If you are looking for flexible and well-paid jobs, freelance web development may be of interest to you.
Freelance web developers make money by building websites. There is a lot of demand from small businesses and individuals. Think about it, lawyers, photographers, music bands, influencers – they all need a website these days!
You can start building basic websites using WordPress or other Content Management Systems. Once you are more experienced, it is also possible to work full-time, expand your skills, and earn a decent living.
With the help of this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to build a website, organize your business, and become a successful web developer.
The topics covered are:
Let’s get started!
Make an informed decision
Here is the deal: web development may or may not be a good fit for you.
I want to help you make an informed decision. This is why I have gathered some basic information about web developer jobs: pros and cons, salary, skills and requirements.
Pros and cons of working as a freelance web developer
The main advantages are:
- Flexibility – you can work whenever you want and wherever you want.
- The freedom of working at your own pace.
- You are paid according to your skills.
- This job has a massive potential for growth – you can even build your own web development agency.
There are also some disadvantages to consider before becoming a freelance web developer:
- It takes time and effort to learn the basics of web development.
- You need self-discipline – it can be hard to focus on work-at-home jobs.
- It is business – depending on where you live, filing taxes can be a headache.
- You earnings are small at the beginning – you need to make a name for yourself to land high-paying jobs.
How much do freelance web developers make?
According to GlassDoor and US News, the national average salary for a web developer is $69,022 in United States. However, there is a big discrepancy between low-level earnings (about $50,990 per year) and top-level earnings (about $95,020 per year).
As a freelancer, you are also more likely to land low-paying jobs. Ultimately, you salary depends on the following factors:
- Your skills: front-end development, PHP, CMS, back-end development etc.
- The country you live and work in.
- Your workload.
- Type of clients your work for: non-IT businesses, marketing companies, online businesses, etc.
How long does it take to become a freelance web developer?
It is possible to start making money with front-end web development in a matter of months.
You only need to grasp basic HTML and CSS skills to build websites for your friends, family, and local businesses.
Finally, you expand your repertoire by learning server side languages like Ruby on Rails, MySQL, PHP, ect. Knowing them should allow you to land back-end development jobs.
Learn basic web development skills
There are different levels of web developers:
- Level 1 – Knows how to design websites using WordPress or other Content Management Systems. Can also customize websites using CSS and HTML.
- Level 3 – Know how to manage databases and build applications using server side languages like Ruby on Rails, MySQL, PHP, ect.
First, let’s focus on the skills required to reach Level 1.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
Using a CMS is the easiest way to make money building websites.
Content Management Systems (CMS) help you create, manage, and modify content on a website without the need for specialized technical knowledge!
And you know what’s best? The most popular CMS’ are open source and free:
- WordPress – used by more than 30% of the websites on the web, including sites like The New Yorker, BBC America, Forbes, and The New York Times. WordPress makes it easy to manage your websites and create engaging web pages, all for an affordable, or even free, price. It is also reliable and flexible, offering exceptional performance to you and your website visitors.
- Joomla – the second most-used CMS, after WordPress. It’s also an open-source CMS, enabling you to create powerful web pages without needing to know code.
- Drupal – this CMS is more complex than WordPress or Joomla, because it was created by developers for developers.
And here are some tutorials to install to create a website with those CMS:
- How to make a website with WordPress: the ultime guide from WpBeginners.
- Build a website with Joomla: tutorial from WebsiteSetup.
- Drupal tutorial for beginners: a step-by-step guide by WebsiteSetup.
HTML and CSS
HTML and CSS are the bread and butter of web development.
Here is the deal:
- HTML is the foundation of all websites. Without HTML, you wouldn’t be able to create headings, tables, videos, photos, ect.
- CSS is the language for describing the presentation of your websites. With CSS, you can add background images, colors, beautiful fonts, ect.
Put simply, you need to learn what to include in a page (HTML) and how it looks (CSS).
Here are the best online resources to learn HTML and CSS:
- Shayhowe’s website – a simple and comprehensive guide dedicated to helping beginners learn HTML and CSS.
- Introduction to HTML (CodeAcademy) – it takes 9 hours to get learn how to use HTML.
- Introduction to CSS (CodeAcademy) – it takes 15 hours to get learn how to style and visually organize HTML with CSS.
What to learn how to make dynamic pages?
If you want to take your web development skills to the next levels, consider spending some time learning back-end development.
The back-end is can’t be seen by the visitors. It is the internal working of the application or website: the server, the database, etc.
A lot of companies need to have web applications, you can help them with server-side scripting languages like Ruby or PHP.
Here are some tutorials to learn back-end development:
- PHP tutorials (W3Schools) – PHP is the most popular server-side programming language, this is the best guide to get started with PHP.
- Ruby on Rails (CodeAcademy, this course is not free!) – Learn the basics of building applications with this convenient and powerful web development framework.
Find your first clients as freelance web developer
Now that you are a decent web developer, it’s time to find your first job. And believe me, it can be hard to get the ball rolling!
When you have no professional experience, employers are often reluctant to give you a web development project. Here are some ways to get around this problem:
- Grab low-hanging fruits first: if you have a friend with a business, start off with them.
- Get in touch with local businesses that do not have a website yet. Explain the benefits of internet marketing and try to seal the deal.
- Consider volunteering. Working for a non-profit organizations is a great way to get hands-on experience.
- Apply for your first jobs on generic freelancing websites like fiverr and upwork.
Best websites to find freelance web development jobs
If you are a beginner, you can get hands-on experience on freelance websites like:
- Fiverr – the world’s largest freelance services marketplace.
- PeoplePerHour – a website where freelancers can bid on jobs.
- Upwork – a platform that connects top companies to talented freelance workers.
- Flexjobs – for about $15 a month, you get access to a list of remote jobs.
- TopTal – through a rigorous screening process, TopTal identifies the best freelancers and connects them to potential employers.
Grow your web development business
Now that you have some experience, it’s time to step up your game!
Here are a few ideas to land more web development jobs and increase your revenue:
Build your portfolio
Here is the deal: if you want to land jobs, you need to showcase your skills.
This is why you need to build a portfolio, a website with:
- The websites you built.
- Your services and your pricing.
- Relevant skills, education and certificates.
- A photo (optional).
Team up with other professionals
Companies often seek a lot of different online services to get more clients:
- Social media management
- Search Engine Optimization
- Online ad campaigns
Here is the idea: team up with other professionals that offer these services and offer a package to companies. You should be able to generate more revenue and land more clients with this technique.
Some web development businesses specialize to get a competitive advantage.
For example, I have seen some agencies that specialize in lawyer web design. Their strategy is pretty interesting: they offer an all-in-one pack.
First of all, they build the website with a photo of the lawyer and details regarding his qualifications.
Then, they offer other services like Search Engine Optimization, video production and pay per click campaigns. All of these services require the agency to have a good knowledge of the niche, this is why specializing is a good way to generate more revenue.
Here’s a short recap of how you can start your career as a freelance web developer:
- Learn the most basic skills: CMS, HTML, CSS, web design, back-end development, ect.
- Land your first web development project.
- Build your reputation.
- Create a portfolio to showcase your skills.
- Find even more clients: contact potential clients, go niche, team up with other professionals, ect.