Tips for Becoming an Online Entrepreneur: Working as a Web Designer

Today’s “I Want to Be” Series features Andrea Whitmer, a former psychotherapist, who now works from home full time as a web designer. She is a single mom to one son who just recently started high school. Find out how to connect with Andrea at the end of this article. 

How long have you had your business? 

I've been designing websites for a little over 16 years, but I made the decision to create the actual business in November 2011.

What led you to pursue it? 

I quit my job at the end of 2011 to work from home as a freelancer. While I initially planned to earn most of my income through freelance writing, I knew I would likely need something to fall back on. A friend of mine asked, "Why aren't you doing more website design work? That's where your skills are." I thought about it, and he was right!

Are you part time or full time?  

My business is now my full-time job. After years of building websites on the side, I left my career as a psychotherapist in December 2011 to work from home and spend more time with my son. Ironically, all of my income now comes from web design, not freelance writing as I had originally planned.

How do you market your business? 

So far all of my marketing has been through word of mouth. I stay busy that way, so I haven't felt the need to change what's working. That said, I do plan to expand this fall and offer services to local businesses in my area, so I'll be implementing a different strategy to see how things go.

What is your favorite part of the business? 

I love helping my clients solve problems and build the presence they want on the web. So many of them are intimidated by the technical aspects of creating a website - they always tell me "I'm so dumb when it comes to this stuff." Every time, I find that they know much more than they think; they just lack the confidence to try. It thrills me to leave them with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that they CAN have a website that meets their needs.

What one question do you get most from people about your business? 

The question I hear most is, "How did you learn to do all this stuff?" I'm completely self-taught - I usually answer that question by saying that you can't spend 16 years in front of a computer without picking up some things along the way! It has taken a long time to develop these skills, but I'm still constantly learning. In this line of work, it's a requirement!

What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about the work you do? 

A lot of people seem to think that price is the most important factor in selecting a web designer. And while I understand the need to stay within budget, especially for individuals and small businesses, cheaper is not always better. Then again, more expensive isn't always better either! It's so important for people to ask questions and get to know a designer before hiring him/her.

What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity? 

Make sure you know what you're doing before you take on work for someone else. It requires a great deal of trust for someone to put their website in your hands, and the last thing you want to do is get in over your head. If you want to design websites, practice, practice, practice before you ever charge for your work! Don't be afraid to turn down work that is beyond your abilities - you'll earn a lot of respect by referring out to someone who is better suited for a particular project.

What is the first step? 

The first step in becoming a web designer is gaining an understanding of design concepts, website structure and coding, and graphics programs (no MS Paint!), then building on that knowledge by creating practice websites. What websites or books do you recommend for tips? is a great resource for learning basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript. I also read Think Traffic, Inc, and Web Designer Depot on a regular basis.

To learn more about Andrea, stop by her website and business blog, Nuts and Bolts Media , her personal blog, or on Twitter.

*Photo by antoniolas via Flickr.

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