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Want to go freelance: How to approach web design?


I am wanting to set up freelance by September. I currently work for an agency who does both branding and web development. I design bespoke websites and I enjoy it, they then get developed. I will be offering branding services and ideally would like to include web within this. The question is, do I team up with a web developer to offer bespoke web design, or do I use a service such as Wordpress and learn this for myself? The pros of Wordpress would be more affordable for clients, I would be in full control of the design but this would be limiting due to templates.

The pros about teaming up with a developer are: a bespoke service, the negatives: I have to find a developer I work well with and trust, more admin work in regards to costs.

I wondered if any other freelancers have had this query and what you decided to do?

Thanks in advance,



Well-Known Member
I guess the easiest option would be to go the WP route at least to start off with as many people would be looking for an affordable site that they can manage themselves and there's almost limitless template options.
Maybe later on you could hook up with a dev and do the bespoke thing.
Yes that's kind of the route I was thinking. Working within an agency they sway away from using template sites, but I think from a freelancing perspective it may be the best option for clients. More affordable, and I like the fact I will be in control. Often when I design for web, it gets passed over to development and is often not exactly how I want it to be anyway.

I think i need to start looking into learning WP, this is my next step. Although a big commitment! Thanks Scotty.

Does anyone have any advice on learning WP? Where to start?

Paul Murray

Staff member
From my own experience, the cheapest option is often the best (i.e. Wordpress or a framework like Bootstrap) as a lot of clients simply won't have budgeted for development costs. A decent developer will be at least £300 – 400 a day, and I'm finding most clients tend to have a budget of around £750 for a site and branding, which isn't ideal if you're charging the going rate. The solution to this is to target clients who can afford to to pay the average rate for a site and branding, but it's not as simple as that, especially when you're starting out. Sometimes you have to take the work when you can get it.

I went down the path of learning to code myself, but it's a much better idea to find a developer you can trust, as you can play to their strengths and focus on doing what you do best. I honestly find my designs have to be reigned in a little simply because I don't have the know-how to accomplish some of the things I want to do through code.

Best place to learn WP is their codex, but you'll need to understand PHP first (or at least know enough to muddle through), then there's CSS and HTML on top, plus Javascript if you want to start adding fancy interactions and animation.

If you can, find a developer who can handle the coding side of things, so you can focus on the design side, and finding work.

Paul Murray

Staff member
Does it not make sense? Rather than sending time learning to code and struggling through a project, it's more effective to just hand to over to a developer and pay them. That way you can spend the time you would have spent muddling through code on other projects, or finding other clients.

Paul Murray

Staff member
Ah, I see. Well the codex is the Wordpress help files, but reading just reading those isn't enough to get started with WP development. Wordpress is written in PHP and stores and retrieves data via a database. Therefore a basic understanding of using PHP is required before you start diving into the code to add/change functionality.

This is where an experienced developer is useful, poorly written PHP can be a security risk, especially if you're interacting with a database. If you're just building basic sites (a few pages) and don't need the added functionality that a CMS like Wordpress brings, there are CMS options that don't use a database, such as Pico, or Kirby. You still need to understand a bit of PHP to use these though.
Thanks Paul. I will definitely look at learning Codex and PHP. Trip to the library tomorrow I think. I am working full time, planning to start out freelance in September so this gives me plenty of time to learn it/get basic knowledge of it. I also want to find a developer I can trust to work with on bigger projects if needed; but as you said they will no doubt start off small. I want to do work that has positive impact and the type of organisations I want to work with probably don't have large budgets, so it will be good if I can offer Wordpress as a cheaper solution.

Paul Murray

Staff member
I want to do work that has positive impact and the type of organisations I want to work with probably don't have large budgets, so it will be good if I can offer Wordpress as a cheaper solution.
For smaller sites I prefer Perch. It still uses a database and requires some PHP knowledge, but it's not as bloated as Wordpress. It's great for when a client just wants to be able to edit particular sections on a site (such as update a news section, or add/remove testimonials for example). You basically copy and paste snippets of PHP into your pages where you want to add an editable section. You can also 'retrofit' an older static site with Perch to turn it into a CMS-powered site without having to rebuild it from scratch.