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Make a Few Bucks Doing Easy Web Design

Ok, before you get all excited about the potential to make money online, let me just get this out of the way: This isn’t ‘easy’ money. This isn’t just another piece of code that you can stick in your sidebar and wait for the cash to start coming in. What I’m about to tell you requires basic HTML/CSS coding skills, a little imagination, and (gasp) human interaction. Sorry to disappoint.

Anyway, the method I’m referring to is simply building websites for local businesses. It’s not as hard as you would think. Remember, most of these people aren’t incredibly tech-savvy, and have probably never heard of Wordpress. Capitalize on their ignorance by cutting out the hard parts of web design: Don’t even bother building it from the ground up. Just grab a nice Wordpress theme and modify it a bit.

Step 1: Find Clients

Here’s where the human interaction comes into play. Go out and find small business owners and convince them that they need a website. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I’d recommend sticking to craiglist and local message boards. If you want to go door to door, or do a mass mailing, good for you. You’ll probably get more clients than I will.

Step 2: Convince Clients

Now that you’ve found your clients, convince them to hire you. Show examples of your other work (ie, any sites you have online at the moment), and inform them of what services you’re offering. I usually tell my clients something like this (with what I’m thinking in parentheses):

  • Custom website design (I’ll find a free Wordpress theme, modify it a bit, and plug in your content)
  • Easy to use page modification interface (I’ll show you how to use Wordpress)
  • Visitor tracking and statistics (I’ll set you up with Google Analytics)
  • Search Engine Optimization (I’ll make it so that your page ranks well for long-tail keywords)

That’s the basic package. If they want to pay for traffic, I’ll setup a PPC campaign for them for an additional fee. Be sure to establish your rates early on in the deal.

Step 3: Build the site

Now that you have a paying customer, start working on the site. Find out what they want, and then find a nice Wordpress theme that matches. I’d recommend looking on wpthemesfree.com. Now, here’s the important part: Remember, they want a website, not a blog. Tinker around with the code and strip out all of the ‘bloggy’ page elements (sidebars, footers, etc). Try to accommodate their requests, but don’t go overboard (ie, go ahead change the page’s background color, fonts, etc). If you have any graphical skills, offer to design a banner or logo for them, but remember to include that in your package price.

This part can take hours, which is why I warned you that it isn’t ‘easy money’. Tinkering with code can be a real headache, so make sure you know what you’re doing (and if you don’t, be sure to keep backups).

Step 4: Show them the site

Create a subdomain on one of your own domains and upload the whole thing. Find out what they want changed and make the modifications.

Step 5: Make the exchange

I’d recommend having the cash in your hand/paypal account before sending them anything. When you’re ready to give them the completed site, you’ll need to send them all of the Wordpress files and the site’s database. If they don’t know how to upload it, offer to do it for them (depending on how much you’re charging them, this could be a nice ‘freebie’). If they don’t have hosting, find a webhost with a good affiliate program and have them sign up under your referral link. Instant +$100.

Step 6: Extended warranty

This is very important. Make it clear to them that they can’t bug you to update stuff every week. Offer them x days/weeks/problems that you’ll be around to fix things, but after that they’ll have to pay you an additional fee.

Another good thing to do here is build a client base. Offer them weekly maintenance in exchange for word-of-mouth advertising, ie one referred customer equals one major site overhaul (or something along those lines).

Step 7: Bank

Congratulations, you’re done. You’re now $500-$1,500 richer, depending on how much you did and the quality of your work. The whole process probably took you a bunch of hours, but probably came out to a decent hourly rate. Take that money and buy something nice, or advertise your services further. Lather, rinse, repeat.

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9 Responses to “Make a Few Bucks Doing Easy Web Design”

  1. Sabrina Says:

    This is a really great post…thanks!

  2. Jared Stenzel Says:

    You seem to be greatly underestimating the complexity of the task. Coding is by no means easy. I can build a simple website with CSS and HTML and I’ve studied the codes for more hours than I can count. I’ve started to get this down, but anybody who thinks this will be anywhere near as easy is wrong. $1,500? You’ve got to be joking me. If you can ever find a site needing to be built with just CSS and HTML that is even close to $500 you must be a master at ripping people off. I’ve never seen somebody have to pay over $100 for a site strictly HTML and CSS. It’s so easy to do and the coder can easily finish it in one or two hours.

  3. Matt L Says:

    @Jared: You went two ways with that comment… you started out saying that the task was haarder than Geoff stated and would take hours. Then you ended it by saying it was only worth $100 and could easily take 2 hours tops (after talking about how hard coding is).

    Personally, I have been programming PHP/HTML/(tiny amount)CSS for 3 years which is not very long compared to some but I can crank out full websites in an hour or so minus content. However, I usually use Geoff’s method of tweaking themes/templates already made.

    Thanks for the post Geoff!

  4. Jared Stenzel Says:

    You just restated for me exactly how I meant it. It is very hard to LEARN it. Once you learn it you can easily “crank” out full websites in like you said an hour or less. It’s not worth more than $100, maybe $150 for the actual coding. If you throw in extras like future support, domain set-up ext. I can see the price being higher. My point was, as he blogs about, you can’t get rich freelance coding HTML AND CSS.

  5. Matt L Says:

    Alright, I see your point. Still, most local business owners don’t know this. Small/home businesses that don’t already have websites are because a) they are the type of business that won’t gain much from a website, or b) they don’t know how to go about getting a website.

    The people who know how efficiently find a web designer can indeed find a good one for around $100. However, if you go out on the front line and advertise your services to those who don’t know about getting a website you can charge more.

    This may seem like scamming them, but I don’t think of it like this. I consider the extra pricing for getting out there and approaching them. Also I can assist with domain registration and web hosting selection as chances are they do not know how to do that even though that is an extremely simple thing to do for web-savvy people.

    Anyways, I charge $450 per website I create for customers and have not yet designed one from scratch. I have only modified existing GNU themes. I also use my bluehost aff link and get an extra $65. I do this on the weekends and can keep myself fairly busy from it (4-5 customers a month during my free time).

  6. Jared Stenzel Says:

    There is the added bonus of your php knowledge as your made clear in your first post. This is much harder than CSS even so there’s another reason for the price. Php generally raises it quite a bit. You may like http://www.codingforums.com. You can find some freelance jobs.

  7. Steven Fergus Says:

    I have knowledge of xhtml, css and now some PHP. I don’t think doing what you’ve described is right.

    If you’re offering “Custom website design”, that’s exactly what it should be; custom, unique, not a rip off of a free existing theme. Having a good client base is all about honesty and trust. If you’re offering custom web design, then that’s what the client should get.

  8. Matt L Says:

    Thanks Jared, I will certainly check out those forums.

    @Steven: it is still custom regardless of whether or not it is using another theme as its base. The word custom means that it is made to order or made differently. With that definition, then in this case custom does not imply building a website design from the ground up.

  9. Steven Fergus Says:

    A definition I found:

    Custom describes a product built-to-order from a set of specifications set by the buyer. This method differs from a product that is already manufactured or built.

    I see what you mean, I just think it’s wrong.

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