Before You Start A WordPress Web Design Business, Read This

Last Updated on September 14, 2022 by 85 Comments

Before You Start A WordPress Web Design Business, Read This
Blog / Editorial / Before You Start A WordPress Web Design Business, Read This

Freelancing in WordPress can take many avenues. Some might seem easier than others. Certainly some are more lucrative than others. All of them require customer interaction of some sort. But they’re not all created equal.

I can’t speak for many of the paths people have been able to pave making a living off of WordPress.

But I can tell you that when deciding to freelance or start a business with WordPress web design and development, there are things you should know beforehand. Things people don’t like talking about that often.

However, I think if you’ve decided to go out on your own, away from the pressures of a full time job, you’re probably doing it for a change in lifestyle. Whatever that means to you. No boss to listen to, more time with family and friends (that’s a joke when freelancing in web design by the way), the ‘four-hour work week’ (never take that literally, and do check emails on days other than Mondays), more potential income, or whatever.

You made the decision, it’s probably valid, and I hope you did your research before you decided to get into this. Yes, pick a target market, have a financial plan, strategize your product, blah blah blah blah.

Do all that stuff. I had to.

(I never followed it though. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t a valuable exercise.)

“Joyce, get to your point.”

Ok. I will.

The point is: the lifestyle you’re imagining may not turn out as you think it will. There are lots of unexpected lessons to learn, which can actually turn out for the better. Eventually.

I’m going to write about some of the stuff that might hit you like a deer in the headlights when you get started in WordPress web design as an income-generating, food-on-the-table type of business.

I hope this helps. But be extra warned: most of this has to be learned through the school of hard knocks anyway.

1) Freelancing is not a vacation

My goodness. This is a tough one to come to terms with.

Ok, first of all, yes, you can work from anywhere (sort of), as a freelance web designer.

I think this is the type of subject you bring up with non-freelancers and they go, “oh I’ll bet it’s hard work running your own business.”

But secretly they might be thinking you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, especially by the looks of your Facebook timeline. Not true.

Or their eyes start to glaze and they begin staring at something behind you because they don’t know what you’re talking about when you describe how much work it is to be an entrepreneur.

People who haven’t done freelance or started a business before probably won’t ‘get’ this. As Chris Lema has said, it takes hustle to do this. A lot of it. And though he says you can sleep at night knowing you’ve done a good job after you’ve hustled, I think that’s not the case at the beginning.

At the beginning, your whole life is consumed with your business. It has to be.

You go to bed reading business books.  Going out for lunch with friends starts to feel like a waste of billable hours. You think about a project or client while you’re driving or taking a shower, and that’s usually when things finally ‘click’ and light bulbs turn on above your head. You stop caring about what your clothes look like because you consider the ROI of any purchase you make (which is the business mindset creeping into your personal life).

But Chris is right in this sense: You look around at other people with regular day jobs and think, “wow, how do they make time for board games and pot lucks and still sleep well at night knowing how unproductive they’ve been with those hours? I’ve got things to produce right now.”

Ok, maybe it’s just me. But I think the start is like that for a lot of first-time entrepreneurs. It’s a drug. And it’s hard to realize, as a freelancer (especially in web design or any anti-social, computer-staring type of industry), your work life and your personal life are hard to separate.

It is a SKILL to learn how to force yourself to take a break. Your list of things to do will never end. There will always be tasks to get done. Always.

It takes hustle (I’m hijacking that word). But it also takes learning to let go sometimes.

If you are the kind of person that has to force yourself to start thinking about taking weekends off, you might be hustling too much. But if you’re not that kind of person, you might not be hustling enough. I think it takes a certain personality and drive to be an entrepreneur in this industry.

Why this industry especially? Oh the reasons are plenty, but basically it boils down to constant client management. Clients take up a lot of time. That leaves a lot less time for growing your business and scaling your product.

2) Every sale has a different value, even if prices are equal (and you can’t control this)

I’ll admit, I know the feeling of wanting to ignore the forewarnings I’m about to give you. People give all kinds of advice when you start your business. But at the start, you are mostly concerned with making the sale. That’s ok. Sales are your best source of cash flow. Do what you need to do to make sales (without scamming people).

But pretty soon you’ll realize not all sales are equal. That’s part of learning how to be a business owner.

The dollar amounts of one project compared to another might be the same on paper, but the value of those dollars can change.

If you are working too hard for your dollars, they are not worth the ink they’re written with on the cheques you’ll receive (yes some people still use cheques, believe it or not).

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard. You can pick how hard you want to work. Some people thrive on work. So I’m not even going to say ‘work smarter’ (though that’s what a lot of business books aim to help you with, genuinely so).

But think of things like:

How many hours did it take you to make the sale?

Account that into your pricing, or learn how to shorten the time it takes. In my experience, the longer I spend on a sale, the less likely I’ll win the contract.

I don’t participate in Requests For Proposals (RFPs). Did that once, never doing it again. What a stupid idea in the business world, designed to get you to work for free for someone who should do their own research instead of making you do it for them, so they can steal your ideas and award their money to someone else they wanted to work with from the start anyway (like their unqualified chum).

If you are spending a lot of time doing research for a client before they pay you for a project, don’t. Just don’t. If they want to find out if a special plugin or weird, little-known system can integrate with the website they might buy from you, let them figure it out, or charge them for your research consulting time.

Of the projects you’ve done to date, how much of that time was spent communicating with your client, versus actually doing the work?

You have to account for that time. Time is your only currency.

Every client will take up a different amount of time. Humans are all different, and clients are going to be different too. You are entering the people business.

Now are you starting to see how some projects can take longer than others? That affects the value of the project to you. It’s not just a price point you need to be concerned about.

Keep reading; there’s more.

How will this project help you get more projects?

Aaaah. Bet you never thought of THAT. The work you do now is going to go in your portfolio. Do you know what your portfolio does? It demonstrates what you can do for new clients.

If you have a difficult client, one that is making bad design requests, or asking for the impossible, then this is not going to value you as much as the work where you get to strut your stuff.

Also, your credit! This is essential. Your link in the footer, a testimonial, the acknowledgement of your work on a team (if you worked under an agency brand), your right to use your work in design contests and portfolios; all of that is important.

If a client doesn’t want to give you any leeway in those areas, remember you can take the job for the one-time paycheck, but this project won’t be as valuable to you as the ones that can multiply your work sources later. You need to think of your future.

How can this project help you raise your prices later?

Yes, projects can multiply your value.

If the demand for your services go up, due to your sparkly portfolio, you can start charging more, and rightfully so.

One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten when starting my business was from a successful web designer. She said it in passing at a networking party. I asked her the secret to her success. You know what she said?

“Do good work.”

That left a huge impression on me. If I can’t do a good job on a project, I won’t take it. Money and sales are ok to go for in the beginning, but after you’ve got your financial footing, put less emphasis on making the sale, and more emphasis on spending what it takes to make your end product better.

THEN, when you are not only awesome, but can prove it, you can raise your prices.

Why? Your demand will go up.

Don’t raise your prices for no good reason, like many people tell you to (or because you have a nice office). Customers aren’t idiots. If you are doing lazy work, it will begin to show that you are not worth your price. Do you know how many sales leads I get coming to me because someone else did a bad job? Yes, even ‘big name’ agencies can disappoint their customers, who see through the mirage eventually.

Don’t get lazy. Don’t aim to be ‘big’ just for the money and think you can keep doing things the way you have been for the last 10 years.

Show you are valuable.

3) You don’t actually get to do the work you wanted to do

You need help, and the first step is admitting that, as always.

If you think you are going into web design because you love designing websites, think again. That’s not what you’ll be doing. Unless you want to give up sleeping, eating and showering.

When you decide to go out on your own, you have to realize that you will have two options: you can work in your business or work on your business.  I didn’t come up with that up on my own. Type it into Google and you’ll get plenty of awesome articles about it, like this one.

In a more complicated way, the everyman’s business book, The E-Myth, touches on this too. And, as its author, Michael Gerber, says,

“The technical work of a business and a business that does that technical work are two totally different things!”

So what does that mean? It means if you chose to work in your business – as in, actually doing all the web design yourself, you’ll become ‘enslaved,’ as one columnist put it.

How do you get out of this rut? You can do what Tim Ferris said in that book you love, The 4-Hour Workweek, and start outsourcing. If you want to get into the nitty gritty of how to hire remotely, check out Shane Pearlman’s stuff, he talks about this. It’s not an easy thing to figure out (I’ve learned the hard way).

In short, you need to start learning how to hire people to not only do what you are not good at, but even the things you are good at. You won’t be able to scale without applying this lesson. If everything depends on you, your income potential will be capped – and that’s one of the main reasons you decided to escape your day job in the first place, right?

Word of the wise though, before you start hiring, listen to what David Heinemeier of 37 Signals said in the bestselling business book, Rework:

“You should never hire anyone for something you haven’t first struggled to do on your own.”

Why? Here is more on that. You basically need to understand the job you’re hiring for so you can manage it later.

It’s hard to decide to hire out at first because you might think you’ll make less if you do that. That’s true, you’ll make less per hour, per client. But if you play your cards right, you’ll be able to increase the volume of clients you serve per hour, which means you can make more while working less, eventually.

So why freelance in web design at all?

Oh there are many rewards to being a freelancer, especially in the exciting, ever-evolving world of WordPress and web design. You thought right when you thought about changing your lifestyle – you were on to something.

One of my business advisors described it like this to me: when you are an entrepreneur, you have ‘levers.’ The first lever is time. The second is money. The third is control.

You might not get all three in equal parts – but the beauty is that you can apply your own levers. You can balance out what you want most out of your career.

And that’s why we do this crazy thing called freelancing.

Article thumbnail image by Bplanet /


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  1. You took what was in my heart and mind, and you put it on paper.
    Great article, and I couldn’t have said it better!

  2. Hi Joyce, great article. I have been freelancing for 4 years and I totally agree with this post. It does not make sense to do a full-time freelancing.

  3. Hello Joyce, very good article. I cant seem to find an answer on the WordPress website and thats how I found your post. Anyway, im looking at eventually having my own website design business as a freelancer for now nd cant find info on how wordpress is used for a business. So if I can find clients to make websites for, how does wordpress let me do that?

  4. With a focus on custom IT solutions, including web design and development, SEO, SEM, analytics, social strategy and conversion optimization in wordpress or any other medium, freelancer is not the solution that your business needs.AS said in the blog by Joyce I agree with her opinion that for any project a team is required to get the desired results.

  5. Joyce,

    Get article starting a business is not easy, started my first company in 1978 at the age of 17. Have only work for one company since then for a year.
    I like the saying if it was easy everyone would be doing it!

    I just got done after years in development – to offer a turn key website template business at
    After running a website business for over 18 years now, we felt if we put together all the tools we used and offer others to build off our experience we could bring an amazing product to the entrepreneur. It will be interesting if the idea is excepted since we are the first to offer a service like this!

  6. Great article, this is just what i was looking for. I consider starting my own wordpress business soon, and i’m looking for all the information i can find before i get started.

  7. Rally great information you have shared here that gives very good understanding for freelance web designing. Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Hey Joyce! Thank you for all this information 😀

    I am getting into web development, just starting out, and I found your article very helpful. Do you have tips regarding the right pricing, and business contracts? Or some other resources?

    Thanks again!

  9. Haha such an amazing article! I thought it was only me that felt addicted to work! This has really opened my eyes to what is possible and I will be implementing everything you have said. The best part for me is that I am sat in bed reading this on my phone at 1am, debating turning the laptop back on to finish off a few designs, and telling myself I must try look a little more presentable and perhaps even have a shave! Absolutely loved it 🙂

  10. I couldn’t agree more with everything that you said. I almost felt like you read my mind with everything that you wrote.

    I run a small web design and development company and I have my own developers. Yes, I definitely make less per job but with the amount of jobs I have now, there is no way I could have handled them all on my own. Yes, I almost never work 8 hour days anymore because I mainly oversee and review the work but work is always on my mind even on weekends, evenings and during vacations.

    But even with all the challenges, I would have never had it any other way. I love how things worked out and running this business is a dream come true.

    I am also from Vancouver =)

  11. Thanks for sharing this post. I agree with the author the fact that, website design company have with them a team of professional designers who offer the best designs for the website, so that, it looks attractive. The websites are also made flexible and should support all browsers.

  12. Great post! I can relate to it on so many levels

  13. Hello Joyce,

    First, thank you for writing an extremely good, honest article. I am glad someone has the balls to tell it how it is.

    But I have one question I hope you have the time to answer. With regards to Request for Proposals (RFPs), you state in your article ‘don’t do it. Just don’t.’ After my recent experience I have to agree with you.

    I spent three days, unpaid mind you, writing a proposal for a prospective client who wanted a WordPress multisite developed, only to be given an excuse a few days later that I didn’t get the contact.

    My question is: If I get another request for proposal, how do I go about handling it as in your article you do not stipulate this?

    In my scenario, the company in question didn’t just email me to ask for a quotation. Instead, they had the subterfuge to invite me for a ‘chat’ and then ask me to send them my proposal; one hour of their time = 3 days of mine.

    Anyway, if you have any great tips you can share with me, I would be grateful.

    Best regards,


  14. You put a smile on my face, truly great article. Thank you!

  15. Joyce, in one of your comments above you mention the pressure for freelancers to keep up-to-date. How do you keep up? Are there some specific sources that you use? In the past I’ve always searched for things as needed but I’m realizing that this isn’t a healthy way to stay on top of advancements. I’ve just recently become a member of and love the site but I’m curious if you have any other recommendations.

  16. Wonderful tips! I left my first job and started WP freelancing last year in Nigeria without adequate preparation and after spending 9months building just a site I found myself back in 9-6 job in a small design firm doing WP sites. Now, it seems to Freelance means good communication, network, educating clients and most particularly having a terrific visual appealing website (in case for Nigerians) and ability to tweak to hell even if the site will turn shoddy. Now, its most are cleared now and taking the advice of FiGU, I know what I will do but I won’t leave my job immediately like Keith and see how it will all unfold. Thanks Joyce for this lovely pizza!

  17. I truly loved this article. I did.

    I’ve been a freelancer for almost five years. I got out of design school right when WordPress was coming on the scene (as was I) and it was really perfect timing!

    I could see where things were going and just put my energy into only learning WordPress. I thought about coding or doing full time video but now I kinda get to do them all.

    And that is what I loved about your piece. How you can run your own outfit but it takes SO much work and can consume you every minute of everyday for the rest of time if you let it.

    I think this is due to how much is possible. Every business on the planet needs some sort of web presence and more. There is unlimited work and unlimited money only based upon your talents and ability to manage time and others.

    I’ve worked from home for five years! I travel all the time and have more freedom then I could have ever hopped for. I really love it, and how could I not.

    I’ve started to read every article on this blog as now with Divi I am absolutely assured that Elegant Theme is going to be the leader for some time to come.

    I used my first Elegant Theme when they only had five or six themes. Times have changed and life is good!

    Teuvo O.
    Coeur d’Alene, ID
    Fixed Focus Media

  18. Two lines truly resonated with me:-
    “Going out for lunch with friends starts to feel like a waste of billable hours.”

    “Every client will take up a different amount of time.” That last one makes life really hard at the beginning. I love your point about doing work for a client who is a pain, has bad taste and does you no good is a bad business decision.

    Great post, thank you.

  19. Good, sad, but true article!
    I started my own freelance business a couple a years ago. I’m doing this in addition to a “normal” job, so you might call it a “hobby”…:-)

    What I found might be a tip for others;

    To use the limited time I have availeble for this business is the best possible way, I came up with the idea to “standardize” and limit my portfolio to a specific product or group of clients.
    I “tailor-make” sites for cooperatives and housing associations.
    They all have the same needs; a open site for guests with information about the cooperative and a closed “intranet” for those living in the cooperative.

    The “product” contains a solution for reporting issues to the board or caretaker, document archive, internal buy & sell solution, weather forecast, activity calendar and photo album.

    I can focus on finding the best plugins for a whole GROUP of customers instead of spending the same amour of time for EACH customer.

    If you are in the start-up phase, my advice would be to find your niche. Make ONE great product and sell the same to many customers. With themes from ElegantThemes you can vary the design so they don’t look the same, but the time spent on the backend is minimal because you have your ‘set’ of plugins and the customers want to buy the ‘package’…

    In my case its ideal because my customers are also doing this work on their spare time. They have volunteered for the job and all have day jobs that keeps them from bugging my when I’m at work…:-)

    There are SO many niches where you as a WordPress designer can put together a product ONCE and sell it HUNDRED times as a custom product.


  20. A point I would add to the every client is different aspect of the post is that for some clients, you’re going to spend a good deal of time communicating to them in an educational way because they’re not going to understand the difference between you and the guy who charges $10/hour.

    That’s one thing I’ve struggled with in the first year and a half of going full time on my own venture. If they don’t understand the value of what you bring to the table and why your years of experience are better than a semi-employed 22 year old college student, then they’re not going to keep paying you to do the work.

    Most clients don’t do design, or development for that matter, and because of websites like Fiverr and the like, design work and development work has been devalued so you have to justify to them why they’re spending more on you, and why what you’re doing provides more value in the long term than a temporary band-aid.

  21. Awesome article and perfectly stated. 🙂

  22. Some great points there, Joyce. I don’t do design but it’s pretty much the same when it comes to coding/development work.

    P.S. loved your article about the different types of clients haha

  23. Nice article. I have enjoyed freelancing after leaving a very hefty but rewarding position at a major corporation.

    I charge by the hour — including any “talk” time with the client or “think time” figuring out a new feature.

    I have been able to double my hourly rate because I think people get a great value from me. I am a graphic designer, a web site creator, and have a Masters in Media. I also was trained as a writer, so I can pretty much do it all for any project that I choose to apply my skills to.

    And yes, all of what you have said makes perfect sense! Carry on!

  24. Good article. I’ve been a freelance website producer for 15 years now, and your points are all right on.

    Re. work-time: For the first 2 years or so, I worked very long hours, and that was fine, because I was building a business. Gradually I reached a point where I work just about 40 hours a week, on a pretty steady schedule. I *don’t* let my work-life and personal-life get mixed up. I’m either 100% working, or 100% not-working.

    I don’t find there to be anything cool or positive about being “always available” by email or phone, and I don’t do that. When I’m not working, I check email for possible emergencies with websites, maybe every couple of hours, and that’s it.

    The main thing I think I would add is that you *must* be organized — have systems in place for keeping track of everything, meticulously. I find that a lot of people are really weak in this area. I think it’s the single most important factor that has allowed me to succeed at this for 15 years.

    “Doing good work” is absolutely crucial — but if you’re scattered and disorganized, you *can’t* do good work.

    • Yes! Being organized is so important! Thanks for bringing that up! Maybe I should write an article on the things that keep me put together! Or I’d go crazy. Feel free to share your own!

  25. well, Freelancing also required hard work. If you are not taking it seriously, they you can not take it as a profession.

  26. Excellent article! Success is possible, although not the way that many people think 1. You have to do a lot of work for free until you build credibility (only to people that will get you noticed) best advice find a non-profit cause that you believe in and promote them 2. You have to put yourself out there and network like crazy (face to face) you have to have trustworthiness, enthusiasm, and diligence. 3. You have to keep learning about your industry not just Web design but writing, marketing, design and business it is a never ending process. 4. Target quality clients and polite but be aggressive don’t take no for an answer if someone says no it does not necessarily mean no, it just means that they may not be ready yet. Never leave the money on the table, reschedule a meeting for the future and build trust with them. 5. Create value by being good at what you do and over delivering. A sale is never done after dollars change hands, continue to contact former customers with valuable information that will be useful for their business. 6. You have to show that your services have a high ROI not just in dollars but in building a solid relationship for your clients and their customers. 7. Your business is your lifestyle so you WILL have to sacrifice time with family and friends. People in your household will have to understand that you may have to spend hours uninterrupted. 7. You must only surround yourself with people who believe in your and that will encourage you. Find a mentor that will hold you accountable for your results. SCORE is a great place to find an experienced mentor 8. You have to have faith in yourself and your ambitions even in the face of adversity. 9. You have to make adversity your friend because you may face a lot of it. Do not look at is as negative it is a learning experience. Use it to fuel your resolve to be better and to work smarter. 9. On your “down” time read books, listen to audio of people that inspire you to greatness I recommend Napoleon Hill, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, or Zig Ziggler just to name a few. Never ever give up this world is full of opportunities but you have to “pay your dues” and use every experience to strengthen you. Everyone who is successful had hard times, but the only difference between them and those who gave up is determination. Best of luck to you all!!! You can do it if you think you can. The 1st step is unbridled belief in yourself and that our creator designed you to make a powerful difference on this planet.

    • Hi Richard, thanks for your long comment! You should write a blog post of your own 🙂

      Regarding some of your points, I have found that you don’t have to do free work at all to get noticed 🙂 Maybe lower-priced work to get your portfolio going, but not free work.

      For me, in the beginning, face-to-face networking worked. But I have found now that it’s not the most important thing and not always necessary. Being online helps, and good SEO helps you find more clients.

      Regarding reading business books in your down time, I used to do this, and found that it just wears you out. You need non-business-focused time to keep your passion up. I write about this in my next upcoming article here on Elegant Themes, so stay tuned!

  27. Joyce, what an excellent post! I wish you wrote this 7 years ago when I started my own business. Well, maybe then I wouldn’t have started, so let’s say 6 years ago, when I was already in it. 🙂 Nonetheless, a big thank you!

    Everything you write is so true, I’ve been through it all and learned the hard way. (Some points I even had to learn more times. 🙂 ) But I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it.

    I would add a small point: if you have a good / big network of contacts when you start your business, it definitely helps a lot. For me the toughest one was getting new clients and I felt that if I had a better network and was more of a networking type it would have helped at the start.

    Currently I’m back in a “safe 9-to-5” chair but am always thinking how to get out of it.

    • Hi Andras! Yes, a network helps definitely. I couldn’t have started if it weren’t for the few people who contacted me and wanted me to do this for them. I was surprised at first. I thought, you want ME to do this for you? So the contacts are very resourceful. At a certain point though, they are not enough, and as I mentioned in a comment above, good SEO helps a lot 🙂 And an online presence – hit the LinkedIn profile well (my second year of business was mostly from LinkedIn contacts) and also other social media channels.

    • Hi Andras! Yes, a network helps definitely. I couldn’t have started if it weren’t for the few people who contacted me and wanted me to do this for them. I was surprised at first. I thought, you want ME to do this for you? So the contacts are very resourceful. At a certain point though, they are not enough, and as I mentioned in a comment above, good SEO helps a lot 🙂 And an online presence – hit the LinkedIn profile well (my second year of business was mostly from LinkedIn contacts) and also other social media channels.

  28. Brilliant Joyce. So true. It’s a long haul but once you have a good portfolio it gets easier and you can stick to your guns…

    My tips…

    Project-manage and co-build with a less expensive outsource so your time is not taken up doing the drudgery time consuming stuff. Taken 8 years to find a reliable source… but so worth it.

    Also carve a niche for yourself locally. We have pounded the pavement here in Barnet, North London. Networking like crazy. Now paying off.

    Do your best work always
    Find trusted outsource resources
    Build a local reputation
    Balance working on and in your business

    Oh, and… as you say…
    Keep E-Myth bible close at hand!

    Thanks again for the blog Joyce… seems all the problems know no country or cultural borders!!!!


    • Hi Carol! Thanks for sharing your experience! I have actually found that if you do good SEO, you can get not only local, but non-local clients easily, and they take less time because there are no meetings involved 🙂 And it can expand your reach. Either way, good SEO, whether targeting local or not, is great to have. It means less pavement pounding, which is less work with higher ROI on your part.

  29. Great article Joyce. Well written, entertaining and still informative. And I agree freelancing is not a vacation. Actually you will be freelancing while you are on vacation. I like to add, “have fun and be passionate about it”.

    • Hi Jesper! Yes, I also work while on vacation – it’s hard not to 🙂 But regarding passion, I bring this up in my upcoming article, which will also talk about the life of being in this business as a freelancer. Stay tuned!

  30. Thank you for writing this article! It’s really helpful and I’ll be bookmarking it

  31. Joyce,

    I love this blog post and its so on the money. I have been freelancing and an entrepreneur for many years in many types of industry. Good advice for new people to learn from. Some main things that I have learned as a business owner

    1 Do good work. Your clients are your best source of leads. Word of mouth has great intrinsic value and saves lots of time prospecting

    2. I follow the Napoleon Hill Rule. Always produce more than you are paid for. In a year I only have one customer that was unhappy. But then there was no pleasing him whatever I did. If your exchange is more than expected your referrals will go out the roof.

    3. To stay ahead of the competition I learn as much as I can. Turn off your TV. Get a subscription to or some such online source. Know your product. Many people are too lazy to keep up. Find the ones that are and you’ll soon have their clients as your own.

  32. Great article Joyce!

    (typo heads up: starring instead of “staring” 😉 )

    • giggles – thank you. I’m realizing as a writer, typos happen to the best of us.

    • Thanks, I fixed the typos 🙂

      • thanks Nick!

  33. great article! I’ve been struggling to go full time with my wp themes, but as a novice teaching myself everyday, I have felt that I couldn’t go forward till I knew everything! while I’m great with design and putting in the attention to detail my tech skills are limited. If a website got hacked for a client, I wouldn’t know the first thing to do! I’d have to hire an outsider that knows security. I’m teaching myself photoshop and html and css, and its doing my head in, which is why divi is the bomb. I absolutely love what I do, but feel like I have to be an expert in everything first, as I feel clients expect it. Did anyone else feel like this when they started out?

    • I think you just need to dive in and learn as you go along. But make your contracts clear. Things like security are a big one. I wrote about some things to consider for writing a contract here: in case it helps.

  34. Good stuff.
    I always say you get out what you put in. So if I work half day I get half pay.
    Freelance does require discipline to act in a business manner, otherwise we can’t pay the bills. Many systems still to be put in place by myself. My biggest challenge is getting the required content for their website.

  35. Don’t forget the not-for-profits that expect you to work for free. I’ve done too many church sites, school foundation sites, youth sports team sites, club sites….. I do appreciate being able to give of my skills as well as my money, but it can get out of hand.

  36. Smack on. Thanks for a good, affirming read!

  37. Good article. I’ve been a freelancer for over 24 yrs now… started with graphic design, added printing services, now websites.

    One line item I’ve started to add to my quotes is “Job Management” which includes what you discussed – customer interaction. Emails, meetings, phone conversations, travel time, etc.. WP Blogger, Chris Lema, wrote about this awhile back and it made sense. If client wants to negotiate, I tell them we can put Job Management on an hourly basis and possibly save money (or not).

    I wouldn’t trade being self-employed for a regular job for many reasons mentioned. But I do tell my clients I have the toughest boss around… and no paid vacations!

    • Good article.
      If you are just starting then you have to sacrifice everything, no rest only work and non stop work untill you reached your target. Nothing is impossible if one has embition. Out sourcing is the right way to get hold on your freelance business instead of doing everything by your own, that way you are not earning alone but also helping others to earn. You are getting more time to get more customers. Use your years of experience to get the good job done from vendors.

      Thanks for highlighting many good points in this article.


  38. Great advice here. A lot of this applies to most any kind of freelance work: writing, design, photography, etc. As you state in your article, anyone who thinks freelancers are people who are too lazy to hold down a real job have never tried it. Thanks for sharing, Joyce.

    • I don’t think people think I’m lazy 🙂 I think they just don’t know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur.

  39. Oh boy, I should have known all these before I started 😀 But I’m not so far from the start line so.

    Thank you!

  40. Joyce, you make some wonderful points. I’m a 15 year veteran of freelancing and decided to write an eBook about it last year. Over the years, I’ve had so many people question how much work it actually is to freelance. It is way more difficult to be successful than most people seem to think. You aren’t your own boss. In reality, every client you have counts as a ‘boss’ and you have to make sure that they are satisfied with what you’re doing. It takes a lot of time, skill and patience. After all this time, I have no desire to go back to an office full of people. I love being a freelancer and wouldn’t trade it.

    • Thanks for the comment! I agree – you have many bosses when you’re a freelancer 🙂 The great thing though is that you can chose which bosses you want to have 🙂

  41. This is good advice for any kind of freelancing. I am a full-time freelance graphic designer. I work more hours now than I did when I worked in the cubicle world. I don’t always get to do the work love. I seldom leave my apartment… but I wouldn’t go back to my old life for anything in the world. Job security in cubicle world is a fantasy. The last three companies I worked for no longer exist. This includes giants like Kodak. I no longer live or die by what my company does. If I lose a client I know another one is coming along. I often get to do work that is engaging and creative.

    • Yes! This is true – with freelancing you have more of your eggs in more baskets. This can actually be more security than a job. Diversify!

  42. Someone just emailed me for advice on how to create a successful blog. My blog isn’t that successful but w/e… I told her to do everything yourself first and then outsource later. It would be stupid to pay someone to do something you don’t understand and appreciate. And no, I don’t think anything can be fully understood or appreciated without firsthand experience.

    • This is true. I remember when I tried to do my taxes on my own as a business owner – I did such a bad job at it! Now I have no qualms paying a professional to just take care of it for me. But I think eventually we start to learn where we should stop spending our time trying to do something we know we’ll be bad at 🙂 I much prefer to hire out now and let better people do the job, freeing me up to do what I do best.

  43. … and do NOT go into business for yourself if you’re a people pleaser! Oh, the work I’ve given away…

    • I wonder if going into business for yourself is the root problem, or the problem is that you’re a people pleaser 🙂 Because you could be giving away too much to your full-time job boss and clients too 🙂

  44. Great info Joyce! Thanks for bringing up the “You can work in your business or work on your business”. Do you have any tips for finding the right client, do you specialise in a particular niche?



    • Hi Mitch, finding the right client for YOU is the trick 🙂 I think it’s a personality game. I can send the same quote and same info to two people and they can take it totally differently. Some love me, some don’t. It depends on finding compatibility, as it is with any relationship I think. When I say some people don’t love me though, I don’t mean that I am hated 🙂 I just mean that even at a cordial level, eventually you realize who you can handle working with, and who you can’t 🙂 You also begin to realize where you want to spend your time with making a sale. But honestly truly, the more time I spend trying to win a sale, the less likely I’ll get it. Not always the case 100% of the time, but I’ve noticed quite the pattern…

      So don’t worry if you lose out on some. Others will come your way.

      I would read the E-Myth though, and plenty of other articles on this subject that are out there.

  45. Spot on. I agree, doing a 9 to 5 job is most comfortable thing in life. Freelancing is not fun. It can be fun, but most of the times it is hard to make time for day to day work. It is hard to get someone to agree the value of your work. You might value your work and price it at $200 but the client feels its not more than worth $40. It happens and it happens so often. Every client is different and it is hard to get money out of client’s pocket.

    • Hi Amit, I would just not try to reason with the people who want to pay you $40 an hour if you really feel you are worth $200 and that is the market rate for comparable work that you do. Don’t charge $200 ‘just because’ – do your research and make sure that is a competitive and reasonable price for what you offer. But also don’t be upset about the people that want to pay less – they know what they want and will get what they pay for.

  46. This hit home. I feel like I read this at the perfect moment. I am about to go head on into my business that I have building for about a year now while working somewhere else. I love the part about do not hire for something if you have not struggled with it yourself. I feel this is very important to understand what exactly you are hiring someone to do so you can manage it later.

    • Hi Jesse! When I started my business a mentor told me to read Rework as my first business coaching assignment. He said he considered it to be today’s modern business manual (or something like that – it was a long time ago, I’m paraphrasing!). My point is, you should really check out that book. Or read the 37 Signals blog – the entire book is made up of a collection of their blog posts. I’m an audio book person, so for me it’s much easier to get the audio, which is awesome. It’s an easy, quick and enlightening read.

  47. You took what was in my heart and mind, and you put it on paper.

    Great article, and I couldn’t have said it better!

  48. “Going out for lunch with friends starts to feel like a waste of billable hours.” So I’m not the only one…

    • Going to the bathroom is starting to feel like a waste of billable hours- thank goodness for smartphones 🙂

      • Ha! that was so funny it actually made me snort my LOL.
        great article.

      • ha ha ha ha good one 🙂

    • Haha, very funny, but also sad. I honestly count each and ever hour in that light since I have become a freelancer.

      • Yes, I did that too for quite a while! I still need to learn that I don’t need to bring my computer to some places because I *might* have an opportunity to squeeze in work for a bit 🙂

    • lol, now I’m glad I’M not the only one!!!

      • Hi Joyce,
        Yes, you are not the only one who thinks what you wrote here. I completely resonate to every line of your article here. Can’t be more agree on all of your thoughts. You hack this article out of my mind 🙂

  49. Hi Joyce
    Thanks for telling it like it is.

    I run a small web design business but I’ve never actually given up my full time job.

    A full time job is hard to beat – you get paid for all the hours you work and it’s guaranteed.

    Unfortunately web design is one of the areas where clients want a Rolls Royce job for the price of a mini – hope that makes sense to people outside of the UK.

    • “clients want a Rolls Royce job for the price of a mini”

      I can´t agree with that, Keith. Some things are missing in your statement: 😉

      Clients want a Rolls Royce (with a Lamborghini engine and the space of a van and the flexibility of a James Bond´s amphibian car and the fuel consumption of a cigarette lighter) for the price of a Mini.

    • “a Rolls Royce job for the price of a mini”
      It couldn’t be closer to the truth Keith!
      I so agree with that (it made me laugh out loud !!!)

      And thank you Joyce for this article.
      This is gold dust for those who are starting up. They will not realise it in their early days, but it will come to them as it has to me. And it took time too.


    • Yes I recently had a potential sales lead think I was less valuable because I was on my own and not a fully staffed agency. It was such a silly way to think though. I think that freelancers have a lot of pressure to keep up to date with their practices whereas agencies can get away with doing things the way they have been for a long time, only because of the big name and office space behind them. I’ve seen big agencies produce terrible, terrible work. Like really terrible. But people pay for it because they think they’re getting more with their big-ness. It’s weird. I’m not saying all agencies do this, but yes, it can be hard to show your worth as a lone-star freelancer. But it will come if you’re at it, and eventually your income can increase, despite the lack of security when you stop getting that regular pay check 🙂

      • I had an interview for a big website job a few days ago. As I was being grilled by 7 Board members, this was one of the questions they had for me- whether I could do a good job as a small (me + 2 part time staff) freelance firm, and whether I could support them with future maintenance.

        I told them that if I did my job well, there would be very little maintenance. I told them that many of the larger firms I’ve seen are not only doing inferior work, they are charging more for it and using fear tactics to hook clients into costly retainers for sites that require almost no upkeep. I told them I would do better than that.

        I got the job.

    • Good point Keith. It is hard to compete against guys that charge $10/hr.

      That being said, it can be done. I’ve been full time on my own for just over a year, I charge a healthy amount on my projects and I’m generally booked at least 6 weeks in advance.

      I think the point about earning referrals from clients is the key.

      In fact, one of my first new clients as a full time freelancer received my quote and replied “The other guy bid 1/3 of this price… why should I pay so much more?”.

      I simply stated that if he wanted a “sub-standard job, hire the other guy. I don’t build ‘web sites’, I supply a service that goes above and beyond for my clients”

      I had his down payment 10 minutes later…. so, it can be done it’s just a matter of learning how to sell your client on what you offer and why your price might be higher.

      • I can understand your concern Rob, I have faced the same challenge. I was in business banking sales and consulting for 10 years and we loved that question.
        “The other guy bid 1/3 of this price… why should I pay so much more?” That is not a no, they are asking you what else do you have to offer. In my business banking sales job we studied human behavior and took sales courses from Sales Force and found that people do not mind paying more money for better services. When someone asks that question it gives you an opportunity to tell why you have a better service and that you will not only give them a Web site but you will also ______ better than your competition. If they say no tell them that you will be glad to follow up after their Web site is done. They will get what they pay for a $10.00 and hour product which can actually hurt their business so they may need you in the future. If they value their business it is better for them to pay good money for the best than to sacrifice quality and throw money away no matter what amount it is. Most of my customers are people that originally said no and I came back and they were happy to see me. Build the relationship, show concern for the customers needs and they will love you for it. If not move on, keep a hefty list of prospects so one “no” will not affect you.

    • I agree Keith thats why I do the same and had to give up freelancing full time.

  50. Good info!

    Especially the part about “will this help me get more business”… a lot of people forget this when they are quoting their prices for a project. If I can see that this client has a wide network of potential new work, then I will adjust my prices accordingly before the quote.

    Good luck to you Joyce! =]

    • Hi SagePress 🙂 Thanks for commenting. My prices don’t change based on the network of a client. I’ve had potential sales leads think that I should ‘serve’ them because they can give me more business later. That is a red flag to me – it is a horse poop statement. Never fall for that. I wrote about this here:

      I think it’s just important to know that if during the sales process a potential lead is asking you to do too much for them, then you can stop there and just be firm about your price and packages, and move on. I think that showing you don’t need their business makes you less desperate in their eyes, which is valuable 🙂 It shows you have plenty of work to get elsewhere. And the ironic thing is, if you learn how to ignore some sales leads to pay attention to the better ones, this will eventually be the case anyway.

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