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How long does it actually take to become a freelance website designer? And to learn the skill of web design?

How long until you can start landing clients, and how long before you can safely say adios to your coworkers and make web design your full-time gig?

That’s exactly what we’ll be chatting about in this video!

How long does it take to become a web designer?

Learning the skill of web design

The most important thing to know in order to become a web designer is the actual skill of web design right?

So how long does that take exactly?

Depends on the platform!

Each different web design software out there takes a different amount of time to learn. The hardest to learn are probably WordPress and WebFlow.

Medium difficulty would be ones like ShowIt or Shopify…

And the easiest web design platforms to learn are probably Squarespace and Wix!

(That’s just an overview of the most popular ones in the industry, FYI!)

So obviously, you can expect the hardest ones to take a lot longer to learn than the easier ones!

Other factors affecting how quickly you’re able to learn web design

Now the other thing affecting your learning speed is going to be if you take some sort of dedicated web design course or “bootcamp” vs bingeing a bunch of YouTube videos, reading a bunch of forums and/or just learning by trial and error by playing around inside the software.

How long did it take me for example?

I actually learned at Squarespace yearsssss ago (before online courses for Squarespace even existed!)

I’d say it took me a good 3 weeks to be wrapping my hear around how Squarespace worked, and to get all the features and BTS settings figured out.

But even after 3 weeks of non-stop digging, I still had a verrrry very basic understanding of the software. It took me way longer to learn some of the more advanced settings and web design best practices like SEO.

And it wasn’t until at least a full year later before the whole web design strategy thing really clicked and I started to understand online buyer psychology and the best practices behind the design decisions I was making…

You know….all the things that contribute to a site actually selling, not just looking pretty!

I actually ended up creating the exact course I wish I had when I was first getting started as a web designer, and so students of my Square Secrets™️ course can now learn in just a few days or weeks what it literally took me a year to learn!

Even if you are planning to take a step-by-step course, I’d still tack on a few weeks just for actual practice time, plus the time it will take you to build your own website marketing your services and create a couple example projects to be showcasing in your portfolio.

So this is time you’ll need to factor in whether you end up taking a course, or going the longer DIY route so that you can feel confident and ready to begin offering web design services to actual paying clients.

So I’d say if you’re going it alone, expect a few months to get those basic skills nailed down, at which point you’ll be able to charge a couple hundred dollars for a website through freelance marketplaces like Upwork.

Whereas if you take the leap and invest in a course, you can expect it to take just a few weeks to a month before you can start charging $1,500-$2,500 for a single website! Because you’ll have the web design strategy, the eye for design, an understanding of SEO etc. needed to be backing up those prices!

How long does it take web designers to land their web design first client?

So for this one, I actually have legit, science-backed stats for you! Not just my theories!

Yep! I hosted an actual survey of over 700 web designers asking them this very thing!

What did I learn?

Well, the good news is website design is a super in-demand service because over 61% of the web designers we surveyed said they got their first client BEFORE they even officially launched their web design business! 🤯

10% of the people we surveyed landed their first client in one to two weeks!

7% said it took more like 3-4 weeks to be finding their first paying client..

Whereas 8% found it took around two months and 6% found it took more like 3-4 months.

And then 5% of web designers said it took four months or longer to land their first client.

Want the full results of our web designer study? (Including tons of other questions you’re dying to know the answers to like how much they charge, what they earn in a year, how much they work, how many of them actually went on to be successful etc.)

Get access to our massive web designer survey results here!

How long before your web design services are consistently booked out?

So the next thing you’re probably wondering is, “okay, well, how long until my business will start to be booked with a steady stream of clients, one right after the next?”

If you already offer services like copywriting or branding (and therefore you already have your head wrapped around the whole ‘how to find clients’ thing) then it won’t be taking much for you to add web design services as an option to your existing packages, which means you can pretty much start landing web design clients TODAY.

Just continue with whatever current marketing strategy is working for you, letting your clients know you now offer web design as well!

If you’re like me, and you didn’t already know how to find clients, then you’ll want to tack on a little extra time for learning the marketing strategies needed to book out your new business.

It admittedly took me months to figure out which strategy worked for me and which one I actually enjoyed doing (and therefore would be most likely to stick to long enough to see results!)

Not sure which web design business marketing strategy is right for you? Don’t want to take months finding out the hard way like I did?

Take my free quiz I created just for web designers! In just 60 seconds, it will tell you which client-finding method matches your personality type and give you the exact next steps you need to get started with your new made-for-you strategy!

Okay, so once you’ve picked your marketing strategy from the web designer client-finding personality quiz, the resulting strategy also greatly affects how long it’s going take you to start landing a string of clients!

So something like content marketing (blogging, YouTubing, or podcasting) is a long game. Expect it to take a good couple of months before you actually start getting clients to come through those marketing avenues.

Now, there are much faster marketing options, things like in-person networking, pitching yourself by email or DMs or getting active in Facebook groups…

You could speak, you could guest on other people’s podcasts and get in front of existing audiences or source of traffic…

Or you can find clients on freelancer marketplaces like Upwork or Fivver. (Though I do have to say the pay is kind of terrible on freelancer sites!)

These strategies tend to take just a few days or weeks to be landing clients. So it’s not just about how good you are at marketing! Some strategies really do take longer than others.

So you can take your pick between a client landing strategy that is going to get you clients ASAP, but that you have to do over and over to keep finding those clients…

Or you can go with a slightly longer term strategy that takes a bit more time to get started, but then once the ball is rolling, it will keep the gravy train of clients coming in the future!

Some designers choose to learn the skill of web design, then go straight to working for an agency or for another established designer, so they don’t actually need to do the marketing bit at all to be steady with client work.

Some of my past students realized that they just weren’t that into marketing, so they met other fully booked out designers in our student Facebook community for my web designer courses, and opted for becoming designers on their teams or inside their agencies instead! Meaning they could skip the marketing and just do the thing they love most: design!

How long before you can for from side-hustle to full time freelance web designer?

The final thing you are probably wondering right now is if you end up loving design, how long before you’ll find enough clients to ditch that 9-5 and start living your work from home dream?

Again, this depends…but let me give you my best estimation!

I’ll start by sharing what my timeline looked like, and also talk about other people I’ve watched start their web design businesses from scratch!

So when I started my web design side-hustle in University, I had no intentions of taking it full-time (I already had a full-time degree to be focusing on!)

So I side-hustled for a good year during my second year of my Masters Degree.

Then right after I graduated, I moved to Germany, did some language school, wandered around Europe a bit, all the while designing a few websites here and there on the side to fund my lifestlye.

I was getting projects from listings I had on Etsy, and from a web design agency, but I realized that until I could figure out a marketing strategy that would have clients coming to me (instead of relying on other platforms and agencies to be finding them) that I wasn’t going to be making very good money at this.

So six months into my move to Europe, I decided it was time to get serious, take the reins on how much I was able to earn, and make this my full-time gig.

I knew I’d need to get consistent with marketing, so I went with blogging (but you do not have to choose blogging if that’s not what brings you joy)!

It took a few months of consistently blogging before I started to see inquiries come in from my efforts.

It was six months from the time I started blogging to the day I landed my first client through it, then after that, they literally just kept coming!

I just created useful content on my topic (Squarespace tutorials…that sort of thing), then I would mention “Don’t want to do the thing yourself? You can hire me to design your website for you!”

The more people searched for answers on Google and stumbled upon my blog, the more traffic my services page started getting, and the more inquiries started to flood in!

Like I said, there are definitely faster strategies than this, it just fit best with what I enjoy doing. And thanks to living in a country where I didn’t speak the language, I couldn’t exactly go out and start in-person networking.

So that’s my timeline…what about other designers?

I’ve seen many designers fully book out their business in just 1-2 months! But I think 6 months is more of the average for most designers just getting started!

Without guidance, it definitely takes a little bit longer to go from side-hustling to full-time designer (I’d say closer to 12 months if you plan to just bootstrap your business and learn the marketing aspect by trial and error!)

One of my past students, Kenzie, actually fully booked herself out 4 months in advance in literally just her first few weeks after taking the courses and starting her web design business. She had just finished school and decided she didn’t want to go get a normal job, so she just went all gung-ho on her web design dream and made it happen pretty dang quickly!

Another student, Charlotte, also found clients right away just by being active inside a Facebook group full of her niche clients (authors).

Then within 6 months of starting her web design business, she was already booked out an entire year in advance!

(You can watch/read Charlotte’s full story here 👉 Niching early: How Charlotte quickly filled her calendar as a new web designer)

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How Long Does It Take To Learn To Become A Web Designer? (And Get Paying Clients!)