Today we have a guest post from Beck Beach of the side hustle blog MomBeach.com.
Beck has done something I was really impressed with — started a side hustle from scratch and used it to pay off over $78K in debt in just one year.
The side hustle?
Your goals might not be quite that lofty, but freelancing as a web designer can be a great way to earn a solid side income, and is one of the best ways to earn $500 without a traditional job.
In this post, I asked Beck to share her inspirational story, plus everything there is to know about how to make money building websites.
How to Make Money Building Websites
It was back in 1998 and I was first getting my feet wet in the world of the wide web.
I was amazed at the vast array of knowledge at my fingertips that was now available.
My father was a special education teacher at my high school so I had access to his classroom’s computers during lunchtime.
I was a shy and introverted teen that had very few friends so was very thankful when I discovered online chat rooms and forums.
These chat rooms were using something called a Java Applet to run and were usually hosted on a free site such as Geocities or Angelfire. If you saved the website as a JPG back then, then the ads would not pop up, which was a popular thing people were doing to make their chat room websites look more professional.
In the chat room I frequented one day, this guy was bragging about how he made thousands of dollars a month making websites for people online.
I was astonished because I thought you could only make money from a 9 to 5 job after spending 4 years in college. How could it be that people were making money without having to do that?
In the following 5 steps, I turned this chance encounter into a money making business.
Step #1: Where To Learn How To Design Websites
The guy who talked about how he made all this money online by making websites turned out to be pretty cool. He told me to right click on the chat website I was on and then go to “view source”, so I did.
What I saw was a bunch of jumbled letters and numbers that made no sense whatsoever to me. I told him so and he laughed at me, calling me a “n00b”.
While, I didn’t appreciate being laughed at, I was intrigued to learn more about how to make websites. I devoured every online resource I could find. There wasn’t that many sites online then that were devoted to teaching HTML and CSS, but I learned from what I could find.
Today, there are an abundance of free and paid sites where you can learn HTML and CSS.
What if I told you that you don’t even need to know HTML or CSS to get started?
Because of various free software platforms like the following, you no longer need to know HTML and CSS in order to design websites.
- WordPress – There are so many free and paid themes like StudioPress for WordPress so you can easily create a beautiful mobile-friendly website easily. The customization is relatively simple too so anyone can start making money online by designing WordPress websites.
- Wix -This is a drag and drop editor so it is even more simple to create stunning websites for free. There is a paid version that will remove the ads that Wix places on your site. I have created many websites using Wix so that the customer could edit it themselves later on.
- Squarespace – I don’t know much about Squarespace because I have never used it, but I hear it is a lot like WordPress.
All of these options are great because a client can edit the website themselves without needing your help!
You can use any of these to create your own online portfolio to show to clients with ease.
Step #2: How To Create A Portfolio Website and Business
I used Adobe Photoshop to design my first portfolio website in order to display all of the websites and chat rooms I created.
Adobe Photoshop is extremely expensive, but there are several free and low cost design tools available:
You could also use Wrap Bootstrap to find cheap ready made templates to use for your portfolio if you wanted to get it up and running quickly.
Again, if you don’t have any coding knowledge, then you could use WordPress, Squarespace or Wix to build your portfolio website. It is really easy to get started all of these platforms as they have a simple to use interface. Hosting your WordPress site with BlueHost is reliable and costs less than a cup of coffee a month.
Step #3: Finding Clients
As my website business grew, I started getting emails from actual businesses that wanted their websites created too. Paypal was how I was getting paid online and I still use it to this day.
I was finally making money online and I felt fantastic!
However, my father constantly preached on and on that going to college was the only way to succeed in life. I was then forced to go, even though I already had a viable trade in creating websites.
My major was graphic design in college, but I couldn’t find a single graphic design job that would hire me upon graduation.
I would send out countless resumes to every company in town but was told, “You have no experience”. It was hopeless!
I also now had over 30k in school loan debt, which I had to start paying now that I graduated.
Thankfully, I had been keeping up with my website design business while in school so was able to still make money online. When you know how to design websites you will never go hungry, as it is a highly desired skill in today’s market.
You may be wondering how such an introverted person like me found clients. I will explain that in the next step.
It is now 2019 and I still make money online making websites!
#1. Local Businesses
Have you ever searched for a local business like a restaurant and the website looked hideous? The mobile version of the site probably needed work too I bet!
What I do is reach out to those businesses through their “contact us” pages on their websites and respond:
Dear Owner of (Business here),
Hello! Today is your lucky day. I’d like to give you a discount on my web design services. My name is Beck and I have a local business designing websites. You can see my portfolio at BeckBeach.com.
I noticed that your website is outdated and the mobile version of your site is also hard to navigate. If you had a beautifully designed modern website, then it would help you bring in more customers.
Let me know if I can be of service to you!
It is also a good idea to visit the business in person too and leave a business card for the owner, but I don’t do this because I am extremely shy.
Another way I find clients is through LinkedIn. I have over 8k connections on that site and am still growing. I suggest you build up your connections by spending your free time connecting with people.
What I do is look for connections that are job seekers and business owners, not recruiters. A recruiter might want a website I guess, but I haven’t had any luck with them. Recruiters usually want to sell you on a job, not want a website designed.
Then, I connect with those people. LinkedIn will give you the option of sending a note along with your connection request. I use this opportunity to introduce myself and my services.
The note I send is limited to a certain amount of characters so I have to be brief, yet persuasive to sell my skills.
I will post something along the lines of:
Hello (Name)! Are you looking to get ahead of the competition with a professional website? This can really further your (business or job search prospects). Let me know if interested! My portfolio is BeckBeach.com.
#3 & 4. Finding Clients on Upwork and Fiverr
If you want clients to contact you instead of having to do all the work yourself, then consider joining Upwork and Fiverr!
I have freelanced on both and can always find a steady stream of clients.
I prefer Upwork because clients will pay you more money and there is less competition than Fiverr.
In school I learned graphic design so I will mainly use Fiverr for logo commissions from time to time.
It is super easy to sign up with either Upwork or Fiverr, just make an account and start offering your services.
If you ask for reviews after you are finished with client work, it helps build up a reputation. This is very important because clients usually won’t leave reviews unless you ask them.
#5. Networking Events
If you are a people person, then attending networking events using MeetUp is a great idea. I’m a shy introvert so I prefer contacting clients over the phone and online the best. Do what works for you!
In Meetup, search for local business groups and make it a priority to join any meetings they offer.
Be extremely friendly and pass out a business card to everyone that you are able to connect with. VistaPrint is awesome to use if you don’t have a business card yet.
Step #4: Deciding How Much To Charge a Client
Never post a price sheet when you are first starting out. Instead, ask the client what their budget is and say you will work with them on it. This way you can see if you will be lowballed or not. If you are, then you can choose to pass on the client and find another one if you’d like.
You can also go to Upwork and Fiverr and see how much other web designers with your experience level are charging. With these figures in mind, you can start to craft a price sheet if you desire.
Many web designers charge an hourly rate of at least $50 hourly but I like to charge a flat fee for the entire project. I ask for all of the money up front because I have been cheated in the past!
I don’t have a price sheet myself and don’t really like them.
Instead, I choose to work with the client’s budget to meet individual needs. If I start getting too much business then I will ask for more money.
How To Get Paid For Web Design Services
Some ways to get paid for designing websites online or in person are:
- Paypal – I use Paypal myself because there are built in invoices that I can send directly to the client’s email.
- Square – If you have an iPhone, Android or other smartphone, then you can plug in this credit card reader to get paid in person or use the service online.
- Stripe – I have used Stripe to get paid when dropshipping on Shopify so highly recommend this fast payment method.
How To Handle Client Rejection
Not every person will respond favorably to you. A rule of thumb is to expect 90% rejection because this is a numbers game. The more people you contact online or meet in person, the more chance you have at getting business.
Don’t take it personally if you get a negative response! Just thank the person for their time and move on to the next opportunity.
Take their rejection as a positive learning experience.
What can you improve upon next time when pitching a new client? Are you charging too much? Is your sales tactic all wrong?
Learn, learn, learn from each experience.
Step #5: Start A Business Blog
If you used WordPress as your portfolio website, then you could start a business blog to bring in more customers. Just write articles that are user-focused and solve problems.
An example is a blog post about how to get more customers. You could advertise that your web design services are the solution to that problem since every company needs a professional online presence.
People will then use Google to search “how to get more customers” and your blog post may come up if you had implemented correct SEO practices.
By having a business blog, you open yourself up to a ton of digital marketing services you can also offer clients, such as content marketing. Due to managing my own blog and dropshipping businesses I now can offer clients Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram marketing too.
Summary: How to Make Money Building Websites
What I love most about designing websites is the ability for people all over the world to see my work! It is exhilarating and something I am highly passionate about.
Anyone can get started with their own website design business. All you need to pay upfront is the cost of hosting your portfolio website, which you can accomplish easily with BlueHost.
Most business ventures require that you pay hundreds or thousands of dollars just to get started.
Bio: Beck Beach is a web and UX designer with over 20 years of experience. She has paid off over 74k in debt through side hustles such as web design, blogging at MomBeach.com and dropshipping. Beck lives in Texas with her husband and 3 year old son, Bryan.