So you've refined your HTML and CSS skills. Excellent. You've become a master of all things Adobe. Perfect. You can code a custom blog in your sleep (and have the code snippets to prove it). Good for you.

So what's next? Well, unless you code only for the sheer enjoyment and self-actualization of it, you're going to want to make money. And making money will require clients, and clients require BEING EXTREMELY CAREFUL!

What do I mean? Well, when I started freelancing, I was incredibly naive about customer relations and managing my projects. I quoted low (had to get the deal, right?) then killed myself to get the under-bidded job done on the ridiculously tight timeframe that I agreed to.

I have learned some hard lessons about customer and project management, but they are crucial to becoming a more professional web designer AND getting what you're worth as a designer for the work you do. So over the next few installments of this series, I'm going to be reflecting on some of the lessons I have learned–and am still learning!–that will hopefully help you in your customer managment.

Tip #1: Realistic Bidding

Okay, so it's common for those just starting out with freelancing to HORRIFICALLY underbid a project. From my own experience, one of my first professional projects included logo creation, full concept templating, code conversion AND the creation of a fairly robust content management system. I did it all for less than I charge now for ONLY a site design concept…

So why does this happen? On the one hand, you're probably desperate for work (after all, have to build the portfolio, right?), but at the same time, you may feel somewhat less-than-confident in your abilities (after all, without the robust portfolio, you really don't have THAT MUCH to sell your services on…).

But here's the deal: even though these pressures are no doubt real, you have to provide realistic bids for the amount of work you're going to be doing. While you may not feel like you're worth $50 dollars an hour, you are definitely worth more than minimum wage, so be sure to propose a bid that will be of some benefit to you besides just building the ol' portfolio.

Also, a common error is to undervalue your work. While some elements of design might be easy to you–and so it feels like you're potentially robbing a client because of the lack of strain on you–remember that it is perfectly legitimate and right to charge for your expertise: after all, if they could design and code a site themselves, they would!

However, realistically there does come a point where the portfolio has to be built. So if you have to underbid, be sure that it's for a project that will not get out of hand with numerous change orders–if you going to do a site for next to nothing, make sure that it's next to nothing in scope of work and use that to pad the folio. Then, as you move on to bigger and better projects on the strength of your portfolio, you can begin to reap the benefits in the relative worth that clients assign to your work.

NEXT: Avoiding Scope Creep


More in this series:

On Becoming a Better Web Designer: Default CSS

On Becoming a Better Web Designer, in 4-D!

On Becoming a Better Web Designer, Part Third

On Becoming a Better Web Designer, Part Deux

On Becoming a Better Web Designer [First Part]