Yugma as a web conferencing service. It’s also a cross platform service so Windows, Macs, and Linux users can all use Yumga! Yugma also has a Skype Edition, so for all the Skype users out there who like to use VIoP it is a wonderful tool.

  • wildscribe

    Yes. Excellent suggestions. The last time that money and jobs were tight – from 2001 to 2002 – I remember focusing on getting more business from current clients as opposed to looking for new clients. It turned out to be a good move because I picked up several new client referrals from old clients.

    It’s hard to find new clients in a recession. You are better off trying to get more work from old clients. Hopefully, you have a lot of old clients to fall back on.

  • aidanodr

    Re Point 1 – Offer Training,

    I saw alot of you thinking this as a good idea. BUT the point says “Consider offering training services to teach them what they need to know to update their site themselves.” So – “Turkeys voting for Christmas anyone” :D – I recently got asked this – not just updating the site with text and images BUT how much for the company to buy up pro Web design / Graphics software AND for us to train the staff in how to do all the design work in future. In otherwise you quote for all the software and the training to do yourself out of business.

    But what happens when the staff make a dogs dinner of the site? You get called in to fix for free because it was your fault you did not provide adequate training. And while you are sitting in your office with no work they are calling you to ask How do I do this and that with you answering back – for free ..

    Just my two cents