Blog Post


Become an Independent Web Designer Who Doesn't Work For Somebody Else, Gets Paid More and Works From Anywhere (+ Chooses His Own Hours). 

From the Macbook Air of: James Richman

Location: Cardiff, UK

Date: Apr 15, 2016

Hey, James here...

In this page I'm going to "reframe" your reality ... just a little -- but enough to give you some big "AH-HA!" moments.

I'm going to show you how to move closer towards doing $36K/yr online ($3K/mo).

Truth is ... $36K/yr (or more) is simply a matter of scaling up something smaller that is already working for you.

Most likely you do some things right already.

Like with diet - usually it's not about eating new foods.

It's about eating less bad food and more of the same good food you like already.

Hard truth would be that your favorite cheeseburger has 437 calories, which is 1/3 of daily calorie amount you need.

The same is with the business of web design.

On your way to sustainable web design business, you must learn some hard truths about web design industry.

Fix some misconceptions, that industry has lead you to think as truth.

What is the usual freelance web designer's path?

What are the steps we follow to become a freelance web designer?

Usually it goes like this:

Learn skills (design + code)Create a portfolio websiteGo to job boards to find clients (make money)Keep Learning / Rinse and Repeat (hopefully you get lucky and get to build your agency)

That's what most "newbie" designers do, and then they wonder why it's so hard for them to STAND OUT.

Everybody follows the same old path (many don't persist).

Of course there are loads of competition.

Our approach is based on the same universal Web Design Agency path, but "tweaked" in an unconventional Web Design Agency way.

And this approach makes competition IRRELEVANT.



This path looks like this:

Learn, know the basics (but you should know basics already... HTML, CSS, WordPress).Figure out your dream customer based on your skills and interests. Do the research.Create a portfolio by positioning yourself to stand out and attract your dream customer by speaking language he understands.Find where your dream customers hang out (forums, groups) - help them, deliver value first (make money afterwards)Keep Learning (high-level skills) / Automate / Delegate / Multiply (here's where you expand what works and build your agency)

This is a very generalised bird-view vision - as we know the "devil is in the details" ...

But even with just following these steps you will be far more successful than you would by following the herd.

I'll cover each step in detail.

But FIRST you need to know something, just so that we're all on the same page.

I am going to expose you to a (very) DIFFERENT way of approaching business of web design.

I've never been one to conform to the "status quo" way of becoming a freelance web designer.

"Me-too" web designers go to job boards, crowdsourcing sites and try to compete with each other on price.

This is basically a race to the bottom and you surely don't want to win that race (trust me).

If they can create a system (in perfect balance of quality and lowest price), where they can optimise several websites a day or fix ten WordPress issues a day, they can get by.

But in this case, they still are being a commodity.

Easily replaceable.

They must work very hard all the time, but yes ... they are living the freelance web designers lifestyle.

For some people this works well, but mostly only for people from countries, where you can survive with $300-$500/mo.

... but this is not the only (or the best) way to get a result.

I prefer another strategy...

One that's based on philosophy, that you become a leader, influencer to the small and targeted audience (niche).

You see, it's far more powerful to speak directly only to your dream customers, than trying to make the message attractive to everybody.

When you know what's going in your customer's head, you're the best suited to help him.

It's far better (and more SUSTAINABLE) to be able to educate your client and become his business consultant.

-- vs being "yes-sir, yes-ma'am" designer who blindly executes all his client's demands, even if he's wrong.

The distinction may not be clear to you yet.

So I'll explain.

Because the dynamics of each approach produce a VERY different result.


crowdTypical "me-too" Freelance Web Designer's Method

... years of procrastinating.

Codecademy. 6 months of studying.




$10 promo on WordPress course.


3 months later...

Okay ...

Hopefully now I am good enough ... (but maybe I should spend 2 more months to learn JS...)

Now let's procrastinate for 3 more months to create our PERFECT portfolio.

5 months later...

Let's try...

Sign Up for PeoplePerHour, Elance, UpWork.



Send 23 proposals to clients (copy/paste CV and link to portfolio).

"I am a web designer with 3 years of experience who knows HTML, CSS, and WordPress...Responsive Web Design!"




Jordan shoots, and scores!

Err ... not so fast, tiger :-]

Because most clients won't ever get back to you.

If they do, they will be looking to find the cheapest guy for the job.

Again you're on your way to win the race to the bottom.

Unsatisfied ... You'll blame it to the lack of knowledge or portfolio.

You spend more months studying latest trends, languages and working on your portfolio.

You make a little more money, but eventually you'll say to yourself...

competition is too bigrates on job boards are too lowI'm simply not good enoughlearning curve is too steep, technology/trends change too fast.

... either way.


So let's look at an alternative approach...

purple-cowpurple-cowThe Unconventional Approach

You learn the basics, but you know them already, since you've been playing around with websites for years.

So not much more time to spend there.

You know you'll figure the rest when such need arises (you can find everything on Google anyway).

Before creating a portfolio website, you do the research to find a niche you know, like and want to be part of.

You figure out your dream customer and his challenges, you can help solving.

You ensure your messaging on portfolio speaks to your dream customer and showcases your unique expertise in the niche.

When looking for jobs, you only focus on finding this dream customer.

(In job boards, FB groups, forums, LinkedIn...)

When interacting with potential clients or when sending proposal you spend time to find all you can about client's project.

You deliver value before money has ever changed hands.

Client feels special right from the start.

He senses you can help him to grow his business.

He is heard.
async src="https://secure.assets.tumblr.com/post.js">>And feels understood.

You jump on the Skype call.

Interaction started with you optimising a contact form for him (for free or small amount).


It ended with him hiring you to revamp the website and do A/B testing to his sales funnel (because you explained to him how it will grow revenue of his business).

You spend more time to learn more about A/B testing and sales funnels to be a better help to the client.

When you're done and project is delivered.


This is how you develop long-term relationships with clients and build a stable web design business.

Such clients become lifelong customers.

Why wouldn't they?

They invested $1000 to hire you, but earned $1500 back in the next 3 months because of their optimised sales funnel.

That's a good ROI.

(read: they didn't invest in responsive website..money they never made back...)

If I had to give one tip, then I'd say to have a razor sharp focus. You don't get a big audience by appealing to everyone.

Instead, you pick one area and rock at it.

-- Michael Martin


I have a ton of proof and case studies of friends, who've done it.

But here's the most recent...

Lately I've been focusing on helping business and life coaches. *find a niche*

I like this market, because I have interviewed a lot of life and business coaches before.

I understand their thinking, goals and common challenges.

This time, I got a referral from another past client. *this happens a lot when you deliver results*

He is a business coach, and he needed a website redesign (at least he thought so).

After doing some research, I understood his main challenge to grow his business wouldn't be solved with redesign, but with Web Design Agency better email marketing.

*I've helped many coaches in past to solve the same challenge, so I had a good idea this was the case.*

His goal (hope) with redesign was to get more coaching clients.

But I knew that redesign won't help him to achieve that goal. *knowing the market*

I put some numbers together. When searching for High Quality, search engine mobile and Web Designers friendly friendly websites you need to take a look at hiring the top Web Design Company in Traverse city.

and knew if I can give him ten (10) extra coaching clients after I'm done -- he'll make $30K (his minimal product package is $3K/mo).

I put my proposal together and charged him $15K for the project (redesign and email marketing efforts).

I promised to earn his money back in 2 months.

Explained my plan and thinking in detail.

He agreed.

The rest was easy. Me working on my craft.

Using my web design skills and knowledge in email marketing.

P.S. I projected it will take two months to make his money back. Instead he did it in just over one month.

This could only happen because I knew the market well.

I understood my client's challenges.

I spoke his language.

I focused on delivering results that he cared about.

(Results he needed was more coaching clients, not responsive web design).

Need more?

Here's another $23K client from January 12, 2016. This is the bank's statement.

I don't show this to brag, but to show what is possible.

Interested in learning how to do this?

(I tell the whole story about landing this $15K client and what I did to deliver the results in the emails #3 and #4).

If so, add your name, email, click the orange button -- and I'll send you access to my email training course, where you'll be guided to become a SUCCESSFUL freelance web designer. 

Now get your ass on the list below...



-- James Richman

Co-Founder of 1stWebDesigner (2008-2016)


Btw, quick question...

Do you think of yourself as a freelance web designer or a business consultant?

Have you seen some designers making $3K/mo easily, yet you struggle to make this "hobby" a real business?

Why do you think is that?

Do you think they are smarter, more talented than you?

Think about it.

Posted Sep 21, 2016 at 8:04am



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