How To Win as a Web Designer in the Gig Economy

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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The landscape of the workplace has changed drastically.

That’s probably a huge understatement, right?

And, it hasn’t just been within the past decade. We’re talking about within the past 3 years.

It’s not just businesses that are driving the change but the EMPLOYEES as well.

People are wanting more freedom and no longer anticipate being with the same company for the rest of their lives.

At the same time, businesses are enjoying the flexibility they have to find people not necessarily looking to be a full-time employee.

It opens up a lot of doors for smaller businesses that can’t afford to hire someone full-time just yet to have some really quality work done.

But, what does that mean for you?

It’s a Bit Scary…But it Doesn’t Have to Be

Like me, you’ve probably felt a little nervous about what this means for your career. I mean, come on, I’ve got another good 30 years left in me.

If things change as they have in the past 10 years for the next 30 who knows what the workplace is going to look like.

Couple that with the fact that people keep saying drag and drop website builders are going to take my job as a web designer and it’s easy to get nervous.

(Don’t believe it for a second, by the way. Read my response to the drag and drop website builder nonsense here)

But, don’t fear!

If I’ve learned anything from the Facebook posts that get the most attention it’s that the more dramatic you sound the more clicks you get.

It’s not as bad as everyone is saying AND there are some things you can do to prepare for the change to make sure you’re ability to earn money is stable despite the instability of the modern workplace.

1. Learn Some New Skills

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

For a long time, that statement was backed by scientific research. It was almost an absolute fact that the older you got the harder it was to learn new things.

In fact, the common thought was that there’s a very short period of time in your life when you’ll be at the height of your learning ability.

BUT, new research has started to make us question that sentiment.

We’re finding more and more that there isn’t the cap to learning that we once thought there was.

Does that make you as excited as it does me?

There is no time in your life when you can’t learn a new skill or master a new technique!

And, think about what this means for web designers in the gig economy.

There will never be a time in your life that you CAN’T devote some effort to learning something new and make yourself more valuable as an employee.

No matter how smart computers get they won’t be able to take your job if you keep learning and keep growing and keep improving.

One of the best things you can do to survive as a web designer in the gig economy is to invest in yourself through learning.

Maybe you’ve found this article or reading this and you’re kicking the tires on whether or not you should learn web design yourself.

Listen, there’s no better time than now. And, I’ve made an easy course to help you get started.

So, why not? Sign up for the course here.

2. Start a Side Hustle

The gig economy might take away a few opportunities but it opens up WAY MORE than it takes.

A side hustle is exactly how I got to where I am now as a full-time UX/web designer. And, my side-hustle would have been much more difficult without a gig economy.

I started freelancing in my spare time in 2014. Pretty soon that turned into a significant income for me and my family.

When the time came for me to pivot my career and look for a full-time position as a UX/web designer I had 5 years’ worth of projects to show for my ability.

That made it way easier to find the kind of job I was looking for.

And, I was essentially coming in as a mid-level UX/web designer rather than a junior with no experience.

There’s never been a better time to start a side hustle right from your very own living room.

Never before have you been able to connect with anyone from around the world to find work.

So, I say, “go for it!”

3. Keep Your Portfolio Up to Date

I get that it’s a pain to keep your portfolio up to date. I mean I barely have time to keep my house clean let alone all the other stuff I’m working on.

But, keeping your portfolio up to date could be one of the best decisions you could make as a web designer in the gig economy.

It’s helpful for 2 reasons

  1. It makes it easier to find another gig should something happen with your current one
  2. It keeps you focused to learn and develop as a web designer while working on your current projects.

The truth is that it’s really easy to do just enough to get your work finished and through the door before the deadline hits. And, sometimes that feels like extra work!

But, that doesn’t really help you grow as a web designer. If on every project you have your portfolio in the back of your mind, you are much more likely to stretch yourself, to grow your skills and to gauge your progress.

So, do a portfolio spruce up every few weeks. Your future self will thank you.

4. Build Relationships

I hate to call it networking. But, that’s what most people think of it as.

Even the word networking makes me feel kind of gross.

After all, isn’t networking just someone’s attempt to figure out if they can use another person to help them get to the next rung of the ladder?

Here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s all in how you look at it.

I try to think of networking as a way to serve other people with no strings attached.

I actually love serving people. It brings me joy to think that my influence in someone’s life was able to help them prosper.

And, here’s the thing, it’s always turned around and helped me. When I need help, the people that I’ve served are right there willing to step in.

If they aren’t, it’s no big deal. That’s not why I was helpful in the first place. But, they almost always are.

The truth is that RESUMES don’t get jobs RELATIONSHIPS do.

When I first started looking for a full-time job as a web designer I let everyone I know that I was looking and asked that they keep their ears open for opportunities.

Sure enough, this got me interviews and even a job offer.

I get that building relationships with people in your industry takes time that a lot of us don’t have. But, trust me it’s worth it.

Put it into your schedule and go for it.

5. Get Good at Selling Yourself

In the gig economy, it’s not just about how great you are.

It’s about how good you are at showing people your value.

I know incredible web developers who are the smartest people I’ve ever met who struggle to find work simply because they have a really hard time selling themselves.

And, listen, there’s a way to sell yourself that isn’t sleazy.

But, just like anything else, it takes practice and intentionality.

You’ve got to realize that people don’t want to hire you because of how many skills you have or how long you’ve been doing web design.

They want to hire you because of the value you can add to their lives.

I talk about that a lot in this article.

So, it’s important to figure out that value and come up with an elevator pitch for yourself.

What’s an elevator pitch? I’m glad you asked.

An elevator pitch is something you can quickly say to describe who you are, what you do, who you serve and why it’s a good idea to hire you all in the time it would take to go up a few floors in an elevator.

For instance, mine would be something like this:

“Hi, I’m Chris. I design clean and modern websites for service-based businesses. My strengths are in design but I’m also proficient in development. I have a degree in business management. So, I’m not just interested in making you a pretty website. I’m interested in making you a site that moves your company forward.”

That literally took less than 10 seconds to say and it told them who I was, what I do, who I do it for and why they should hire me. Believe it or not that simple elevator pitch has made me thousands of dollars as a freelancer.

Have trouble when you’re interacting with potential clients?

Try practicing your pitch on friends.

Any time I know I’ve got a big pitch coming up I will go over the points I want to make in my head. I’ll try to think of some objections that might surface.

There are even times when I go over what I’m going to say out loud.

The more you practice at it, the better you get.

6. Display Your Work

There are plenty of places as a web designer for you to show off what you’ve been working on.

Places like Dribbble or Behance are perfect just for that.

Maybe you’re already familiar with those two platforms BUT you have a hard time staying up to date with your latest work.

I get it. But, trust me, the time you put into publishing what you’ve been working on as a web designer will pay off in huge dividends over time.

It helps you connect with people from all over the world and develop relationships with people that you wouldn’t find at a web designer meet up.

So, if you’re having trouble finding the time to add some of your work to Dribbble or Behance make a template that you can drag and drop some screenshots onto.

Every post doesn’t have to be a work of art.

I’m honestly surprised to see some of these posts on Behance. I’m like do you guys have nothing but free time on your hands?

Sometimes their Behance post is more beautiful than the work they’re trying to show you.

Okay, enough of that rant.

A simple something is better than an amazing nothing.

Wrapping Up

Honestly, the arrival of the gig economy excites me a little bit.

I’m seeing companies become more inclined to look at a portfolio than to ask about a degree.

This means that anyone can break into any field no matter where they are, how old they are or what they’ve done in the past.

This could be a great opportunity for you to go after the career you’ve always dreamed about having.

So, what are you hoping to see change in the gig economy and what are you planning to do as a worker?

Let’s chat about it.


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



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