How to Transition from a Freelance Web Designer to a Lucrative Consulting Business

Did you ever feel that you have more work than you can handle? Have you thought about moving your freelance web design business to a new level, but don’t want the responsibilities of owning a larger business? Do you feel boxed in, doing the same type of projects over and over again?

If you’re an experienced web designer who feels this way, you’re not alone. After a few years, many web designers look for ways to expand their business. Often, they immediately think of growing the business larger–perhaps becoming an agency. However, there are other options.

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You don’t have to grow your business larger to expand. You can escape the boxed in feeling. You can transition from doing design work to being a web design consultant. In this post, I’ll discuss how to do that.

If you liked this post, you may also like Pros and Cons of Outsourcing.

What Does a Consultant Do?

You may think of yourself as a consultant already, and perhaps you already do some consulting tasks for your clients. But you probably also do the web design or web development work for your client.

However, a pure consultant wouldn’t actually do the design or development work themselves. Instead, they would charge to provide detailed strategic web design advice to clients. The consultant may also work closely with a web designer to ensure that the advice is carried out properly. They may even partner with a web designer who will provide the actual design.

Here are five types of projects a web design consultant might work on:

  1. Analyze a website’s current design to determine why it isn’t performing well.
  2. Help a company determine how to incorporate their image into their website.
  3. Work with a client to show them how to make their abstract ideas a reality.
  4. Teach or mentor less experienced web designers or web developers.
  5. Show a client how they can improve their website to increase traffic.

The main difference between consulting and freelance web design work is that as a consultant you are paid to share your knowledge and expertise. A freelance web designer is paid to design a website to the client’s specification.

Often web designers provide some consulting advice to clients without realizing how valuable that advice actually is. Sharing what you know is worth money.

Benefits of Transitioning to Consulting

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Why make the transition to a consultant? Here are five good reasons:

  1. You can charge top dollar for your time. As an expert, you can charge a higher rate for consulting. Most consultants I know charge by the hour. Use Skype or your phone to connect with clients.
  2. You can take on more clients. Since you only spend a few hours with each consulting client, you can accept more clients. Consulting is a good option if you are constantly busy and find yourself with more clients than you can handle or if your current clients are always asking for advice.
  3. No worries about deadlines. You can schedule your consulting sessions at your convenience. You don’t have to worry about deadlines because you will be telling your clients what to do and how to do it rather than doing the work yourself.
  4. You get the satisfaction of helping people. Are you a people person? The best consultants are. If you like to help people and enjoy giving advice, then you will probably enjoy doing consulting work.
  5. Take on the nuts and bolts of a design project only when you want to. You probably won’t want to stop working on design projects completely, but as a consultant you will have more flexibility about which projects you choose.

How to Make the Transition

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Do you think consulting might be for you? Here are eight tips to help you make the transition:

  1. Start offering consulting services to existing clients. You won’t get any consulting work if no one knows you do it. Contact former and existing clients to make them aware that you also offer consulting services. Be specific. For example, you might say that a one hour consulting session to help a website increase traffic costs $X dollars.
  2. Target larger companies. Medium to large companies are more likely to understand the need for and engage the services of a consultant than solo business owners or partnerships. If most of your current clients are sole proprietors, it may be a good idea to target larger businesses. Two ways to do this are through social media or direct mail.
  3. Actively market your consulting services. Any time you transition from doing one type of work to doing another type, you should expect to spend more time on marketing. Moving to consulting work is no different. You will need to actively sell your consulting services. You may even need to redesign your own website to emphasis your new focus on consulting.
  4. Solicit testimonials from clients who you’ve already provided consulting advice to. If you’re like many freelancers, you’ve probably already done some consulting work for former clients (although you may not have charged extra for it). Solicit testimonials from these clients that are specific to how the advice you offered helped their business.
  5. Add a coaching or mentoring service to your Hire Me page. Coaching and mentoring are also a form of consulting. If you would like to focus on this type of consulting, be sure that your coaching or mentoring services are included on your Hire Me page.
  6. Arrange for a trustworthy web designer to pick up the design portion of the work. If you are moving away from doing the design or development work yourself, you may want to team up with a less experienced designer who can follow through with your recommendations. Although, if you are targeting larger companies some of them may have designers on staff.
  7. Get any additional credentials you may need. While you may be able to make the transition solely on the basis of your experience, having extra credentials such as a certification or an additional degree will help you to market yourself as a consultant. Writing a book about web design or web development is another way to promote yourself as a consultant.
  8. Stay on top of trends and technology. Don’t expect to simply coast on your past experience as a designer or developer. As a design consultant, you will be expected to keep up with all new developments. This may require that you spend more time taking courses and reading the latest articles in your field.

Your Turn

Have you transitioned from web design or web development to pure consulting? What advice would you give to others who hope to make the same transition?

Published January 22nd, 2014 by

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