How to Start Your Freelance Web Design Business and Get Work in 3 Days Flat

Web Designer

That’s right, business is not complicated. You can literally start a business like this and start making money in a few days.

Now sure, you might be thinking ‘there’s a ton of work to do just to start a company’ … well that’s not how entrepreneurs do things. Successful entrepreneurs jump first and tie the bungie cord to their legs on the way down. The details can wait. The task at hand is to start making money. Now.

Freelance web design is a great business to jump into if you’ve got the skills. There’s no overhead; you work from home. You already have a computer. You know html, css, WordPress, Photoshop, and how to use a digital camera. You need 50 or 100 bucks in startup capital for gas and business cards, and that’s it.

The real trick is getting clients, but there’s a ton of opportunities out there. I’m going to show you how to find them and how to sell your services to them.

This is a 3 step plan you can execute in 3 days. Flat. Just keep in mind that this is about jumping in and making it happen right now. Sort out the details later. Get more professional later. Because worrying about details and a “perfectionist” attitude will only get you killed in the entrepreneurial game.

Step 1 – Put Together Your Promo Package

You need two things for your promo package: a website and some business cards. And you need it all now.

1. Your Website

I won’t go over hosting because if you’ve created a few websites you already have that available. If not, go to 1&1 or wherever and setup a shared hosting plan for 10 bucks a month.

If you can find the ultimate cool web designer domain name in 20 minutes, great. If not, don’t sweat it. Use your name followed by a word like design, graphics, media or whatever is available ( It’s simple, to the point, and easier to find a domain that’s not already registered.

Load up WordPress and a stock “corporate looking” theme. Add a bio page, a services page, and a contact page with your phone number, address, and a contact form on it. Use a static front page with a splashy graphic, a bulleted list of your services and a “Get Quote” button that leads to your contact page.

Better yet, in big, bold letters at the top of your homepage put “Call Joe at 555-5555”. You want to make it as quick and easy, and as painless as possible for people to contact you.

2. Your Business Cards

Get on this as soon as you have your domain registered. If your host is also a registrar it will only take an hour or two before your domain is live but there’s no time to waste …

Design your business cards in Word or Photoshop to printout on 8 1/2″ x 11″ office paper. You need your name, address, phone number, web address, and a simple bulleted list of your services; web design, seo, etc. For paper, you can use:

  • Those perforated business card sheets you print out and tear apart
  • Card stock sheets you print out and cut into cards with a ruler and exacto knife
  • Heavy watercolor paper from an art store you print out and cut into cards

Keep your cards really simple for now. Remember, details are for later.

Bam! Step one and your first day is done. You can spend weeks putting all this together, but this is not the important part of your business. Not yet. You can redo all this stuff more professionally later – don’t go and order some totally kick-ass cards that will take two weeks to be delivered. The key is to jump in and get your business rolling now.

Step 2 – Finding Clients

There are a ton of small to medium sized companies out there with websites that are optimized for Internet Explorer 3.0 – you know the kind I’m talking about; the websites are 10 years old and butt ugly. They’re an afterthought.

These companies are your target clients.

You know that big yellow book that gangsters beat people with in the movies? Well, before the internet people used that big book to find companies. That’s right, it’s the yellow pages and it’s a great source for finding companies. And I guess you can also use your local online yellow pages.

Here’s the methodology:

  • Pick an industry. Preferrably one you know a little something about.
  • Go through the yellow pages and look up each company listed and find their website. You may have to do a Google search for the company’s name + city because most of these websites will have very poor SEO.
  • You can also do a Google search for “product + your city” to find some of these companies.

Here are the things you’re looking for:

  • The company has a website already. Don’t waste your time right now with companies that have no website at all.
  • Old sites; the optimized for IE3 or Netscape kind.
  • Bad graphics that are pixelated or were cut out with jagged edges of the background showing.
  • Mailto links that lead to a HotMail address or something other than an address at their own domain.

Make a list of all the target clients you find. List the company name, address, and web address. Spend the entire day making your list. If you run out of companies, pick another industry and keep building your list until the day is done. The bigger your list, the better.

Next, try and organize your list geographically like a paper route because tomorrow you’re going to visit all these companies …

Step 3 – Getting Sales

Today is the big day. Eat a good breakfast, grab a coffee, grab your business cards, grab your list and head out.

Your prospective clients already have a website. This is good for two reasons. One, it’s easier to do a make-over than start from scratch because they already have a domain, hosting, and some content available. And two, they understand a web presence is important – they just don’t know how to get any value out of it, so it’s become an afterthought.

Walk in to each client and …

  • Introduce yourself
  • Tell them you came across their website, and you can give it a makeover that will bring real value to their company.
  • Tell them you’re just starting out, you work hard, and your pricing is competitive.

Here’s a basic rundown of some of the services you can offer …

  • Website re-design
  • SEO optimization
  • Photography to update their building shots, product shots, team head-shots
  • Content writing – for SEO and to provide information about the company/industry/products to visitors
  • @domain email setup … for those old-school Hotmailers
  • Email capture and marketing system
  • Local business PPC advertising campaigns.

That’s it. You’re done. You’re making money.

The only 2 things that can stop you from being a raging success are stalling to get everything perfect before you “launch” your business, and stalling because you’re too chicken to go out there and knock on some doors to get the business.

If that’s the case, then you gotta go out and find a job.

11 thoughts on “How to Start Your Freelance Web Design Business and Get Work in 3 Days Flat”

  1. I really enjoyed this article and it inspired me to just get started and do it already. You make a great point about worrying about the details when really you just need to get started working.

    Also I love your idea of going through the yellow pages. I might try that soon…

  2. Hey Dave,

    Glad you liked the post. Like I said – make it happen in 3 days. Don’t let anything stop you from executing your plan immediately.

    “Doing without thinking” is also a really great way to get over the massive hurdle that many people have, which is approaching customers. Once you do this a few times, you’ll realize how easy it is … especially once you start gettng a few potential clients saying “Yes”.

  3. Great Post!! I’m currently starting out as a freelance web designer too, and you’ve got some great points in your post that I hadn’t even considered! lol..thanks!!!

  4. Love the post, truly does convey the type of mindset you must possess if you do intend to succeed in this field. Kudos!

  5. Am I late for the party? Nobody turned the lights out lol. I think you do a great job Shane. I have been doing just this but am to Chicken to do it with out proof that I’m all that and a bucket of Chips.

    I grabbed Snagit and stated taking snaphots of my last 10 sites that I’ve built for my own company. They are coming along nicely and have had great traffic.

    I will use your method soon I think…thanks for the last piece of the puzzle. p.s. I’d rather get someone else to do the sales though 😉

  6. Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google,
    and found that it’s truly informative. I am going to watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  7. Almost zen-like advice. You said in one page what it takes most people 200 pages and a book deal to get across.

    The last bit is pure wisdom:

    “The only 2 things that can stop you from being a raging success are stalling to get everything perfect before you “launch” your business, and stalling because you’re too chicken to go out there and knock on some doors to get the business.

    If that’s the case, then you gotta go out and find a job.”

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