Earn more money as a web designer in 2020

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When I started creating websites in 2002, many other people also created websites as part-time jobs. It was a cool thing to work as a web designer alongside my main job. Of course there is still people doing this, no question. But the times for web designers have clearly changed with website building kits, WordPress and landing page builders. Today, more and more web designers are looking for additional income opportunities and are going completely new ways to turn their skills into money.

Frustrated web designers are not uncommon

I know a lot of web designers because after all, I am one myself. For many years I rocked projects on behalf of customers. First as an employee and later as a freelancer. It was fun, but in the long run it is nothing more than a job. Often you just have to do the job, whether it's fun or not. Especially when dealing with demanding customers, this can go to the substance.

If you are interested in the topic and deal with it, you can quickly find on Twitter and on other platforms, web designers who complain about everything. About customers, about injustice, about website builders and everything else that "complicates" the life of a web designer.

Hourly or fixed price strategy? In the end you almost always earn too little!

If you're a web designer, you're probably familiar with one of the following scenarios:

  • You work as a freelancer with hourly or daily rates
  • As a freelancer, you do a certain task for a fixed price
  • You are an employee and receive a monthly salary

If you only generate your income in one of the ways mentioned above, you will never really earn much. Of course, you can be lucky and get a raise. Or your hourly or daily rate increases with increasing skill level. But all of these types of income have a problem: they are limited to your time and performance.

Why you are underpaid

Many web designers are not even aware that some customers save or take out a lot more money than they spent on the web designer. In most cases, only rudimentary contracts are made, if at all. Most web designers are not concerned about proposing profit sharing to the client.

Simple example: A customer has a very old website that generates practically no sales or traffic. You create a new and better website that generates $ 5000 per month via SEO traffic. And you only got a one-time payment of $ 1000. Doesn't sound great, does it? This is a reality these days, but luckily you can change it to your advantage!

We live in a self-made age

Never before have there been so many freelancers as today. In the United States, more than half of the working population is self-employed. The Internet is full of offers from self-employed sole traders who offer almost everything. There is a huge market out there that offers numerous tools and services for building income sources.

In a nutshell: you can do that!

Here are the long-awaited tips to optimize your income as a web designer and to fully exploit modern sources of income.

1.) Offer your customers a commission model

This model is not practical for every project or job that you do. But under certain conditions it can be very lucrative if you agree a commission deal with your client instead of a fixed payment. The best example is probably the creation and maintenance of an online shop.

Let's say your customer wants to have an online shop. You should create a concept for this, and then implement the whole thing and manage it permanently. The expenses that your customer has can easily be reduced to a percentage. Suppose your cost is 10% of the online store's profit. Then you could make a 10% deal with the customer so that you get 10% of the profit.

The trick is to get the customer to sign a deal first and then help increasing the shop's sales!

Remember: If you yourself have no influence on the generation of sales or traffic, this procedure can of course also be disadvantageous for you! Therefore, this model is not recommended for everyone.

A little experience report

I manage a shop that sells outdoor products for one of my customers, which I took over from the old webmaster and rebuilt. We agreed on a 10% profit sharing right from the start because the customer did not have the necessary budget at the beginning and I personally like their products. In the beginning, of course, I had a bit more work to rebuild the shop, integrate SEO optimization, write texts and much more. I got really involved and built the shop really well.

In the first month, I made only about $ 100, and had delivered thousands of jobs.

After the shop was completed, there wasn't much to do for me because the customer was busy with advertising.

In the second month, sales were 5 times higher and I made around $ 500.

With that, I got out a large part of my own costs / investments after only 2 months.

After the fourth month I got out my previously calculated costs for the shop and from month 5 my (almost) passive income started.

Of course, I am still busy with the shop, and I also occasionally invest time in special promotions and even paid ads. But the hourly rate I currently have with this customer shop averages $ 250 based on the 10% monthly earnings and hours worked.

2.) Create your own websites and projects

Are you creating stunning websites for your customers or your boss? Are you an experienced webmaster and do you know how to do it right? What are you waiting for? Simply use your skills to develop your own ideas and implement them yourself! For example, if you don't have a perfect business idea right away, you can just start creating a blog with articles about your best skills. Blogs are still good sources of income in 2020 if they serve the right niche and regularly publish valuable content. But the blog is really just the standard example.

There are countless ways you can make money with your own websites:

  • Blog with specialist articles
  • SaaS product, e.g. a toolbox for other web designers or accounting software
  • Advice website with SEO-relevant niche content
  • Niche website on your exclusive topic
  • Online shops (sell products for others for a commission)
  • and much more...

This list can be continued as desired. The limit is just your own creativity.


3.) Create and sell digital products

As a web designer, you can create a whole range of interesting digital products that can give you a more or less passive income. Here is a list of the best options for different skill levels

  • Create HTML / CSS themes
    If you are a frontend developer and are proficient in HTML and CSS, you can create themes that others can use as a template for a CMS. You don't have to create WordPress themes right away, or do complex programming. There is a fairly large market for HTML themes, because WordPress developers are also looking for finished and clean solutions and do not always want to do everything themselves.
  • Finished WordPress themes
    If you master HTML, CSS and additionally PHP, you can create WordPress themes. The demand is enormous and the profit margin is quite high if you sell your theme through the right channels. However, there are also many competitors. This requires your highest quality and innovation.
  • Create an expert book or Amazon Kindle
    Do you know your way around a special web design topic and can you write well? Why don't you just write your own little expert book? Publishing your own book has become very easy with Amazon Kindle. Many authors today make good money on Amazon if they have found the right niche.
  • Become a partner of Envato
    Do you know themeforest.com or graphicriver? These websites are part of Envato, a marketplace for digital products. Thousands of web designers earn money here with finished templates, templates and scripts. Some are really good. It is no longer that easy to be successful at Envato, but if you have the right product for the right niche, you will still have very good chances there!

4.) Help others and become a coach

There is currently a big coaching trend. There is a coach for everything and everyone. The area of ​​web design is very popular these days. Use this to your advantage.

If you manage to offer an online course where you have 1000 participants, each paying $ 5, you will already have $ 5000 earnings per course.

The costs are kept within an acceptable range thanks to the many tools available on the Internet, which can make the whole thing quite profitable. Of course, you will not easily get 1000 participants. You will have to invest. But if you have a good product, you will be able to sell it well through a few inexpensive ads on Facebook or Instagram. I speak here from my own experience.

Rough calculation from a real project:
In order to get enough attendees, $ 500 per month must be spent on advertising. The cost of technology and other infrastructure is around $ 200 a month. A new webinar is created once a month and the cost is around $ 500. The website's earnings are around $ 2500, making a monthly profit of $ 1300 per month.

Of course, not every type of learning material can be sold over many years, but some things can. If you use the right strategy and don't want to create a course on the current version of Windows, you're sure to find the right niche. I have made hundreds of dollars a month from a webinar for 2-3 years without continuing to do anything. It really works.

You can also coach people personally. It doesn't have to be all over the internet. But the Internet is the most convenient and lucrative way to convey knowledge. It doesn't have to be the best, but it's the most lucrative for you. Remember, even if you are holding a real seminar, you have to take into account a whole range of costs and expenses that you don't have on the Internet.

5.) Create software that helps others

If you have mastered PHP or another server-side programming language, you can create web-based software or cloud software that will help companies or private individuals save money or time. At best, one can even make money with your software and not just save costs.

Even if you can't really program yourself, but are still a web designer, you can build a concept and a front end, and hire a programmer for the business logic.

Here is a list of successful ideas:

  • Sales Funnel Script
  • Social media automation
  • Opt-in script / service
  • Form generator for special industries
  • Accounting utility software
  • WordPress plugin for certain niche / specific purpose
  • PHP script for managing industry-specific data

6.) Become a traveller or emigrate to another country

A very effective way to have more money and more fun as a web designer is to either emigrate or travel forever. At least if you come from Europe, you can enjoy total tax exemption relatively easily. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it's really not that hard to stop paying taxes. All you have to do is:

  • Cancel all necessary contracts etc. properly
  • Either move to a country where income from abroad is tax free, e.g. Panama or Paraguay
  • Travel permanently and never stay in a country for longer than 2-6 months in order not to become taxable

Again, I speak from my own experience, because I have not lived in Europe for a long time, where you simply have tax expenses that are far too high.

7.) Multiply your skills by outsourcing

If you can communicate well and have the ability to manage a team, you can outsource parts of your work. Even if you only earn 10% every hour someone works for you, with the right strategy you can make a lot of money. The hardest part is finding good people. You can't just hire the first developer from any developing country, and then expect them to do the job as you would do it yourself. This usually takes a certain amount of time. You have to get used to each other and the hired partners must be able to work independently so that you are relieved.

Here is an important tip: Pay attention to quality, not quantity. Even if it is hard and difficult, but good service providers have their price! Don't skimp on the people you expect to work the way you do!

Did it inspire you? Do you have any other ideas?

I hope you liked the article. There are a lot of ways to escape the "web designer hamster wheel". You can build up a lot of diffrent business ideas besides your job or your activity as a freelancer, with little money but more passion. Become financially independent. As a web designer, you already have the best prerequisites for this!

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or comments!

Do you want more expert tips or don't know where to start?

If you are interested in personal advice, I can be your mentor. Just get in touch directly via my website! See you.

Finger pointing at you!


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