Nesha here! I'm so excited that I finally get to share this blog post with you guys because it's soooooo good! Krista Rae, a strategic Wordpress developer, is here today to show you how to offer web design services when you don't know how to code.
I would have died for a blog post like this when I first started my design business. (Okay, I probably wouldn't have died. But I would have paid a shed load for this kind of information, for sure.)
When I decided I wanted to be a freelance designer, I knew a bit about HTML and CSS, but not enough to start offering web design services. The thought of screwing up someone's website because I couldn't code properly put me off from actually offering web design for a long time. But there are things you can do if you don't know how to code and still want to design websites for a living. Read on to hear Krista's awesome tips!
Web design is a great complement to a branding or graphic design business. With that combination, you can find the perfect clients and keep them, rather than offering branding and then referring them elsewhere for a website.
Luckily, if web design is something you’re looking to add to your business there are several options for how you can do it, both with and without coding on your end. In this post, we’ll cover 3 of the best options for doing just that, the pros and cons of each option, and the details of the option that will give you the most freedom. Let’s dive in!
Learn To Code
First, there’s always the option to learn how to code. I know, it sounds scary, but with some dedicated time over the course of a few months and a whole lot of determination, it’s certainly possible to do.
To get started you’d want to learn:
Those three languages will get you most of what you need to get a good start to coding on WordPress. My favorite resource for helping new coders learn is CodeAcademy. That’s where I got started with PHP myself!
After you get the hang of those languages, the next steps are to learn a bit about WordPress, get a theme, and start tweaking it. Consider taking past projects you’ve worked on and coding a site to go along with it or make a new website for yourself! While you won’t make money off of those projects, they’re an important part of the learning process and you can always add them to your portfolio.
Benefits of learning to code
The largest benefit to learning to code is that you’ll have full control over your projects. You’ll be able to evaluate which platform is best for each client and have your pick of all the big ones. You’ll then be able to take the project from branding to completed website, without having to count on someone else’s time and skills.
Drawbacks of learning to code
The first downside to this option is that it will take quite a bit of up-front work and if your mind doesn’t usually cooperate when you’re trying to think logically, you may end up frustrated until you get the hang of it. However, if you stick with it, it will click.
The second downside is that if you’re a designer, coding might not be something you want to spend your time doing. I know many designers who absolutely love branding and design, but when it comes time to code they feel like they’re wasting time they could be spending on other design projects.
If these drawbacks sound less-than-great to you, no worries, off to our next two options!
Craft your offerings to not require coding
The second way you can offer web design services when you don’t know how to code is to craft your design offerings around your familiarity with coding.
If you know a little bit of CSS, but not much HTML or PHP, use WordPress templates or offer Squarespace customizations. From there you can insert your branding elements and create gorgeous websites.
Benefits of crafting your offerings to not require coding
The biggest upside to crafting your offerings around your coding knowledge is that you’ll still be able to offer a full website, from branding to site launch. You won’t have to depend on anyone else and your client will be able to work with you 1:1 throughout the entire process.
Drawbacks of crafting your offerings to not require coding
There are definitely a few downsides to this option. First, using only pre-made WordPress templates or offering Squarespace websites will limit what you’re able to do. You’ll be constricted by the creativity of others who may not share the same style as you.
Many people are using this method and offering only Squarespace. For certain clients, this is a completely perfect option. Many people need a simple website with no special functionalities and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you go this route, make sure Squarespace really is the best choice for each client. If someone wants a really custom look or needs sophisticated membership or shop capabilities, Squarespace may not be the correct choice for them.
And last come the downsides of using page-builders. While page-builders do a great job of helping non-coders build websites, they can end up being a poor choice. Many builders, like Divi, leave shortcodes all over the website once it is uninstalled, meaning your client will likely be stuck with it for the life of their website. See this article for some examples. If you decide to use a page-builder, be sure your client understands the risks of doing so.
Collaborate with a developer
Our last option is one that many designers haven’t considered but is growing in popularity. That option is to team up with a developer. Not only will this give you full control over your designs, but you’ll have a blast collaborating with other creatives to complete your projects.
Since this one is generally an option that people have more questions about, I’ll start with the pros and cons and then move on to give you a few steps you can take to get started with your first web design collaboration!
Benefits of collaborating with a developer
The biggest benefit of working with a developer is that you can offer services that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. When before you might have only been able to offer branding and Squarespace websites, now you can offer fully custom WordPress websites along with the gorgeous brands you create.
If you were previously using Squarespace and pre-made WordPress templates, working with a developer is still great because rather than worrying about getting a website up and running, you can instead take more branding projects, focus on an amazing client experience, and do the parts of your job that you really love.
On top of those two things, collaborating with other creatives is just fun! As a developer, my favorite projects are by far those where I get to team up with a designer to make a website come to life and make an amazing friendship in the process.
Drawbacks of collaborating with a developer
The biggest downside for most designers is the amount your prices need to increase to bring on a developer. If you were previously offering design based on pre-made templates, moving to offering fully custom sites is quite a bit different.
It can also be intimidating for those who have never worked with a developer to find the perfect person or know how to go into the first project, not knowing what to expect. While finding the perfect developer will take a little research, it’s not as difficult as it might seem at first.
Now that you know a few different benefits and downsides of working with a developer, let’s go over 3 steps you can take to get started!
3 steps to get started with your first developer collaboration
1. Find the right developer
Finding the right developer for your projects can feel like an intimidating step. It’s important for you to find someone that you can completely trust to deliver on time and create a website that looks exactly like your mockup.
There are 4 main things you’ll want to look for:
- Experience- Find someone whose website supports the fact that they’re a developer. Does their About page mention formal training? Do they have a portfolio that shows off past work?
- Portfolio- Next, see if the developer you’re looking at has a portfolio. Make sure the projects that are displayed demonstrate their ability to code the style and complexity of the designs you’d be providing them.
- Communication- If you like the look of someone’s experience and portfolio, look around their website to make sure you like their communication style. If you do, take it to a Skype call to see if the two of you hit it off.
- Test it out- You don’t always have to start with a fully custom website as your first project. Instead, bring them in on a smaller project you wouldn’t necessarily need them for to test out the partnership and make sure it’s the right fit.
(Pssst! Nesha here. If you fancy teaming up with a developer on your next project, you can learn more about working with Krista here.)
2. Decide how you want to manage client communication
Next, it’s time to think about how you want to take care of communicating with your client. Do you want to be the single point of contact throughout the entire project or do you want the developer to contact your client to take care of the things they need?
A few things to keep in mind that your developer will need provided that may require client input are:
- Text and image content
- Answers to questions they run into
- Final approval on the website
- Information on whether the client wants ongoing maintenance
It’s always nice to give your client fewer people asking them questions as it makes for a more streamlined experience on their end. But that may lead to a few extra back-and-forth emails throughout the process.
3. Prepare your process
Last, you’ll need to get your design process ready for a developer to come in. The biggest portion of this is simply making sure you’re organized.
You can expect your developer to want things like well-organized Illustrator or Photoshop files with things like:
- Hover effects and heading styles shown
- The client’s text, image, and video content
- Font files
- Brand style guide
- Logo and favicon
I provide all the designers I work with a checklist of the things I’ll need. That makes them feel confident in what they’re sending and I can be sure the project keeps moving along, rather than spending a day or two waiting for something I didn’t receive in the hand-off. If your developer doesn’t offer something like this, it’s a good idea to make your own checklist during your first project that you can reference during future projects.
Is web design a good addition to your business?
If you’re currently offering brand design and are considering web development, take some time to consider whether it’s a good choice for your business. Many designers I’ve spoken to have mentioned that it leads to more repeat clients, as past clients stick with them, rather than going to someone else for web design and not coming back.
If you do choose to start offering web design, which of the above methods do you consider yourself using? Let us know in the comments!
If you want to learn more about how you can team up with a developer on your projects, join my free course to learn the benefits of doing so, what to expect throughout each step of the project, and how to find the perfect person for the job.
Written By Krista Rae
Krista is a WordPress developer who specializes in collaborating with passionate designers to craft strategic websites that directly support their clients' goals. Through WordPress development and website strategy consulting, she’ll help you create websites your clients will love for years to come. Learn more over on her website!