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The Biggest Mistakes Web Designers Make (And How to Avoid Them)

Published on August 9, 2021

As a freelance web designer, you can enjoy the excitement of being paid and appreciated for your tech savvy skills. You also have the freedom to set your own hours and work from anywhere that has a reliable Internet connection. There are a lot of perks that come with starting your own web design business, but like any business, it also has its struggles.

Whether you’re just starting out as a web designer or you’ve been doing this for a while, you are bound to run into some issues sooner or later. Many of these issues, however, can be avoided.

Here are the top 10 biggest mistakes web designers make AND how to avoid them:

1. Targeting the Wrong Customers

When you’re first starting out, it’s very tempting to offer your web design services to anyone and everyone who needs a website. The problem with this is that you’ll run into a lot of people who just aren’t the right fit. Some won’t have the budget to pay for your services, others can’t make a decision and some may need features you can’t offer.

Your best bet is to focus on locally owned businesses and mom-and-pop shops. Generally speaking, it's much easier to sell to small business owners, because the decision maker is readily available, and has the authority (and money) to pay for a new website. Most small businesses require a simple website that you can easily build on the SiteSwan platform, even if you don’t have a lot of experience. These small businesses also have more realistic expectations and better understand that a new website is a long-term investment which can help them bring in more customers and revenue.

Avoid large chains or big box stores (such as McDonald’s or Walmart) since it can be a major challenge finding the decision maker. Also, these types of large scale businesses usually have their own internal departments for handling web design.

2. Taking on Projects You Can’t Handle

SiteSwan is perfect for building an “online brochure” or simple informational types of websites for local businesses. These types of websites serve as a silent sales and marketing rep that displays the business, what it offers, hours of operation, what the visitor needs to do to buy from the business, etc. It’s everything a small business needs to look professional, promote their products and services and get more customers.

If your prospect claims they want a huge e-commerce site that will compete with Amazon.com, or if they're describing some unique user experience or design that you can't even find another example of online somewhere, then they may not be a good fit. Deeply complex sites will often require a lot of custom coding and other moving parts that you probably don't want to get involved with.

It's also wise to avoid clients with unrealistic demands or expectations. If you have a website prospect who wants you to manage all of the incoming emails they get through the site, or they tell you that they'd like you to be available 24/7 to answer questions and help them with other parts of their business (especially without offering to pay you for it) then look for a way out. There are people out there who will try to get as much as they can from you for as little as they can pay you.

If you’re just starting out, look for the “low hanging fruit” and opportunities to build simple websites that can be built and sold quickly using the Themes and features available in the platform.

3. Not Offering a Free Design Demo

Would you buy a new car without test driving it first?

Of course not!

Likewise, most of your prospective clients will want to “try before they buy.” A free design demo can help them preview what their new site will look like before they buy it and is one of the best sales tactics you can use to win new customers.

Offering a free design demo is far more effective than showing other example sites from your portfolio. It can also speed up the sales process.

4. Not Following Up

As author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “the fortune is in the follow-up.”

Not everyone will say “yes” the first time you make contact with them. Following up with clients is one of the most important parts of the sales process. If a prospective client tells you "no," then chances are they mean "not right now." For one reason or another, it’s just not the right time for them to invest in a new website.

Keep in touch with your prospective clients and continue to follow up. Check back often and continue to explain how a new website can benefit their business. They’ll buy when the timing is right for them.

5. Using Complicated or Confusing Pricing

Even if you're a very proficient web designer, you can lose sales by over-complicating your pricing plans, or by offering too many options.

Your pricing plans should be very straightforward, transparent and easy to understand. Explain what's included in both your setup fee and monthly service fee. Be sure to make your pricing crystal clear and highlight the differences between each of the plans you offer.

Many experts recommend limiting your plans to just 3 different tiers. You might even consider having just one plan that has all of the most important features and benefits that most small business owners need. If you can minimize or eliminate the hesitancy with choosing a plan that you offer, you can really streamline the sales process.

6. Not Charging a Monthly Service Fee

The traditional way of selling websites typically involves:
  • Charging a large amount up front
  • Then taking an a la carte approach to offering support after the website is finished and launched, charging per task or on an hourly basis

This method doesn’t really work long-term since you’re always having to look for new client projects.

Charging a monthly recurring fee in exchange for handling all ongoing requests benefits both you and your client. For yourself, it establishes a steady stream of income, and when you accumulate a number of steady customers, this can add up very quickly. For the customer, it ensures that whenever they need important changes or updates, all they'll have to do is contact you and describe the issue. This is a much better approach than any other alternative would be, for both parties.

We suggest charging at least $50 per month for the monthly service fee.

7. Assuming Businesses With a Website Aren’t Interested in a New One

Just because a small business already has a website doesn’t mean they are happy with what they have.

Don’t make assumptions. Chances are, many of these businesses are overpaying, not getting proper support, and/or they just aren’t satisfied with their current website. They will most likely be open to a new option.

Welcome the idea of redesigns rather than trying to avoid them. These types of prospective clients are often easier to sell to because they already understand the benefits of a website. Furthermore, you’ll already have the content and site structure you need to work off of, making the project much easier to take on.

8. Waiting on the Client to Provide Content

Small business owners are notorious for dragging their feet. Especially when it comes to website content.

Don’t wait for them to send you photos or content for their website. Take the initiative and use your best judgment so you can move the project towards completion. You can utilize the content in our Themes and our suggestions for creating your own.

Whether it’s text or images, these types of things can always be updated later – even after site launch. It’s OK if everything isn't “perfect" because changes can easily be made anytime. Focus on getting the site live so you can start charging your monthly service fee. Don't let an indecisive client slow down your design schedule or prevent you from getting paid.

9. Not Saying “No”

There will be times when clients make requests that are either not feasible, too costly, or too time-consuming to implement. Some of these requests might also be bad business decisions.

Since you’re putting your name on every site you create, you need to be proud of the work you do. You don’t have to say “yes” to everything. If a client asks you to do something that would be a bad move (such as using a blurry photo or their “home made” logo instead of one you have better designed), feel free to speak your mind in a polite, tactful manner.

Oftentimes you can find a happy medium with your clients. This can be as simple as explaining why the site should be something else and why this is ideal.

Keep in mind that many small business owners tend to lean on their web developer for other technological questions and assistance such as IT or other design work. While you want to go above and beyond for your clients, make sure you don’t go too far above and beyond to the point of delivering things you’re not charging the client for.

10. Choosing the Wrong Website Builder

Many platforms exist for do-it-yourself (DIY) website creation, and you've probably seen them advertised on TV. Just because they have the funds to advertise online, though, doesn't mean they're necessarily the right fit for you to run a business on. After all, a lot of those advertised platforms thrive on up-selling their customers to do it for them because they're more complex to use than the ads imply.

When it comes to building multiple informational, lead-generating websites for local small business owners, you want to make sure you’re using the right tools for the job. You’ll want to use a website builder that accomplishes the following:

  • Appropriate for your client base
  • Designed for scaling/growth
  • Pricing aligned for profiting
  • Has the resources you need as a web designer
    • White label
    • Sales & marketing materials
    • Helpful guides & articles
    • Training & support
    • Local Prospecting Tool (something to help you locate prospective clients)

That’s why we refer to SiteSwan as a "business in a box." We make sure to give you the tools for success. We don’t want you to take hours and hours designing a client website. Our goal is for you to start and finish designing a website in 40 minutes or less.

While there are several other mistakes we could have touched on, these are the 10 most common ones you’ll encounter as a web designer. Avoid these mistakes and your life as a web designer will be much easier and more satisfying.


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