How to Get a Job in Web Design After College or University
Web Design continues to be a growth sector when it comes to employment and it’s an exciting field to get into. With nearly 2 billion sites up online now and more than half a million new ones created every day, there is no shortage of potential customers.
While many web designers are setup as freelancers, many more are employed both on a full-time and contract basis across a wide range of industries from IT and retail to hospitality and construction.
In fact, according to CareerSmart, around 70% of web designers are employed full-time by a company and only 20% work as freelancers or are self-employed.
Why Work in Web Design?
If you are creative and want a meaningful business that helps businesses and other organisations build their online presence, web design is an ideal occupation.
There are various routes into the profession and the average salary in the UK is between £18,000 for a starter to £40,000 for someone more experienced. The sector also gives you the chance to be your own boss and earn extra money freelancing.
Who’s it for?
Ideally you should have these traits and skills:
Attention to detail
Keep Up to Date
Before we look at the routes into a web design career, it’s important to note one thing. Web design changes quite rapidly which is why it’s critical to stay informed and keep your skills updated at all times. This includes everything that surrounds web design such as marketing and SEO as well as the latest technical solutions.
A good place to start is WebDesignerNews.com which creates information from around the internet. In addition to this, it’s also important to keep your options open and not to be afraid of trying different approaches.
Web Design Apprenticeships
Apprenticeships are ideal for school leavers who are looking to get into the industry but don’t want to go to university and study for a degree. While these posts are not particularly high paid, they provide a hands-on route with a web design company. The type of qualifications businesses look for are usually GCSE level with English and Maths but candidates also need to have some knowledge and experience of web design.
Most web design apprenticeships combine on the job experience under the tutelage of qualified designers with a course in a relevant area. This formal education could be something general such as a Level 3 qualification as a Junior VFX Artist or something more advanced including taking a digital and technology solutions professional degree apprenticeship.
Creating a Portfolio
While many people can benefit from going straight from school or college to undertake an apprenticeship, others come via the degree route. Some may have taken an online course – there are quite a few to choose from nowadays.
Whatever route you take, you can improve your chances of being employed in the sector if you start developing a portfolio of work. While qualifications can be important, employers often want to see what you are capable of and whether you have the skills they are looking for. Even if you are looking at an apprenticeship, highlighting the work you have done to date can be the difference between a polite rejection letter and landing that post.
The easiest and most accessible way to do this is to create an online presence where you can tell people about the projects you’ve worked on, give examples of your web design to date and tell them a little about yourself. You can include all sorts of content here – websites you have created for friends and family, even sample sites that you have designed for particular industries.
The good news is there are a lot of tools to help you do this online and it also allows you to develop your skills to a higher degree.
Working for free can seem like a bad idea but it does have some benefits for newbie web designers. First of all, it can help you build that all-important portfolio so you have a body of work to show prospective employers. Second, it gives you a chance to build experience in web design and develop new skills.
There are various ways you can go about it. Many small businesses in your area might have poorly designed websites that you can help out with. You could start by searching online and then reaching out to some of them with an idea of how you can help and why you want to offer your services for free. You may be surprised how many will take you up on your offer.
Charities are another option where you can provide web design services. These organisations often operate to tight budgets and have websites that are either outdated or poorly constructed. Look for smaller, local charities (there are more than you think) and put a plan together for how you can improve their sites.
A poor or ineffective website can affect how much a charity receives in donations. The top problems we often see are usability issues such as poor navigation, missing information and badly written content. Another thing charities get wrong is the design of their donation page, either it’s not fit for purpose or doesn’t accept certain types of payment. Find out more here.
Work experience is often associated with schools, colleges and universities and involves spending a few weeks learning about a particular role. It’s not just for those in education, however. If you want to learn more about web design, you could contact local businesses to see if you can shadow their team or in-house professionals – you may be given jobs to do and get to work with professionals who are already established in the sector.
Work experience has another advantage in that, if the company likes what they see, they may well offer you a job.
There is a range of different skills that could help an application for any web design job. Taking extra qualifications shows your future employer that you’re serious about your career and committed to learning as much as possible.
Related qualifications that might stand out could include graphic design and UX or user experience training, both of which are integral parts of the industry.
Other softer skills could also impress. These include improving your level of English and your communication skills or learning more about a niche area like typography, for example.
The good news is there are plenty of options to learn new skills online and many of these are free or very low cost. Look for qualifications that have certification, even if it means paying, as this provides proof of your continuing professional development.
Employers often use specific software in-house so it’s important to ensure you can use these. Taking an additional course for Adobe Photoshop or Dreamweaver can make a big difference. Other software you might like to consider would be WordPress, eCommerce sites like Shopify and WooCommerce as well as more focused coding platforms like Bluefish.
Our advice is to learn one or two very well and that should give you an insight into how the others work.
TIP: Free alternative to Photoshop is – GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) – click here
Search online and you’ll also find a broad range of free and pay to view seminars, both live and recorded. These are generally run by experienced professionals as a way of attracting new customers and they can impart a wealth of information that could boost your skill level significantly.
You can access these webinars in your spare time, view them on a desktop or a mobile and even take part in Q&A sessions with the organisers.
You might also consider creating your own webinars and attracting local businesses with subjects such as how to improve their websites. Check out this easy guide from Oberlo.
Join Freelancing Sites
You will need to highlight your strengths and skills and show people some of your work. Freelancing can often be difficult to get off the ground but it’s worth persisting. Once you start getting customers, you will also begin to develop a reputation. The good news is that many people earn a full-time living from these sites alone. You do need to be a self-starter and work from home as well as register as self-employed with HMRC.
These sites are generally used by small businesses and marketing teams to access things as varied as secretarial services, copywriting and web design.
When you’re looking for a job in web design, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of being on social media and the power of its reach. You need to have an account that is business orientated rather than personal and build a following of businesses, especially in your local area.
At the very least, you will need a well-written profile on LinkedIn which is specifically designed for putting businesses and potential employees in contact with each other. The good news is that you can post all sorts of information and share it with members of the site to build your reputation.
Another option is to take part in web design forums and there are plenty of these. This not only helps you build connections within the industry, but you’ll get a lot of advice and even find out where the best vacancies are at the moment.
One of the most active sites at the moment is Designer Hangout where members discuss the latest trends and give each other advice and support. Another is Web Design Forum (UK) which has over 2,000 members.
Creating a Blog
Blogging is a great way to build your reputation and attract businesses of all types. It can take a good deal of work and you will have to set up a website with a domain name and hosting but this is relatively cheap nowadays. It’s another way to highlight your skills in web design and show your expertise to anyone who visits your site.
Look to post a couple of articles a week and focus on advising businesses that may be on the lookout for a web designer. Don’t focus too much on keywords but concentrate on creating high value, useful and insightful content. Also, make sure that you link to your social media accounts so that you can let your followers know when you’ve posted something.
You can also look to blog articles on web design forums and other sites as many are looking for content from experienced individuals. This is a great way to get your name out there and have your skills noticed.
Joining forces with other people in the sector has several advantages. For a start, it can help you build valuable relationships that may well lead to a job in the future. It can also improve your skill and expertise in the area of web design.
Collaboration is a skill in itself and it shows potential employers that you can work as part of a team. It can also take other forms – you may have worked with others, for example, to raise money for charity. You might have worked as part of a team on a freelancing site to deliver a new website.
Many people now view video content rather than reading an article. This has largely been brought about because of our smartphones. It’s much easier to catch a few minutes of informative video rather than read a lengthy post. It’s staggering to think that we watch an average of 16 hours of content every week and more than 1 billion hours of video are consumed every day on YouTube.
Vlogging is ideal for web designers and there’s plenty of content you can create – everything from tutorials to how a web designer can help your business grow. The good news is that setting up the equipment for a YouTube video is relatively easy – all you need is a decent camera on your smartphone and a good sound system with lighting.
What you will need to do is get your presentation correct and this can be challenging for some people. It does, however, give potential employers to see you in person and decide whether you are a fit for their company.
Finally, one thing you should get into a habit of is networking. This includes taking part in local events and meetings as well as online. Make it a lifelong process and always take the opportunity to get to know people in local businesses and those in your sector. That could include attending business events or signing up for a major exhibition or conference.
It’s a great way to advance your career, get fresh ideas, learn more about opportunities in your area and build your communication skills and confidence.