Being a freelance developer can be a way to earn a good living, and for many, it is a dream job. However, on many occasions, dreams turn into nightmares, so it is best to be prepared.
This article is meant for those who want to start as freelance developers or those who have a small programming company with 2 or 3 developers and are primarily dedicated to the development of business applications and management software.
The job landscape facing software developers today is challenging. On the one hand, the main advantages of working as an employed programmer have diminished after the economic crisis of 2007: job security, possibilities for growth and professional promotion, salary, extras. Everything has changed a lot since then, and the demand for qualified programmers continues to grow. It leads to more and more developers choosing to establish themselves as freelancers.
How can one become a web developer?
This method of learning to be a web developer consists of 7 clear steps.
But the very step is to have a desire, patience, perseverance, and passion.
The most important thing to dedicate yourself to web development is to be willing, patient, and that you like it. Passion is the key.
You have to be patient and like it a lot, because if you don’t, you will get tired very soon because the developing world is a very complicated one and requires many hours of solitary work at home learning things.
1. Learn HTML
If you want to be a web developer, it is vital to master HTML correctly.
HTML is a markup language that concedes us to define the structure of a web page. Using markup tags, we can explain it. It is the basis of any web page.
If you do not know HTML, you cannot continue advancing in the world of web programming. It is essential to learn this.
2. Learn CSS
The next thing is to learn to style the web page with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which is the language that will allow us to give the web an appearance.
It is fundamental to know how to style a website and the next natural step after learning HTML.
4. Stop studying and start practicing
5. Learn databases and SQL
Now it’s time to learn some back-end, and before learning any other programming language, it is crucial to master databases and the SQL language.
It is a critical point where many people fail. So stop and learn this well. Choose MySQL, learn to design a database, and learn to do all the types of queries there are in SQL.
6. Learn a back-end language (PHP, Node.JS)
In this step, you must learn a back-end language such as PHP that will allow your website to be dynamic and interact with databases.
7. Take the professional leap by learning: Symfony, Angular, Node.JS, Bootstrap, Less
And finally, we recommend you learn the leading frameworks and technologies that the professional market is requesting the most worldwide. Deepen your knowledge about frameworks, as they will allow you to configure the fundamental concepts that you have learned throughout easily. Frameworks are equipment that will help you develop more rapidly, and that will enable you to create larger projects.
Well, these would be the most critical steps to become a web developer.
Why become a freelance web developer?
There are several reasons why we can start working as web developers as freelancers and different ways of doing it.
- Because you lose or leave your job in a company (either because the company closes, because it reduces staff or because for whatever reason you decide to leave your position)
- Because you are just starting, and you do not have enough experience required by the jobs you can find.
- Because right from the start, you decide to work on your own because it motivates you much more and corresponds to the way of life you want to lead.
Whatever your case, the main problem we encounter at the beginning is always the same: finding clients and projects to work on.
Create a good portfolio.
If you come from a company, you will have the advantage of experience and perhaps some contacts. But that may not help you to create an excellent portfolio to show (depending on your circumstances and those of the company where you will work, you will not be able to show in your web sites you did for them). So you’re going to have to start building one from scratch.
- FFF: Friends, Family & Fools: one of the first options we have is to look for clients in our closest circles, family, and friends who have a business or project and need a website. Depending on your circumstances and experience and those of the project, you can offer to do it at a low cost or for free. It’s worth doing, but remember to work on the project as if it were for a “real” client, with the same dedication and professionalism.
- Own projects: web development, like many other professions, is learned by practicing and facing real cases and problems. Suppose you do not have any project for a third party to develop at this time, start, not one, but several of your own. Do not get involved with a large project that absorbs all your time. Develop different types of the web with different needs and requirements.
- Freelance commissioning platforms: when you have years of experience and a good portfolio of clients, you will run away from them. But at this time, they are your best asset to get small orders and make contacts. Sign up for several (Info Jobs, Up work, Wok Press) to test its operation and stay in the one that works best for you.
A little of everything, a lot of something.
Specializing is something that they will often advise you. Being the best at something has many advantages, and if there is some development, programming, or language that you especially like or are good at, take advantage of it and specialize in it.
However, web development is something alive and very changing, applications that appear and platforms that go out of style. Even if you have decided to specialize in something, you must not close your eyes to everything else.
Do not stop informing yourself, knowing what is on the market, which applications are gaining importance, and which are disappearing. You do not need to know in-depth about how they work, but what they are and what they are for. If you have a good programming base, learning other languages is not going to be complicated if you need to do it at a particular moment.
Work for an agency or an end client?
When you work as a freelance, it is imperative to decide whether you are going to dedicate yourself to development for end clients: companies, professionals, etc. or to work for other agencies or development companies as a subcontractor.
At first, you will surely not have the option to decide, and you will be able to accept projects of both types, but you should know what type of freelance you want to be and lead your career towards one type or another.
- The main advantage of working for other companies is that you will not have to deal with clients. They will give you the specific briefing of their needs, and you will have to do the job for which you have been trained. It is also possible that you have to work more continuously with the comfort of always working with the same people, who know the business and speak the same language.
- The main disadvantage is that working for an agency usually implies having less margin, hourly budgets with tight timings. Besides, you lose control over the project; you cannot define the requirements, nor can you speak directly with the client or advise them what you think is best.
- You will often have to work anonymously. You cannot add the work done in your portfolio or take advantage of your brand.
For end customers.
- You will deal with the end customer, with companies and professionals who may not know anything about the web or online marketing, who are going to want changes at the last minute, who are going to ask you for advice and are going to trust your criteria or the opposite completely. They will want things that for you are sacrilege. You are going to have to learn to treat the client, to negotiate, to train, and to have a lot of left hands.
- In contrast, you will be able to have total control over the project, advise and implement new ideas, help directly those who need it, getting involved in the client’s business, feeling proud of their first online order as if it were yours and filling yourself with pride when you recommend, speak well of yourself and thank you for helping them.
- It will be easier to create a personal brand, showing your portfolio and adjusting rates as your experience and cache increase.
Whether you have specialized or not, the truth is that you will not be able to carry out all kinds of projects and jobs on your own.
If you’re a web developer, you should know something about design and like it. But you will still need a designer to complete your profile, to whom you can entrust the graphic part of the project.
Also, if you work for end clients, get the idea that they are going to ask you on more than one occasion for things that have little to do with web pages: logos, brochures, banners, etc. You can choose to manage the project and subcontract it or directly put it in contact with the client with the designer and not get involved.
The same will happen to you with other types of profiles: app programmers, computer systems, community managers, and online marketing consultants.
As you develop your profession, you will meet and contact people from other profiles. Try to stay in contact with those who are good at their jobs and work with them at ease, because having a network of professionals with different profiles will open up many possibilities, and it will bring you many advantages over time.
Tips to become successful as a freelance web developer.
1. Know why you become autonomous.
Before telling your company that you are leaving, that you are resigning, you have to be very certain in your mind why you want to become a freelance programmer. Do you want to work from home? Do you want to travel more? Do you want more money? Work fewer hours? What are the foremost reasons that lead you to make this decision? Write them down on paper or in a document because, most likely, your goals will not be met in the short term.
2. Diversify your business skills.
Your responsibilities will include everything, not just scheduling. Independence means doing everything alone. You will do all the work that your team and your organization now do for you. It applies to both technical skills and management skills. Either you hire someone to do it for you, or you learn to do everything on your own.
3. Offer quality and efficiency.
It sounds like a typical cliché. But you have to apply for it. When you are the company, you can choose to sit all day at the computer, eating donuts and drinking coffee and spend the day surfing the Internet. But you only get paid to do things, so if you do things consistently, efficiently, and well, you can get your business going and survive.
4. Do marketing all the time.
If you only focus on the work for which you receive a direct invoice and leave everything else aside, you will most likely be out of business. Pay attention to new opportunities that may come out with your current clients, ask for recommendations, constantly prospect, and try to maintain a constant and busy workflow.
5. Learn when to contract or expand the business.
When you reach your limit, you can choose to contract the business or expand it. To get fewer things done, you can choose to get rid of customers that don’t interest you by raising rates and optimizing time. To expand, you can hire or subcontract help, delegating or eliminating tasks, and diversify the service offering.
6. Brand and network.
People must know who you are, what you sell, and why. It would be best if you worked on the brand among your network of contacts. Call it communication, marketing, branding, or “beating up”: you have to constantly spread an image and message about the type of service and the quality that you offer.
In addition to creating a website, and a blog, and a YouTube channel and all those thin, try different approaches within that narrow geographic segment. Be creative, use your imagination, use less saturated channels like physical mail with important leads, and follow up. Try by all means to know where potential customers are coming from. And keep track of them, don’t lose track of them.
7. Make yourself expendable.
If you want to nurture as a company and entrepreneur, and you don’t want to be a freelancer all your life, you must work from day one to make yourself expendable. Get into the habit of working to make yourself expendable from day one. If you do not conceive your company for that purpose, then when you want to be, it may be too late.
Many developers have ever considered going freelance, but few have dared to take the step. The obstacles are numerous, and it is not easy to find reliable information. But take into account that you do not have to do all the steps alone, but you can ask for help. Do not hesitate, for example, to turn to an agency or ask someone to accompany you with prospecting. This way, you can devote more time to what you like to do that is, programming!
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