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How to Find a good fit for a Freelance Web Designer

Updated March 11, 2015

Freelance Web Designer Minneapolis

Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

Freelance Web Designer Minneapolis


So many great designers, developers and professionals of all types are becoming their own boss, and striking out on their own. Many web designers do some freelance, and also work for an agency. Web Designers are in high demand these days. When contacting them you’ll want to pique their interest with your project, telling them why it might be good for their portfolio, or why it might be a good after seeing what they have worked on before. The web design freelancer who’s not in demand and busy, may not be the web design freelancer you want to be working on your project. You can always get better work out of someone when you both set clear expectations at the outset of a project, and not try to get them to work with a crazy quick timeline.


I’ve asked some Minneapolis web design freelancers to answer some telling questions about the freelance web design market. And answer those questions that might be on the minds of people looking for a web design freelancer.


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What are some ways to find a freelance web designer who might be a good fit for your project?

“There are likely a handful local freelance directories out there, but none that really stand out. On the other hand, sites like dribbble.com showcase some of the best designers in the business, but require a paid account to search for designers by location.Google may still be the best place to start. Be prepared to look through several pages of results. As tedious as that sounds (at least compared to how I often find myself searching), within a short amount of time, you can gather a handful of potential freelancers to reach out to. The important thing to do is ask for referrals if needed. I’ve had to decline projects simply because the timelines wouldn’t work with my current workload, but I’m always happy to provide several referrals that might be a good fit.”
“The connections you have are always the best way to go. I find that the best working relationships happen with those connections that you already have. If you yourself don’t have a connection already always ask around and see if someone you know has a connection who they can refer. That said, I have gotten several projects through LinkedIn and through my website, but I don’t find that is the primary way to find new freelancers, those tools better serve to validate that the freelancer is an expert at what they do.”
“The best way is to ask around. Chances are you know someone who has hired a designer or personally knows a designer”


Do you know of any meetups or ways to rub elbows with freelance web designers?

“I work at CoCo Coworking space a few times a week. They have three different locations, its a good way to get out and meet more people. In particular there is a group of WordPress users and developers who get together and work at CoCo every Wednesday. There is also a regular Meetup that happens for WordPress users every month. I also recently joined a networking group. There are many regional groups like this. The thing that makes them unique is that they only allow a single person in each group to have the same profession. So there is only a single lawyer, real estate agent, web designer. I found found it a great way to meet people and get referrals.”

Why do you like being a freelance designer?

It gives me the freedom to work remotely if I want to. Also believe that the service I can provide can be a ‘win-win’ and can help the client in the long run.
“I’m not much of an outside in the cold guy, so for a good portion of the year, I actually like being able to sit in my home office and do freelance work. I’ve heard a theory that there is so much good design work that comes out of the Twin Cities because it’s dark at 5pm, so there’s no excuse not to hunker down and make sure everything is done right down to the last detail.The other interesting thing about that is probably 80% or more of the freelance work I’ve done in the last 3 years is with clients who are out of state. They often used to live and work here, and I think know how much talent there is in this market, so they seek out design help here rather than in their new locales.”
“The community is great, you just have to get out there and put your name out there. People are friendly, easy to work with, and want to help you out.”
“Minneapolis is a great market with an active tech community, but it’s also a relatively small city. It’s not hard to make and maintain connections or keep tabs on what agencies are in town. I also grew up in Southwest Minneapolis, so that certainly helps (not to say that I was networking when I was 8 years old).The beauty of freelancing – specifically web design and development – is that has become surprisingly easy to be location independent. Over the past year, I’ve lived in Bozeman, MT and Santa Fe, NM while continuing to work for many of the same Minnesota clients.”

What do you think clients like about working with a freelancer vs. working with an agency?

“I think that sometimes agencies have a tendency to shield the client from the actual people doing the work. Your first contact is a sales person, who doesn’t actually do anything on the project. Then you’re dealing with account managers and project managers. This gives you very little time to establish a rapport with the people that are actually making your site. Not all agencies, but some.”
“I think the obvious answer is cost. Agencies charge higher rates because they have to. Many freelancers have worked at agencies or local design firms before going solo, so it’s safe to say they offer a similar quality of work.”
The personal brand and overall price. In my experience web agencies do cost more than a typical individual freelancer.
“I think they like working directly with the subject matter expert. Often with an agency the client has to work through layers of account managers and project managers. With a freelancer they can have more immediate feedback from the designer and talk through ideas more openly.”
“For many of my clients, I think it has a lot to do with budget. I’m a guy with a laptop working out of my house, so I’m probably less expensive than most agencies because I don’t have the overhead costs. I also don’t have limits to how small projects are that I take on, which can be a benefit for companies that don’t have a big marketing/design budget set aside.However, since I do have a day job, I need my clients to understand if they have a really hot project, I probably can’t turn something around as quickly as an agency because the only days that I’m doing freelance work before 7pm are weekends. And I don’t have an account person, so if they call or email me during the day, it’s most likely I’m not going to get back to them until that evening. So there are definite pros and cons.”

What’s a reasonable timeframe for a simple marketing site freelance web design project? A more complex marketing site? A range for bigger sites?

“For me, two months is the most aggressive timeline I will commit to and it goes up from there depending on complexity.I find that sites always take longer than expected for the simple fact that clients usually underestimate the time commitment it takes from them to complete the project. Meetings with the designer, internal meetings, feedback, review, etc… it all takes time and any delay extends the timeline. Even more so if the client is providing content or other assets. I have seen so many clients come in to a project with a very aggressive timeline and see it quickly melt away once work began. For this reason, I try to set expectations with the client right away that it will take longer than they expect and try to set a more realistic timeline. With that said, I appreciate a client with an aggressive timeline because it shows me a client is committed. “
Tough question. This is very dependent on the requirements, other ongoing projects and particularly client involvement. Content, decisions and approvals are all part of the client’s responsibilities to keep things on track. If things go smoothly, a small marketing site can be turned around in less than a week. On the other hand, I’ve done development projects on medium-sized sites that extended over the course of several months, simply due to the nature of these projects and the indecisiveness of humans.


What is the bottom range of price I should expect to pay for an average marketing website?


$3,000-$5,000. Each client is different and the freelancer is charging for the service they’re providing. Just a simple landing page site could only cost $500-$1,000. In my experience I’ve done sites anywhere from $500-$9,000. But it really all depends on the service you’re providing.

What are some really important terms to set before working with a freelance designer?


Timeline and budget expectations are the most important. The first thing I always want to know is “when does this need to be done?” Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours and I need to turn down work because I’m not staying up until 4am to make it happen. I’m sure there are plenty of full-time freelancers out there that would be more than happy to take on a big, fast project, so I leave those jobs for them.And you always need to talk about the money up front. No one wants to get an invoice for 3x what they were planning on spending, so whether I’m working hourly or on a project fee, I make sure we agree on at least a rough range of what I think it will take to get the job done.Lastly, a clearly defined scope of work. On my estimates, I cover specifically what a client can expect to see from me on a given project, including number of initial concepts, and capping the hours I have built in to each round of revision. If I’m going to exceed that for any reason, I make sure to let them know before I spend the time so there aren’t any surprises.
“What exactly is going to be delivered, and what is not. What are the expectations?”
“First, make sure there is a contract. Run away from anyone that wants to skip this step. A contract protects both parties.Make sure the contract outlines what happens if things go badly. Set a timeline and what happens if that isn’t met (remember: a delayed timeline can be the fault of either party.) Also, make sure you know what happens after the project is completed. Do you need the designer to help you with hosting? Do you need ongoing support?Lastly, figure out if you need some level of SEO and if the designer is capable of providing that or willing to work with an SEO professional on the project. SEO is especially important on website redesigns, I have encountered far too many website redesigns that saw their rankings tank after launch. “

How do you set expectations for projects your working on as a freelancer so everyone has the right idea about the project and no-one is surprised?


“Starts with phone calls or meetings to learn about the client’s needs, crafting a solid proposal that includes as much clarity as possible, and then being really open and honest about questions that come up after that.”
I think one of the most important aspects of a ‘successful’ project is meeting with the client face to face at least once, if possible. This allows the freelancer to get a better idea of what exactly the client is looking for. After the meeting I would sketch out a project proposal that provides the client the service I’m providing, the allotted hours for each service, and the project timeline. The project proposal would also include the budget for the project. If anything sounds unclear I would contact the client before the project starts and make sure we’re both on the same page.
Transparency and open communication are key. Scope changes, revisions or unexpected challenges during development are not uncommon during the course of a project. The important thing is discussing theses before they become surprises.

Connect with these freelancers who do design work for clients:


Jesse Sutherland - Web Designer MinneapolisJesse SutherlandJesse Sutherland is a Minneapolis based freelance web designer, ux designer, and web developer working in the interactive industry for more than 10 years. Armed with a double major in design and advertising from the UW – Eau Claire, and 8 years of being the Interactive Art Director at a modern ad agency, he has helped hundreds of clients navigate the interactive space.Connect with Jesse Sutherland


Matt TravailleMatt Travaille:Matt Travaille is a Minneapolis-based graphic designer. For over a decade, he has been creating award-winning work for a diverse client base. Work has been recognized by Print, HOW, and AIGA, among others.Connect with Matt Travaille


Eric W. Mobley - Freelance Web Designer MplsEric Mobley:I began making websites 6 years ago when I walked into a computer programming class that I was taking as an elective. I changed my area of study immediately and the rest is history. I believe that real design happens when problems are solved and business objectives are met.Connect with Eric Mobley


Simon Gondeck - Minneapolis Freelance Web DeveloperSimon Gondeck:Simon is a jr. web developer from Minneapolis, MN. He graduated from Dev Bootcamp in the summer of 2014 and is currently contracted at Snap Agency in Minneapolis, MN. He also is studying accounting at the University of St. Thomas.Connect with Simon GondeckWebsite
Google +


Nik Rowel - Minneapolis Freelance Web DesignerNik Rowell:Nik Rowell is a hybrid web designer and developer specializing in HTML5, JavaScript, PHP and custom WordPress themes.Connect with Nik RowellWebsite

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Tim Brown

Tim Brown is the owner of Hook Agency, an SEO and Web Design company focused primarily on driving traffic and leads for small businesses, roofers and construction companies.

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