Ahh, the beginning. I sometimes miss those days. The “hustle”, the late nights & weekend (aka: “moonlighting”), and chasing the dream of being a fulltime freelancer. It’s a magical time.

It can also be a very difficult and frustrating time.

Here are my top 4 tips for growing your web design business ‘on the side’ effectively & with as little frustrating time as possible.

1. Enjoy the Journey

Yes, I know I sound like a “self-help” guru right now. =)

But seriously y’all, you’re building your future … your dream job … your dream life. Enjoy the process. Be grateful for the opportunity to chase this dream & build your future.

Know that it won’t be an “on the side” gig forever. Someday, it will be your full-time gig.

2. Serve Your Customers

This seems like a no-brainer right?

Unbelievably, I cannot count how many times I’ve heard a new client say they are unable to get a hold of their last web designer so they looked for somebody new.

Kelly & I built are businesses off word-of-mouth initially. It’s what got us to be full-time freelancers from home.

2 rules to remember:

  1. Clients talk. They either praise you or warn folks about you.
  2. Clients refer similar clients. Quality clients refer other quality clients. Cheap clients refer other cheap clients.

With these rules in mind, when you get a quality client, serve them. Be responsive to them. If they email you and you’re unable to answer that day, send them a quick email thanking them for their email.  Tell them you’ve set aside time tomorrow (or whatever day) to review their email in detail and you’ll respond.

Little touches like this go a long way.

3. Put in the Time

While you have your full-time job (which I like to refer to as your “bridge job”), know you will need to work nights & weekends on your freelance business. This is often reffered to as “moonlighting”.

“Treat your business like a business.”

The above quote means to set aside a serious amount of time to get your business going. This may mean putting the kids to bed at 10pm, then working until midnight or 1am on your business.

It also means to take the time you set aside for your business seriously. Be intentional with that time. Have a plan for that time. These hours are especially precious at the beginning as they’re not as available due to demands on your time (your “bridge job”) and you need to appear professional to your clients.

4. Network

Eventually you’ll have your own book of clients and your demand will be more than the supply you can offer on your own. It’s a magical place to be.

Until then though, I recommend networking as a tool to bring in new business.

When I was starting out, I networked with other freelance web designers & small web design agencies. I would often subcontract for other smaller web design companies to help pay the bills.

Through networking with those designers & agnecies, I met more designers & agencies. And the snowball accumulated.

Have I missed a vital key to growing a business ‘on the side’? If so, please let me know in the comments!