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How To Deal With Competition In The Freelance Business And Respect Yourself

The Podcast Episode with Nicholas Tart

Nowadays, there are already a lot of opportunities for freelance web designers compared to a few years back. However, there is still the misconception of not spending a lot of money on freelance design and development simply because some clients think that freelancers are not professionals.

Fortunately, not everyone has this misconception, and one of them is Nicholas Tart, AwesomeWeb Project Manager. Being a former freelancer himself, Nick understands the pains, struggles, and frustrations of freelance web designers.

That understanding has guided Nicholas as the Project Manager of AwesomeWeb. He knows that while design is the top priority of designers, they still need to earn a living. That is why AwesomeWeb aims to be different than the other job marketplaces as it connects designers to projects that pay well.

The Importance of Having the Right Mindset

Nick talked about his experience when he first started as a freelancer. Just like everybody else in the freelancing business, his approach is pretty much the same – get clients and send them an invoice after the job is done. Sure, he gets clients who pay between $2K and $3K, but they come in trickles – like a case of getting lucky.

His view about freelancing changed after talking with a friend who works as a web designer at a big agency. He then started thinking how to work as a freelancer and run an agency, even when it was just him and a couple of contractors he had hired.

What he did was instead of charging for hours, he charged for hours so if the job would take him 50 hours to finish, he would multiply that with his hourly rate of $75 and charge the client $3750. He also divided his time into 15-minute increments, so if he spent three minutes doing some changes in a website, that would charge around $18 by dividing $75 by four.

With that, his mindset changed from that being of an employee to being an entrepreneur. An employee mindset can simply be likened to how schools taught you. That is, you sit quietly, memorize any information given you, and regurgitate that information when exam time comes. This kind of mindset will definitely sabotage your mindset as a freelancer.

An entrepreneur mindset, on the other hand, calls the shots, owns up to his responsibilities, and designs his own success. If you don’t think like one, you become a liability because it limits your potential. However, there are practical ways how to develop this kind of mindset.

Entrepreneurs solve problems first and design next.

Entrepreneurs are not really worried about job descriptions, but they view themselves as problem solvers first. And in order to solve problems, they are not afraid of getting their hands dirty and will complete the necessary tasks to bring them closer to their goals.

Clients hire you to design a website for them. But why are they doing that? What is the underlying problem that drove them to hire you?

Web design professionals who have an entrepreneurial mindset will try to figure that problem out, within reason, to help their clients. If you don’t know, don’t be afraid to ask your clients because they will be more than happy to do that.

Entrepreneurs use client feedback to improve their business.

An employee depends on performance reviews, while an entrepreneur focuses on launching a product that is viable, getting feedback, and using it to improve the product even more. A web designer who has this kind of mindset understands that they will have to change several courses of actions in order to find a winning formula.

Entrepreneurs take responsibility over their successes and mistakes.

Your greatest and most powerful testimonial as a freelance web designer is your reputation. A good reputation leads to higher rates, referrals, and opportunities to work with dream clients. However, it is in your hands to shape your reputation well. Blaming mistakes on the externals, or even your clients, are a huge recipe for failure.

How to Position Yourself as a Freelancer

What is the difference between a freelancer who charges $40/hour to a freelancer who charges $80/hour?

This was the question which Nicholas answered by saying that it is not only about the quality you bring to the table, but also on how you position yourself as a freelancer.

Positioning yourself correctly as a freelancer means you need to be able to pinpoint who your perfect customer is. Once you know who your perfect customer is, the next thing to find out is what would trigger them or fire them up to choose you over other freelance web designers in the marketplace.

This can be quite tricky, most especially in terms of pricing. How will you be able to convince your client to hire you even if your rate is higher than the other person?

In his podcast interview, Paul Jarvis mentioned how he was able to charge $9000 per client or per project, and his secret is by serving only one type of client well. In his blog, he also mentioned that the right way to position yourself as a freelancer is by thinking yourself as a leader and not as a laborer. This simply means that you have to commoditize your skills and focus on how much value your solutions and expertise are on the table.

To show his dedication to such principles, Nick and the AwesomeWeb team help web designers who work in their platform do just that. They guide them by building a portfolio which highlights their expertise, helping them understand who their perfect customer is, and most importantly, connecting the perfect client to the perfect freelancer.

In short, AwesomeWeb is dedicated to helping their members know exactly who they are, what type of work they want to do, and get as many clients for that type of work. And part of that dedication includes developing their marketplace to benefit the freelancers even more.


There are still misconceptions regarding how freelancers are being viewed. These are due to several factors coming from clients and even freelancers themselves. However, you can challenge, even change, these misconceptions by having a change of mindset first. Respect and change come from within first, then it manifests and bring change to the people and things around you. By heeding the advice of experts and industry leaders, you can soon find success as a freelancer with your respect still intact.



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Chris Coyier Shares Web Design Opinions That Might NOT Be for You

The Podcast Episode with Chris Coyier

Chris Coyier is a man who wears many hats. This might not sound very surprising as there are a lot of people who can do the same. However, not all people can look good in different types of hats and that’s where the comparison ends because Chris Coyier manages to look good wearing each one of them.

The hats in question are, of course, the things Chris is involved in – that of a designer at CodePen, as a writer at CSS-Tricks, and as a podcaster at ShopTalk. You can also include in the list as that of a ukulele player. Oftentimes compared to Jeffrey Zeldman, Chris is considered as one of the top guns in the web design industry. For a lot of web designers, he is the modern-day web design god whose very path they unabashedly worship.

Worship might be too strong a word to use and Chris Coyier might not like the description, but you cannot deny the significant impact he has made in the web design industry. Evidence of it was the reaction of community members had when they heard that 1stWebDesigner is going to have a podcast interview with him.

On Themes and Frameworks

One of the most talked about topics in the web design community, especially in the 1stWebDesigner community, is WordPress. And when the subject of WordPress is brought out, you cannot avoid talking about themes and frameworks.

So, we asked Chris which is better in delivering custom solutions to clients in the fastest way possible – themes or frameworks?

Every web designer or web developer knows the difference between these two – the framework is used to develop the theme while the theme allows you to customize the base. To simply put it, the framework is the base while the theme is the finished product.

However, even though web designers know the differences, it seems that it stopped their understanding to the definition; thus, the debate. The key that every web designer should bring to heart is – DIFFERENCE. Therefore, there should not be any comparison because there is nothing to compare. Moreover, one cannot exist without the other. And even if you can use each separately, you won’t be able to achieve the same results as when these two meld together.

As Chris Coyier said, it is irresponsible to give your client an incomplete answer without trying to know every aspect of your business, your talents, and your clients. There is too much missing information in this conversation to ever prescribe a solution.

The most important answer rather is what does the framework do or what kind of functionality does it bring to the table. No matter what kind of things it offer if you think it will help your client, then you can use it.

Why WordPress?

Aside from the fact that WordPress powers some of the big-name websites, there is a lot going on in some websites that only WordPress can handle. Yes, there are other amazing platforms out there but there are specific features that can only be delivered by WordPress. A good representation of what WordPress can do is CSS Tricks, which is both a blog and a forum.

As a forum, CSS Tricks use the plugin bbPress which is powered by WordPress. Then, there’s also Restrict Content Pro, a membership content log in area which works well for both blog admin and community members. This plugin enables you to control which posts can be accessed by what type of readers you have. It also help you create and track subscription level members.

Aside from this, it also has an authentication and user rights features which allows you to  manage the site, editors work with content, authors and contributors write that content, and subscribers have a profile that they can manage. This lets you have a variety of contributors to your website, and let others simply be part of your community.

I agree with some people saying that a static site generator is much better than WordPress because there’s nothing for hackers to hack in there. Security is the main strength of static generators because no matter how badly designed it is, it does not affect the security and performance of the site. However, just because I have trouble once every six months is indicative to move platforms.

On Building Themes and Frameworks

When asked why he doesn’t build his own theme since he has the expertise and experience to build a really great one, Chris said that he feels envious of people who make a lot of money and running their own company selling these themes on ThemeForest. However, it doesn’t feel right for him to do so. He doesn’t have anything against people who let people sign up so they can have as many themes as possible but how many themes do people really need?

It is a given that when you designed a theme loaded with features it will sell more. Simply, the more it can do, the more money it could make. On the other hand, the most ideal thing to do is create a performance-focused WordPress theme but it won’t sell as much as the theme loaded with features.

There is a lot of debate going on about this issue. It is probably a hot-button topic in the web design community but it happens – those themes who make a lot of money usually makes money for the wrong reasons. It is easier to make money for the wrong reasons.

Also, most features-loaded themes tend to slow down the site. However,  you can still make a performance-driven theme with lots of features without slowing down the website by offering 50 features with back end codes that know which features are enabled at the moment. There is a trade-off when you’re talking about performance – the number and size of the request. The size of the request will be bigger but at least we are only loading a single resource but Jetpack also have these issues.

Chris Coyier can surely build a performance-driven site for the right reasons but that would become his full-time job because it will consume all his time from the coding to the marketing aspect. However, he doesn’t want to give-up all the things he’s doing now because he loves what he’s doing now.

That is also the same reason why he doesn’t build a framework. He is more than happy to build a performance theme or bare bones which people can use for their  mobile first website, or create an artist theme with artist-like features, like carousel or store.

For Chris Coyier, he simply wants to build something that would help people solve their specific problems.

3 Must-Haves in 2015

Aside from WordPress, we also asked Chris what his 3 must-haves are for 2015 aside from performance and technicality. They are – https, SVG, and front-end arhitecture

HTTPS is very important for websites first and foremost for  security reasons. The longer your website exists on the Internet, the more people will view it in a screwed-up way, like snooping into your topic and hacking into your database. HTTPS protects you from all these risks because it runs on SSL and for people who try to get into your system must have a code in order to decrypt it.

Another item that should be on your radar is SVG or scale vector graphics which makes the file size smaller and renders crisper.  Nowadays, most of the solutions that exist to fix resolution-based issues, such as retina screens, involve either a large amount of unnecessary data downloaded or compromise for one browser or the other. This makes us rely on the speed of the data download-speed bottleneck to bring higher resolution images to devices that are often on wireless data networks. Not a very ideal solution. This is where SGV comes in because it offers a way to do full resolution graphical elements, no matter what size screen, what zoom level, or what resolution your user’s device has.

If you want to know more about SVG and what it can do, visit CSS Tricks and read Chris Coyier’s article called, A Compendium of SVG Information. Here you can learn precious nuggets as well as tips and tricks about SVG.

The third is front-end architecture, such as BAM, OOCSS, and more. This has become a trend because every time you mention it, comments on forums just flare up. It is also important when you’re thinking long-term as you build your website without it ending as a disaster. The answer- you have to make the right decisions when you’re designing your front end. Therefore, if you don’t understand the front end stuff, you’ll end up with a disaster.


Web designers, in reality, are a little “mono-cultural.” Just look at the conferences for web designers and everybody is using Macs and Chromes. This has to change and see people developing an IE on Windows to give us a wider perspective.

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Pricing Strategies: How Paul Jarvis Was Able To Charge High Prices For Web Services [Podcast]

The Podcast Episode with Paul Jarvis

The Real Investment

Awesome seems to fall short when you use the word to describe Paul Jarvis although, of course, he won’t use that word to describe himself. However, all you need to do is just take one look at his accomplishments and you will concede that “awesome” indeed sounds feeble.

Let’s enumerate some of those accomplishment to give you a clearer picture of what Paul has done. If you use the abstract description he uses for himself, he is a web designer, a best-selling author, and a gentleman of adventure.

However, if you use the more concrete description, the ones used by his clients and the people he has worked with, you will hear words, such as genius coder, designer of my dreams, and even the holy trinity of website design.

These are not empty, flashy words because Paul is everything any web designer dreams of becoming. He is a regular contributor for a lot of trusted and popular online publications, like Forbes, INC, Huffington Post, Smashing Magazine, and more. Among his clients are big name companies, such as Yahoo, Mercedes Benz, and Microsoft. He also has a string of bestsellers to his name as well as an online course for freelancers called the The Creative Class. (get 100$ discount, use code: firstweb)

If you’re not impressed, here’s the real whopper: Paul Jarvis’ web design projects start at $9,000 up and never below that budget. What more – he does not accept new projects until mid-May.

Now, you might be wondering already how on earth was he able to do that?

Paul himself is going to tell you how he was able to do that. However, you might be surprised that there is really no magic formula from the Hogwart’s School of Wizardry that brought Paul to where he is right now.

The Road to Success

The quote above was from an article Paul wrote for the Huffington Post entitled, “How to Be Rich as an Artist.”  The article was about someone who preaches the illusion that you can get wealthy as you pursue your art. While this is true, this truth – earning millions by churning out  bestseller or a hit – only applies to a mere 0.1 percent of artists or even lesser than that.

Paul was speaking from experience when he wrote that.

What people would only see was the glamour or the figures – that he was doing $9,000-worth of projects. What they didn’t see was the process how he got to that place. As Paul himself said, people didn’t see the numerous times he made mistakes, the trial and error phase, and the hard lessons he has learned along the years while freelancing.

Paul started as a freelance designer way back in the 90s working in different industries, making his experience in the business extensive and spanning around or more than a decade. After trying out several industries, he realized that he needed to specialize in a certain industry or a group of audience.

For Paul, that audience were the people who focus on the Internet. The choice is logical – he also has his work tied mostly to the Internet, even the tools he use revolve around it.

Branding and the Target Audience

One of the factors that seem so obvious among the success stories that we have featured here in our podcast series is being able to find your target audience or your specific niche.

This seems to be a no-brainer because not having a target audience is like shooting for the moon and missing it. It becomes a futile effort because it’s like losing your way in a complex labyrinth. The saddest part to this shooting for the moon part is that you won’t land among the stars. Why? Because you are shooting into the vast expanse of space and what you know, no matter how good it is, has its limitations.

Being able to find your target audience will help you save a lot of time, money, and effort into your marketing. It will also be easier for you to know how to reach them. Above all, as Paul mentioned in the interview, focusing on a certain industry or target audience will help you make a name for yourself or, in other words, it helps your personal branding. 

Once you identify who your target audience is, you have to know what their pain points are – their needs and wants. If you want to strengthen your personal brand, you have to know those pain points and the unique way how you can solve them. In Paul’s case, his personal brand is that of someone who gets things done.

In fact, this is one thing in common among some of the successful web designers in the industry – being able to solve the problem or meet the need and delivering what is expected. As Paul Jarvis mentioned in the interview, clients do not want and do not care whether you know HTML or use the latest tools, what they care about is you were able to help them fix their problems. And part of that fixing, on Paul’s part, is by teaching his clients how to use the website he has designed for them.

Your Clients, Your Sales Force

Another interesting thing which Paul mentioned in the podcast interview was that despite his experience and expertise, he doesn’t care much about titles and only advertise himself as a web designer. For him, people are looking for what they need and what they need at that moment is a website. Thus, the next thing that they will look for is a web designer.

Moreover, clients will not hire you based solely on the titles you have but because of what you can bring to the table. Then, when they see what you can do anything more that you have to offer will just follow. When they see that you deliver, they become your fans and, eventually, they become your sales force. You don’t even have to tell them to promote you but they do so in order to share you to others.

As Paul has experienced, most of the clients he has are just through word-of-mouth. One client was satisfied so he recommended him to another who has the same need. Paul further added that you don’t even need to promote yourself. Instead his encouragement is just to focus on doing a great job that is valuable to his clients and, at the same time, is also valuable to him. Even the testimonials your clients have of you should focus more on what you have achieved and less on who you are.

Tapping into the Buyer’s Instinct

This is a simple yet sobering truth that every web design professional should remember – People will not open their wallets unless they trust you. In simple terms, they won’t be willing to pay more unless they see the results.

How do you do this?

By constantly behaving towards your clients best interest first. This means that you give them the best solution and not just any solution. This can be achieved by having a discussion with your client and taking the time to listen. It also means being honest whether you are a good fit or not and when you aren’t, you tell them immediately in a professional manner. Whatever business values you have displayed will never go unnoticed.

Another way of generating trust from your clients is to do what you say you would do. So when you say you’re going to deliver the project on that date, be sure that it’s ready on that day. This also sends the message that you value your time and in so doing, they will begin to value your time.

Your clients will just mirror the actions you have shown them.

You have to position yourself in a way where clients see you as an expert and not just another laborer. An expert who is so in-demand that your clients have to wait until  before they get booked.


Being able to get to a place where you receive $9000 worth of project offer like Paul is a dream come true. However, like all successes, it’s never an easy ride. There are systems and practices that you need to follow in order to achieve success and Paul Jarvis has an online lecture called The Creative Class. (get 100$ discount, use code: firstweb) which helps you how to be a creative freelancer and make a career as a freelancer who charges more.



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Thyme for Design – An Accidental Web Design Success

The Podcast Episode with Thyme for Design

Success Story from Thyme for Design

When you look at awesome scientific discoveries, you will observe that most of them were made by accident – from Newton’s gravity to Spencer Silver’s Post-It notes. Gretchen Cawthon and Trina Fisher of Thyme for Design also consider their entry to the web design industry an accident – a successful accident at that.

Calling themselves the left side and the right side of the brain, Gretchen and Trina didn’t foresee a career in the web design industry. Gretchen was a music major preparing to become a percussionist while Trina worked as a high school relations officer educating kids which college major and career path to pursue. Although both of them dabbled in computers and design, they never thought that it will lead them to web design and development.

The most remarkable thing, however, is how they were able to discover their niche and make it successful despite their obvious differences in personality. How can two smart and creative women manage to work harmoniously and successfully without getting into each other’s throat?

That is what this success story is all about and much more than that.

Embracing Differences

There’s a pervading belief that women are competitive and can’t get along. Women are competitive, period. The idea, however, of women not getting along might have a degree of truth in them, but it is not true in these women’s lives.

It is also a fact that differences between two people, most especially creatives, can become a scourge when it comes to collaboration. However, Gretchen and Trina have used these differences to create something positive and income-generating.

By being different, they are able to bring different and exciting perspectives to a certain project. According to their own words, the clients are getting double the brain power with Gretchen, the left side of the brain, taking on most of the technical side of work while Trina, the right side of the brain, takes care of the more creative aspects of the business.

It also helps that they are able to forge a friendship outside the workplace first because it allows them to understand other areas of each other’s life. By understanding each other, they are able to embrace their differences and balance their partnership.

Finding Their Niche

One of the dilemmas a web designer faces is the niche they would focus on. Some choose the niche where they would focus on while others discover it along the way. Gretchen and Trina belong to the second group. In fact, the story of finding their niche is as consistent as how they become involved in this industry – by accident.

A client who was not in any way not part of the niche they are in right now introduced them to someone from the health and fitness industry who wants a website. The collaboration and rapport was amazing and soon they discovered that they are comfortable doing business with people from the health and fitness niche.

From this experience, the pair advise their fellow designers who are trying to find or still do not know which niche they would focus on to look for people they are comfortable working and doing business with. Once you are comfortable, you will be able to effectively communicate with each other. And effective communication yields better results.

Teaming Up for Success

Teamwork is a big thing between Gretchen and Trina. It is what balances their partnership. It is the product of embracing their differences. This culture of working as a team reflects on how they deal with their clients as well. It is one of the factors that make their web design business thrive and succeed. It is what made them sit down to re-write and refine the process they present to their clients.

How did they get there?

Being graduates of the 10K Boot Camp, the pair experienced a mindset shift in viewing web design as a business and not just a job. Part of that mindset shift involved conveying the value of what they do to their clients. However, before they can convey that value, their clients need to see the process involved so they can understand what the value is and where it is coming from.

That is what the dynamic duo did – rewrite and refine the process they have so they are able to go with their clients every step of the way. After communicating the process, they meet with their clients on a weekly basis so that they (the clients) are always aware where they are at in the process.

This is what they want their clients to feel – that they are part of the team. That they are willing to go with their clients beyond the launch of the website. They want to help their clients grow their business.

On Boosting Sales and Rejecting Clients

Like most other web designers, Gretchen and Tina started in the industry accepting work that is below the real value of their work. They didn’t know how much their value really is. That means accepting a $500-rate for maybe a thousand-dollar worth of effort.

That was their story. Now, they have a client who is willing to invest $12,000 without any second thoughts.

How were they able to do it?

The greatest question, however, is – Are you able to do it?

One of the things Gretchen and Trina learned from their experience and also from the classes they had during the 10K Boot Camp is value. In fact, you will hear and read about value in all of our podcast episodes.

Everything starts with value. How you value yourself, your work, and your client. If you realize this, you are able to focus on your goals which eventually lead to success. That is because value will help you think outside the box.

For Gretchen and Trina value means being means reflecting the voice of their clients and presenting it to an average person in the most relatable way. This area is much easier for them because they can give a different view of the niche to their clients – they understand the language but they are outsiders of the health and fitness industry.

Value also means being honest with a client if they are the best fit for the job or not. Gretchen said that their goal is not to really land a big project or celebrity client but to help their clients get where they want to go. If they feel they are not the best fit after talking with their clients, they honestly reject the client and refer them to another who can do the job best.

With this attitude, they are letting their clients feel that they are an investment rather than an expense.

Another way of showing value to their clients is to delve into their client’s pain points. Why does a certain client want to build a website? Based on their experience, a lot of their clients are clueless why they want a website in the first place. ‘Just because others have, I want one’ is the usual reason. For the pair, this is not enough because it defeats their purpose – to help their clients grow their business.

This step is the most important because once they understood their client’s pain points, they are able to create a customized solution to help each of their clients reach their goals. The best thing, however, is their clients become much more willing to invest once they understood the value.

Lastly, avoiding technical jargon when talking to their clients is also one way of showing value to their clients. Every web designer/developer should keep in mind that most, if not all, of their clients do not speak the same language as they do. Which means that they don’t care about the technical tools or strategies you will use to build their website. What they care most about is the end result – will the website serve the purpose they want it to have in the first place?

Parting Words

Getting back to the question – Are you able to do it?


For Gretchen, giving your clients hope that they can do it and be able to stick with it is the key. However, she added, you must have the capability to back up your claim. In short, you need to walk your talk.

For Trina, it’s about taking chances and not being afraid of taking chances. Every success undergoes trial and error. It also about being a better communicator. How? By asking questions. Your clients talk, you listen and identify their pain points.

Finally, becoming a life-long learner is the key to success. Change is constant, especially in the web design industry where new tools, techniques, and strategies are dynamic. Aside from keeping abreast with the latest, becoming a life-long learner also makes you humble, smart, and relatable – very important elements when it comes to value.

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