10 Commandments for Freelance Web Designers to Live By


Do you ever compare your work to the work of other designers? Are you afraid to ask clients for money?

If you are a freelance web designer, you know how difficult this lifestyle can be. From scheduling, to dealing with crazy clients, to managing your own work/life balance—there is a lot to juggle!

So to simplify your life a little, I am letting you in on my 10 Commandments of Freelancing that have helped me through many tough times. I hope they help you too!

Freelance Web Designers Commandments

1. Thou Shalt Start Small, but Dream Big

Whether you are just starting out or have been freelancing for a while, remember, everyone starts small. If you keep working diligently at building your freelance career and believe you can succeed, you will notice positive growth over time.

Don’t ever give up!

2. Thou Shalt Not Beat Yourself Up and Compare Yourself to Others


Low self confidence will impede your progress as a freelancer. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that what you do is easier than working a 9 to 5 job. Yes, you create your own schedule and there are many perks, but the mental battle can be fierce! You must constantly put yourself out there and you become vulnerable every time you submit work to a client.

Have you ever had these thoughts?

  • Will they like my work?
  • Will they reject it and think I am not qualified?
  • What if they don’t like it? Will I ever make a living doing this?

First, remember that your work is not a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Separating your personal worth from your work is half the battle. It’s OK to make mistakes and work through them. Mistakes do not define you; they make you stronger.

3. Thou Shalt Not Forget How Much You Know

You do not have to be the award-winning, perfect, millionaire-making designer to provide your clients valuable services. This doesn’t mean you should stop learning and growing in your craft. But, most web designers fail to realize how MUCH they actually know because they are so busy comparing their knowledge to other successful designers instead of serving their clients.

And if you have been working as a freelancer for a long time, it is easy to forget how much knowledge you have because your skills have become so common place to you. It is NOT common knowledge to your clients, if it was, they would not be coming to you for help! You have something to offer!

4. Thou Shalt Not Feel Guilty About Asking for Money


This commandment ties into the last one. If you know the value you offer, you will not feel guilty about invoicing a client. Your clients are paying you for your service and time and if you gave the project your all, you deserve every penny owed to you.

5. Thou Shalt Keep a Schedule or Face Procrastination

Procrastination is like our evil sidekick that vies for our attention. For me, it attacks when I hit an obstacle with a project. It’s much easier to check Facebook or respond to a friend’s email then to tackle an obstacle head on.

To avoid procrastination, create a weekly/daily schedule and assign hourly tasks. When I create a schedule the night or week before, I know exactly what needs to be accomplished and how much time it should take. If you do not create a schedule, you will be tempted to push a project back another day and convince yourself you will have time to finish it tomorrow.

As we talk about productivity, ensure you use the best tools so you don’t write code repetitively and automate your work.

6. Thou Shalt Not Work Yourself to the Bone

Some freelancers have the opposite problem of procrastination. If you stay up late at night and take on more projects than you know you can handle, you may need a reality check. The extra stress is not healthy, even if you need the money. Your health is not worth it!

If you feel like you are working too much, it may be time to raise your rates. Never underestimate what you are worth.

Don’t think that no one will pay you what you are worth. When you have this mindset, you take the low-paying projects and work harder than you have to. There are plenty of clients who pay for quality work. You just have to know how to brand yourself to look like the expert that you are and market your services accordingly. If you are confident in your services, your clients will be as well.

7. Thou Shalt Change Out of Your Pajamas


I know I am not the only one who, from time to time, stays in my PJ’s all day! Raise your hand or leave a comment if you are equally guilty! It’s way too easy for freelancers to roll out of bed and go straight to your desk.

On days when I am not leaving my office, I find it productive to get ready as if I am leaving for a meeting. When you remain in your pajamas, you will stay in “sleep mode.” When you get dressed for the day, you become energized and more ready to face the day.

8. Thou Shalt Get Up and Move Every Hour

Have you ever sat at your computer in a comatose state for more than 10 hours at a time?

For health reasons it’s good to get up and walk around every hour, even if for just a few minutes.

It gets your blood circulating. It’s not good to stay in a sedentary state for longer than an hour at a time.

9. Thou Shalt Say No!


Remember that it is OK to say “no” to a project if it doesn’t line up with your skillset or your desired budget. You are hiring your clients just as much as they are hiring you. If you are not comfortable with a task or the nature of the work, pass on it. You will be happy you did.

10. Thou Shalt Not Work for Free

If you are just starting on your first few projects, you can offer free work in exchange for exposure, but most of the time it is not worth it. Clients will give you every reason to work with them for next to nothing and promise you grand exposure even though their website doesn’t even have enough traffic to track. Do your research and just say no!

Do you have other commandments you live by? I would love to hear more!



  1. One word……Awesome!
    I loved every point here, made me laugh as well because we’ve all done them!!!

    OMG! commandment number 2! That is just sooooo on the nose! hahaha.
    Like the comment above by Donna, i’ve printed this out and stuck it up in the office and at home! I also laminted it so it’s a permanent fixture!! ;-)

    Seriously well done, great article.

  2. ajay

    Great article.. thanks so much keep on thing in mind


  3. Jenna, you should write a post with the title “XX Ways to Change Out of Your Pajamas Before Working”
    I’m totally guilty of the 7th commandment!

  4. My oh my.
    I swear there’s still a tear running down my right cheek as I just saw myself from a different angle.
    “how much you know”, “asking for money” and “working to the bone” … that’s life, and life sucks, lately.

    Thanks. A million thanks.

  5. Kay

    Thanks for sharing your 10 commandments. I particularly love your 7th commandment “Thou Shalt Change Out of Your Pajamas” :)

  6. Craig

    I’m not important but I have an insane schedule so there’s a few commandments I follow to survive:

    1. Make a routine. Self explanatory.

    2. Write a list. Keeping things in your head at worst leads to forgetting and at best leads to remembering everything at the cost of all of your mental energy. Write it down and keep it visible.

    3. Keep your personality turned ON. Approach your work as you. That’s where the your subtlety lies, and you unconscious skill. Even when David fraught Golliath, he used his humble everyday tools- not a sword that he wasnt used to!

    4. Have a drink! Sometimes you need to step back and not over analyse your work.. Studies show that working after one drink helps to decrease some of the inhibitions that hold you back from taking risks… Just make sure you save crazy experiments separately.

  7. :) A very good article and also a great piece of advise for all out there! First I found this very funny but then all of it was really meaningful and true in every context. You have presented all the necessary to-so’s in a funny yet meaningful style especially the money and knowledge part. We often forget thee useful things in between our hectic work schedule, which is really sad :(
    Keep up the good work!

  8. David Veal

    (My website is currently being overhauled) Great advice on all accounts. A schedule is a must & the one hour rule Rules. I seem to fidget or doze or click the social media, as you say, after working for more than 50 minutes at a time. But the other thing that hit me, which I feel is more important, is to have a balance in life. I used to go from bed in the morning to the desk and keep myself there no matter what. Then add in longer hours. That was fine for the projects but a huge wear on my health. Now, to be more effective, I wake up, do yard work and read, then get to the desk at a good hour having a good breakfast. That doesn’t cure every problem I may encounter, (I am nearly addicted to watching The Daily Show and it doesn’t come on here in Denver until midnight. Dumb reason to tire ones self out, I know, and have curved my viewing time) but I’m happier. And I think that reflects in how I treat my clients and in the quality of work. Yard work allows for thinking time in a stress free environment. Reading allows my mind to ask a lot of questions while continuously taking in new information about wonderful people and places. Thank you for taking the time to write down your list. I believe others will also find it validating as well as useful.

  9. Donna DeMers

    I am so glad I found this article! In fact, I’ve printed it out for future reference. I do sometimes “forget” how much knowledge I have in what I do and what I can offer. Well done, and original content!