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How to Get Started as a Freelance Web Developer

In 2019, there were more than 174,000 web developer jobs, and it's expected that the number of jobs will grow by 8% in the coming decade. Considering the average growth rate for any job is around 4%, this indicates that this career is a highly promising one.

Pursuing a career in web development can be a wise choice. But you have another choice to make: Do you want to work for a company, or do you want to own your own company?

There are some benefits to working for a company: they tend to take care of a lot for you, including health insurance, taxes, paid time off and many other benefits. And that's not to mention a regular paycheck that deposits the same amount into your bank account each time.

When you go about a freelance career, you should keep in mind that these things can be time consuming and relatively expensive to set up, but—and this is a big but—you have the freedom to work where and when you want. And you can work as often as you like in order to increase your income. If that sounds like the right path for you, keep reading.

In this article, we'll give you a brief guide on how to get started as a freelance web developer after graduation from your bootcamp, so you can get started on your career right away.

The steps we'll cover are:

  • Figuring out your finances
  • Setting up your business
  • Launching your website
  • Marketing your services
  • Leveraging your network

Let's get started!

Figure Out Your Finances

Usually, the first step to becoming a freelance web developer is to learn as many programming languages as you can. But since you've been through a web development training program, you can skip this step, as you already have the knowledge it takes to launch your coding career.

An aspect of freelancing that many people fail to grasp is managing their finances. There are no regular paychecks or retirement funds set aside for you when you freelance, plus you're responsible for saving and taking care of income taxes. It's worth consulting with an accountant and potentially hiring them for small business services so that you don't have to worry too much about this aspect.

To get started, you will want to set up a simple spreadsheet that helps you track your business-related expenses and your income. This will come in handy when you decide to meet with that accountant we mentioned.

Set up Your Business

As a freelancer, you won’t need to spend thousands of dollars hiring a brand consultant because, well, you are the brand. Your personality, your online social profiles, your portfolio and everything else you do as a freelance web developer online are what make up your brand.

You may decide to come up with a clever pseudonym or even an actual business name that you use, but often, the best approach for a freelancer is just to build your personal brand.

Start by updating your LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Gitbub and other profiles to ensure that your online presence is a strong and consistent one. Make sure you showcase your work and clearly describe what you do on each profile.

Once you've figured out exactly what type of business you want to set up, you'll have to register the name in the state you live in. You should also apply for a Federal EIN. A simple Google search can help you through this simple process in the state you live.

At this point, you should also sit down and figure out what equipment you need in order to be a freelance web developer, either at home or on the go. Keep track of your expenses using the previously mentioned spreadsheet, as these are most likely tax deductible.

Set up Your Website

You can do this step simultaneously with the last one, if you're so inclined.

To get clients, you'll need to show off what you can do. Setting up a website is perfect for this.

As a web developer, your own website is a great opportunity to show off a bit and demonstrate your abilities, and building a strong body of work and showcasing it on your site will be one of the best ways to get the word out about you and your skills.

Remember that your portfolio can include projects you've made for yourself—not all the work that you include has to be paid client work. But whatever you do, be sure to include a range of your work, as it will be critical in landing clients!

If you have some testimonials from previous clients, make sure you put these on a page. If you don’t have any clients yet, no problem. Get your fellow web development cohort and instructors to provide testimonials that you can use on LinkedIn and your website.

This can inspire confidence in prospects and nudge them towards hiring you in a big way.

Market Your Business

You could be the best web developer in the world, but no one's going to know about it unless you tell them. This is why it's vital you engage in good marketing practices.

A free way to do so is by writing your own blog and putting search engine optimization (SEO) into practice. Applying the basics of SEO can go a long way, but you will need to take the time to learn best practices in keyword research, content strategy and getting backlinks.

SEO is a long-term investment and will not likely pay off for months, so it would not be a good idea to go all in on SEO right out of the gate. However, making slow investments in SEO and content can compound over time and help you drive new leads for years to come.

Because organic traffic can be slow to build up, but you can speed things up with paid traffic. Try taking out PPC ads on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. There is a lot to learn about best practices, so it is best to perform some Google and YouTube searches on how to get the most out of each advertising platform.

A bootstrapped approach to marketing is going to be one of the most affordable, and oftentimes most fruitful, ways to procure new clients out of the gate.

Leverage Your Network

Once you have a clean online presence and your work is online, start hitting up everyone you know who can make introductions on your behalf. When you are new, a referral is the best way to get your foot in the door, so network like crazy. You could even find projects your other cohort members are working on that they may need help with.

Large companies are always hiring freelance web developers on contracts for oneoff projects, and knowing someone in that company is a great way to get your foot in the door.

It is also a good idea to offer your services to friends and family for free or deeply discounted rates if you don’t have a portfolio yet. You would be surprised how working on one project will lead to many more opportunities. The trick to making this happen is to simply ask them upon completion of the project if they have any other friends who could use your skills.

You can also use job boards and search for freelance web developer jobs, but these usually offer below-average pay. It's better to invest in the above methods, as it'll pay off when you land clients who are willing to pay decent money for your services.

Become a Freelance Web Developer Today

We have covered the basics on getting started as a freelance web developer, but there is a lot more to the story. At School For Freelancers, we have put together online resources and training to help you along your journey. Feel free to reach out with any questions; we would love to help you become a career web dev freelancer!

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