Why it’s important to volunteer at the beginning of your web design career

At the beginning of your web design career, while you’re still learning and figuring things out, it’s a great practice to accept a couple of low budget projects or even do volunteer work, so that you can practice and gain practical experience.

Being a beginner can sometimes be really frustrating, especially if you’re going through a career change for the first time. The good news is that you can soothe some of these unpleasant feelings — primarily by keeping yourself focused on hard work.

However because you’re at the beginning of your new career, probably nobody outside your friends and family knows that you exist and what you do. So it’s necessary to present yourself to the world with your work and knowledge, despite lacking materials for a portfolio, and having limited skills.

That’s why accepting low budget projects and volunteering is a great way to collect references for your portfolio and show it to the world.

The easiest way to find your first clients is to ask among your friends and do a couple of projects for them for free. There’s certainly someone who has a small business, store, beauty saloon, band or maybe a hobby that they would like to present on a website. That’s where you can step in to help.

You’ll have an opportunity to carry out conversations with your first client in a relaxed atmosphere and without pressure, go through writing a questionnaire and finally start designing a website according to the client’s requests and business goals. There’s a huge difference between acquiring theoretic knowledge and solving real life problems while working on a concrete project. When you start solving real problems for your clients you’ll make progress faster, learn more and become capable to do the job that you’re preparing yourself for.
After a while, as you move forward in your work, you’ll begin to notice oversights that you’ve made, analyse what you’ve done well and what you could’ve done better. You’ll slowly begin to learn how to explain your decisions to the client in the best way. You’ll learn how to communicate with clients on an everyday basis, while collecting references to your portfolio.
Advantages of this approach are multifold, however I would personally advise to limit how much unpaid services you do. It’s great to do a couple of voluntary projects when you’re just starting out, but after two or three projects try to arrange getting paid even with a symbolic amount. Doing that will affect your client’s psychologically, they’ll be more engaged — which will result in more rewarding collaboration — and won’t take you and your work for granted. Very soon you’ll have a number of projects that you can put in your portfolio. After each project that you complete, your confidence and satisfaction will grow because of the job well done.

Don’t think about voluntary and low budget projects as a loss, but as an investment in your future and a way of growing as a web designer. By doing so you’ll also build an initial network of satisfied clients who can recommend you further to their friends and business colleagues. Good luck and be brave! Let me know about your experiences!