Advice when starting out: design, inspiration, images

There was a comment in the forum of the course I am studying and I wanted to do a longer answer than would fit in the box so I thought I would write a blog post as the answer and link to it. Also I thought it may be useful to use for others as I am sure other people are on the same track.

The question was asking fellow students to look at a landing page website advertising a new business building websites for people.

Whilst this course gives a good grounding in the basics of web development, it’s just the foundations to build upon. For anyone seriously wanting to go into freelance web design, I would recommend the following supplementary activities and next steps.

Learn about design – that is colour schemes and palettes that work and what they convey, images, fonts, layouts, ideal proportions and general aesthetics. There are courses you can do on Udemy. You can also learn a lot from googling this subject.

Look at websites for ideas – build up a collection of bookmarked links and take screen shots of examples of both well and badly designed websites. Think about how you respond to them. What particular aspects make you think it is good or bad? You can also look at the source code of the sites you like to see how they did it.

Look online for local businesses that have simple one page websites that are not responsive – do redesigns of them that are responsive. Use the same colour scheme, fonts, images, logos, etc, but rearrange the layout and code to make the site fit all devices. I think this is just a good practice to see what is involved but when you have done it you can also use it as a pitch to that company for the opportunity to do it for them for real. Perhaps you can do several different designs with the same basic content and then ask them if they like any of them and would pay you for them.

Make some generic templates for future use – when you have any slack time, build up a portfolio of examples of site designs that you can use to make jobs quicker to produce later on and that also form a set of samples that prospective clients can choose from. Perhaps think about niche areas of business appropriate to your local area, eg restaurants, hairdressers, plumbers.

Build up a collection of free for commercial use images – there are a lot of places that you can get free images from, but the time consuming thing is finding just the right one for what you are wanting to do. If you build up your own collection (making sure that you have the correct information about where they have come from to use them) then you will save yourself time later when you may be working to tight deadlines.

Learn about digital photography – as well as free images available online, if you have a ready stock of your own images then that makes it much clearer that you have the right to use and sell them on to other people. If you do, make sure you understand about copyright and are clear with the people you are making the website for what usage rights they have for the image – for example they can use it on their site but if they then contract someone else to redo their site can they still use it?

Research your competition – This is basic advice for any business. Know who else is in the same market place as you. How are you the same as them? How are you different? What makes you a better choice over your competition?

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