Whether you’re considering web design as a career, or have just landed your very first freelance job, you’re probably wondering what life as a web designer is like in the long run. When you’re just starting out, it’s hard to know whether the problems you’re experiencing are teething troubles or just part of the job.
Successful web designers might make it look easy, but in truth, it can be challenging and frustrating — even for the experienced.
1. Coding will never be straightforward.
Things will never work first time — and occasionally, they won’t work after the tenth time, either. It’s not necessarily your fault. You need to persevere. Be patient. Try not to disturb co-workers unless you have to, but don’t be too proud to ask for help, either.
Web technology is always changing, so you have to learn to adapt. In the end, it doesn’t matter if current design trends or certain browsers annoy you — you can pretty much guarantee that in ten years time, we’ll all be using something else anyway.
2. You won’t get a job without a portfolio.
Unfortunately, this means working for free at first. Design websites for local bands, your neighbour’s piano tutoring, or the village cycling group. Preferably all three. There are plenty of people in need of websites — help them out, and fill that portfolio. The more work you have to show for yourself, the better. And it goes without saying that you need an impressive website of your own — especially if you plan on freelancing.
3. You will have problems that non-designers just won’t understand…
…but on the plus side, the design community is fantastic — both online and offline. If there isn’t a meet-up near you already, why not organise one yourself? You’ll learn a lot from other designers, and meeting like-minded people is always a bonus. Socialising with others in your field takes the pain out of networking, too. And networking, in this job, is important.
4. Some clients are bullies.
You’ll have wonderful clients, and you’ll have awful ones. Occasionally you’ll get a client who thinks they know better than you. Guess what? They don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t need a web designer. By all means, listen to requests and suggestions, but stand your ground — a bad design will reflect badly on you, and your reputation is important.
5. Letting go can be difficult.
Once the product is delivered and you’ve been paid for the job, move on. You’ll find yourself checking up on your old designs — a bit like stalking ex-girlfriends on Facebook — and that’s fine in moderation, but you need to let go. If you’re not happy with the design, learn from it, and stop beating yourself up.
In the end, web design may be difficult and exhausting, but it’s also immensely satisfying. It’s stimulating, rewarding, and it pays well — and that’s pretty much all you can hope for in a job. The good outweighs the bad, and in the end, even the bad can be laughed about.