How Web Developers can Break into Freelancing

by Jake Rocheleau

on July 30, 2012

in Business/Freelance

There are hundreds of thousands of Internet-based companies which are hiring for web developers. It’s not so difficult finding work for coding websites. But when you jump into the realm of freelancing your work takes on a whole new meaning.

Web developers can struggle transitioning into the freelance lifestyle. You have to set your own hours and manage client interactions. You’re also responsible for deploying websites and oftentimes helping with maintenance down the road. In this article I want to share some modern ideas for how web developers can break into a successful freelance career.

Proving Your Skills

The first step in getting your name out there as a freelancer is having some type of portfolio. Contrary to popular belief this doesn’t have to be some personal website with a list of all your projects. Although admittedly this is not a bad choice if you can buy a catchy .com domain.

But there are plenty of web developers who don’t have many projects to showcase. As an alternative you should consider building some different websites as practice demos. Anybody looking to hire you as a freelancer will want to see at least a couple examples of your code.

working at night on the MacBook

If you know any other developers or projects you may offer to lend support. These team projects can be shown as examples where you have contributed code and become more influential to your career. There are similar benefits to open source projects such as WordPress or jQuery. You can build a 3rd party plugin and offer this for free to garner some credibility!

Market Recognition

You want people to find your name in Google and quickly recognize what you can offer. If this doesn’t come in the form of a website portfolio then you may consider any additional options. Carbonmade is one such example which is primarily geared towards designers. But Github is all coding and behaves as an open network for developers.

It doesn’t hurt to setup a Twitter or Facebook account to communicate with clients. E-mail or instant messaging is quicker but these social networks are 100% free and everybody knows how to use them.

LinkedIn branding design chocolates

The goal is to have your name and branding quickly recognized after doing a Google search. It should be easy to determine what you’re offering and how to get in touch. If you want to network and meet other developers you should look into more concentrated communities. LinkedIn is by far the best choice for businesses and small-time freelancers.

Project Management

This study of time management relates to almost everything in business. Running your own freelance operation is not so different and requires a dependence on scheduling.

You should be prepared to deal with all different types of projects and clients. Developing a blog or photography website is much easier than a social networking site or design showcase gallery. The excitement of freelancing brings all kinds of new ideas to the table, and you get experience in various marketplaces.

The best way to learn management is building some of your own ideas and scheduling out work hours. After enough repetition this will become second nature. You’ll naturally fall into a work routine which fits best for you and your living situation.

Organizing the Workload

The most successful freelancers understand a structured organization system is crucial for all projects. You should spend a bit of time planning folder structures and naming conventions for all your work moving forward. It’s also not a bad habit to archive and organize e-mail messages which contain important information.

hanging colored folders organization

Typically web developers can jump right into a project and start coding. This may often lead to organization down the road, moving images and stylesheets and other files accordingly. But how often would you organize the business work? Get into a habit of keeping everything tucked away & labeled so that you can find things quicker when you’re searching.

Keep Yourself Educated

You are never too old to learn something new about your field. Web development is constantly expanding with new backend languages and browser specifications. Even over the past few years we’ve seen HTML5/CSS3 standards blow up out of the water. Not to mention how quickly mobile smartphones are taking over the market.

night lights in the city Los Angeles

As long as you hold a true passion for developing web apps and digital products you’ll never get bored. Working with many different clients brings opportunity to build various websites. You can get hands-on experience with so many different situations and programming tactics. There will be times where you run into something unfamiliar. But with Google and some free time you can search around the web and teach yourself.

Reliance on your own abilities is what will help you land gigs. Freelancing requires you to cast out a line and see if anyone bites. It will take lots of repetition before you start to notice heavy results which lead to solid business relationships. Don’t lose your genuine interest in the field of development and you can always dust off and keep moving forward.

Final Thoughts

The modern Internet is growing rapidly and there is more demand for a web presence than ever before. Web development is a hugely popular area of study in colleges and even many high schools. This is the reason freelancing appears so lucrative when first getting started. Keep your wits and never lose faith in your own work. Feel free to share your thoughts or ideas in the post discussion area below.

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About Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a digital researcher and writer on many popular design magazines. He frequently writes on topics including web design, user experience, mobile apps, and project management. You can find him all throughout Google and tweeting @jakerocheleau. Connect with Jake on google+