Website design has become an exciting and profitable career option. That’s both the good news and the bad news as you try to compete in a crowded field overrun with eager designers looking to make their mark in the business world. The question that every new designer must ask at the beginning of each day is: how will I become a sought-after designer when there is so much competition.

Much like brick and mortar stores, websites are where online consumers shop and research items they are interested in purchasing. For this reason, it is extremely important to create an inviting and user-friendly site that encourages potential customers to stick around for a while and seriously consider your client’s products. Anticipating and answering your prospects’ questions is one of the most important features of any website.

While graphic design is a significant part of any web designer’s job, there is much more to learning the tricks of the trade than creating images, icons and navigational tools. Monster reports that designing websites is about communication, first and foremost.

Below are some career tips sure to help you build a successful career as a web designer.

1. Commit to ongoing education to improve your skills and to stay current with new technology and trends

A professional web designer must commit to a lifetime of education or risk falling behind. It is simply the price for staying relevant and on top of your game. Design is a trendy business and changes constantly. The more you know, the better off you’ll be when it is time to show off your talent.

Sign up for web design courses to get started in web design or refresh your skills. Smart designers know the value of education. There is no substitute for knowledge.

2. Create an action plan

When you start on any journey, you need a plan. Building a successful career is no different. Considering that time is the one limited commodity that determines what can be done in any given day, it is critical to establish priorities and allocate your hours accordingly.

A practical plan will include allocating time for studying, establishing a budget for courses, website creation, and networking. One of the biggest mistakes that a new designer can make is to shortchange any critical task required to establish a thriving career.

For example, an excellent designer who does not take the time to establish a network of business contacts in favor of allocating more time to actual design work will suffer. Imagine a designer sitting in a room by himself playing on the computer and working for nothing. That scenario happens all too often when designers refuse to spend the time necessary to cultivate business relationships.

3. Build a website to show off your skills

You have to build a website to show prospective employers and clients your talent. When you first get started in your career, it is unlikely that you will have a paying client until you have examples of your work to show them. That’s why it is so important to jump in with both feet and design a site for free. Donating a site to a nonprofit or a friend is a great place to start.

After you build your first site, be sure to get them to use it and provide feedback. This feedback will guide you to make improvements and begin to better understand how customers think and react. While feedback can be humbling, it is the best way to learn.

4. Create high-quality, SEO-friendly websites designed to attract high-traffic volumes

As a website designer, you will be judged by results. It is not enough to simply create a dazzling and beautiful website. Since the goal of any business website is to convert visitors to customers, smart designers incorporate search engine optimization (SEO) strategies into their sites to attract and convert as many sales as possible.

Search Engine Land explains an SEO-friendly site as one designed to accommodate search engines. When a site is designed with SEO principles in mind, a search engine can easily crawl each page and understand the content. The ultimate result is a better page ranking on Google which translates into more customers.

5. Specialize in a particular industry

Specializing in an industry you have an interest in will make your life much easier as a web designer. Content Snare claims that clients want to work with a person who speaks their language. As a designer, you are expected to understand the client’s customer in order to build a site they will use.

By learning as much as you can about one industry, it is much easier to get referrals and become a respected “industry authority” that thrives. If you work primarily in one industry, it also minimizes your stress levels associated with the steep learning curve designers must climb for each and every new project.

Exceptional careers rarely happen without some serious planning and commitment. The best designers make ongoing education a priority and recognize the value of delivering customers to their clients’ websites. In the crowded field of website designers, you must always be taking web design courses to stay on top.

Since technology changes constantly, website designers must commit to a lifelong pursuit of knowledge to continue to compete. The opportunities are endless.