There are many reasons why a lot of people dream of becoming a freelance web designer. As a successful freelance web developer, you are your own boss. You get to choose your working hours, clients to work with, pay rate, and generally the amount of workload you feel comfortable with. You become a self-employed expert with a choice of projects to work on based on your interests, skills, and passion. You’ll still make a good income whether working full time or part time.
A freelance web developer can work from anywhere in the world, thanks to the power of the Internet. You can even work from the comfort of your home and avoid commuting and office rental expenses. The best of all is the fact that you’ll always have work after you’ve established yourself as an expert given that web design and development is one of the most demanded online services today. It is a fast growing industry with a huge potential for getting high paying clients throughout the year. However, becoming a successful freelance web developer can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. It takes hard work to establish yourself as a professional web developer and businessperson as well but you can do it quicker than you think if you follow the guidelines in this article.
Here are some of the key steps to take if you want to become a successful freelance web developer:
Learn the trade and languages
You probably picked a few HTML classes in college, learned Ruby on Rails, or even dabbled with Java but web design and development is a field that requires the knowledge of more than one or two programming languages. Basically, this means that the more programming languages and technologies you have mastered, the more projects you can work on. Learning as many programming technologies and languages should be the first and most important step in your journey of becoming a successful web developer.
You can’t learn everything at once but it will help to prioritize on languages such as Python, which are not only versatile in application but in great demand as well. You can then continue building your skill set and technologies with more languages in the course of time.
Some of the hottest web development and programming languages on the market today include the following:
- Ruby on Rails – This is an open source web application framework that uses the Ruby programming technology. It is currently in high demand by startups across the world. Learn more about Ruby on Rails
- Swift – This is Apple’s latest programming language used to create apps that can run very fast. Learn more about Swift
Your goal at this stage should be to focus on acquiring knowledge and skills in emerging technologies since web design is an ever-evolving industry.
Build your skillset in diverse but relevant fields
As a freelancer, your skills and portfolio mean more than a fancy university degree. While certifications are great to have, most clients only care about your ability to deliver high-quality work more than the time that you spent at MIT. The web design industry is ever-changing so the courses you learned at college may be outdated by the time you hit the market. That’s why you need to develop your skills on the latest trends in the industry.
Learn as many supplementary courses as possible such as Photoshop. You can always hire a graphic designer to create good images but you’ll need a working knowledge of Photoshop in order to code the PSD files.
You’ll need to be familiar with popular CMS platforms, plugins, and themes. These are handy tools that make your life as a web developer easier, especially when working with WordPress and other popular content management systems like Drupal or Joomla. Here’s a list of the most popular CMS systems used today. Be creative and learn how to create layouts that your clients will love.
As a freelancer, you are not just a web developer but a business person too. Arm yourself with business management skills such as business planning, customer care, marketing, and taxes just to mention a few.
Invest in the best tools and equipment
Freelancing gives you the advantage of creating your own personal work environment depending on your business needs. If you work from home as most freelancers do, set up a workstation or office in a distraction-free area. This can be a room where you are not likely to be disturbed while working. Don’t set up the office in the living room. You’ll also need to invest in the best tools of the trade such as a reliably powerful computer, a comfortable chair and a desk as you may be working long hours sometimes, the best software for your business, a telephone, and business cards among other things.
Specialize in one niche at the beginning
The best way to launch your freelance web developer career is by choosing and specializing in a single niche while starting out. In this way, you’ll know what to learn and the relevant skillset that you need to have. However, do not narrow down your focus too much. You could focus on WordPress, building e-commerce sites, financial or legal sites, or blogs for bands, weddings, and marketers.
Build a portfolio
Your portfolio provides an effective means of showing your skills and expertise to potential clients. The best place to start when building your portfolio is your business website. As a freelancer, you’ll need a website showcasing your work, contacts, and any other pertinent information. Your goal is to create a reference point where clients can find you and place orders.
It is often difficult to get work samples at the beginning. However, you just need a few websites that you have created or worked on. They don’t even have to be client websites. Create a few of your own sample sites and apps and add them to your portfolio.
Build your personal brand and start marketing yourself
There is a reason why branding has become a major consideration in business. As a freelancer with the success of your business in mind, you should focus on building your brand in the industry. As a brand, you not only gain credibility but achieve client loyalty as well.
Give your business a good and relevant name that clients can remember and focus all your marketing messages on this name. Sell your business as a trusted name rather than as a web designer working from the bedroom.
There are many places you can advertise and market your business from Craigslist, job boards, and forums to paid searches and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
You don’t need a fancy degree to succeed as a freelance web designer and developer. Learn the current highly demanded languages and technologies, create a portfolio, start networking with fellow programmers, and advertise your business on job boards. The most important step in your quest to build a freelance web developer career is to stop dreaming about it and take action today.