Key Takeaways from 25 Years of Freelancing

Embarking on a career as a freelance web designer means embracing uncertainty. It requires booking enough gigs to stay financially stable and weathering the ups and downs of the industry. Most importantly, it involves adapting to a constantly changing landscape.

As I reflect on my 25th anniversary as a freelance web designer in 2024, I am astonished and amused. When I started my business in 1999, I had no milestones in mind. My goals were simple: apply what I had learned from working for others and do things my way. Longevity was not a priority for me as a 21-year-old.

Despite the odds, I am still working with clients today, some of whom have been with me for the entire 25 years. In light of this milestone, I want to share some valuable lessons I have learned that I hope will help others in this ever-changing industry.

Firstly, you can run your business your way. In a competitive field like freelance web design, it’s easy to look at your peers and try to keep up with them. However, blending in won’t make you stand out. Instead, think about what you want to accomplish and build your business accordingly. Make choices based on your preferences, the technologies you want to use, your ideal work environment, and your desired work schedule. Don’t be afraid to showcase your personality and do things differently. By doing so, you position yourself for long-term happiness.

Secondly, change will happen when the time is right. The web design industry has evolved significantly over the past 25 years, with new tools and techniques emerging constantly. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and left behind. However, I’ve found that changes occur organically. There will be a time when making a change makes sense, whether it’s because you’ve outgrown your current workflow or because a project requires a different approach. Don’t force yourself into changing; instead, take action when it feels right.

Thirdly, make time for personal and professional growth. As a busy freelancer, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with projects and prioritize making money and crossing items off your to-do list. However, it’s important to remember that your mental fitness is crucial for creativity and productivity. Schedule time away from work for rest and relaxation. Additionally, invest in education to learn new skills or improve existing ones. Being mindful of your time and allowing yourself to rest and grow will benefit you in the long run.

Next, be careful who you work with. While it may be tempting to accept every gig that comes your way, freelancing is a long-term commitment. Consider the type of client you want to work with and the projects that align with your business goals. Avoid difficult clients or projects that don’t fit your expertise or revenue requirements. Being choosy with your clients will save you headaches in the future.

Furthermore, customer service makes all the difference. In a saturated market, standing out as a web designer goes beyond technical skills. Providing top-notch customer service will set you apart from your competitors. Answer client inquiries promptly and politely, be honest in your project assessments, explain technical concepts clearly, listen to your clients’ needs, maintain open communication, and deliver on your promises. Investing in customer service will pay dividends in the long run.

Lastly, the freelance experience is what you make it. Freelancing requires effort and starting from the ground up. However, it also offers the opportunity to define your vision for success and craft a plan to achieve your goals. It may not be suitable for everyone, but for those willing to make the commitment, it is possible to succeed as a freelancer.

As I look ahead to the future of freelancing, I am hopeful based on my experiences so far. Whether freelancing will still be a part of my life in another 25 years remains to be seen. But wherever you are in your freelance journey, I wish you good luck and encourage you to make the most of the opportunity. Celebrate your milestones and keep going. You’ve earned it!