Non-profits, churches, and other charitable groups almost always need professional
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) typically provide freelance web designers with their first paying gigs. They’re local, often very old-school, and almost never have web designers or marketing people on the payroll. While the term “small business” usually means fewer than 50 employees, and “medium-sized business” means fewer than 250 employees, you’ll probably have the best luck with the local mom-and-pops with a only a handful of employees. Almost all of my SMB clients over the years have had fewer than 10 employees. Quite a few had only one or two.
Small business Considerations
Small business owners are usually very headstrong about what they think they need. They did build a successful business from the ground up, after all. They’re also usually very tight with their money, so helping them understand a website as an investment, not a cost, can be a challenge. You’ll also be challenged to stick to good design principles when they ask you to make ridiculous changes, like making the text red and the background black (that’s a true story).
As organizations get larger, the need for internal marketing people often grows. These people can be responsible for many things, but the company website is often part of their responsibility. Landing a marketing client is a huge win for a freelance web designer because marketing departments usually don’t mind spending money, especially when compared to SMBs, and their names on your client list will help reinforce your position as an expert.
Marketing Department Considerations
Working with marketing departments can generate a sizable chunk of income, but dealing with departments, rather than the owners (as with SMBs) can be challenging. Often decisions are made that are completely out of your hands, like budget cuts. As you begin working with marketing departments, learn how the organization works, who needs to approve what, and who the real influencers are in the company. With this kind of client, you actually have multiple internal clients all with different needs and expectations, so pay attention and learn quickly.
Agencies and Design Firms
Agency world can be quite unpredictable, and literally overnight, a firm can go from no work to too much work. In those cases, agencies will often call on a select group of trusted freelance web designer to help ease the load on internal designers. They can be hard to get, but my best clients are agency clients. They understand the business, so they don’t make crazy requests, and the margin on their projects is always fantastic.
Agencies and Design Firm Considerations
This kind of client is the one to work toward. Having a few agencies that send regular work will provide you the chance to work less and make more. However, you can’t start out working with these types. Be patient, build your portfolio, and get out there and network to make the necessary connections to add a few agencies to your list of clients.