I am a newbie self taught web designer. My skills are HTML/CSS web designs. My problem is, how do I start marketing myself or what type of web designs should I put in my portfolio if I have not had any clients yet?

  • I removed the second part of your question because we prefer one question at a time and that one was already answered here: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/60947/…
    – Ryan
    May 22, 2017 at 12:44
  • Have you built anything or just created bits and pieces of pages? What makes you call yourself a "web designer"?
    – Scott
    May 22, 2017 at 15:40

3 Answers 3


I am a newbie self taught web designer. My skills are HTML/CSS web designs

A few things to parse there.

First of all, being self-taught, you're lacking the typical portfolio fodder of a design education. A big part of design school is building up a portfolio of student work.

You can do that yourself by giving yourself projects. There's lots of ways to do this, but one fun way is to focus on outside interests and hobbies.

For example, these are actual projects I have done for myself over the years:

  • personal branding/identity (ie, a logo for yourself/your company)
  • I coach youth sports. I, of course, also always have to design a team logo. :)
  • I enjoy exploring public trails and paths. Just for fun I've created logos for several of them.

And other ideas along those same lines:

  • Design a web site for a photo essay of something that interests you
  • Design a web site for some personal passion cause you have in your community
  • Create a web site as a guide for your region

The other answer mentions doing free work for organizations. That's an option, but often a real pain-in-the-ass. The catch is that clients that aren't paying you are often really lousy clients as they have no skin in the game. And what work you end up doing for the is often an ugly compromise of egos and opinions rather than a well crafted, targetted solution to a specific business problem.


You should create items for a portfolio then. Buy some stock photos (or get them for free but hey, it's a design board and paid photos are usually very designable), set some goals and create few pages.

For example: Imagine having a client from medical field that want's to have parallel webpage with switch for English/other language and 4 sub-pages. Fill it with photos and "lorem ipsum"

Try to recreate some pages from scratch to understand how they coded it and think if you could make it better.

A good place is to try to work for some non-profit organizations. First you can help the cause you like (dog shelter or soup kitchen) and because it's a non-profit organisation you don't undermine the rest of us offering your work for free for a paying customer. And third with such organisations you have more freedom so you can discover new ways of doing things instead of copying others solutions.

And after that you have at least 3 pieces you can show in your portfolio.
You can even create your own portfolio site, showing your design and code literacy (put a Pacman there, everybody likes to play Pacman).

  • A lot of guys will be more than happy to undermine everybody by showing off fake portfolios and the greatest 'never-existed' projects. It is noble to think positive and give the best advice here, but really, its just encouraging fake competition (at least at local level), because of the way the internet works. Would you go to a dentist that has never taken any teeth out? Because this is what happens on the internet :)
    – Lucian
    May 22, 2017 at 14:17
  • I do not recommend doing anything like including Pacman - it looks very unprofessional and cheap unless it's well done and relevant to what your focus is (like game design) May 22, 2017 at 14:26
  • 3
    It is actually a very bad idea to do work for free just to get portfolio items.
    – joojaa
    May 22, 2017 at 15:39
  • 1
    @joojaa for a non-profit organisation. It's volunteering just like you would spend your time working at that soup-kitchen or helping kids with cancer. May 22, 2017 at 15:51
  • 5
    It's incorrect to assume non-profits are non-paying clients. Non-profits have budgets like any organization. In fact, as non-profits, they often have really nice marketing and design budgets as a big part of their existence depends on awareness. I do agree, however, that everyone likes playing pac-man.
    – DA01
    May 22, 2017 at 16:21

There is something that worries me more than the lack of clients.

Are you good? Are you good enough to have a first nonprofit client?

Do you have a personal web page? I do not mind if it is on a free hosting service. I do not mind a couple of ads at the top.

Do you have some screen captures of design ideas, as a single jpg posted perhaps on deviantart.com?

I do not mind a portfolio of fake clients. That is totally fine with me, as long as the work looks good (and it is well structured) (Guess what... that could be sold as a template)

So, the first client you need to have is yourself. Then you can make some variations on a "Your company name" "template". Then, I could see if you actually know HTML and CSS, and actually know how to "design" a website.

This "templates" could be business oriented too.

A template for dentists where you actually analyze what a dentist could need, for example, a form to appoint a date, A photographer's portfolio with some categories for different types of photos, etc.

P.S. "Web designer" is a pretty complex term.

It could imply:

  • Designing the structure, the flow, the content architecture.

  • UX interfaces, assets, look.

  • Tag coding.

  • CSS/Frameworks usage.

  • Adaptable design.

  • Development skins for specific platforms.

  • JavaScript programming.

  • Some basic understanding of backend programming.

  • Etc.

So, you probably need to learn a couple of things more.

  • 1
    The issue with "templates" is that there isn't a design objective beyond "selling a generic template". So I'd focus less on that aspect and more on solving actual business needs (which may require coming up with some artificial business needs to design around)
    – DA01
    May 22, 2017 at 16:42
  • A "Template" could be a focus to solve specific business needs. Actually, it should. Besides that, it could be, as mentioned before oriented to something. A dentist, a pet shop, a photographer portfolio, etc. I'll detail a bit on the actual post.
    – Rafael
    May 22, 2017 at 16:44
  • 1
    Right, but to be clear, a generic template--even for a specific industry--is more about decoration than design.
    – DA01
    May 22, 2017 at 16:46
  • Yes and nope. Sometimes chewing the topic as a template could inclusive prepare guidelines for a real project, because I am pretty sure a lot of clients do not have a clue on what they need. A template could be inclusive "modular". But probably this is a topic for another discussion.
    – Rafael
    May 22, 2017 at 16:50

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