Web designers...what's the job market like?

Thomas Veil

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Original poster
Feb 14, 2004
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Not that it's great for anyone nowadays, but I'd like to know whether this is a field I should consider getting into.

I'm working in the video production field right now, with programs like Media 100, Avid, After Effects, etc. It's a great field, with lots of room for creativity, except...the pay sucks and the jobs are few and far between. Even in good times.

So I'm considering moving into a related area. Seems to me that web design would be the closest match. But before I consider taking college coursework in that field, it would behoove me to find out whether I'd be trading one hard-to-get-a-job-in field for another.

Any advice?
 

dornoforpyros

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Oct 19, 2004
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Calgary, AB
Thomas Veil said:
it would behoove me to find out whether I'd be trading one hard-to-get-a-job-in field for another.

Any advice?
That would be exacly what you would be doing. I've found the job market to be very, very tight. The market is simply flooded with qualified and un-qualified people. Personally had someone been up front with me when I was about to start school and told me the market was like this I may have choosen something else.
Don't get me wrong, I love doing this, but web designers are a dime dozen. About 2-3 weeks ago I saw a guy on the street begging for change saying he could design web pages amung other things. I'm NOT making this up.
 

Thomas Veil

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Not the answer I was hoping for, but I appreciate an honest answer rather than spending thousands of dollars learning another dead end career.

Any other comments, anyone?

Long-distance truck driving is starting to look real good. :(
 

dornoforpyros

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Oct 19, 2004
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yeah sorry but it's the brutal truth. I'm kinda surprised no one else answered you on this but personally I would not recommend getting into this field to anyone enless they are 100% dead sure they don't wanna do anything else for a living.
 

rock6079

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Jan 6, 2004
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interestingly i have a pretty different outlook on ths whole situation..i do video and web production.. i absolutely love doing them both. i havent had much problems getting work. every one needs a website you know..

is having the skill to make websites good.. yeah it is.. but i dont think you need to go to school for it. i learned my video and web on my own without school. the basics of web are fairly easy and you shouldnt have a problem if you are pretty computer savvy.. nothing against going to school for it though.

with any skill it all comes down to how you market yourself and your company. how you promote yourself and how you network yourself. as i said, everyone needs a website. if they tell you they don't need one, that just means they don't know they need one yet. if they already have one, you can make them a better one.

any way, if you're interested in webdesign i would suggest just beginning with a book, there are tons of good ones to get you started and they will surely provide a platform for you to decide if this is a skill/career you want.

good luck
 

tjwett

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May 6, 2002
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A Long but Hopefully Useful Reply...

i think a lot of it has to do with where you happen to be located. here in NY the market is totally saturated. but there will always be room and work for the truly talented people out there. the trick is how you make yourself known amongst the competition. that is probably the most difficult aspect of freelancing in a large city like this. here's my little story, maybe it will spark some useful thoughts...

i studied graphic design in college and never paid attention to the web until i moved out to Seattle in 2000/2001, where i saw very little print work but knew a ton of people taking in an easy 50k/year just for basic HTML coding.
i came back to NY with a fire under my seat and went out and spent a bunch of money and time learning web design.

then the bust came and things got pretty ugly, everywhere. and since then things have progressed so rapidly, seriously the devaluing the skills of the intermediate web designer. i had expert HTML skills with a real talent for visual design but suddenly without PHP, SQL, XML, Flash and Javascript under my belt there was very little money to be made.

things have gotten slightly better for the NY web designer over the past year but it's still nothing like the "good old days". to understand better just take a look at the NYC Craigslist web design job listings. Craigslist is how i'd say about 90% of young people in NYC make their living, it's a resource that many people could not live without at this point. anyway, last year (and today to a degree) it was not at all uncommon to see an ad such as this...

"WEB DESIGN INTERNSHIP: Photoshop/Illustrator/Quark GURU wanted for growing, fast-paced e-commerce design firm. Must have expert-level skills in all Adobe software for print and web with expert Flash and Javascript skills, backed by a rock solid foundation of proficiency in PHP, MySQL, CSS, Perl and Apache technologies. Hours are Mon-Fri 9AM-5PM with flexibility to work some late nights and weekends. This is an unpaid internship with potential for transportation stipend after 3 months. Possibility to earn $10/hour after 6 months."

Web design (at least here) has completely become an employers market. Now that everybody and their grandma can "do photoshop" and can slap together a website the employers hold all the cards. Heh, I used to write these people nasty emails when I would see these ads, shaming them for taking advantage of talented people who spent a lot of time and energy crafting these skills and calling it an "internship" in the name of getting top notch work for little or no money. And it's a shame but everyone had to take part in order to pay their rent. So it just got worse and worse for a long time, although it does seem to picking up a bit now.

Personally, I went in another direction a few years ago and became an independent Apple/Mac technology consultant and also started up a small audio sound design/software company with a friend. However, I do take on some web design gigs from time to time if they fit into my skill set, which for web design doesn't go far beyond the likes of HTML, CSS and some basic PHP, with a nice looking front end. I can put together a very nice looking website that is functional and meets the needs of the basic small business. But for e-commerce or anything advanced I pass the work along to friends I have made in the business, and they do the same for me.

Back when it got ugly I made the conclusion that all the time and energy and money I was spending trying to keep up and make a buck in the web design game without pay could be better spent actually bringing in good money in another field, so that's what I did. Again, this is just my story and while it has worked out nicely for me it obviously isn't meant to be direct advice for your ventures. My advice would be to take a step back and get a good view from 20,000 feet up. Try to determine these things first...

-Do you want to work for yourself or for an employer?
-Do you want to serve clients in your area or nationally, globally?
-What level of market do you want to serve? Home, small biz, enterprise?
-What skills are required to serve those markets well?
-Are those skills realistically attainable for you given your location, resources, time, money etc?
-Where do you want to be in the field in say, 5 years?

Getting your head around these questions is a good place to start. For example, in my situation, I have no desire or time to become a high-end web designer. I have made that decision early on and was able to effectively market myself and pickup the skills and begin to drum up business that much faster. And I'm confident I can personally bring in a lot more cash serving the lower end of the market than I could by trying to jump in and serve the higher end, some reasons being things like faster turnaround, smaller scope, more jobs, less mission critical work (which results in less stress), more local clients rather than remote and a number of other reasons. Again, this is just me and based on my answers to the above questions I listed. Perhaps the next best step is to really and truly know your strengths and weaknesses and exploit them to the fullest.

Whatever you decide, I wish you luck. Sorry for the lengthy post, hope there is something useful in there for you.
 

Thomas Veil

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Original poster
Feb 14, 2004
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rock6079 said:
is having the skill to make websites good.. yeah it is.. but i dont think you need to go to school for it. i learned my video and web on my own without school. the basics of web are fairly easy and you shouldnt have a problem if you are pretty computer savvy.. nothing against going to school for it though.
I just mention school because (a) it looks better on a resumé; and (2) I've learned programs on my own, and I've taken classes for them, and I personally find I learn things quicker and more thoroughly in class.

But I agree, I've picked up a few basics just on the net already.

tjwett said:
i think a lot of it has to do with where you happen to be located. here in NY the market is totally saturated.
Good point. I need to check out the market here in the Cleveland area...if I'm gonna do this.

tjwett said:
"WEB DESIGN INTERNSHIP: Photoshop/Illustrator/Quark GURU wanted for growing, fast-paced e-commerce design firm. Must have expert-level skills in all Adobe software for print and web with expert Flash and Javascript skills, backed by a rock solid foundation of proficiency in PHP, MySQL, CSS, Perl and Apache technologies. Hours are Mon-Fri 9AM-5PM with flexibility to work some late nights and weekends. This is an unpaid internship with potential for transportation stipend after 3 months. Possibility to earn $10/hour after 6 months."
Wow, such a deal. :rolleyes: I don't have a problem with learning advanced skills, but at this point in my life (almost 50), I'm no longer willing to put up with being paid cheaply for it. Heck, $10/hr. would be a step down for me.

tjwett said:
Personally, I went in another direction a few years ago and became an independent Apple/Mac technology consultant and also started up a small audio sound design/software company with a friend... Try to determine these things first...

-Do you want to work for yourself or for an employer?
-Do you want to serve clients in your area or nationally, globally?
-What level of market do you want to serve? Home, small biz, enterprise?
-What skills are required to serve those markets well?
-Are those skills realistically attainable for you given your location, resources, time, money etc?
-Where do you want to be in the field in say, 5 years?
Ideally I'd like to work for myself, even knowing all the headaches that entails. At my age I've about had it with the vagaries of employers. I haven't tried anything on the self-employment end, though, unless you count my Cafepress store, which nets me a couple hundred a month. (It's a pittance, but more than many Cafepress storeowners make. Now if I could just find a way to grow that business... :) )

tjwett said:
And I'm confident I can personally bring in a lot more cash serving the lower end of the market than I could by trying to jump in and serve the higher end, some reasons being things like faster turnaround, smaller scope, more jobs, less mission critical work (which results in less stress), more local clients rather than remote and a number of other reasons.
Well, I long ago agreed that if I started a small video business, the low- to middle end would be what I would target, for the very same reasons you cite.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to post all that. Good advice.
 

ChicoWeb

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Aug 16, 2004
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California
The question is do you have talent. Anyone can build a web site and anyone can take a college course. I teach a college course and by the end of class everyone can build a web page, but talent is different from technical ability. Out of the hundred or so students I've seen come through my class, very few, and I mean very few have the artistic ability to take it to the next level and be successful.

I guess you have to really honestly ask yourself if you can do what others are doing and even better, because if you can't, you can have all the knowledge in the world, but w/ no talent, you won't end up very far.

The market is saturated like others have said, but if you are good, you'll separate yourself from those people just like in any business.
 

greatdevourer

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Aug 5, 2005
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Which part of the web design are you good at? If it's anything that could easily become poster design or whatever, get into a local newspaper or advertising company like a friend's dad did