Let’s face it, becoming a freelance web developer has some major perks. For starters, it can be done from nearly anywhere in the world (Costa Rica, anyone?), or right from the comfort of your own home. You also have the freedom to establish and control your own schedule, hourly rates and workflow. Last, but far from least, is the fact that web development is one of the most in-demand industries to be working in at the moment. The demand is only growing, so the potential to find clients and to have a lucrative career is strongly in your favor!
This brings us to the million-dollar question: How do I become a freelance web developer?
In this post, we break the process into 5 step-by-step instructions laced with valuable tips on how to kick-off your freelancing career. Simply start at the top and work your way down!
Step 1: Learn as Many Technologies/Languages as You Can
Web development projects require knowledge of more than one programming language. This means the more technologies and languages you know, the more jobs you’ll be able to accept, making this a vital first step. To prioritize, start with languages that are both versatile and in-demand, such as Python, and continue building your experience with more technologies over time.
Step 2: Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s
The next step is setting up the logistics of your business. There are several steps involved in establishing a new freelancing business:
Meet with a Certified Public Accountant to determine the best structure for your business; you’ll need this information for the next steps.
Register your business name in the state you live or work in.
Apply for a Federal EIN, if applicable, and find out when and how often you will be required to pay taxes.
Secure liability insurance, if necessary.
Purchase the software and equipment you need to set up your home office.
Write a business plan. This document is vital in providing vision and direction for your business, establishing goals, and measuring achievements, and is often required in order to secure any business financing you may need.
The US Small Business Administration provides step-by-step guidance and hundreds of resources, including education on meeting requirements, for small business owners. Requirements also vary by state, so be sure to contact your state small business division for guidance and questions.
Step 3: Build Your Freelancing Website
One of the most challenging aspects of getting into freelance work is having a portfolio showing completed client projects.
For this reason, your personal freelance website should be a showcase piece in and of itself. Take time to create an engaging, interactive site using current design trends. Be sure to indicate that you’ve built the site from the ground up and can do the same for your clients. Tell your clients who you are, what you’re passionate about, what you can do for them, how it will benefit them, and why they should choose you.
Add opportunities for interaction, such as links to social networking accounts, a contact form or even a live chat option. Lastly, consider including a blog to showcase your expertise of latest web development trends and techniques, and to also aid in increasing your SEO.
Tip: Check out “7 Ways To Earn Money While Building Your Web Development Portfolio,” which breaks down how you can build your portfolio and make industry contacts, while still being able to pay the rent!
Step 4: Market Your Services
To effectively market your freelance services, you should ask yourself, “Who is my target market?” If you’re passionate about one area of business or another that may help define your target market. Some sample target markets include:
Local small businesses that do not have an online presence yet
Non-profit organizations whose current websites are ineffective
Sales companies who don’t offer online purchasing
You can also target a single industry. Perhaps you grew up helping your parents run an auto body shop, so you have industry knowledge that you can apply to potential clients in that industry.
Once you’ve established your target market and set your rates, you can begin to market your services. In many cases, this might mean stopping by a local business to say, “I noticed your website isn’t as effective as it could be, and I was wondering if I could show you my ideas,” or shooting a quick email to businesses outside your local trade area to say the same thing.
Because your forte is web development, it’s important that anything digital that comes from you is visually appealing and showcases your work, so make sure to put time and effort into this process. Having a business card is important, as well, because you never know when you may run into a potential client and have an opportunity to leave your contact information.
Step 5: Stay Current
Obtain ongoing education in web development and continue to learn new languages and technologies as they emerge. Use downtime to obtain additional certifications. Subscribe to newsletters and publications that provide continuing education in your field. This will prevent you from becoming outdated as a developer and allow you to continue to expand your clientele as your skill set grows.
To wrap things up, while starting your freelance career in web development requires the significant investment of your time and effort, the end result is a career that provides maximum freedom, flexibility, work-life balance and potential for earning. Continue to push your learning, and increasing your skillset to offer the most value to future clients.