Looking For Experience

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by dkotter, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. dkotter macrumors member

    Jul 30, 2009
    I am a beginning web designer working towards my degree. I would like to start getting some experience outside of school assignments. This means I am willing to do design work for free for anyone that is interested. It can be a business site, personal, family, blog, etc.

    I have good skills with XHTML and CSS and can integrate some JavaScript as well. I am not to advanced but I will be able to make a pretty decent site I believe.

    So if anyone is interested let me know. Thanks!
  2. elitesouth macrumors member


    Nov 24, 2009
    Savannah GA
    You are something very valuable to many businesses out there... someone willing to design a website for free. That's great!

    Let me advise that you steer clear of businesses wanting free or very low cost web design as much as you can.

    They'll usually include in their ad: "Perfect for college students or for your portfolio." These are often businesses that feel forced or pressured by their industry to have a website, and either don't understand or refuse to acknowledge the importance of having an image (figurative) and marketing material online. They often won't know what they want, and ultimately want more from you (time, effort, stress) than you can offer with a $0 price tag.

    I'm not discouraging you from designing a website solely for experience, but rather applauding you for advertising your services in a more reserved part of the web: MacRumors.

    If you need any advice on coding methods, web standards, accessibility, search engine optimization and (most importantly) usability, shoot me a PM and I'd be glad to help you out.
  3. designguy79 macrumors 6502

    Sep 24, 2009
    Another idea for you would be to create "themes" (templates) for various Content Management Systems / Blog systems. This would help build a nice portfolio for you, and usually people leave links on there back to your web site.

    Personally, I like www.SilverStripe.org as a CMS and like the way that system works for themes. You should also look into WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

    Have fun!
  4. elitesouth macrumors member


    Nov 24, 2009
    Savannah GA
    designguy79 offers a good idea, however, if you're just starting with valid XHTML and CSS (with some JS thrown in), you might be better off making individual pages for now.

    I'm not in any of your classes, so I'm not sure how learnèd you are.

    Why not create your own website? What do you like?
  5. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    My advice is to not do anything for free. I tried that in college and all it got me is people half interested in getting a site, and often ended in them not being very communicative and none of the web sites were finished to completion, though the design was done. Most of the people got turned off after they realized that while I could do the design for them, they needed to provide the content. It was a waste of my time to do for free except teaching me people are still idiots. Go for low cost, like $10-$50 per page depending on what they want for now and build that up as you gain experience.

    Doing themes was a good suggestion too. There's a number of people making money off WordPress themes and those are easy to create. It would be good experience to do as well so I recommend it.
  6. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    I've just started tentatively looking for someone who'll put together a RapidWeaver theme for me. I'm launching a site next year and, though I'd like to, I don't really have the time to learn coding at present. That lead me to RapidWeaver. It looked like something with a little more customisability than iWeb. Trouble is, I now have my heart set on a particular design I mocked up, and there's nothing in RapidWeaver's current set of themes that quite fits.

    I don't actually know how much there would be to making a RapidWeaver template — I may well be asking for a rather specific skill — but if it's something you'd be interested in, let me know.

    And if this catches the eye of anyone else who does this kind of thing, let me know too.
  7. elitesouth macrumors member


    Nov 24, 2009
    Savannah GA
    dkotter, hook up with KeithPratt and see what you can create for him.

    Rapidweaver is mostly a WYSIWYG (wiki definition ») editor, so if KeithPratt has a mockup he'd like designed, I think this would work perfectly for you dkotter.

    Digging a little deeper and looking more into the future for you as a web designer, I don't necessarily believe that creating a free web design is truly worth $0 to the designer as long as there is a link pointing back to your website (preferably) in the footer of the website you designed. This will be your first backlink (wiki definition »), and will become more and more valuable to your website and its ranking in search results as time goes on.

    dkotter, I have 5 pieces of advice to sum up my entire purpose for being on this thread:
    1. Design as many free websites for clients as you'd like, as long as it doesn't become a headache for you, and start creeping in to your school, social, family, and love life. Once it becomes more of a burden and less of a learning experience (in relation to code and the dynamics of a web server), finish your current client and take a break.
    2. Make sure your client understands your motivation for designing a website for free (a learning experience, real world experience, portfolio work, etc), and let them know that you will be doing it part time, can offer no warranty, cannot be held responsible for downtime or lost profits, and so on. (learn more about a writing a web design contract here)
    3. Limit your drafts. If they don't like what you've come up with, that's too bad for them. Put the work in your portfolio.
    4. Create an empty, online portfolio right now. Buy a domain name, create a logo, and design a simple 1-3 page site that says who you are, what you do, and how the visitor can contact you.
    5. Link back to the online portfolio on free websites you create. Keep it small, simple, and be sure to include relevant anchor text (like my signature: Savannah Web Design Company is my anchor text, and it links to elitesouth.com. Once you move on to SEO, page rank, and learning the value of backlinks, you'll be glad you started this process early).
    6. Keep it fun. When you and your client are on the same page, and you start creating wonderful designs that impress and inspire them... who knows... they just may start sending you some paid referrals!
    That's it!

    Also, if you need web space and a temporary domain name to use for your simple portfolio page, hit me up.
  8. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Quoted for truth. "Experience" is not payment. In the "olden days" it was a common practice for students to work for free because it would provide them with professionally printed samples -- students usually could not afford the expense of getting color offset work done, and would work for free if the company footed the bill for production. In this way, both parties get something they need, and intangible "experience" was not really part of the bargain.

    Today -- with the web and ubiquitous color inkjet printing -- such incentives are gone. Offering a client free work when they have no financial responsibility to the project is simply asking for a poor experience.

    It is a simple rule: if you want your clients to treat you like a professional, their has to be some financial risk to them.

    At my school (a college of art and design) unpaid internships are now generally discouraged. We found that students got more from the internship, and were treated better, if there was some (often small) hourly rate paid to them. The company took the time they spent there more seriously because they had to pay for it.

    So, create a website for yourself or a blog. The suggestion of developing themes for CMS systems is a good one as well. I would standardize on CMSs that have a large user base...
  9. elitesouth macrumors member


    Nov 24, 2009
    Savannah GA
    As a professional web designer already "in the game," I would encourage you to do anything you truly want to do. That's how I got to where I am today. There were plenty of web designers who considered themselves "pro" in their minds that were merely script kiddies when it came to HTML and Javascript.

    Give it a shot. From my understanding of where you're at now, you won't be developing and selling CMS themes for weeks or months. I am being very realistic and honest in my estimation.

    The professional web design industry is very competitive... don't let anyone try to dissuade or discourage you from possibly butting into their market and taking their clients. You'll find many of those amateur types lurking around forums finding any potential competition that may come their way and try to snuff them out in the name of principles, education, insecure elitism or whatever. Screw'em. Odds are, your ideas are ten times better than theirs because they come from within, instead of manifesting themselves out of the urgency and immediate obligation to pay off student loans.

    Sure, we web designers hate losing a bid to a college kid that'll do it for 90% less than us, but in my opinion, web designers that rely on clueless, naive, and otherwise ignorant clients that will pay next to nothing (see: getafreelancer) per project should know what's coming before they even send their first bid: futility.

    Don't bite off more than you can chew. Create a simple website for yourself, like I said a few posts up. Then look for a client you're comfortable with that knows your intentions, motivations, and limits, then begin.

    Good luck.
  10. dkotter thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 30, 2009
    Thanks for all the advice and responses. I realize doing something for free isn't maybe the best way to go about it, but I didn't think anyone would be interested in paying me when I don't have much experience.

    I wasn't ever planning on doing much work for free, I don't have the time for that. But if I could get a couple sites made that would help me out a lot in the long run, I think. It would give me more to add to my portfolio as well as provide links back to my site from the sites I designed.

    I'll have to look in to designing themes for Wordpress or Rapidweaver. I don't think it's much different then normal HTML or CSS and it would probably be a good skill to have.

    I actually do have my own site for school and my portfolio, as well as a business site and a personal blog. So I have experience but not a ton of real world experience or much in the way of programming.

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