The life of an independent web designer probably varies a lot, certainly in the small circle I know most of my compatriots work in very different ways. Sure we all design web sites but our ways of working vary hugely and it can be quite useful to touch base with others occasionally just to swap experiences and ideas. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed is the type of customers, over the years I’ve primarily had just a few larger clients although when I started up I was doing a new site every week or so.
The market has become extremely competitive and it can be very difficult to make a decent profit in the web design field. Individuals and smaller businesses have a huge choice in potential designers and because of the nature of the work location is immaterial. Designers who work in countries where the cost of living is much smaller have a huge cost advantage compared to those of us who live in expensive places like Los Angeles! I’ve seen some brilliant web designers working from out of India who will create stunning web sites for a small percentage of what I could charge (no I’m not telling you who). However for every one brilliant designer from a developing country, you’ll find hundreds of con-artists and hopeless one man web firms too.
So if you’re working online it’s important to both generate a steady income and a quality portfolio of clients. A professional web site can be hugely successful to both online and offline business, it’s in the interest of every designer for their web sites to succeed. If a website is generating interest and money, it will likely generate further work for the designer in expansions and additions plus through referrals.
This is one of the reasons why I’m always very wary where I advertise my services, in my opinion one of the worst places is in webmaster and designer forums. Competition will be brutal, quotes will be ridiculous and very likely in these situations where costs are minimal then quality is likely to be so too. It’s way better to find a better fit and find projects and customers to work with almost cooperatively to produce a successful website.
To be able to do this one of the challenges is bypassing the various region locks and bans that some of the biggest advertising sites put in place. Many of the best ones restrict access to advertisers who are based in that specific country. These region locks are the same as those employed by the big media sites like those discussed here – Netflix Blocking VPN where advertisers look up your IP address and restrict your advertising to specific regions. For example there are some brilliant advertising sources targeting London in the UK, but my American IP address won’t let me access them directly.
What I do is invest in tools which allow me to hide my identity online. By masking my IP address I can choose which markets to target and not get blocked by these restrictions, this enables me much more control about how and who I advertise my services too. I’ve learnt to my cost that it’s much better to spend more time and money on attracting good clients than it is spending hours producing hundreds of low cost cookie-cutter web sites for a few dollars each. Not only is it professionally more rewarding, it is also more profitable for my business in the long run too.