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Starting a Career in Web Design: Advice and Insights from an Intern

Aleen Summan & Shawn Smith

As a business student, I know first hand how hard it can be to choose the business that is right for you. I have been caught in this constant web of indecision since the first day that I started as a business student at Canyon Springs High School. Having a vivid passion for business and leadership was unfortunately not enough to put me in the right direction. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to participate in an internship at Starfire Web Design this summer.

From my 10 day experience at Starfire I have learned about an industry that I was too hesitate to consider starting a business in. The concept of web design seemed out of reach and too complex for my average intelligence. I was afraid my mediocre math scores would hinder my potential web design career, and therefore strayed away from the idea.

As complicated as web design may seem, it is not so scary once you have been properly exposed to it. When you get to see the real day-to-day tasks of a web design developer, you may just consider starting a web design company yourself.

For all those out there like myself, I share with you the knowledge I have learned from the web design professionals during my internship at Starfire Web Design.

Communication is Key

As with anything you do in life, having strong communication skills are critical. This is especially so for web design companies and web designers. When your client first inquires about a website, you never know their knowledge about the web design process. They may be an experienced web developer with no time on their hands, or a small business owner with no knowledge of web design.

With this in mind, it is important to always be ready to explain in detail what your services are and how they can help your client. Creating this sense of helpfulness gives your client the idea that you care for their needs and are not only focused on making money. Many of the web design companies I have had contact with were always happy to lend a helpful hand and explain anything about the web design process to whomever contacts their company.

A major part of being a web designer is being able to convey what you do in a way that your client will understand. The more comfortable they are with you and your services, the more likely they are to do business with you. After all, you wouldn’t buy a product which you didn’t know how to use.

Be Persistent

In the busy world that we live in, it can sometimes be difficult to reach clients. You may have come in contact with a client one day, but they may be gone on vacation the next day. It is important to keep in mind a client’s schedule when trying to get in touch.

Try to follow up with clients every other day. It is okay to stray away from a rigid professional voice when first contacting a client. Clients usually enjoy an inquiry with a friendly tone. Make emails personal, ask about their vacation, their wedding, kid’s birthday – anything to make the conversation more friendly.

Keep Track of Everything

From new client leads to monthly sales, it is crucial to keep a record of everything. Organization is key to keeping any business, and keeping records makes staying organized much easier.

As someone who doesn’t have the best memory, I would highly recommend this specific task when approaching the web design process.

I witnessed my supervisor, Shawn, checking her emails for new leads and immediately adding any information from an email into a new document. This helps give a better idea of your new potential client, and what new information you need to start their project.

Get as much Info as Possible

When you first get in touch with a client on the phone, write down some notes from your initial conversation. Who are they? What type of business are they in? What kind of service or services are they interested in? Do they have an existing website?

These questions will help you stay more organized when dealing with clients. If you keep everything on file, you can always go back for reference in case you or your client forgets something.

Start With a Proposal

Once you have a good idea of what your client needs, you can start laying out the basics of their project. The first piece of written documentation you will need is a proposal.

A proposal is a written offer that you would give to a potential customer. It outlines the type of service or services the client wants, the client’s project, and most importantly, the cost of their project. The proposal is important to have when dealing with prospective clients because you want your client to have a good idea of what their project includes and what it will cost them.

Have a Written Agreement

When your client finally decides to seal the deal, it is time to write your agreement – or contract. Typically, companies keep templates of their contracts and fill in the blanks according to their clients needs. Pricing, services, and the type of website are usually included in the agreement. The agreement also states how long the project will take. Go over the agreement with your client to make sure that they fully understand the details of the agreement before they sign.

Once you get started on a project, some clients may wish to add on additional services or products. Although you may be happy to help, it is important to let them know that those additions were not included in the original agreement, and will be added to their cost. If a client becomes unhappy with this, you can always show them the original agreement to help clear things up.

Be Courteous

Being a web designer involves a great deal of teaching. As I mentioned before, many clients do not know much about the web design process. In some cases, a client with little knowledge will have to learn how to edit their website on their own.

For example, a client with a sports betting site may need to update certain products daily. In this case, the client will need a good understanding of their website in order to make daily edits. As a web designer, you will have to train your client to make sure they understand how their site works and can make edits on their own.

Know Your Client’s Needs

A major part of being a good web designer is being able to help grow your client’s business through your services. A good web designer will recommend things like digital marketing campaigns, email integration, e-commerce, hosting companies and more. It is your job as a web designer to direct your client to the products and services that will benefit their company the most.

Don’t Take Rejection Personally

Developing a website is no simple task, for both you and your client. There are many things to consider when starting a website, and the whole process can seem overwhelming to a first time client. Keep in mind that all inquiries are not final sales, and be respectful of your clients decision.

Whether they chose to work with you or not, it is good to let them know that you are always available for any questions or concerns. Even if they decide to work with another company, they may run into some problems and choose to work with you instead.

It’s a Process

There are many things that go into building a website, and the process can be very lengthy. Depending on the number of people on your team, it can take months to complete one project.

The very first aspect of the process is getting in touch with clients. Of course, you can not start designing a site without the very important consultation phase. This phase can take anywhere from a few days to months to complete, because clients can be hard to get a hold of.

After getting a hold of client, you still need to consult with them before you can seal the deal. Timing for this can vary depending on how serious a client is on starting a website. It is important not to rush a client when they make a decision, no matter how long they take. Remember to always be patient and courteous.

The design and development process is usually pretty straight forward and should take no more than 2 to 3 days.

Still, clients can be very critical and picky people. You may have completed what you believe is an exceptional website, but your client might just hate it. They might even have you change everything that you made. It is important to remember good customer service practices and remain patient when dealing with clients.

Not all Projects are The Same

As opposed to any other tedious profession, being a web designer isn’t about doing the same thing every day. There isn’t one template that web designers use for all their clients, and web development isn’t a copy and paste job.

Every single one of your client’s needs must be programmed to function on their website. This being said, site functionality can vary greatly from client to client.

On one hand, you may have a client who wants a fairly simple, informational site for their brick and mortar business. On the other hand, you may have a client who wants an e-commerce site for their online business. Whatever the case may be, it is important to make each site unique for your client’s business.

Know Your Programs

As there are many components to the business of web design, there are just as many components to the development of a website. As a web designer, you must be fluent in many web design programs and coding languages in order to better tailor the needs of your client.

If a client comes in asking for a site that will generate good search ranks, you wouldn’t want to build their site using a program such as Wix. You would instead build their website on WordPress, as it is more Google friendly.

Because of how popular WordPress is, you may consider only using WordPress for your websites. Keep in mind that while most sites would use WordPress, some sites may be more fit to be built using a different program. For instance, an informational site for a student organization would be more Wix friendly.

A good web designer is always ready to recommend and implement the right programs for the right project.

It’s Not Just Web Design

There is much more to web design companies than simply developing websites. Many web design companies offer a number of other services to their clients, mainly digital marketing services.

Logo creation, photography, content writing, SEO, website maintenance, merchant accounts, graphic design, and website hosting are just some of the services that I have seen from various web design companies. Having a diverse range of services can help increase profits for your business and lead to future repeat customers.

Know Your Code

A big part of website development and design is programming. Even when using a platform such as WordPress, there is still a great deal of coding used for development. Coding helps make websites unique by providing different functionality and add-ons.

As a web designer, it is helpful to be fluent in as many coding languages as possible. Having a diverse portfolio will make the development process easier and put you at an advantage to your competition.

Make Meaningful Connections

Any successful business professional will tell you that the key to running a fruitful business is having the right connections. Networking helps further the development and growth of any business. Being in touch with the right people can open more doors of opportunity that you simply cannot achieve by yourself.

If you are unsure on how to start networking, try starting with your clients. The perfect thing about being a web designer is having a diverse group of clients. Every business needs a website, so there’s no saying who will inquire with you for a website.

Take advantage of your networking potential as a web designer. Build a connection with your clients while you work on their project. Let them know that they are not just another customer. Keep a record of all your past and current clients. Don’t be afraid to contact them in the future for any business inquires.

Overview

My internship at Starfire Web Design has left me with meaningful skills and experiences that I will continue to use throughout my career and professional future. I have been exposed to an illustrious industry with an abundance of potential and growth. I truly appreciate my experience and will always remember the valuable time I spent at Starfire Web Design.

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