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I was interested if anyone who's been involved in the web design industry for a while had any pointers or tips to people like me who are at (or near) the beginning of their journey with web design.

Or if not, just share how you got started, things you're happy you did or regret doing.

I'd been in business for a number of years and was working for a hotel in France when we needed a new website. I got fed up hanging around waiting and I was sort of already the "go-to" tech guy (I think almost by default :)) so I just thought I'd take a look at this website mumbo-jumbo. My brother has also been a web guy for years and he's always tried to get me involved but I just never got the bug but once I started I was hooked. I was always fascinated by starting with a blank page and I think my favourite moment was when I first saw my code turn into actual content on the web!

That first site I made is still up there despite me having left the hotel a year or so ago and totally blagging my way through building it (Though they should probably change it!). i don't think it holds up too badly all things considered.

It's only in the last month or so after more or less 15 months of constant "learning" that I feel like I've got a grip of enough stuff to build solid websites but I do often envy those guys who've been coding since they were at school!

I'm also finding it quite tough to get new work. I feel like I want to be working for small/medium sized companies who need a web presence but aren't necessarily after a huge site, the problem with this area though is people seem reluctant to spend even 400/500 pounds on a site when they see the likes of Wix and others advertising for next to nothing. I guess it's a case of trying to convince them of the support and flexibility they'd be getting with me.

Anyway, was interested on hearing from some of you guys your stories (if you want to share that is ;))

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I would also be interested in hearing how various people got into this and ended up making a living.

I have been in the media world for 35 years in various guises, and although I was instrumental in some early cutting edge sites (news and community), it is only very recently that I have seriously considered making the whole web design process officially part of my business.

However, learning how to use ProcessWire, tarting up some Photoshop skills and generally sharpening my copy wirting quills is not the same as actually walking into a company and saying, "Hi, I can build your next site for you!"


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Hi onjegolders,

Very interesting topic!

I was interested if anyone who's been involved in the web design industry for a while had any pointers or tips to people like me who are at (or near) the beginning of their journey with web design.

I work for a web agency since 2009 and i also made some tiny sites alone, but only now i'm quite secure that i can build all types of site. Some years before i was very afraid/insecure when the clients asked me something different from a basic site.

What i can suggest is to begin from search a web agency where you can learn while you make money ;).

When i started where i'm now, i learned in a year more than 2 times of what i learned at University! I'm very lucky because the web agency where i'm employed is very open-mind and full of new project, so i learn every day.

In my own opinion, if you start to build, alone, without clients, and you have only small projects ( 500€/1000€ more or less 400/800 pounds )... Well it's hardly. Obviously without the bureaucratic of manage a company although small ( in Italy is a sucide! ).

I hope i helped you in some ways!

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Hey Alessio thanks for your reply! It's interesting hearing your point of view.

I always guessed that web is sort of the opposite to normal careers. You have to start out on your own, prove yourself and then maybe you can work for an agency.

In other sectors, when you've learned the ropes you can go out on your own!

I'd love to work for an agency making sites while continuing to improve but I've no idea at what level the jobs are available at...

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Here's what I'd share:

Connect with other creatives. Graphic designers, photographers, marketers, etc. If you feel like you are not at the top of the list of great web designers, that's normal. But imagine how the average print designer feels about their own web design skills. Talk to those people. Many of them already have many clients who could use websites that work.

Instead of spending your time cold-contacting people you want to work for, cold-contact people you could work with. (see above) They will see the value you bring into their business.

Hire a business consultant, if you can. I hired a retired tech executive. His advice has saved me from making really dumb decisions, and helped me make some really important, yet difficult decisions. I have a notebook full of this stuff.

Stay in the game. Don't give up on it and call it a crappy career just because you haven't been able to develop the skills yet. Lawyers are told to take 7 years to get established. Web designers might not even need that much time! ;) But it does take some time.

Take care of yourself. You will run into stressful situations. Be sure to do the things that keep you healthy. Get exercise, eat healthy food, spend time with people you care about. Avoid: Late working nights, mind reading (guessing that your clients hate you or think you're too expensive), and meetings with people you aren't interested in working with.

Plan your next day every night if you can. Ask yourself what is going to happen tomorrow that will push your 5, 10, 20 year goals ahead. This is a great way to relieve stress and help you sleep better too.

Provide value to your clients. Solve their problem. If the solution is a different web designer who's cheaper, tell them that. If the solution is some cheap third-party blogging platform, tell them that. If the solution is exactly what you do, give them estimates for "small, medium, large" and let them decide how much money they want to spend.

Don't drop off a solution at the door. Stay with them. Offer to stick around for the first 6 months their new website is live, and handle some of their blogging or other updates. Offer to meet with them and review their analytics. They will need your help. They don't want to fail.

Write about what you are doing. Keep a blog somewhere too. Share your thoughts online.

Be nice to other web designers.

Anyway, about what we do: This is a great way to make a living. Keep at it.

Edit: You don't have to work for an agency. You can do this on your own. I've never worked for an agency except as a student, and I thought the agency model had some pretty obvious weaknesses in terms of output. I've had a couple agencies hire me to be their web guy's web guy, which sort of points at the problem. :) But you can also work alongside agencies (i.e. client pays you both separately), which has brought me great results.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I need to spend more time away from the PC but ProcessWire and other addictions keep me coming back ;)

Sound advice all round there Marc - a lot of it sounds like common sense, but I was surprised at how much I hadn't thought of (I thought I was pretty sensible :D).

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Thanks Marc - I found that interesting.

One thing that struck me is how much of this is very much the music/media industry (which is my natural home).

One of the nice things over the years is that there hasn't been a neat and well trodden career path to hem me in.

One of the bad things is that there hasn't been a neat and well trodden career path to keep me safe!

Onjegolders - You are not the only one in your position. So am I, and not far down the M1 from you.


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