Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Smaller Web Design Projects

This post was originally published here. Reproduced with permission.

By and large, web designers are very passionate about their job. That stands out in contrast to most other industries. But when it comes to the bottom line, web design is just like other businesses. The main point is to gain clients and make a decent living.

As such, there is a lot of talk about booking big clients with budgets to match. Yet, that’s not always realistic – especially for freelancer designers who are just starting to make their way. Even seasoned pros may not have the desire or capacity to take on larger projects.

Still, going for the biggest fish seems to be the prevailing advice. So, does that mean smaller projects aren’t worth anything? Absolutely not. There are still important things to be gained. Here are a few reasons why you may not want to toss those little fish aside.

Learn to Build Client Relationships

Among the biggest challenges any business owner must face is in learning how to deal with people. I’d say it’s nearly as important as being a talented designer and developer.

Just as no two projects are the same, you’ll find that no two clients are, either. This means that you will interact with all kinds of different personalities over the course of your career.

Soon after I launched my business, I took on all manner of small projects – and met a few characters along the way. And, even though I didn’t see it that way at the time, it also presented a great opportunity.

You see, I didn’t make a whole lot of money. But I learned some important lessons about how to communicate with my clients. I figured out how to explain things in more user-friendly terms, how to keep them updated on work in progress. I also gained valuable insight into what their expectations were and how to take/respond to criticism.

It was a bumpy ride, for sure. There was a lot of stress and worry. Sometimes I could have handled things better. But the experience itself was priceless. Learning to build working relationships can be a key to both personal and professional growth.

Two people sitting at a desk.

A Chance to Sharpen Skills

There are plenty of places where web designers can learn new skills. But to truly put those skills into practice, you need to build something. Small projects can serve as a great proving ground.

For one, the expectation level should be equal to a client’s budget (though it’s important for you to explain this to them). A low-end eCommerce project, then, should mean fewer features and customizations.

This allows you to start small and build a foundational understanding of the type of site you’re working on. It can also serve as a bit of a playground for experimentation.

Because you’re on a shoestring budget, you probably won’t have access to some of the fancier scripts or plugins. The result is that you may have to dig into code a little more to get things done. It’s a wonderful method for figuring out how things work.

Person pointing at laptop computer screen.

Find Yourself

The more projects you have under your belt, the more you can learn about yourself. What kind of projects do you like? What type of workflow works for you?

These are valuable lessons to learn before you move on to bigger things. Because, until you understand your niche within the industry, it can be difficult to set yourself up for success.

For instance, it’s probably not a good idea to take on a massive project without having any idea of how you’re going to approach it. Without knowing which tools to use or even whether or not you’ll be comfortable with the work involved, you’re opening up a dangerous can of worms. You could well be placing yourself in a bad situation.

While smaller projects still need to be taken seriously, you can use them as a sort of guide. Inevitably, you’ll find that you like some aspects more than others. Perhaps you’ll realize that you are really into SEO, while learning that membership-based sites aren’t your cup of tea.

Whatever your preferences, the goal is to find out where you fit in. That takes time and often requires working on a variety of different projects. This is where you can use smaller gigs as a way to discover who you are.

Person looking out of a window.

Something More Than Money

It’s unlikely that you’ll get rich relying on small web design projects. That’s why many designers aim higher over the long term. But that doesn’t mean they lack value. Quite the opposite.

Building websites at the lower end of the spectrum is a great way to develop you brand, become better at your job and find your comfort zone. And while you don’t have to stay in this realm forever, you should make the most of it while you are there. It will help you prepare for what lies ahead.

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