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How do you become a professional web designer?

I'm extremely interested in web design. I took a class in high school and it really clicked with me. I already know HTML basics. I'm just wondering how do I become a professional web designer. What steps do I have to take in order to become one, Im considering going to an art institute that has a course in web design. Would this be a good starting point? and where do I go from there to become a professional, thanks for the help

1 Answer

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    Here is what I did:

    1) first study web usability. Web usability has to do with look and feel of a website and web user psychology which is unique and makes web design different than graphic design. This is a very important part of web design and will give you a competitive edge when you talk to potential clients about web usability. My two favorite web usability books/authors: anything by Jakob Nielsen (Designing Web Usability, Prioritizing Web Usability) and the "Web Pages That Suck" series.

    2) second, study SEO and marketing. Many clients mistakenly think that once you have website people can find you. This is not the case and SEO and marketing is something most web designers do NOT know how to do. Study at least the very basics because then you can talk intelligently about getting traffic. No matter how nice a site design is, people also need to know how to find it

    From there, talk to your network of friends and family and find out who needs a website for anything and offer to do it for free so you can build a portfolio.

    Alternatively, you can post on Craiglist saying you are a website designer looking to build a portfolio and say for the first five clients who respond back and want a website you will design a simple site for free to build your portfolio.

    Alternatively, you can just do a search for local professional services in your area (chiropracter, accountant, etc) that do not have a website but have an email or phone. Then email or call and see if you can design their site for free as you are looking to build your portfolio.

    After that is done, then you do the same tasks as above to find your clients. Professional services websites you can easily charge $500 for plus a maintenance fee if you want to maintain it (I usually don't, I like to hand it off).

    Hope that gives you some ideas!

    I've linked the web usability books I discussed in my post:

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