There are many reasons to become a front-end developer, and especially a freelance front-end developer
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2017, the median annual salary for a web developer was $67,990. With an above average expected growth rate of 15%, the field is booming.
About 1 in 6 web developers are self-employed, and with self-employment comes many perks.
Benefits of freelancing
You set your own schedule and work hours.
Because of setting your own hours, you can break up your day how you please, balancing work and life in the time that best suits you. If you work better through the night and would rather socialize in the day, that’s now an option!
Set Your Rates:
While the median hourly rate in the U.S. for front-end developers was $32.69, you can choose your own rate based on the project and the client. Being able to pitch your own business means that not only can you decide who to work with, but you can assess budgets and propose rates accordingly, as well as based on your experience.
Variety of Projects:
Rather than being in a company that has you working on the same tasks daily, your freelancing career is limitless. There are no boundaries to the kinds of projects you can pitch, which decreases the likelihood of feeling bored or plateauing as there’s always a challenge to overcome.
Being Your Own Boss:
As a freelancer, you are your own boss. Not having to answer to anyone else means that you can do what you want, when you want. Although, let’s keep in mind that you will now have to clients to keep satisfied.
But First, Gain the Knowledge
Before you get started running your own business, you’ll need a solid foundation of knowledge, experience, and user feedback.
Earn Your Degree:
Before becoming a freelance front-end developer, you’ll have to have the coding skills, of course. If you are strapped for time or money and/or have work and family obligations, you can still earn your degree and gain the skills by enrolling in an online program.
For example, University of the People offers an Associate and Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, where you will graduate with what you need to become a freelance front-end developer. The program is accredited, tuition-free and entirely online, so you can even earn your degree while you start to build your business!
Along with online degree programs, you can rely on online resources to brush up on skills or continue to learn. For example, to learn basic code, you can try Codecademy or attend courses on Khan Academy.
Land Your First Gig:
Once you have the foundation laid and have practiced building a few sites on your own time, it’s never too early to start pitching real business. Whether it’s for a friend or to a small business, it’s useful to get some projects under your belt so that you can build your portfolio.
Build A Website:
Either for fun or as a hobby, you can build websites and apps to develop the skills and test user experience in real situations. Another way to know if what you’re creating satisfies users’ needs is to actually have your friends and family check out your work and provide you with feedback to improve.
After you’ve done the groundwork, it’s time to really jump into building and marketing yourself as a business.
Here are 5 ways to get started as a freelance front-end developer:
Step 1: Determine Your Niche
You can be a jack of all trades, but it’s better to be a master and focus your target audience by working on projects that require similar skills so that you can be the best in the realm.
It’s expected that the three big languages for the future are Ruby on Rails, Swift, and Node.js. But regardless of the programming language you choose to run with, it’s a solid idea to pick an industry or two that you want to grow in. When you work continuously within a similar realm, word-of-mouth advertising becomes a good friend. Then, you can also use relevant keywords, like “automotive web designer” or “kid’s web app developer” to enhance your SEO and marketing tactics surrounding the type of work you want to acquire.
Additionally, different industries typically rely on different design standards and priorities of user experience so the more you build for one, the better you’ll become.
Step 2: Build a Portfolio
It’s important to track your work and create a site for yourself. After all, it is the face of your business, and your business is your work. You should use your website to showcase your skills through action. For example, if you’re an animator, add animation to show how you’d actually apply your skills in a practical setting.
If you don’t yet have professional projects to show, create speculative work (spec work) or show school projects that you’re proud of. You can offer your services for free to people you know to build your portfolio and get glowing reviews.
Here are some platforms to help easily set up (or inspire) a working portfolio:
And remember, include a contact form so people know how to get ahold of you should they want to hire you!
Step 3: Market Yourself
Successful businesses thrive because of marketing. Marketing is the link between you and your customer — and can be what sets you apart from your competition in connecting with a client. There are many ways to market yourself for little to no cost in today’s day and age.
The first way that comes to mind is social media. Here’s how you can leverage the various platforms to your benefit:
Use social media to display your work portfolio and use hashtags that are relevant to the industry to be discoverable
Make sure your profile is up-to-date and links back to your personal website. Use it to network and reach out to target clients through messages
Join groups and reply to people to get your name out there, network, and offer services
Another creative way to be discovered is to position yourself as a thought leader. Here are some ways how you can do that:
- Produce how-to Youtube videos and grow your audience
- Have a blog on your website to drive traffic and showcase your knowledge
And, let’s not forget about the traditional marketing efforts that still go a long way. Always have business cards available so that if you’re at a networking event or just out meeting new people at a local bar or coffee shop, you can leave them with your information should they make reference of requiring web development services. It comes up more often than you might think!
Step 4: Manage Your Projects, Clients, Finances
While being your own boss is definitely a perk, it also comes with major responsibility. You’re running your own business, which means you’ll have to do the work behind the scenes and either hire someone or be your own project manager.
To set up a system that can help you manage your projects, you can use systems like Avaza, Asana or create a collaborative Google spreadsheet to track work yourself, and especially if you have a team.
With the completion of projects comes payments! Be sure to keep track of your accounting because you’ll have to pay taxes during tax season and have some money set aside to cover those expenses. You can try software like Quickbooks, Wave, or Harvest to help you seamlessly invoice and track hour works and payments.
Step 5: Ask for Feedback and Find a Mentor
Even if you’re running a successful freelancing business, there’s always an opportunity to continue to grow and learn. Before you make it to where you want to be, you should expect a learning curve because growth takes time, and it’s okay to ask for help.
Consider finding a mentor, either from college, a previous job, or a family member. These mentors can help guide you through any trouble you may have along your freelancing journey.
Additionally, your clients are extraordinarily valuable resources for feedback. If you ask for not only testimonials, but also genuine feedback from their experience working with you, you can monitor your successes and failures to learn from projects and improve for the next time.
All Being Said and Done…
Becoming a freelance front-end developer is a potentially lucrative, exciting, challenging, and rewarding prospect. The job growth in the field signals its demand — but also the flexibility and ever evolving nature of computer science and website development opens the doors to an exciting future for the industry.
As a freelancer, you’ll be able to set your own rates, pitch your own business, and continuously grow. While there will be challenges to overcome, there are online resources that are there to help, as well as a network of individuals who have all done it before you.
With today’s low barrier to entry for marketing and self-promotion with social media and the like, you have endless opportunities to make a name for yourself as a top-notch freelance front-end developer.
What are you waiting for? Today’s a good day to take the first step!