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How to Make Money Building Websites (A Beginner’s Guide)

How to Make Money Building Websites
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The process of building a website is much different today than it was just a few years ago. Thanks to platforms like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify and others, creating custom websites no longer requires advanced coding skills. 

Perhaps you’ve created a website or blog for yourself using one of these platforms and you’ve wondered if it’s a service you could offer to businesses, entrepreneurs and organizations. The answer is yes; it’s possible and realistic to make money building websites without being a professional developer or coder.

Even though anyone can create their own website, many business owners have no idea where to start and would rather hire someone to handle the work for them. That’s where you come in.

Building websites is something you can do as a side hustle or a full-time career, and in either case it’s one of the best ways to make money from home.

Here’s how to get started.

What You Need Before You Start

If you’re interested in making money by building websites for clients, here are the basics that you’ll need:

  • Solid HTML and CSS skills. While you can build websites without coding, it’s helpful to understand the basics of HTML and CSS so you can make customizations as needed. You don’t need advanced skills, but you should be comfortable with the basics so you can do things like customize colors, adjust margins and padding and change font sizes.
  • A portfolio. In order to sell your services, you’ll need a portfolio website to display your best work. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated; your portfolio site should showcase a few work samples, provide details about the services you offer and make it easy for potential clients to get in touch with you. See our guide to creating a freelance portfolio from scratch for step-by-step instructions
  • Familiarity with one or more website building platforms. There are many different platforms and page builder programs/plugins you can use (we’ll cover several throughout this article). It’s best to find one, get to know it well, and use it for all of your client projects. As you gain more experience, you may want to expand beyond a single platform, but you don’t want to spread yourself too thin. Knowing a platform well will allow you to create sites quickly and to do an amazing job for your clients.
  • The ability to create and modify basic graphics. Graphics and images are a big part of web design, so you’ll need to be able to create high-quality graphics to use on client sites. You don’t have to be a world-class designer, but you should be comfortable creating or modifying images in Canva, Photoshop or another similar program.
  • A way to find clients. To make money, you’ll need to be able to land clients. We’ll cover some specific ideas later in this article, and you can also read our article on how to start freelancing to get more ideas related to generating leads and converting those leads into paying clients.

Contrary to what you might be thinking, here’s what you don’t need:

  • Expert-level coding skills. You don’t need to be able to create custom websites from scratch. The platform you’re using will take care of the majority of the coding, and you’ll only need to tweak or customize the code occasionally. 
  • Proficiency with Adobe Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver used to be an industry standard, but modern platforms like Wix and Squarespace replace the need for this software.
  • Extensive graphic design skills. Most of your client projects will involve working from a template or using a drag-and-drop builder. You’ll need basic graphic design skills to create a good-looking site, but you don’t need to be a professional graphic designer.

Website building platforms and templates have progressed to the point that they’re the most practical option for many projects. Web designer Sparsh Gambhir says that anyone with a general grasp of web design basics can quickly create great-looking websites. 

“Once a theme or template is selected, the journey is pretty straightforward, uploading the assets (images, videos or audio) and editing the text,” he says. “Throughout this, not once do we need to edit the code. I use templates or themes to design websites for my clients even though I have five years of coding experience.”

Top Five Web Design Niches for Beginners

It’s a good idea to take a specialized approach and target a specific niche. Here are some of the options available.

#1. Lead Generation Sites

Leads are the lifeblood of many small businesses. Rather than creating full websites for clients, you could specialize in creating lead generation pages (or landing pages). This could be a single page that will be added to an existing website, or it could be a simple one-page site.

Your clients might need a landing page to use with a specific advertisement. For example, a local chiropractor may want to run a Facebook ad and needs a lead generation page that allows visitors to enter their contact information.

It could also be a landing page used to collect email addresses with the intent of selling a digital product to people once they’re on the list. 

There are many different possibilities here and businesses will always have a need for lead generation or landing pages. 

Here are a couple of real-world examples:

  • Flea Market Flipper uses a waitlist lead generation page to build an email list and create anticipation.
  • Club Thrifty uses a simple landing page to promote a free webinar.

Platforms for Creating Landing Pages

While you can use just about any page builder to create lead generation or landing pages, there are some platforms that have been created specifically for this purpose. If you want to focus on this niche, mastering one of these platforms will increase your earning potential.

  • ClickFunnels: A feature-rich platform for creating landing pages, email funnels, sales pages, upsell pages, membership pages and more.
  • LeadPages: You can build full websites with LeadPages, but lead generation and landing pages are its specialty. 
  • Unbounce: Similar to LeadPages, Unbounce allows you to create beautiful landing pages without the need to code. In fact, The Ways To Wealth’s founder R.J. Weiss earned $180 per hour creating Unbounce pages, as he details in our guide to finding a freelance niche.
  • OptimizePress: This WordPress plugin makes it easy to create all kinds of landing pages for selling or generating leads. You can also create funnels and integrate with all the popular email marketing platforms.

Lead Pages are Ideal for Targeting Local Businesses

If you want to offer your services to small businesses in your local area, specializing in lead generation and landing pages is a great option. 

With your help, businesses will be able to easily promote their products and services or build a list of potential clients.

You could approach a local restaurant about creating a landing page to be used with a Facebook ad campaign, or pitch your services to a local realtor to create a lead generation page to be used with a postcard mailing campaign. 

The possibilities are endless and it’s easy for clients to see how their business would benefit.

#2. Turnkey Sites Based on Squarespace and Wix

Another excellent option is to offer full websites for small businesses and organizations. Believe it or not, there are still many businesses out there that need a website, and even more that could use a complete overhaul of their existing site.

Thanks to platforms like Squarespace and Wix, you can build a full website for a client relatively quickly and easily. These platforms are inexpensive to use, meaning you can offer small businesses an affordable price and still make a decent amount of money for your time. 

Although these are complete websites, they’re probably fairly simple. The specifics will depend on the industry or the specific business that you’re working with, but a typical small business site might include:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Contact page
  • Services page
  • Work or portfolio page

These platforms offer a wide selection of pre-designed templates that have been created for specific types of websites and businesses in certain industries. You can use these templates as a starting point and customize them as needed to offer a high-quality website for a fraction of the price that a designer/developer would charge to create a custom site from scratch.

You’ll be taking information provided by the client and putting it into the template, along with some photos or graphics that you may need to design.

Pricing Your Sites

If you offer turnkey websites, you can easily create packages and offer flat pricing to your clients, as opposed to charging per hour. For example, you might offer to create a five-page website for a fee of $1,000. You can create different packages at various price points to allow clients to choose something that meets their needs and fits within their budget.

By productizing your pricing, you give clients much more clarity about exactly what they’ll get and how much they’ll have to pay for it. Most clients prefer this to hourly pricing, since they don’t know how many hours it will take you to complete their project.

Productizing also has benefits for you. There’s no need to spend countless hours creating proposals or estimates, which reduces the time you spend on leads that never actually become paying clients. You can also close more deals thanks to the added clarity and simplicity.

#3. Customized WordPress Sites

WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), and for good reason. You can use WordPress for just about any type of website, and with thousands of high-quality themes and plugins, creating custom WordPress-powered websites is easier than ever.

Platforms like Squarespace and Wix are ideal for simple websites, but WordPress offers more flexibility. If you want to help clients create a highly customized site, it may be the right choice. 

Thankfully, there are themes and plugins that give you plenty of design and layout control to create a custom site without the need to code anything. 

You can purchase a premium WordPress theme for $50 to $100 and use it to create a website that would easily cost $20,000 or more if created from scratch. 

Here are some of the tools and resources you may want to consider for creating customized WordPress websites.

Elegant Themes

This popular theme developer offers two WordPress themes and three plugins. Both of their themes, Divi and Extra, use the Divi Builder to give you full creative freedom. Use the visual drag-and-drop builder to create beautiful, customized sites without the need to code. You can also use the Divi Builder plugin to get similar design and layout capabilities with sites using other themes.

Elegant Themes offers their themes and plugins through a membership model, with pricing around $100 per year or around $250 for lifetime access. This is an outstanding value to start with, but the license allows you to use the themes and plugins on an unlimited number of websites, including client projects, which makes it one of the best values you’ll find anywhere.

Thrive Theme Builder

Thrive Themes offers a visual builder called Thrive Theme Builder. You can use it to create completely customized websites without any coding. They also offer a collection of excellent plugins for various purposes. 

You can get access to Thrive Suite, which includes the theme builder and all of their plugins, for around $225 per year. This license allows you to use the products on up to 25 websites.

Elementor

Elementor is an extremely popular page builder plugin that can be used to design individual websites or to create custom themes. It’s a visual builder that comes with many templates for full page designs and specific elements that can be used as building blocks to create custom sites.

A limited free version of the plugin is available if you want to try it out, but you’ll need one of the paid plans to access features used for building websites for clients. Pricing varies depending on the number of websites you’ll be creating. You can use Elementor on up to 25 websites for around $200 per year.

YellowPencil

YellowPencil is a WordPress plugin that can be used to customize the design of a site, regardless of what theme the site is using. Easily change colors, control fonts, and even customize layouts — all from the front end and without knowing a single line of code. 

While it doesn’t offer the ability to create custom themes, it’s a great option for making customizations to themes you purchase elsewhere.

A limited free version is available, or you can pay around $25 per site for a license to YellowPencil Pro.

ThemeForest

ThemeForest is the biggest marketplace for WordPress themes. If you need a specific type of theme for a client website, chances are you can find it at ThemeForest. 

The themes you’ll find here tend to be more complex and feature-rich than the options above, which usually offer a more bare-bones canvas. That can be a plus and minus, in that they allow you to present a more polished product to your client but can be significantly more difficult to customize. 

Additionally, themes sold on ThemeForest are sold on a per-site basis — meaning you’ll need to buy a separate license each time you want to use a particular theme.

#4. E-Commerce Sites for Shopify

Shopify is the leading platform for creating e-commerce websites. With a wide selection of quality themes (some free and some premium), getting a professional-looking e-commerce site online is pretty straightforward. However, many business owners have absolutely no idea how to do it, so you could easily build a business around this service.

This is also a very lucrative niche, as e-commerce websites tend to cost more than other types of small business websites. You could approach local businesses that don’t have e-commerce capabilities with their current website and offer your services to get them set up.

Additionally, many of your clients will need ongoing help for adding new products, creating promotions, updating images, etc. Of course, they could do all of this on their own with Shopify, but many will prefer to hire someone to handle those details for them. 

#5. Ad Hoc Design Work

The last option we’ll look at is to offer services for small design work or website tweaks and fixes. With this option, you might price your services based on the particular work you’re doing (such as $100 to create a customized privacy policy page), or you may prefer to charge hourly.

You can find countless possibilities by browsing the freelance marketplace Fiverr

Here are a few examples of gigs for specific services you could offer that we found on Fiverr:

With this type of approach, you’ll be working with a greater number of clients and doing a smaller amount of work for each one. 

Tips For New Website Designers

If you’re interested in getting started, here are a few helpful tips to put you on the right track.

Tip #1: Choose a Niche

Rather than taking a general approach, choose a specific niche. The specialized approach allows you to provide more clarity about the exact services you offer and the benefits for your customers. You’ll also be able to brand yourself as an expert since you’re specialized in a particular area. 

Clients looking for help with setting up an e-commerce website will view a specialized provider as more of an expert than a general web designer. The same is true for clients who need a landing page, or any other type of design work.

Choosing a niche also helps you to identify your ideal client so you can focus your marketing efforts. Knowing the types of clients you want to serve, you can find where they hang out and connect with them or focus your advertising appropriately.

Think about the existing knowledge and experience you already have and see if there’s a way to turn that into a specialization. You could focus on a particular type of product (e-commerce website, lead generation page, small business website, etc.), or focus on a particular industry (websites for realtors, for example).

Tip #2: Productize Your Services 

We touched on this earlier in the article, but it’s worth pointing out again. Productizing your service is an excellent way to add clarity to what you offer and allow customers to choose exactly what fits their needs and budget. And it also saves you a lot of time on proposals and estimates.

Many of the niches and services that we’ve looked at could be very easily turned into a product. For example, you could offer to design and set up a custom lead generation page for $400. Or, you could offer to create an e-commerce website selling 25 products for $1,500. 

With any of these services, you’ll want to offer several different packages to give clients options, and be very specific about exactly what is included and any limitations that apply.

Promoting and selling your services is easier when there’s a clear price and when the client knows exactly what they’ll get. You can also create and price packages in a way that encourages clients to purchase higher-priced options, which increases the amount of money you’ll make. 

Tip #3: Determine How Much Ongoing Support Is Included

It’s important to understand that many clients will need some sort of help or assistance after the project is complete. If you build a website for a client, you may wind up getting a lot of questions or requests for help over the next few months. You need to plan for this and account for it in your pricing and your policies.

Although some level of support is inevitable, there are several steps you can take to drastically reduce the amount of time you spend on this, including:

  • Create documentation for your clients. Provide written or video tutorials and guides that answer all of the common questions and provide clients with the instructions and education they need. This is especially practical if the majority of your projects are very similar, like if you’re using one platform consistently. If you build e-commerce websites for clients using Shopify, you could create a series of video tutorials that show how to maintain the site.
  • Include some training in your packages and pricing. You could offer something specific, like two offers of consulting through video conferencing. This will allow clients to get answers to their questions, and you get compensated for your time by factoring it into the price.
  • Offer ongoing maintenance packages. This is another way to productize your services and it’s ideal for stabilizing your income with ongoing clients. You can offer different packages that include a set number of hours of work each month or specific tasks (like creating a set number of graphics) for a monthly fee. It provides you with income and gives your clients an option if they need ongoing help.

By building websites, you’re working in an industry that changes very quickly. The website may work properly when the project is completed, but a year later, it may require some kind of update (for example, a WordPress plugin that needs to be updated or replaced). 

Regardless of what specific service you’re offering or what niche you choose, it’s a good idea to specify the details of your ongoing support in the packages you offer. There should be a limit to the support you’ll provide and a clear end to the scope of the project.

Beyond that, you should have a fee for ongoing support, such as an hourly rate. Otherwise, you may have clients that keep reaching out to you every week for something small, and you’ll waste a lot of time.

Where to Find Resources

Here are some tools and resources that can help you to get started.

Improve Your Design Skills 

If you’re looking to improve your design skills before working with clients, there are plenty of courses that can help. Here are a few good options.

  • Graphic Design Masterclass: This detailed course is an excellent option for beginners who want to develop design skills.
  • Web Development Fundamentals of HTML and CSS: Learn coding basics that you’ll use to customize and tweak sites for your clients.
  • Udemy: You can find courses on just about any aspect of design or development at Udemy. Choose what you want to learn and find a course that teaches it.

Find Clients

When you’re ready to get started, here are a few options for finding clients.

  • Upwork: Clients list their projects on Upwork and you can offer a bid and pitch your services. There’s a lot of competition, so you’ll have to work on your skills with pitching and promoting your services to secure clients. However, Upwork is an endless source of leads and if you’re effective at pitching your services, you can land a lot of work. Here’s our guide to getting your first job on Upwork, plus seven Upwork tips for beginners.
  • Fiverr: Set up a profile at Fiverr and create specific gigs to offer your services to clients. You can also create variations and different price points so clients can get exactly what they need. In the past, Fiverr was used almost exclusively for low-priced services, but don’t let that deter you. Today, there are plenty of freelancers making a great income from Fiverr. Check out our guide on how to make money on Fiverr to learn more about using the platform.
  • Facebook groups can be extremely valuable for connecting with potential clients. Look for groups that are popular with the types of clients you’re targeting. You could use groups for businesses in your local area or groups on specific topics like e-commerce or online business. Instead of aggressively promoting your services through the group, become part of the community and let clients come to you more naturally.

Get Templates

Looking for templates you can use for your clients’ websites? Here are some of the leading options.

  • ThemeForest: A popular marketplace that offers themes and templates from thousands of different sellers. You can find WordPress themes, e-commerce themes/templates, landing page templates and more.
  • Shopify Themes: Shopify is the leading e-commerce platform and it’s the ideal choice if you want to offer e-commerce websites to your clients. Shopify’s website includes a theme directory where you can find a large collection of free and premium themes to use on client websites. Most of the premium themes cost $140-$180.
  • TemplateMonster: Like ThemeForest, this is another place to find a wide variety of themes and templates. They have HTML templates, WordPress themes, Shopify themes, and themes/templates for other content management systems.

Get Photos, Videos and Other Assets

You’ll always need quality images and graphics for your projects, so here are some resources for finding these assets.

  • Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay: There are a growing number of websites offering free stock photos, but these three are the leaders. You can find quality photos that are free for personal and commercial use.
  • Canva: A free web-based design platform (they also offer paid plans). It’s user-friendly and surprisingly capable. Canva also has a huge selection of templates you can use, like graphics for all of the popular social media networks.
  • Envato Elements: This subscription-based website offers unlimited downloads of millions of creative resources like fonts, graphics, photos, stock videos, sound clips, and more.

Final Thoughts

Building websites for clients is a legit side hustle option, and it can also be grown into a lucrative full-time online business. You don’t have to be a professional designer or coder to build quality websites for clients, thanks to the powerful platforms and versatile templates and themes available.

If you have some experience creating a website or blog for yourself, turning this experience into a business could be an ideal option for you.

Despite the fact that even people who aren’t tech savvy can create their own website, many business owners and entrepreneurs simply don’t have the time or desire to learn how to do it. As a service provider, you can step in and do the work for them.

By following the tips covered in this article, you can start your business on a solid foundation. You’ll be able to start making money as soon as you land your first client.

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Marc Andre is a personal finance blogger at Vital Dollar, where he writes about saving, managing and making money. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and two kids, and has been a full-time blogger and internet marketer since 2008.

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