Earn More By Becoming An Efficient Web Designer

Time is an important factor in how much money you make as a web designer. Your primary cost on any project is the time it takes you to complete that project. Learning to work more efficiently will save you time leading to more profitable projects. You can then take the time you saved to either have more free time or take on more projects to make more money.

Price = Rate x Time
Rate = Price / Time

Reduce your time while holding your price constant and your rate goes up. It’s in your best interest to work more efficiently and without too much effort you can get more done in less time.

Identify Repetition in your Work

Sure design is a creative process and every design is unique. Still there are plenty of things you do from one site to the next that are very much the same. Why reinvent the wheel?

The next site you design and develop is going to have some kind of navigation. How many different navigational systems do you use? Odds are your next navigational system will fall into one of the following three categories:

  • horizontal navigation bar
  • vertical menu system
  • tag based navigational links

You’ll likely use one of the first two. Your next navigation bar won’t look exactly like your last one, but it will (or should) be built from an html list and styled with similar css. Your navigation bars will inevitably have many repeating elements that don’t need to be recreated from scratch with each new site.

Pay attention and start to identify where you repeat work from one project to the next.

Build a Library of Reusable Code and Graphic Elements

As you identify repeating elements, start saving them and building a library for reuse. Take that code for your menu and save it. When it’s time to code a menu in your next website grab that code as a starting point.

Even better get a code editor that allows you to save code snippets or lets you use shortcuts to enter larger blocks of code.

I currently use Coda as my editor of choice and through it’s clips panel I can build the basic shell of a site in a few seconds. Many code editors offer similar functionality. It’s time to stop using Notepad and invest in something better.

Do you use buttons in your designs? How different are they really? Do you save PSD files for each type of button you use? Why not?

Saving graphic elements like buttons and icons or using those others create for you is a great way to save time on projects.

Take a few seconds to save code snippets from your current project. Make some time each week to write code you know you’ll use on future sites. Go through your existing library and improve it. Design a better button. Improve the code of your navigation bar.

Think Object Oriented

At least in terms of it’s benefits. Object oriented thinking leads to:

  • Faster development
  • Reuse of previous work
  • Increased quality
  • Modular architecture

By isolating work you’ve previously done for reuse, you can design and build new sites faster and work to improve those small blocks of code and graphic elements in between projects. Modular architecture allows you to drop in components into any project and again improve those modules in between projects.

Even something like css which might not obviously lend itself to objects can be written in a more object-oriented way.

Develop Processes for Everything

You likely have a similar workflow from site to site. That workflow is your design process. It may vary some from site to site, but by following the same general roadmap you give yourself direction and ultimately work faster and smarter.

Your processes don’t have to be limited to your design work however. Develop systems for everything you do in your business. Save email templates for common replies. Use a billing program to send and keep track of invoices. Automate repetitive tasks where possible.

Systems and processes keep you from reinventing the wheel over and over. When you find a process that works stick to it. Don’t solve the same problem again and again. Once you have systems in place you can improve them and make them more efficient, but get them in place.

Manage Your Time Better

We all procrastinate. We all let things distract us. We all know we shouldn’t do either. Time management is more than avoiding work. It’s about figuring out when you work best.

Are you most productive in the morning? The afternoon? Evenings? Late night? Are you able to work better at some things early in the day and others come better after lunch?

I find I’m most creative in the morning and late at night. In between creativity is a struggle for me. I no longer begin a new design in the afternoon. A blog post I can write in an hour in the morning will take me 2 – 3 hours in the afternoon and it won’t turn out as well. On the other hand I can be analytical at any time of day. Late afternoon I’m useless for most work so I run life’s errands instead.

Schedule different tasks at different times of day. Writing in the morning, coding in the afternoon, designing at night works for me. It helps me finish each faster and better. The tasks and times may be different for you, but chances are you do certain things more efficiently at different times throughout the day or week.

Speaking of schedules, learn to set one. Plan out your most important projects during the week and set aside time for them every day. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done when it’s set out in front of you on a calendar.

One day each week I map out what I want to get done and start blocking out times for each task on my calendar. I’ll adjust as the week progresses, but I always find I get more done when I fill in the calendar. When I don’t it’s much easier to let the procrastination and distractions creep back into my week.

Summary

Think again of the simple pricing formula at the start of this post.

Price = Rate x Time
Rate = Price / Time

You likely charge the same amount for the same kind of project. If you reduce the time it takes to complete a project then you earn a higher rate on that project. A higher rate means you can either work less or make more money. Either sounds good to me.

What tips do you have for working more efficiently?

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

8 comments

  1. Great post, I really need to get a routine going to design & code! Plus, practice on my grammar & blogging skills. Still don’t get the whole ‘rate, time, price’ stuff though. Always get confused when someone goes about managing & teaching it. Anyways, great post, opened my mind up a bit more, thanks!

    – MexiChriS

    • Thanks Chris. Early on I winged it a lot, but developing processes has helped me become much more efficient.

      With the pricing, I set a rate for myself that I want to earn per hour. When a client asks how much something will cost I estimate how many hours I think the project will take me to complete and then multiply those hours by my hourly rate to come up with a price estimate.

      I’ll usually adjust that estimate some before giving it to the client, but that’s how it starts.

      Hope that helps.

  2. Great post, I like it.

    It’s a big weakness of mine. I’m majoring in Computer Science and the same thing happens in Calculus/Physics. :(

    Managing your projects and time is in EVERYTHING. But luckily I’ve been coding for a few years now, so I’m learning the trade. I know developers that charge 100+ per hour, but they are extremely efficient with their time. Now I know why. I just hate brushing quality for a rushed piece, it bothers me. I just have to find balance between time management and quality control.

    I really like the fact that you have a system for pricing, as opposed to just trying to stick a price on a certain part of work. This means we can estimate prices for nearly any project, granted we done similar jobs before.

    • Thanks Daquan, I can’t say I’ve always been great at managing projects either. :)

      It is good for business to formalize processes and have systems in place for pricing. Still at times I go away from those processes and systems. Sometimes breaking out of an accepted process is a good way to grow as a designer and a person.

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