As a print designer, you know that often your clients are going to need web design.
But is it worth it to go through the hassle of learning WordPress (and the basics of web design)? Or should you simply partner with a web designer and share clients?
Make the best decision for your business with the following info.
What is WordPress anyway?
(Don’t feel stupid…there are no stupid questions here at Millo.)
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WordPress is a very popular and free content management system (CMS). In a nutshell, WordPress takes care of all of the repetitive, “boring” parts of creating a website — like coding navigation bars, theme templates, and blog interactivity — so that you can focus on the fun part…designing!
WordPress also makes it (fairly) easy for your clients to maintain and update their website content and photos by themselves. This frees you up for more advanced (read: more lucrative) work such as updating color schemes, changing fonts, or customizing other aspects of the site.
Also, coders and designers from around the world have created themes and plugins (some are free, and some require payment) that allow you to customize WordPress in literally millions of ways. (Themes are design templates and plugins are packages of code that add functionality — like SEO capabilities, specialized contact forms, and anti-spam protection — to the WordPress framework.)
True story: 95% of my web design work is WordPress websites (the rest are custom-coded). From sites with online courses to basic informational sites to sites with restricted access pages, WordPress handles nearly all of my clients’ needs simply, cost-effectively, and safely.
Next up? Let’s find out if web design is right for you.
Okay, it’s time to look inward. How do you react to the following questions?
Does the idea of learning HTML and CSS intrigue you?
These two languages are the foundation of web design. HTML — Hypertext Markup Language — is the code behind every website, and CSS — Cascading Style Sheets — is formatting the elements on the page to look the way you want them to.
Even though WordPress takes almost all of the coding out of web design, it’s still important that you understand how webpages work so that you can make the customizations your clients will undoubtedly request.
Does text-based design sound interesting?
While WYSIWYG WordPress interfaces are becoming more common (and more effective), it’s still important to note that making custom changes often involves writing lines of CSS “code.”
Do you have a knack for quickly learning new software/applications?
WordPress isn’t difficult to learn, but the dashboard (the back-end interface you’ll see when you log in) can be a little overwhelming at first. You’ll have to learn the lingo as well as where settings are located within the fairly large navigation menu. (FYI – a “widget” adds functionality to a sidebar or footer.)
And be aware, themes and plugins aren’t always the most intuitive platforms…sometimes you have to go searching for the settings or options you’re looking for!
Did you set up your own hosting service and website?
Becoming fluent in WordPress is a great first step, but many clients are also going to need you to set up their hosting service, install WordPress, set up their email, and maybe transfer their domain.
Depending on the web hosting service, setup isn’t that challenging, but it does take familiarizing yourself with the hosting service’s interface. (I recommend either Bluehost or Dreamhost based on fantastic customer service, minimal downtime, simple user interface, and cost effectiveness. Leave a note in the comments if you want to know which hosting services I can’t stand.)
Evaluate your business
If this whole web design challenge thing sounds interesting, take a look at your business, your goals, and your income to help decide which path to take.
How busy are you?
Freelance design life can be feast or famine, but in general, do you have enough print work to keep you well-fed?
If you’ve got plenty of print work, attempting to tackle web design might be biting off more than you can chew, especially since your first web gig is going to take a lot of extra learning, and fixing mistakes, time.
However, if you’re losing clients or struggling to stay busy, you might devote some of that down time to expanding your skill set.
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
Cheesy interview question, I know, but hear me out.
Dig through your desk drawer or comb through your computer files and find your business goals. Will adding web design to your repertoire add value to your business and get you closer to your long-term goals?
Do you already have a go-to web designer?
If you’ve already got a great subcontractor to outsource web design to (super-mega bonus points if they refer print clients back to you), maybe tackling WordPress isn’t right for your business right now. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
However, if you haven’t found a symbiotic relationship that works for you, maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons, especially if you get a lot of clients asking if you do web design.
Moment of truth
So what’s it gonna be? Are you thrilled about expanding your toolbox or a little freaked out and intimidated? Does WordPress fit your business model or are you trying to fit a square peg in a round hole?
Print designers: let us know what you’re thinking! (And feel free to ask questions.)
Web designers: jump in on this and add your two cents on the biggest obstacles you overcame when you just started out.
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