Are you considering and looking to learn how to get started as a Freelance Web Developer? If so that’s awesome, hopefully you’ll find this article helpful.
According to the Occupational Outlook HandBook web developering is a great career choice (I couldn’t agree more) with an expected 13% growth through 2030 which is faster than average. The median pay is $77,200 per year or $31.12 per hour. I can personally tell you as a Freelancer Web Developer you can make a lot more.
Before we get into where and how to get started as a freelance web developer lets first quickly go over what is a freelance web developer and what they do.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Freelance Web Developer and What Do They Do?
- How To Get Started As a Freelance Web Developer?
- Pros of Being A Freelance Web Developer
- Cons of Being A Freelance Web Developer
What Is a Freelance Web Developer and What Do They Do?
A freelance web developer is of course the same as any other Web Developer except you work for yourself. Which means you set your own hours, your own rates, the type of work you want to do, and work pretty much anywhere you want that has access to the internet. Sounds good doesn’t it!
What Does a Freelance Web Developer Do? Well there are a lot of different options for a freelance web developer including creating the obvious which is creating websites. Web developers can also create software and online applications to automate and simplify tasks for companies. As for myself and what this site will cover will be creating websites and using WordPress which I’ll go over in a bit.
How To Get Started As a Freelance Web Developer?
Okay so let’s dive into the main reason you are here which is how to get started as a freelance web developer. One of the coolest things about getting started as a freelance web developer is that you can learn everything and I mean everything you need to know online and for free! While I’m not going to tell you that a college degree isn’t helpful it surely isn’t required.
Myself like most web developers learned everything online from watching YouTube videos and just practicing. While there are some paid online classes / tutorials they aren’t needed either, although there are some decent ones that can be helpful for learning certain coding languages.
Learning The Basics
Like any job the first thing to do is learn the basics. For web developing the basics include learning what a website is and how to make one. Learning about domain names, hosting providers, different platforms, and coding languages. While it may sound like a lot, it’s really not that bad and if you are tech savvy in the least it’s easy to learn.
A website is basically a bunch of files linked together and a hosting provider is a company that stores those files on one of their computers that is always connected to the internet. A domain name is just an address if you will that tells browsers where to go to find those web files. See not that bad. =) Okay it’s a little more than that but you get the idea.
Coding Languages and Platforms
Web based platforms have become essential when creating websites and there are a lot of them. For the most part these platforms are content management systems (CMS) which makes managing a web site a lot easier. A few examples would be WordPress, Joomla, Drupla, WIX, Shopify and many more.
My personal opinion is to learn WordPress as it’s not only the best but it’s also the most widely used platform on the internet which means there’s lots of projects & jobs for those who know how to work with it. I’ll be writing up a post with more details about why WordPress is such a good platform to use soon.
Shopify would be a distant second choice if you wanted to work strictly with eCommerce sites.
What Tools and Software To Use?
For creating web pages and editing code you can use NotePad. Not joking here, for real you can use NotePad or any text editor that comes with your computer. That’s not the best or most efficient tool but it can be used. I still use it from time to time, but most of the time I use CodeAnyWhere. I’ve grown a liking to CodeAnyWhere as I’ve used it for the last 8+ years. They no longer offer a free version but the small fee they charge is well worth it for me.
For anyone just starting out Notepadd++ would be a great web editing software and it’s Free! If you want something more advanced than check out Visual Studio Code, it’s another great tool so I’ve heard.
WordPress also has a built-in editor which allows you to edit the template files and isn’t that bad. I actually use it for quick site edits and fixes more than anything else. That’s of course if you choose to go the WordPress Developer / Web Developer route. (Which I highly recommend)
Other software you may find yourself needing is FileZilla (Client) which is an FTP program that allows you to connect to the backend of a hosting provider so you can download and upload web files and images. It’s also free.
(Pro Tip) Another good skill that can come in handy with web development is learning how to edit and manipulate images using Adobe Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or Gimp which is free. I couldn’t tell you how many times where I’ve needed to resize an image or add some text or change the colors. Not that it happens every day but it’s a good skill to know.
Learning How To Use A Hosting Provider
As mentioned earlier Hosting Providers are companies that host/store web files on servers that are always connected to the internet. As a web developer knowing your way around the Host Providers dashboard can save you a lot of time. You may need to install WordPress or create FTP access or add an SSL to a site so knowing how to navigate around and where to find what you need is helpful.
One thing to note is that not all Hosting Providers use the same software. You’ll find a lot use CPanel and some use their own custom software. Some hosting providers have slower servers which can hurt your website rankings, others have horrible customer service. I personally use and always recommend SiteGround as they are one of the more highly rated Hosting Providers.
Start Building Your Own Website & Portfolio
Once you have learned some of the basics and are ready to start building your first web site. I highly recommend getting your own hosting account and start building your own personal site. This will help you gain some experience and get a better feel for how things work.
Come up with a good domain name or use your own name.com like I did. When it comes to domain names they don’t have to be purchased from the Hosting Provider. While this can make the process a little easier when setting things up it’s not required. Take my domain ScottMalouin.com I bought it at GoDaddy.com yet I host all my sites on SiteGround. You just have to point the domain name to the hosting provider to make the connection. I’ll go over this in another post.
Afterwards it might be a good idea to create a site for a friend or local church to get some more practice and even add it to your portfolio. Honestly I wouldn’t even charge them as it’s more about gaining the experience. Maybe charge them a hosting fee if you host their site on your hosting account. Practice makes perfect.
Where To Look For Clients and Find Freelance Web Developer Work
Awesome so you have created your own site and maybe a few others and you are ready to start making some money as a Freelance Developer!
Here comes the fun part, so there’s always the cold calling door to door type of getting business or there’s the easy way. UpWork.com which is a website designed for freelancers and there’s a lot of work to be found there.
UpWork is free to use and uses Connects which is like their virtual currency to bid on projects. The free account only gets 10 per month while the paid plan gets 80 per month. I’ve found it best to pay for a month then turn it off until you need more Connects. Personally I’ve only had to pay for one month the entire time I’ve been on UpWork. Your success may vary.
The trick is to get some awesome 5 star reviews and then the work will start coming to you which doesn’t cost any Connects. Obviously you get awesome reviews by doing great work. Also don’t hesitate to ask for a review after completing the work and let the client know you are new and just trying to get noticed.
As for UpWork’s fees other than the Connects, they take 20% for the first $500 you make with a client. After that it’s 10% to $10,000, then 5% for everything over $10.000. I’ve seen a few people online bash UpWork for that 20% but it sure beats going door to door and cold calling. Just adjust your rates accordingly.
You’ll see jobs for all kinds of experienced levels from beginners to the more advanced. For your first few projects you’ll really want to keep it simple and something that you know you can do a great job on. Those first few projects might not pay that well but that’s okay because those first few are more about getting those 5 star reviews.
After you get a few of those 5 star reviews that’s when you can start to kick things into high gear and work your way up to the higher paid projects. Also be sure to complete all of the profile information and really make it stand out.
Truth be told, this is something I’ve never done, never had to. I’ve been able to find all the work I need on UpWork. Actually my site is a form of promotion and I always include a link to it on my project proposals. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t. Never hurts to let your friends and family know, and there are tons of social networks out there you can market yourself on.
Personally, I think you are better off spending that time looking for that next project until they start coming to you.
Pros of Being A Freelance Web Developer
The lifestyle alone is a pro that’s completely worth it to me. Being your own boss, setting your own hours, setting your own rates, working wherever and whenever you want.
I woke up the other morning at 3 and couldn’t go back to sleep so I just got up, walked to my office and started working!
A few months ago I told a client of mine I was increasing my rates by $10 an hour and it wasn’t an issue (Should have gone up $15 =).
During the day I’ll take a break and go for a walk outside and get some fresh air or even bring my laptop outside and work on the porch.
The money you save on gas from never having to drive to work or the stress of dealing with any office drama. Working in your pj’s or at a local coffee shop, these are just a few of the many pros of being a freelance web developer.
One last pro is that you can learn everything you need to know for free online! ( No college degree require! )
Cons of Being A Freelance Web Developer
Like every job there are also a few cons to being a freelance web developer. The biggest con I think most people have when starting out as a freelance web developer is the fact that there’s no steady income.
If you are starting out as a freelancer part time while working a full time job then it’s a lot of work but at least you don’t have to worry about paying the bills. The problem a lot of people have trying to freelance part-time while having a full time job is that they become complacent and never work as hard as they should to build up their freelancing career. Which leads to another con.
Self motivated, being a freelancer of anytype you really need to be self motivated because there’s no one standing over you telling you what to do next. It’s very easy to get distracted or put things off and not get anything done so being self motivated is key.
Another con that scares a lot of people off is Taxes. When freelancing your taxes aren’t automatically taken out so you have to keep up with your income and besure to pay your taxes. It’s not difficult once you get everything in place. For me I have to pay estimated taxes 4 times a year and use Turbo Tax Home and Business to help file my taxes.
Knowing how to get started as a freelance web developer is one thing but applying it is another. Take baby steps and just get started. Don’t expect to learn everything overnight and don’t try or you’ll just burn yourself out.
Start off with the basics, get your own hosting account, create your own site and play around with it. Experiment and have fun learning. The more you enjoy it the more you’ll want to do it.
For me being a freelance web developer has changed my life and opened up so many great opportunities. Even if I were making less than my last full time job, the freedom alone makes being a freelance web developer worth it.
I hope you found this information or at least some of it helpful. If you have any questions please comment below and let me know. I’ll do my best to answer them as soon as I can.
Also I’m curious to know if you’ve already started your journey as a freelance web developer or when you plan on starting?
I’m still new at this whole blogging thing so if you made it this far I’m very thankful. Also there may be a few affiliate links above and if so they are only for things I use myself and fully recommend.