Web designers hate WordPress. Many of them, anyway. All of a sudden, anyone who wants a website can design his/her own. And with reasonable intelligence and some research, that same person can add the plugins, get a shopping cart solution, add a blog, get on social media, and begin to sell. And if any of them do call in a designer, they expect to pay very little. After all, given all the great tools out there that require no coding, what are you doing to earn your pay anyway ?
Business is Scarce
Of course, there are always business owners and organizations that just don’t want the hassle of designing their sites – the whole world of putting together a website still seems very much a mystery. But they are becoming fewer and fewer, and the competition is really rough. So in this world of client scarcity, freelancers are lowering their prices and having long dry spells in between clients. Many designers just quit, give up what they love doing, and decide to take a regular job – eating is just something that they need to do. They don’t realize that there are other ways to make money with the background and experience they have and still take those web design jobs when they come up.
Working Within the WordPress World
Ariel Rule, a WordPress designer and freelance writer, has written a post with a couple of suggestions for surviving as a designer in the world of WordPress. Here is what she has to say:
- You need to stop marketing your services as a designer and start marketing yourself as a solver of problems. A lot of people design their own sites, think they have done a pretty good job of it, and yet are not getting the traffic or the sales they want. They don’t much about “fixing” this problem, and most don’t even know where to look for solutions. Enter you. What can you do to solve their “pain?” As a designer, you certainly know about SEO; you have some knowledge of content marketing; you also know a thing or two about analytics. Sell yourself as the solution-master, and set a fee that is worth your expertise.
- Find a niche and become the supreme guru. She suggests that you find a niche with deep pockets – maybe doctors, dentists, or lawyers. You can become an expert on their fields, their terminology, how they should be marketing themselves as professionals, yet competitors, etc. Then, when the divorce lawyer who is happy with what you have done, meets the tax attorney at a party, he will recommend you.
Still, you will probably not generate the income you want and/or need. So, while you continue to design websites for some clients, you move a bit outside of your comfort zone with new ways to generate income, much of it passive (the best kind, by the way).
Getting Other Income Streams
To be successful stepping outside of your “box”, you will first need to generate a list of personal strengths and weaknesses you have:
- How are your coding skills? It’s easy to get rusty if you have not been using them. Perhaps you should “bone up” a bit.
- Are you an extrovert or an introvert? This will heavily influence what design-related niches you may move into.
- Can you write well? Many possible income streams require this.
- Have you networked over the years and do you have relationships with influencers not so much in design but in related niches?
- How are your sales and marketing skills? And what do you know about online marketing? If they are poor, you may need to partner up with someone who loves marketing, or at least a firm that will market for you.
Once you have determined your strengths and weaknesses, you can begin to look at the possibilities for income streams , many of which will be passive. Here are some options for you to consider:
What can you teach people about web design and development? A lot if you’ve been in the business for a while. And one thought? You could produce a step-by-step guide or designing their own websites, including all of the tools that can be used by those with no experience. Even WordPress explanations can be a bit daunting. Can you simplify everything, so that a “dummy” can get the idea ?
2. Software as a Service
Another demand that is not going away. Many companies, and more to come, will be looking to purchase software for a variety of functions within their companies – HR, logistics, cloud storage, security, etc. These are all cloud-based and becoming increasingly popular, as paper is becoming a thing of the past.
3. Online Courses
Lots of people like courses on the web, because they are so convenient. Once you create a course, you can “list” it with a clearinghouse site (they get their cut, of course), or you can market it on your own. If you know enough about content marketing, you can do this; if not, list this first one and learn how to do it on your own for the next one.
4. Design Themes
ThemeForest.net is the largest marketplace on the web for themes and templates. In recent year, even inexperienced designers cold make money, if they had a cool idea that others wanted to purchase. Six figure incomes for top designers is quite common. One word of caution here: Just a few years ago, theme design was much easier than it is today. To be competitive you need to be able to support shortcodes, design many layouts, and construct a custom back end. This is no longer a part-time job – if you really are going to design themes that are competitive, you will need to be willing to put in the work.
If you like to write and you have good skills, you have two options here. You can set up a blog (you have lots of expertise to share), spread it via social media, and then sell related advertising space. Lots of bloggers have done this quite successfully. Your other option, if you are really good, it to write blog posts and submit them to other blog for publication. Many of these blogs pay for posts, some quite well. It’s a matter of getting on the site, researching the submission guidelines and then begin to write. Get some tough skin, however, because the rejection rate is high. Still, some highly popular blogs pay up to $200 for a good post.
6. Set Up a Website Testing Service
As a designer, you are a natural for this. Many businesses want to test various parts of their sites for UE and UI. While analytics can give plenty of data on traffic, bounce rates, pages visited, etc., you can market adding the human factor. Specifically, you employ “testers” from the target audience of the site. You then give them a series of tasks to perform on the website. They perform those tasks and then provide feedback regarding how easy or difficult they were. And once you provide the results to the site owner, you can make suggestions for changes in design. Guess who is now available to make those changes? The owner doesn’t have to go anywhere else for his/her “fixes.” And, as you explain to the owner, any change in the website must be tested as well. You can gain some long-term clients by doing this, and that is a good thing.
Other income streams
- Develop Apps: This demand is not going away. If you can do the research and find out what types of apps people complain about not having, then design them and put them up or sale. Here you need to be a problem solver.
- Design WordPress Plugins: If you can come up with an idea for a great plugin or a vast improvement on an existing one, you can make some good money. Yes, WordPress plugins are supposed to be free, but you can offer a premium version for a price.
- Design PSD Templates: There is a large demand for these, and designers are always looking to try new ones.
- Icons, Lexicons, Favicons: If you have been designing for a number of years, you no doubt have a library of these things that you designed. How about packaging them up for sale? Like everyone else, you can have a free version and an upgraded version at a cost. This is a bit more competitive of late too, but there are still small-to-moderate income streams to be had.
A Word about Online Marketing
Marketing any product or service online is hard work. And if you decide to do this marketing on your own, you will be spending a lot of time learning how to do it. And it’s confusing, because there is so much advice floating around. You will need to find the “gurus” who really know what they are talking about – Neil Patel, founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar is one such guru. He has a great blog about content marketing, and writes for both beginners and more advanced marketers. You could begin there. The goal for what you do outside of web design is really to have some passive residual income coming in - income that can supplement the declining income that you may be experiencing right now from lack of clients. All of the options above are really doable if you are willing to put in the effort.