10 Excellent Tips For Designers To Improve Their Income

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December 12, 2008

Sometimes, it seems absolutely impossible to keep up with all the design work you've got coming in. But, other times, it may seem like you just don't have enough work to meet your income goals.

In these times, it makes sense to offer a few more services to your clients — to make sure that you can make a little more money.

The ten services below can make it easy to boost your income and take advantage of the design skills you've developed.

1. Blog Setup

Everybody and their dog wants a blog these days — but a lot of these would-be bloggers aren't up to much more than opening a free account on Blogger or WordPress. Setting up a hosted blog, installing plugins and customizing a theme are all beyond them. But if you can provide these services, you can pick up some easy cash.

While setting up a blog can require a little technical knowledge, it's generally a fast process, especially when you get a little practice. In general, customers looking for blog set-up services don't necessarily want a custom design: they usually have a theme in mind that they just want to slap their own images on. WordPress takes about five minutes to install, making blog set up surprisingly lucrative.

2. Hosting

Many web design clients don't really want to worry about hosting their own website. If you're willing to take on that worry, you can make plenty of money and increase your chances of repeat business. After all, if you both designed a website and are hosting it, a customer is unlikely to go to someone else to update his or her site.

You don't have to mess with servers of your own, either: using a virtual server from one of the many web hosts available can handle the needs of many small websites. There is a little worry that goes along with hosting — if a client's website isn't up, it's on your shoulders — but it remains a relatively easy source of income.

3. Ad Design

For your clients who are buying ad space online, it's worth their while to use ads that match their website's design. Offering an online ad design service saves your clients from trying to turn their logo into a banner ad and puts some money in your pocket. Because there are certain common ad sizes, you can offer a single ad design or a package of several common sizes.

4. Templates

Many web design customers aren't actually looking for a unique design for their website. Instead, they're more than happy to accept a template — especially if they'll pay less for it than for a custom-designed site. Some customers are just looking for files they can set up themselves, while others want to hire a web designer to fully implement the template.

Either option allows you to continue making money off a design long after you've finalized it. In addition to selling your templates on your own, there are many market places with significant traffic for specific types of templates (i.e. WordPress, Joomla, etc.).

5. Icons

There are certain icons you'll spot all over the web — such as the RSS icon. While there's one set symbol, though, there are thousands of design variations upon that theme. Not only can you sell such icons to individuals setting up their own websites, but you can also sell them to other web designers to help them speed up their work. Icons are commonly sold in sets related either by theme or design qualities: you can often earn more with scalable vector icons. There are thousands of potential icons you can work with, as well.

6. Sub-Contracting

Design is not the only aspect of a website that a client might hire out. While you might be given all the text the client wants included in a website, you may not. Rather than trying to help your client find someone up to writing copy, you can agree to take it on as part of the website design. From there you have two options — write it yourself or sub-contract to a writer.

You effectively earn a finder's fee from providing a writer with the work, and if you have a writer you can work with regularly, you can take on more projects than you might otherwise. You don't have to limit yourself to writing, either: web applications, marketing and other projects associated with setting up a new website all offer sub-contracting opportunities.

7. User Testing

Putting a website through its paces can require money, leading many web designers to simply skip it. But if you offer this service to your clientele you'll be able to provide another layer of quality work. User testing can be as simple as sitting down with a couple of people and asking them to try to use the site. It can be as cheap of offering them lunch in exchange for their time. You may have to spend more time explaining to your customers just what user testing is than you might need to spend on your other services, but that bump in income is often worth it.

8. Training

Especially when you're setting up a website that a client expects to update on his own, you have to expect lots of questions on how to use the site. Those questions don't have to be just another cost of doing business, though.

Instead, you can offer a client the service of walking him through every part of the completed website and explaining each step. If you and your client are in the same area, it might be worthwhile to go in and educate the client in person. However, with all the various online conferencing applications that allow you to share your desktop with an observer, physical proximity isn't necessary.

9. Search Engine Optimization

The methods search engines use rank websites change quite often. Part of good website maintenance is updating a site as necessary to keep up with search engines' needs. Offering search engine optimization offers you a chance to revisit past clients' websites: they may not need visible changes, but a little tinkering under the hood may get a website better search results. You can also offer SEO services to potential clients who already have well-designed websites.

10. Marketing

While web marketing can be a full-time job, you can provide your clients with a basic web marketing package: setting up accounts on social networking sites, emailing bloggers on your client's behalf and other small tasks. Most designers don't have any interest in doing a large amount of marketing, but a few simple services can help a client get started as well as generate a little income.

If you're interested in adding any of these services to your web design offerings, consider starting with your existing clientele. Send out an email explaining what you're adding to your offerings and see if you get any bites. From there, you can start thinking about new customers. It may not be practical to add all ten services in one go (and you may need to brush up on a few skills before marketing your work), but these options can give you a starting point.

Additionally, there are far more than ten services a web designer can offer. Think about how you might combine your non-design skills with your web work and see what you come up with — you might find an option that works better with your skill set than those listed above.

Bonus Income Source: Passive Income

If you've still got a couple of hours left over after you finish helping your clients, consider passive income opportunities. Every service you offer results in active income: you're trading your time directly for money.

With passive income, however, once you've established an income source, you get money with only minimal time and effort. Traditionally, passive income came from investments — you needed a large amount of money in order to earn income. However, these days there are plenty of opportunities for web designers to create passive income streams: most require an upfront investment of time (rather than money), but can continue to pay off indefinitely.

  • Stock Graphics: You can sell a variety of graphics through stock graphic sites. You create one image, upload it and the stock graphic company sends you money whenever someone purchases a copy of your graphic. You can often sell website templates in much the same way.
  • Niche Websites: You can create a website on a specific topic, fill it with content and set up either ads or affiliate programs. With ads, you'll get money whenever someone visits your site and clicks on an ad. With affiliate programs, you'll get paid whenever anyone purchases a product through your website.
  • Web Application: Projects like web applications can take a lot of upfront work. But, depending on your payment model, you can earn money for every person who uses your web application.

These are just a few examples of passive income streams. There are thousands more available to you, and they're just a matter of figuring out how you can sell your skills without selling your time.

Do you offer extra services to your clients that improve your income? Have we missed some good options? Please share with us!

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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