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A day in the life of a web designer



Jane Horwood is the owner of Catfish Web Design, an award-winning web design agency based just outside Cambridge.


Let’s find out what Jane does every day …


Can you describe your job? What do you do?


I am the face of Catfish and it’s my job is to get the work in, liaise with clients as project manager and design the websites. Catfish is a small agency, so I have a hands-on approach here with my fingers in a lot of pies.


When I started out, I used to do the programming/build as well but once I had more than a few projects on the go at the same time it simply wasn’t possible.


We also offer a range of other services like branding, logo design, marketing, social media management, search engine optimisation, video and photography. I have a fantastic team of experts who handle these different elements for me but it’s up to me to keep everything on track and to ensure the clients are happy. There is a lot of juggling to be done.


Jane Horwood Catfish Web Design


What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?


I must be super organised. Currently we have 20 projects in hand, all at different stages. Plus, there are new leads to follow up and proposals to write.


I am basically a web designer, so I need a creative eye and the ability to capture the essence of the product or service we are helping to sell.


Although I am not a marketer, I need to have a ‘marketing hat’ on when I deal with clients to make sure I am taking them in the right direction. Having set up and run other businesses in the past and worked with, and in, many small companies, I have a lot of experience in seeing and realising opportunities. I also need to understand the client’s challenges and objectives in order to offer them the best solution.


I need a lot of patience as sometimes it takes clients a long time to get content to me or even respond to queries. It’s difficult to keep up the momentum on a project unless your client engages fully with you and keeps to deadlines.


Confidence in my decisions is helpful. Sometimes a client will ask for something that I know won’t work. I am always honest with my advice and try to stick to my guns if I feel in my gut that it’s not the right route to take.


Over the years I have developed a bit of thick skin when it comes to rejection. Sometimes we spend a lot of time putting a proposal together for a potential client and receive no acknowledgement of receipt, let alone a ‘thanks but no thanks’. Fortunately, we have a good reputation locally and get the majority of our work through referrals and return business. We are usually pretty busy.


Finally, I must be open to learning new things as technology changes constantly and we have to keep one step ahead.


What is a typical working day for you?


Most of my time is spent in front of my computer whether it’s designing, marketing or catching up on admin.


I like to get up early and will sometimes go for a run before I settle down for the day (although I have a torn calf muscle at the moment so that’s put me out of action). I couple of times a week I also have a midday walk with a friend who lives locally. Commitments like this are good because it forces me to take a break from the screen.


I like to check my emails first thing and respond to anything urgent.


The day can consist of designing, testing functionality on a site we’re building, putting proposals together, research, posting on our social media pages, writing a blog, meeting with clients or attending a networking event.


What do you love about your job and what isn’t so good?


I love:


  • Meeting new clients and brainstorming with them to hear their ideas and putting my suggestions and recommendations forward.
  • Coming up with a new design for a website – that’s why I am in this job.
  • Working with my associates on larger projects where more than just web design is involved. Being part of a team is really energising and working with experts means that I am learning new things too.
  • When a client tells me how much their business has prospered and that their website has played a huge part in that.

What’s not so good:


  • Really wanting a project but losing out to someone else.
  • Projects that drag on for months (or even years) so we need to keep revisiting them. Momentum gets lost and it starts to impact on other work.

How do you measure your success?


For me it’s a happy client. This year I had a first: a client who actually cried when she saw the design mockups for her website.


We strive to be excellent so returning clients are a great indicator that we’ve provided a good service.


What are your plans for the future?


To ensure that we keep up the good work here building great websites and helping businesses grow.


It’s also important to work with people you like and how inspire you so developing closer bonds with our associates is top of my agenda. Collaboration is wonderful and can reap rewards.


So, business as usual …