🇺🇸 Gilbert, AZ
🏆 1 Founder
💵 My highest year as a freelance web designer was $38k working 18 hours per week. It would vary monthly because some projects could stretch over
My name is Chris Misterek and about 5 years ago I started a freelance web design business.
I started sadly enough after my wife of 10 years left me. I had to find a way to make extra money as a single dad because she wore the pants in the family.
The problem was I still loved my full-time job. It just didn’t make enough.
So, it had to be something I could do in my free time AND It had to be something that I could do while my kids were sleeping.
Thankfully, before my wife left she started learning web development. And, in a failed attempt to find common ground with her I started learning it too.
It seemed like the quickest route to making a significant side income.
In about 18 months I had a thriving freelance side hustle.
Now, instead of freelancing in my spare time I help people learn how to take the same path I did as a web designer at https://selfmadewebdesigner.com
Yep! I was basically a full-time musician. I was a worship pastor at a church called Hillsong. We have about 5 campuses across the Phoenix metroplex and I lead all the musicians and singers.
So, pretty demanding full-time job along with the side hustle.
I would max at about 18 hours per week.
Unless you count selling X-men cards from a card table off the side of the road when I was 10…no.
I had a few things I did that would make some extra money here and there but nothing I pursued seriously.
I’ve always had somewhat of an eye for design. That’s not to say being a good designer isn’t something you learn like math or physics.
But, even in the early days I could naturally look at a site and see how bad it was even though I didn’t quite know how to fix it. One of my first slogans was “Ridding the world of bad design one website at a time.”
Very cheesy and not great marketing. BUT, I knew there were more than enough websites out there that needed some love and I figured I could find at least a small portion of the ones out there that might be willing to give me a shot.
My first customers were all people I knew. I often tell people just getting started that getting a project is all about getting a client to trust you. If you have no portfolio to show or testimonies from former clients then you don’t have a lot of collateral for trust.
So, you have to start with people that trust you for different reasons like the relationship you have with them. Donald Miller says, “When you first get started you build a bouquet from the flowers closest to you.”
After I’d built websites for literally everyone I knew that needed one I turned to Upwork then o’Desk.
It was slow going at first. I bid and bid on projects but got crickets for responses. BUT, about 3 months of bidding and someone finally reached out to me and then the ball started rolling.
Eventually, I was featured in one of their advertisements on Times Square.
I tried some other ways like cold calling but none of that was successful. I’ve since tried many different routes from Craigslist to Linkedin to Local SEO. All of which have had mild success but none quite compare to people I know and leads from Upwork
The investment was pretty minimal.
I bought a course on Udemy for $10 and bought hosting and a domain for about $60 per year.
The biggest things you need to get started are a computer and access to some kind of photo manipulation software like Adobe Photoshop.
There are plenty of free alternatives out there if you want to try things out. Adobe Sketch is made specifically for web design and it’s free to use if you’re not collaborating with anyone.
Since I was making a good income I just bit the bullet and paid for the Adobe suite which is about $34 per month.
I also used Freshbooks to get payments from clients I got outside of Upwork and for any kind of monthly payments, I would take for things like hosting a website or doing consistent maintenance on it.
My transition was a bit different. This past year I decided I wanted to transition out of my career as a musician/worship pastor and pursue a full-time career as a UX designer which is like a cousin of a web designer.
I was thinking of taking the freelance full-time but then I found a company I fell in love with that’s 4 miles away from my house called Showit.
It’s a tech startup that’s built a drag & drop website builder that we market specifically to photographers. The culture and the mission of the company is incredible and I love being a part of the team.
So good! I’ve transitioned this last year with my own freelance side hustle.
I’ve slowed down on building websites for people and have since started to help people learn how to do the same thing I’ve done with a web design side hustle at https://selfmadewebdesigner.com
I had so many people that helped me along the way and I love the idea of being able to do the same for others.
Truthfully, I didn’t think I would ever make more than I was as a musician/worship pastor. I didn’t think I’d be able to put away for retirement OR help my kids with college.
All of that changed with Web Design and I love the idea of being able to help people see the same life change I have through a freelance side hustle.
Man, so much.
I think the main thing would be don’t just learn the skill but learn how to sell yourself.
So many web developers/designers are horrible freelancers because they don’t know how to communicate their value. All they know how to do is talk about how many years they’ve been doing it or how many languages the know how to code in.
But here’s the thing, NO ONE CARES!
Clients care about how you can help them move forward with their business. If you can’t connect the dots between what you can do and how it helps them do that, it’s going to be tough going.
If you can learn how to do that then people will see your value and you won’t have to try to beat your competition at the lowest price point.
So many! I’ll try to keep it brief.
Codecademy was the first place I went to learn the basics of frontend development. Their courses were all free back then. There are still a ton of free courses on there today.
I also followed a guy named Brad Hussey who had done the same thing I was trying to do and made some courses that were really helpful as I progressed: https://www.bradhussey.ca/
A really close friend of mine named Daniel Stringer was a huge help along the way. He’s an entrepreneur himself and had launched a few really successful businesses.
Another friend of mine named Thiago, we were roommates in college, had been doing the same thing I had before I started and he gave me some super practical advice along the way as well as jobs he didn’t want.
Finally, Anthony Garone is a close friend of mine that was the first person to encourage me to learn web development. He has been a constant source of encouragement and advice. AND, he just recently wrote an awesome book https://cluelessatthework.com/