Tips for Part-Time Web Designers

ClockFreelance web design can be an ideal part-time business. Starting on a part-time basis allows you to gain valuable experience and ease your way into full-time status rather than taking the plunge and the risk that comes along with it. During a stint as a part-timer you can learn volumes about what it takes to be a successful freelancer and you’ll probably find some things that you want to do more of and some things that you want to do less.

15 Tips for Part-Time Designers to Improve on the Experience:

Get Started

One thing you will notice that all successful freelance designers have in common is that they all got started at some point (pretty obvious, right?). There are a lot of skilled, would-be part-time freelancers that have contemplated getting their feet wet, but many of them have taken no action. If you fall into this population, take your first step towards success and just get started.

Set Up a Website and Preferably a Blog

Even part time designers really should have a website to display their portfolio to potential customers, increase their reach across the globe, and make it easy for people to contact them. In addition to hosting your samples of past work on the site, publishing a blog can help immensely. With a blog you can more effectively gain exposure and recognition and you should be able to draw more traffic to the site, which hopefully will result in more potential clients seeing your portfolio.

Set Up a Basic Accounting System

Even if you are just designing part-time you will need a sound method for keeping track of your income and expenses. There are a growing number of products that can help with this, including FreshBooks , or you can stick with basics like QuickBooks or Excel.

Look Into Tax Deductions

As a freelancer you’ll have the ability/opportunity to deduct your business expenses from your taxable income. Of course, the details will vary depending on what country you live in. Check with an accountant or tax professional to be sure that you are keeping proper records and not missing out on valuable deductions.

Treat it Like a Real Business

One of the temptations for part-time freelance designers is to view their work as a hobby rather than a business. If your goals involve making money and working your way towards a full-time income, you’ll need to view it as a legitimate business. Be sure to schedule certain times each week that you will dedicate towards your work, and try to keep it separate from your other daily activities.

Set Some Goals

As a part-timer, you will most likely face plenty of temptations and distractions that can easily keep you from being productive. You can drastically improve your chances of success by setting some goals. How many hours per week do you want to spend on this work? How much money do you hope to make? In order to keep yourself motivated, have a clear purpose in mind that is your reason for freelancing part-time. Are you trying to save for a dream vacation? Are you attempting to work your way into a full-time design career? We all have different reasons for doing what we do, just be sure that you clearly understand what is your driving force.

Establish a Long-Term Plan

Most likely you aren’t planning to freelance forever in addition to working another full-time job. If your ultimate goal is to test the waters and see if designing full-time is the right move for you, you should have some type of idea or plan for the transition from part-time to full-time. You don’t necessarily need to have this laid out right away, chances are you won’t have all of the answers for a while anyway. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll just wake up one day and realize that you have reached a level where you can comfortably move into full-time freelance work. How much income will you need to support yourself and your family? How much stability will you need in that income, or how much instability can you live with? How and when do you hope to make the transition?

Spend Time Networking

Your most productive time in terms of direct income is obviously the billable time that you are working for clients. While this will never lose its importance, allowing time for professional networking is also key. Getting to know others will often lead to new opportunities, plus it may help to make your work more effective. Spending time getting to know others may seem like a waste of time, but once you have made a few valuable connections you will see the need for networking. Fortunately, there are a number of resources to improve online networking. There are social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, and there are industry-specific resources like forums, niche social media sites for designers and community sites.

Be Open-Minded

When you are first getting started you will probably have some misconceptions about how you can effectively make money as a freelance designer, and you may experience some surprises along the way. Some opportunities may present themselves to make money, gain exposure, or get experience in ways that you had not considered or planned. Try to keep an open mind and evaluate these opportunities as you could find that there are better ways to earn income than you had initially expected.

Set Up a Designated Work Area

Those who work from home full-time understand the importance of having a comfortable and inviting home office. If you are hoping to be a productive part-time freelancer, you too will need to address the situation of where you will do your work. Set up a place that will be away from distractions and will allow for maximum concentration.

Be Realistic

You probably won’t be able to replace your full-time income by freelancing part-time in just a few months. One of the best things you should do is have realistic expectations. This doesn’t mean that you should have a negative outlook and not shoot for big success. It simply means that your long-term commitment will be more likely to stick if you have realistic expectations, which can help you from becoming disappointed when you find that freelancing can be a struggle.

Celebrate Minor Victories

Make sure you take time to enjoy you success along the way. One of the best ways to avoid discouragement and burnout is to simply appreciate the accomplishments that you make. Sometimes just taking the time to recognize the progress and feel good about your work can be enough.

Be Flexible

As you gain more experience as a freelance designer you’ll probably find new and better ways of doing things. Additionally, your goals may even completely change. Be flexible enough with yourself that you allow for changes in the way you work and why you work. Ultimately, you’ll be more productive and more successful.

Look for Work That Offers More Than Just Pay

Some jobs will give you great exposure, experience, or maybe even networking opportunities. All of these things can benefit you in your future work. Look for jobs that will not only pay you, but also offer you a way to help make your freelance efforts more successful. Keep your eyes open for work that would help you to build a better portfolio or make you more attractive to potential clients.


As a part-timer it will probably be easier for you to reinvest some or all of your income back into your business. If you are able to live on your full-time income, do everything you can to invest your freelancing income in ways that will grow your business and help you to earn more in the long-run. Tom Ross has written an excellent article, 5 Reasons Why You Must Reinvest.

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14 Responses

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  • Qadir, December 28, 2008

    Really good tips.
    I am also freelance website designer. I just have difficult to find clients for website designing. Can you pleases help me about it?

  • vaishnav ab, December 15, 2008

    i am a web desginer , i want to work at home, how should i get the work or any project

  • Vandelay Design, September 11, 2008

    Sorry, I miss read things. This post is about exactly what you’re asking for, except for teh registration part.

  • VandelayDesign, September 11, 2008

    Registration depends on where you live and where you’re doing business. Seek legal advice. The best suggestions for a PT business would be the subject for another post, although I would say my first piece of advice is to put up a portfolio site to start attracting business.

  • gagan, September 11, 2008

    I just wanna start a part time buisness , So kindly give me the be st suggestions, and also plz tell me details about the registration. I shall be thankful to you……
    With Regards:
    Gagandeep Bassi

  • vishu, July 26, 2008

    i want to do web desginig in my home at part time…

  • Domaining, March 23, 2008

    Part time web designers need to think long and hard about the domain name they use. Far too often I have seen web designers use domain names that are difficult to remember, develop their site on a .net domain or make other errors that they grow to regret. This is especially the case if web designers are just starting out and think they will buy ‘something better’ when and if their business ‘takes off’.

  • Wade, March 22, 2008

    The only downside is you could end up spending way more time coding/developing web sites than making money. This is the sacrafice, not getting paid for all the hours you put into it. When you become big for creating web sites, then you can charge per hour. Starting out, I suggest making about 10 themes/sites and putting all of them up at one time. Then add at least one theme/site per week. Keep in mind that you aren’t making the theme for yourself. Branch out from the colors you normally would use.

  • Jermayn, March 20, 2008

    Good tips..

    I am myself in this situation and I would second all your suggestions and add others like get business cards, register business name etc

  • Vandelay Design, March 20, 2008

    Thanks for sharing from your experience. Most freelancers enjoy designing but the business aspect can be a different ball game. It’s nice that you have a steady paycheck to go along with your freelance work.

    Thanks for your comment. I think having a time frame is important, otherwise goals just keep extending without as much progress. Good luck.

  • Ptah Dunbar, March 20, 2008

    This article really highlights a lot of things I need to start doing as a freelance web designer/developer. I need to stop looking at it as a hobby and more as a business. While I do have goals, there’s no timeframe set I just get to them when I feel like it. Thanks for reminding me, this really is going to get me back on track!

  • Chad Mueller, March 20, 2008

    Great posts, I am a part-time freelancer in an effort to become a full-time freelancer. I have at one point in between jobs, tried to just go full-time to test the waters sort of speak, and it was a great learning experience, and I got a true taste of how hard it is to create a steady income, I am currently a part-time employee and part-time to full-time freelancer if you will, the part-time offers me a few days a week in a new office where I can earn money to pay my living expenses, and my freelance work is great to get a head start, and like you said re-invest, advertise and etc…