From CodeNewbie To Full Time Freelancer In One Year-Part 5: Not A Designer

Part 5: Not A Designer

In Part 4, I discussed how a short stint through Upwork actually brought ongoing work for me as a new freelancer. 

Yet, as I began to do jobs through Upwork, I began to notice a couple things:

1. I needed to learn more about the technical tools of web design. I had been studying coding, WordPress, PHP, CSS, website layouts, etc. but as people began to ask about logos, mockups, etc. I concluded that I needed to dig deeper into understanding Photoshop and Illustrator. 

2. Second, I eventually felt a bit overwhelmed. I began to think to myself, "You're not a designer." I will explain what I  mean in this blog post:

That Knack

No matter how much I studied the tools of design (software), fonts, colors, personas, etc., I just did not have that "knack."

What do I mean by "knack?"

This: "An acquired or natural skill at performing a task."

My desk is not spotless, I don't have a color scheme in my house, no fancy paintings, and no plants. I don't like pinboards, sticky notes, color palettes, or arts and crafts in general. 

I can't draw, color between the lines, and I normally wear blue jeans and some sort of polo shirt without too much thought put into it. 

I think creating an entire website in Photoshop AND THEN having to create the build is doing double the work. I don't like cute graphics and I don't have a cat.

Successful web designers are the complete opposite. They like most of the above. Many have always been able to draw well and have that "knack" for designs, colors, and fonts. They love pen tools, cute graphics, and again, cats. 

Okay, what am I getting at? It is this: Anyone can learn the technical aspects of Photoshop or Illustrator, but not everyone has that "knack" for design.

And it was during these projects that I realized I did not. 

As much as I wanted to deny it, I couldn't.


One quick qualification:

Even if you do not have a "knack" for design, and choose to work the development side instead, you still MUST have a good grounding in web design. You must understand branding, colors, fonts, etc.

If you are going to build out the designs of others, you must understand the fundamentals of web design to assure consistency and accuracy throughout the build. 

The following tweet is absolutely correct: 

What do I do now?

So at first this was not good! 

How can I have a website service if i'm not a designer?

I am supposed to take clients from discovery, to personas, to design, to build, to launch…… and without offering design how will I attract clients that need only the second half of a website build?

If I do not offer all services involved in creating a website, how can I be successful in bringing value to anyone's business?

True Freedom

And this is where true freedom and focus happened.

First, I had to accept the fact that I did not have a "knack" for design. 

Second, I had to accept that my "knack" and passion was in the development and optimization that came after the design. 

Finally, I had to determine how to then restructure my business goals around development in particular.


If you are in a similar situation where you have a strength in one over the other (actually most do), then here are a couple of options:

1. Partner up with someone from the other side. If your particular focus is the development that comes after the design, branding, etc., then find a web designer to partner with. Better yet, find a web designer who struggles with development or coding. 

If you get requests for design work, refer it to them. In return, when they need development work, they can refer or pass on the project to you. 

2. Market your business as that particular niche. If you are a developer, then contact agencies and see if they have any overflow work from their designers that needs to be built. Be the developer that designers pass work onto.


You will actually find very few people who have a knack for both design and development. It is okay to accept that you are weak in one or the other. Counter that by become really strong in one and market your services to those in the other.

For me it actually helped me define my business goals. It helped me focus my niche on "Development for Designers" and served to narrow my target audience: Designers and Design Agencies. 

In the next post, I will discuss the Tools have picked up along the way that have been the most helpful in transitioning to Full Time Freelance. 

Did you come to a realization that you were weak in either design or development? Did this cause you to reevaluate your business goals. I would love to hear how you handled this in the comment below.

Other Posts In This Series:

Are you a CodeNewbie?Tell me about your journey below, I'd love to hear it!


** This article may contain affiliate links. Please read the affiliate disclaimer for more details.

About Me Author

Travis of

Travis Media

Who Am I? I was 34 years old in a job I hated when I decided to learn to code. Read More

You May Also Like