How to Break into the World of Design
If you are considering a career in web design, chances are that you have some experience in the field – or at the very least, a passion for it. However, the role of a web designer is considerably more diverse than it appears on the surface, and it is crucial to be aware of every potential aspect before taking the plunge. Whether you plan on joining an agency or going it alone as a freelancer, the transition from hobby to profession can be quite a jump. This article highlights some of the most important skills you will need to break into the world of professional web design, as well as some strategies you can adopt in order to improve your chances of success in what is a highly competitive field.
A Diverse Skillset
Working as a web designer calls for an extremely diverse skill set that extends far beyond knowing how to create a website. The most successful web designers out there are multi-talented, and having many strings to your bow will give you a competitive advantage whilst greatly improving your employability. Before opting for a career in web design, consider the following essential skills.
Advanced web design skills
First and foremost, a distinct proficiency in both the technical and creative aspects of web design is crucial. Being well-versed in HTML and CSS will not only afford you greater control over your projects, but also positions you as more of a “complete package” to potential clients or employers. There are plenty of free online resources to help you to expand your knowledge, such as this introduction to HTML5 taken from the 1&1 digital guide. Equally, an exceptional webmaster feels just as comfortable writing powerful copy as they do writing code, and can skillfully combine the two to create first-rate websites. Finally, an in-depth understanding of SEO and how it impacts web design is essential for designing sites that are highly visible and have the potential to rank well.
Web design and marketing are increasingly overlapping, and becoming an accomplished marketer may give you a head start – especially if you intend to go freelance at any point. As a web designer, you play a crucial role in your clients’ marketing strategy, and understanding how a website fits into the overall branding process will enable you to come up with powerful, well-fitting designs. At the same time, marketing is an essential tool if you decide to work as a freelancer or start your own design business. Getting into the habit of using social media, blogging and email for professional purposes will help to build up a network and get your name out there.
A business mindset
It’s easy to imagine that a career in web design is all about coding and computers but, much like any other job, it requires certain personal skills. Whether you’re working in-house or independently, client relationships will form a central component of your role, so it’s essential that you are able to effectively communicate ideas and timeframes. For freelancers in particular, organization, time-management and self-discipline are also extremely important for ensuring maximum productivity.
Strategies for Success
In addition to a strong skillset, there are some practical strategies that will help you to get to know the industry and increase your chances of professional success.
Diversify your portfolio
Before committing to web design as your sole source of income, it is essential to get a feel for it within a professional context. Indeed, working with clients is completely different to experimenting on your own, so practicing the art of following a design brief will prove extremely valuable. Volunteering your services free of charge is a good way to trial a potential career in web design, and will also help you to build up a professional portfolio. The broader your portfolio, the better, and being able to showcase a mixture of personal and professional projects will increase your chances of finding paid work, be it on a freelance basis or with an agency.
Learn from those in the industry
An excellent way to get ahead in web design is to learn from those who know it best. If you have industry contacts, reach out to them for general advice as well as feedback on your portfolio. However, even if you don’t have any personal connections to draw upon, it’s still possible to benefit from insider wisdom; use Twitter to connect with relevant individuals and organizations, and join industry-related groups and discussions on platforms such as LinkedIn. Online networks like www.meetup.com also make it easy to find out about networking events or workshops in your area, which present a valuable opportunity to learn more about the industry and meet face-to-face with professional web designers.
Get to know the industry inside out
As with most jobs, a career in web design is not just about mastering the necessary skills. It is also crucial to get to know the industry, and familiarizing yourself with everything web design-related will enable you to make well-informed career choices. Web design is a particularly fast-moving industry, so keeping up with evolving trends, tools and techniques is essential to getting ahead. Equally, explore the different types of career opportunities – from freelance to in-house, or a mixture of both – and consider the pros and cons of each in terms of your personal situation.