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From pandemics to recessions, there are certain events and forces that we have no control over. What we can do, however, is to fortify our careers (as well as ourselves) so that they withstand whatever pressure is put on them.

Future-proofing one’s career is a lot like weather-proofing a home. While you can’t predict what sort of storm will hit, how severe it will be or when it’ll happen, there are certain measures you can take to ensure you make it through the turmoil in good shape.

When developing a future-proofing strategy, don’t focus too much on what sorts of disasters or storms might affect you. If you look back at the last few years—the pandemic, out of control inflation and the rise of AI—no one could’ve seen all of them coming or the effect they’d have on our careers. Instead, focus on implementing good, reliable strategies that’ll strengthen your business regardless of what happens.

In the following post, we’re going to look at six ways to do just that and future-proof your web design career.

How to Future-Proof Your Career

The strategies below can help you stay relevant in your industry so that you never find yourself without work or unable to get new work when you need it. Secondly, they’ll give you a safety net in case things don’t pan out with your current job or career. They might also open up a completely new career pathway if things go really well.

The point is, these strategies can help protect you and your business from the negative side effects of disruption if you implement them early enough.

1. Stay Ahead of the Curve When It Comes to Technology

Do you remember Blockbuster? The video rental store chain was immensely popular. Many of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s have fond memories of dashing to Blockbuster on Friday evenings in the hopes of renting a copy of the latest movie.

While many people cherished the services and experience offered by Blockbuster, it was no match for Netflix. First, Netflix offered a mail-in subscription for video rentals. Blockbuster created their own competitive offering.

However, it was Netflix’s launch of digital streaming services that completely changed the movie “rental” game. When Blockbuster failed to keep up, the brand crashed and burned. No matter how much its customers appreciated Blockbuster in the past, it was no match for the convenience and cost-effectiveness of digital streaming.

So what’s the lesson here?

While it’s important that you offer clients a positive experience and deliver them great results, it’s just as vital that your offering evolve with the times. And if you don’t embrace technology that will enable you to do that, you’ll find that it’s easy to fall out of favor over time and most especially when times get tough.

Consider the rise of drag-and-drop website builders and, more recently, AI website builders. Web designers offering basic services who didn’t see these DIY technologies coming may have felt blindsided when work began to dry up. Or when clients refused to pay so much for something they believed they could now do on their own and for relatively cheap.

That’s why it’s important to stay on top of new technologies and trends in website design and development. What’s more, to be able to anticipate how they’ll impact your ability to work.

If you can, make time for an internal technology audit at least once a year. Then compare what you’re using and the sorts of digital products you’ve developing to what’s popular in the current year.

Take careful consideration of anything that seems to have staying power and that’s really shaken things up in the digital space. If it makes sense to do so, find a way to adopt these technologies and trends into your workflow in the coming year.

2. Grow Your Technical Skill Set

Using the latest and greatest technologies will help in future-proofing your design career. But so too will developing a technical skill set that makes you invaluable.

There will always be new technologies that come along and make it seem as though web designers or other creatives are needed less and less. But there are limitations to what these technologies and their less adept users can do with them.

That’s why it’s critical that you have a skill set that no piece of software or amateur web designer can replace.

Take a survey of your current skill set as it pertains to website and app design:

  • What types of websites and apps can you build?
  • Which content management systems do you know how to use?
  • How much coding do you do?
  • Which programming languages are you fluent in?
  • How much do you know about SEO?
  • Do you have any specialties, like UX or interaction design?
  • Are you competent and confident when it comes to things like machine learning and AI?
  • Can you do photo or video editing?
  • Do you have any special skills that are hard to find in other designers?

Look for new ways to grow and diversify your skill set. The more value you offer, the greater the demand will be for your services. In turn, you’ll outpace whatever advancements there are in terms of technologies while simultaneously attracting a higher quality of client.

Just be careful about spreading yourself too thin. Slowly integrate new skills into your stack that fit well with what you already do. They should offer real value to clients and not just be something impressive to put on your resume.

3. Become an Invaluable Asset to Your Client or Employer

No amount of butt-kissing or begging will keep an employer or client from letting you go when their budgets are cut and they can no longer afford to pay for your services.

What can help, though, is making yourself a genuinely valuable asset to their team. It’s not a guarantee of work, but they may be less likely to let you go first if they really need you.

Building out your technical skill set is one way to do this. Another way is to improve your soft skills.

Hard skills are typically all of those technical skills that make it possible for you to do your job. Soft skills, on the other hand, are the ones that make you better suited for the role you’re in. For example, here are some common soft skills that web designers have:

  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Active listening
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Project management
  • Adaptability
  • Patience

Imagine you’re working on a team with a number of other designers. You start to hear rumblings about budget cuts and layoffs. Some managers might look at the seniority of employees and base their decisions on that. However, a more important deciding factor will likely be who brings more to the table (which doesn’t always correlate with experience).

In that case, it would be beneficial to have a proven track record when it comes to things like meeting deadlines, patiently dealing with difficult clients and adapting to new guidelines. If you can make your employer’s or client’s life easier, it’ll be difficult for them to justify letting you go.

4. Freelance If You’re Not Doing It Already

There’s never any guarantee of employment. That’s just as true for the employed as it is for contractors. However, there’s a big difference in losing a full-time job as opposed to losing a client or two from a roster of clients.

Now, I’m not telling those of you with jobs to quit them and turn to freelancing. If you have the stability and benefits of being employed, there’s no need to give that all up. However, it’s not a bad idea to take on some contract work if you can manage it.

These small side projects are useful for a number of reasons.

When it comes to future-proofing your career, freelance gigs allow you to supplement your income. What’s more, you can use them to build up a rainy day fund. That way, if something should happen to your steady employment or, if you’re a full-time freelancer and gigs start to slow down, you’ll have a dedicated savings account to help cover your losses.

Another benefit to freelancing on the side is that it can help you establish yourself in other niches or take on more responsibilities in your current job. For example, you might work full-time as an app designer. On the side, though, you could do jobs related to website maintenance, graphic design or SEO.

5. Generate Passive Income Streams

The problem with freelancing when you’re already working full-time is that it requires you to steal away some of your free time in order to secure your future. And for some of you, that’s just not feasible. Whether it’s because you’re already feeling burned out or you have personal commitments you need to attend to, taking on more work might not be an ideal solution.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make more money on top of your regular job. Or create new and interesting professional opportunities for yourself. While you’ll still need to devote some of your free time to creating a passive income stream, it won’t require a steady time commitment the way that freelancing does.

The best way to generate passive revenue as a designer is to develop digital products or assets that you create once and that can be sold over and over again. For example:

  • Themes
  • Templates
  • UI kits
  • Plugins
  • Turnkey websites
  • Stock photography
  • Stock videography
  • Checklists
  • Ebooks
  • White papers

Some of these products may require extra work to maintain.

For instance, if you sell themes or templates, you’ll want to ensure the designs and functionality remain up-to-date and modern—at least once a year. Plugins and themes also need regular maintenance and updates to ensure they’re bug-free and in good working order.

It’s also important to actively market them. Having search-optimized landing pages for each product on your site is a must as well. The more you can get steady traffic visiting your digital products, the more sales you’ll make.

This will also help you drive regular business leads to your website. For example, someone might be looking for a theme they can use to design their own site and realize while they’re on your site, that they’d be better off hiring a pro.

6. Do More Networking

Networking might not seem necessary in this day and age, what with so many people working remotely, conferences held over Zoom and jobs readily available on online job boards. But networking with other people can be quite advantageous to your career.

For starters, there are different ways to do networking.

  • You can join and participate in online groups on a platform like LinkedIn.
  • You can join groups that meet up in the real world via Meetup.
  • You can attend conferences and workshops. Even if there aren’t any near you, there are plenty that now offer an online alternative.

Networking can help you future-proof your career in a number of ways.

First, it’ll help you stay in the know. Of course, you can learn about what’s going on in the digital space by reading blogs and white papers, watching YouTube videos and following thought leaders on social media. But there’s a big difference between the overarching themes and trends discussed there and the everyday stuff that impacts workers. And people are more likely to discuss that type of stuff in a networking setting.

Second, networking can help you make a name for yourself on a local or global level. The more discussions you get involved in or meetings you attend, the more everyone will get to know you. Making yourself more credible and trustworthy will do a lot of good for you in the long term, from helping you to secure more work to attracting better clients.

Third, it’ll help you stay relevant. If you only just reach out to others for help when things get desperate, your connections might be less likely to help than if you were to stay actively engaged within the community.


Similar to weather-proofing, it’s usually too late to start future-proofing your career if you wait until the storm arrives. It’s something you need to work on in advance.

With the six strategies above, though, you’ll be able to start fortifying your business now. And even if your business remains steady and stable, these strategies will also be useful for enabling career and revenue growth over the long term.

About the Author

Suzanne Scacca

A former project manager and web design agency manager, Suzanne Scacca now writes about the changing landscape of design, development and software.

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