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A freelance web design business doesn’t thrive solely because of your creative talents. While that’s a huge part of it, the way you set up and manage your business matters a good deal, too.

You might not have given it much thought up until this point. Or perhaps you have, but you find that the logistics of managing your freelance business keep getting in the way of you doing actual design work. 

Tuts+ is chock-full of guides and tutorials that can help you become a better web designer. But this site also contains useful resources to help you get your web design business in order. 

Here are 12 strategies to help you manage clients, manage your work-life balance, manage your money, and more:

1. Choose the Right Niche

Web designers that specialize have an easier time marketing themselves and finding clients. Why is that? 

Instead of trying to sell yourself as all things to everyone, your niche helps you connect with prospects looking to hire someone with your special set of skills or focus. And the narrower your niche, the more competitive you become. 

This post will help you find the perfect (i.e. profitable) niche for your interests and skills.

2. Create a Web Design Contract

Contracts aren’t just for big agencies and enterprises. Web designers benefit a good deal from using contracts. 

A well-written web design contract will show clients that you mean business while also putting their minds at ease. At the same time, a contract protects you from finicky clients, clients that go MIA as well as non-paying clients. To ensure your business is protected and your client benefits from it, there are 14 things to include in your contract.

3. Use a Client Onboarding Process

If you’ve ever wished your design projects went more smoothly, the missing link could be client onboarding. This process is about more than having a chat with your client about the project and setting their expectations for what’s to come. Though that happens, too.

In this post, you’ll find a six-step client onboarding process and template, complete with tools and to-dos for each step. This process will ensure that everyone is on the same page and the most important things are squared away before you start working.

4. Use a Client Offboarding Process

An offboarding process is a checklist of all the things you do at the end of a web design project. This ensures that you deliver what was promised, you get paid for what you delivered, and that you leave the client with a great impression. 

But there’s much more to it than that. In this post, you’ll find a nine-step client offboarding process with to-dos and tools for each step. There’s also a template at the bottom you can use to add this process to your own design workflow. 

5. Learn How to Deal with Negative Feedback

It would be awesome if every client loved everything you designed for them. Unfortunately, if you work in this field long enough, you’ll find that’s not the case. 

The first thing to do when you get negative feedback? Don’t take it personally. This isn’t about you. It’s about the client’s expectations not aligning with what they received. Before you start to freak out or lash out, there are seven other things you should do when dealing with negative feedback. 

6. Maintain a Healthy Work-life Balance

For those of you who are new to working remotely or for yourself, you may be excited about all the freedoms this kind of work offers you. Slowly but surely, though, you’ll discover there are some drawbacks to working from home.

For starters, it’s all too tempting to let yourself be distracted by familiar surroundings and people. It can also become difficult to say “no” to work when your computer is a mere 20 feet away. With these 11 strategies, you’ll be able to establish a better work-life balance going forward.

7. Take Time Off

Burnout shouldn’t be one of those things that web designers write off as an occupational hazard. When you burn out, your work suffers, your health suffers, and your personal and professional relationships suffer.

If you’re uncomfortable with taking time off in your freelance business, that’s okay. Start small. This post includes seven time-management strategies that can make it easier for you to schedule breaks without any consequences. 

8. Build a Business Budget

Money can be a major stressor when you work as a freelancer, especially in a field like web design where it can feel like feast-or-famine at times. While there are some things you can do to stabilize your earnings (more on that below), maintaining a budget is important.

A budget makes sure you’re earning enough money to pay for personal and professional expenses. It also ensures that you have enough money to put aside for savings and to cover those things you want, but don’t absolutely need. 

9. Diversify Your Income

As a web designer, your primary source of income is likely from designing websites. What happens, though, if you run out of websites to design? Do you hustle for days or weeks on end until you find something? You could, but it’s probably not the most effective use of your time. 

Instead, consider other ways to bring in revenue. There are plenty of ways to diversify your income as a designer. You could offer additional services like website maintenance or you could passively sell digital products like themes and plugins. 

10. Increase Income with Monthly Retainers

Another way to increase your earnings is to create a monthly retainer agreement. Essentially, your client pays you a lump sum of money upfront for an agreed-upon set of services. 

There are typically three kinds of services web designers can sell as retainers: website maintenance, advanced support, and specialty services. If you’re curious about how to get started, how much to charge, and how to sell retainers to clients, check out this post. 

11. Prepare Your Taxes Year-round

Even if your annual tax filing due date has come and gone, taxes are always something you should be thinking about as a freelancer. Without an employer to handle them, you’re on the hook for paying the right amount of taxes and on time.

Whether you’re outsourcing the filing of your taxes to an accountant or doing it yourself, there are nine things you should be doing throughout the year to make tax time easier on yourself. It’s probably the least fun business strategy on this list, but it’s got to get done.

12. Recession-proof Your Business

No matter how hard you work and how high you set your rates, there usually aren’t many warning signs when a financial downturn is on its way. So what do you do? Like any other disaster, you prepare yourself and your business… Just in case.

Although this post is all about recession-proofing business, these tips are just as useful for navigating personal financial crises, physical disasters, and even the rise of AI. 

Conclusion

While your design work will always be priority one, you won’t be able to do any of it (or enjoy any of it) if your freelance business isn’t in order. The 12 business management strategies above will come in handy no matter what type of web designer you are or how long you’ve been freelancing. 

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