Any time you choose an artistic career path, such as web design, you are in for a mix of triumphs and challenges. One of these challenges is bound to be financial. But if you find ways to operate within a budget, you will be able to maximize the money you earn while doing the work you love.
Whether you are a recent graduate, a new freelancer or are simply riding out a lull in your industry, the following are some simple, yet practical ways for web designers to cut costs and save money.
1. Save on software
Generally, the costliest items in a freelance web designer's budget are a computer and software applications. While skimping on the computer would be difficult, designers on a tight budget can save a lot of money on software. With the growing number of small independent software developers creating high-quality products, finding free applications or reasonably priced alternatives to the leading brands is possible.
Start by searching out online sources that offer quality software for free, such as Komodo Edit. If you need software with a few more bells and whistles, plenty of lower-cost applications are available for under $50, such as Web Easy Professional. These applications often perform comparably well to more expensive choices, such as the $400 Adobe products.
2. Get lean
Your greatest assets as a web designer are your knowledge and skills—everything else is window dressing. One of the best methods of reducing costs is to lower your overheads. How? Simple: stop paying for office space and move your operation to your home. Not only will you save a huge chunk of change on rent, but you will also eliminate the time and money spent on your daily commute. Plus, with a home office, you can deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage and related expenses, such as utilities, on your tax return.
You might also want to consider dropping your landline and relying solely on your mobile phone instead. And consider lowering your supplies costs by joining groups like Freecycle, where you can find a wide variety of items for free.
3. Find freebies
Web designers are often asked to find images and create elements for projects, which can be costly. However, a ton of free online resources are available for everything you might need, such as stock photography, clip art, ready-made icons and WordPress themes. Whether you need a unique settings panel, a catchy shopping-cart icon or a creative background, hunt out freebies that are appropriate and don't break the bank.
As a professional web designer, you have a talent that most businesses would benefit from. Likewise, whether you need expert computer support, high-end printing for a presentation or content from a skilled writer, seek out individuals who are willing to trade their products or services for yours. Limit out-of-pocket spending by devoting a few hours to creating a logo, flyer or layout in exchange for a product or service. At the same time, you'll be building your portfolio and establishing valuable relationships.
Just make sure that when you barter your services, you get something of equal value in return. And don't give your services away.
Put an end to freebie jobs for family members and friends, and devote your extra time to professional development and acquiring paying clients.
5. Dive for discounts
One of the worst things you can do when shopping online is to purchase the first product you come across. In the time it takes to brew a cup of coffee, you could conduct a thorough search to compare prices, find sales and locate discount codes. Regularly visit sites dedicated to helping consumers, like dealnews. You can find almost anything, from printing paper and ink cartridges to software and electronics, at a fraction of the regular retail price.
If you are a student or teacher, inquire about special educational prices on products and memberships, and look for versions of software that you can use for free or acquire at a discount. Even if you're not a student or teacher, check whether you are eligible for a reduced-price upgrade on software that you own. This can save you as much as 75% on the sticker price. Finally, in a pinch, consider using a free trial version of a program.
6. Embrace self-education
The price of continuing education for web designers is often very expensive. As an alternative, seek out resources online and at the library. A couple of college-level courses in advanced web design might cost a few thousand dollars, while a stack of used books covering similar material can often be purchased for $50 or less on Amazon.
Also, look for free classes, seminars and workshops offered in the community or online that will enhance your skill set or help you grow your business. If you want to pursue paid education, apply for grants and assistance through organizations such as the office of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in the US.
7. Do it yourself
An independent business owner or freelance worker is often forced to wear many hats when starting out. This can be time-consuming, but it does reduce expenditures. It also broadens your abilities while giving you more perspective on what it takes to be successful.
Embrace the do-it-yourself spirit by writing your own web content or by bringing online marketing or SEO in house.
Another surefire method is to file your own taxes, instead of paying a bookkeeper or tax professional. If you're a sole proprietor, you can keep detailed records using online accounting software, thereby making tax time a breeze.
A commonly overlooked yet invaluable way to further your education is to find a mentor who is willing to take you under their wing. If you can budget the time, an internship is a viable way to gain experience and job training. You could also gain access to cutting-edge technology, shared software and even a weekly stipend. Additionally, you'll expand your networking opportunities and industry credentials.
Taking on an intern or mentee of your own is another great idea. In exchange for sharing your knowledge, you will cultivate a new relationship while receiving free assistance that saves you money and time.
9. Consider a collective
A tried and true method of cutting operating costs is to pool resources with like-minded professionals. By starting or joining a collective, you will save money on office rent, tools and even Internet costs.
Reach out to your local community through popular sources such as Meetup, or join an online forum to gauge interest and make connections. The combination of ideas, creative inspiration, shared knowledge base and potential savings are just a few positives that make this type of association appealing.
Making a business successful, especially in a highly creative field, requires perseverance in doing whatever it takes to make things work. Your financials could build or sink your business, so take proactive approaches to saving money.
Web design is an advanced technical field, but that doesn't mean you need to spend all of your hard-earned money on every 'must-have' gadget that hits the market. By developing your skills, maximizing your resources and relying on your creativity, you will give your career a boost while keeping operating costs at a minimum.
What do you do to stay on budget? Do you lay out for premium resources or get by on price-conscious offerings? Let us know in the comments.
Featured image/thumbnail, money image via Shutterstock.