Digital Nomad Jobs: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s web design Man/Woman/Non-Binary gender person.*
Digital Nomad Jobs – Web Designer*
(I promise this is better than the last one. That was an ill thought out attempt at a trilogy. A vanity project that didn’t really work for anyone. Like the Hobbit films. Sorry about that.)
Do you long for a world with clean, crisp and easy to use websites? Sick and tired of looking at ugly and dull mash-ups of colours and styles? Finished with unresponsive wastes of time? If so become a web designer. Right those wrongs. You owe it to your fellow human beings, gift them a more beautiful online experience and enrich their lives.
Or, for the more cynical, just do it for the money, it’s quite good if you know what you are doing.
Web design is perfect for those among you who have the imagination, flair, freshness and skills to want to make the internet a nice place to look at. To be fair you’ll need a fair few technical skills as well but you can learn them with a bit of hard work. We’ll cover that later on but first things first. It’s best to start at the beginning.
One of the key skills needed by a web designer is made pretty obvious by in the job title, you need to be able to design and produce webs. Like the pretty ones spiders make. If you can do that, you’re a shoe-in and you don’t need to read any more of this article, or in fact any article ever again. Go and produce webs. If you’re not gifted in the manufacture of proteinaceous spider silk you’ll need to go about things the more old-fashioned way..
The key role of a web designers job is the design. This covers everything from the colour scheme to the layout and everything in between. The role is similar in many aspects to that of a graphic designer*, you may want to spend a few minutes reading this piece about graphic designers to see if the job sounds like it might suit you. If it does sound like something you like the idea of, fantastic, you can get on with learning all of the skills you’ll need to make it to the summit of the web design profession. The first thing to know is what software you’ll need to know to be a star. The standard and at least minimum to master are Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. They are the two most common and the ones you’ll most likely come up against as a beginner. Alongside these, it can be a good idea to get a handle on other programs like Adobes Fireworks and Dreamweaver**. As I’ve mentioned before in various places these programs aren’t cheap but you can pick from various packages and hopefully find a scheme that fits both your needs and budget. Once you’ve picked the package for you-you’ll need to learn how to use them, to be honest, it’s not impossible and it’s not brain surgery. Well, it’s a bit fiddly but you can always press undo and have another go. I don’t imagine you’ll become a master overnight but with a bit of hard work and patience, you should be golden. You can easily find tutorials online with a few well-worded searches or you can go to Udemy*** for in-depth courses on a variety of subjects. If Adobe isn’t your bag other software is available and you can find a pretty wizard list here.
*It is in that you use computers, design things and use some of the same software but it’s not really in that the web designer will need to know a lot more of the technical aspects of the work. If nothing else though you’ll get a good grasp of the design skills you’ll need.
**I promise this isn’t an advert for Adobe, they’re just popular programs!
***Shameless affiliate link there.
Once you are on point with your design work you’ll need to learn a bit about the programming aspect of it all. Concentrate on HTML and CSS first but try to branch out a bit if you can and a least have an idea on any others that you can. You can find a more comprehensive list of the technical skills you’ll need to know further down the page. As with everything in the world web design is in a constant state of flux, what you think you might need to learn today could change tomorrow so always keep an ear to the ground and try to keep up with the latest trends.
Now you have all the skills you need you have to put them to work. The easiest way to start is to build yourself a website. The end game here is building up a portfolio so you may as well kill two birds with one stone. Set yourself up a website advertising your services and get the first piece of your portfolio. Pretty straightforward really. You may struggle to find any paid work straight away, web design is a pretty popular business these days. Don’t be disheartened, have a little faith, work hard at developing your portfolio and the work will come. I hope. It’s important to remember that the design world moves with the times, what was cool last week isn’t always so great today. Keep your finger on the pulse and stay hip to the latest fads*. Your clients will want you to offer them something new and vibrant so you make sure your portfolio shows them that you can.
*Something I obviously don’t/can’t do.
After you have your expertly designed, piece of art website up and running with various other portfolio pieces on display you can start looking for paid work. There is a list of places to look noted down further on the page. Make sure you promote yourself, use the social medias to your advantage, don’t work for free if you don’t want to but you can always offer to help out any friends you may have with websites for discounts or recommendations to get you started. The more experience and connections you can get at this stage the better really.
Obviously that isn’t all there is to being a web designer but hopefully it’s given you an idea of some of the things you need to do to make it happen. Good luck.
What do I need skill wise?
As a web designer, you’re going to need some pretty cosmic skills in some pretty key areas. Technical and personal. The technical list looks a touch terrifying to me but I am reliably informed that they are all self-teachable. You can find courses online at places like Udemy or other online education providers. Failing that I’m sure there are a wealth of videos out there you can watch. The personal skills list is a lot less scary but also a lot less easy to teach yourself, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility mind.
Personally you will need to have an artistic or creative bent, you’ll need to be highly motivated, have a keen eye for detail, be committed to learning and embracing new technological advances, be a proactive problem solver, have fantastic communication skills , be able to work well in a team or on your own, be flexible and well organised. It basically sounds like you need to actually be able to do everything you ever put down on a first job application, that one at the supermarket.
A small thing to help cheer you up at the end of those daunting lists is to remember that you DON’T need any formal training. No sky-high tuition fees for you to pay!
What do I need hardware wise?
The list of hardware is shorter than the list of skills but no less important. Obviously, the deal breaker is a laptop. A good one that doesn’t run as if through treacle is a solid start. MacBooks, Surface Pros, those other good ones, the choice is pretty huge and really is a personal one depending on your preferences and budget. Go for the best one you can, it’ll be worth it in the long run. You’ll need some software to make it as a successful web designer (Adobe etc) so make sure your machine is up to the task. A solid companion to your shiny new laptop is a graphics tablet. A good way forward here is a Wacom. They are really good and look the bee’s knees. You can’t really go wrong.
Those are the main bits of kit you’ll need, you can get more if you like but it might slow your travels down a touch. Supplemental hardware for web designers include monitors, external storage drives, swish chairs, top desks and everything in between. That’s not exactly conducive to the digital nomad lifestyle so maybe nix all of that and just get a nice notepad and pencil set. Keep it handy for when inspiration hits and you’re away from the screen.
Ps. Internet is needed, as usual.
Where do I find work?
It’s a bit boring as it’s the normal big hitters to start with but have a look at Upwork, Freelancer, Elance and the like for beginners work. The money probably won’t blow you away but everyone has to start somewhere.
Keep your own website up to date and if you feel like it get in touch with the owners of websites you think you could make much better. Don’t be an idiot about it but maybe explain what you could do to help them and for how much. You never know, you might get a response once they see how amazing your work is.
What can I earn?
The wage of a web developer depends a fair bit on experience and fundamentally, how good you are. The better you are, the more you can expect to earn. An office-based beginner web designer in the UK can expect to earn between £18,000 and £24,000 a year. As a freelancer you may not be quite on that scale to start with but there really is nothing stopping you going on to make much more than that as your skills grow.
How well does it suit the digital nomad lifestyle?
Cosmically provided you are good at it and more importantly enjoy the work. You can practically work from anywhere and only really need minimal equipment with you. The wages should be more than enough to keep you well stocked in all of your favourite supplies and hopefully you’ll be able to see enough of the world to keep you packed full with no ideas and designs.