Explore the world of web development freelancing and how it could be the perfect career choice for those seeking autonomy and flexibility in their work. Learn about the necessary steps to become a successful freelance web developer, including finding a niche, negotiating contracts, and learning essential business skills.

Key Insights

  • Web development freelancing offers greater autonomy and control over working hours and location. It involves working for different companies at different times, often for specific projects.
  • A web developer is responsible for building websites and web applications that serve a specific purpose. This encompasses front end development (focusing on the visual elements) and back end development (designing the site's structure and functionality).
  • Successful freelancing in web development requires finding a niche that matches your skills, negotiating contracts effectively, and providing timely and professional communication with clients.
  • Becoming a freelance web developer involves several steps: scouting your path, learning the necessary skills, creating finished products, building a portfolio, making industry connections, beginning your job search, and learning business skills.
  • Noble Desktop offers several certificate programs for web development skills, including software engineering, front end web development, JavaScript development, full stack development, and Python development.
  • Additionally, freelancers must also develop business skills such as social media marketing, ad copywriting, and contract law to ensure the sustainability of their freelance business.

One option for those interested in becoming Web Developers is to pursue a freelance career. A freelance worker is not employed by one company long-term, but rather by different companies at different times, often for specific projects. For example, a small business might need a website set up but might not have the resources to hire a full-time Web Developer. In that case, they might instead contract with a freelance web development professional to build the website. That person would work for them on an hourly basis until the project was complete, and would likely also be working for other companies at the same time.

What is a Web Developer?

A Web Developer builds websites and web applications for companies or clients who hire them to create a product that serves a specific purpose. They are responsible for meeting the project objectives while providing a positive experience for the end user. Web Developers write and test the product’s code and are often responsible for maintaining performance and capacity. 

Various specializations fall under the Web Development umbrella. A front end developer focuses on the visual elements of a website or application—that is, the interface that the end user sees and interacts with. A back end developer designs and creates the site’s behind-the-scenes structure and functionality. However, the type of web developer most desirable to employers is a full stack developer with front-end and back-end development skills.

Web developers may work solo or as part of a team, often depending on whether they are freelance or work full-time for a particular company. Almost any business in any industry needs a web developer, but whether they have a web development team or hire a freelance developer will depend on their circumstances. Businesses need web developers because having an online presence increases their client base. Many businesses also need web developers because they want to connect with potential customers through their own web applications. 

Read more about what a Web Developer does.

What is Web Development Freelancing Like?

To find work as a freelance Web Developer, you will need to find a niche you can serve and match that niche with your skills. For example, if you are a Front End Developer with graphic design skills and you’re good at communicating with those who aren’t experts in tech, you might consider a focus on improving the graphic interfaces of small businesses’ old websites that have not been updated in some time. It all depends on what you’re good at and what you care about.

Once you’ve found a company that would like to hire you, you’ll need to negotiate a contract with them. For this purpose, you’ll need to do research ahead of time on pricing for the services you offer. Bear in mind when negotiating a price as a contractor in the US that you will need to pay a self-employment tax on top of your regular income tax, so be sure to factor that in when calculating what to charge.

One key element of freelancing is communicating with clients. Clients appreciate when your responses are timely, professional, and kind. It’s important to find a balance between making the client feel good about your working relationship and being clear about your needs and expectations. When in doubt, try to consider what you are saying or doing from the client’s perspective, while keeping your bottom line in mind.

Is Web Development Freelancing Right for Me?

Many Web Developers enjoy freelancing because of the greater autonomy it gives them. A freelance Web Developer is more likely to be able to control their working hours and location. If they find an employer is a bad fit for them, they can terminate that relationship without losing their entire livelihood. 

However, a freelancer also has to do a lot more than just develop websites. They must create and vet contracts, create invoices and remind customers about payment, promote their business, and maintain their own work schedule. This way of working requires self-discipline, flexibility, strong communication abilities, and a willingness to develop the multiple skill sets that are necessary to sustain their business.

Steps to Become a Freelance Web Developer

Scout Your Path

Thinking about becoming a Web Developer? Before you make a financial commitment to pursuing your new career, you’ll want to make sure it’s the right one for you. You can use free materials like this Noble seminar on web design and development to learn more about the path you’re considering. Once you’ve checked out what the field has to offer, you can then decide whether you want to take the plunge.

If you know you want to become a Web Developer, but aren’t sure which specialty to choose when you start learning, there are free Noble seminars that can help with that decision as well. Interested in front end development? Try out this intro to front end web development seminar or this seminar on using WordPress as a Web Developer. Those more intrigued by JavaScript as a specialty can check out the free intro to JavaScript seminar, or delve deeper into JavaScript libraries through the intro to Node.js or the seminar on how to use React. These free resources can help you as you consider which of the several possible specialties within web development you might be most interested in. However, you do not need to be totally certain about your specialty before beginning your studies.

Start Your Learning Journey

Once you’ve decided to become a Web Developer and begun to think about your specialty, it’ll be time to choose a learning method and get started. You’ll want to consider a number of factors when you decide how to go about learning these skills. Are you a self-starter with a crowded schedule? If so, then on-demand learning might be right for you. However, in most cases, live instruction is more effective. 

Many students choose live instruction because they know they will benefit from real-time access to an expert instructor and that the set structure and deadlines of an organized class can help keep them on track in their learning process. Today, options for learning in real-time include both live online courses and in-person learning. Live online is a great option for students who learn best in their own space, especially those who may find the social aspect of in-person training distracting. Some students, however, gain motivation from learning along with others in a physical space. Consider what is right for you, and check out the many options available for live instruction in web development.

Create Finished Products

In most courses and bootcamps, the program you pursue will include creating web development projects of your own. You’ll need these projects to be finished and polished before you consider using them as a selling point for your work. Be sure to get feedback on them from professionals outside the context of your school. This will allow you to develop them further and address any potential problems before a hiring manager sees them in your portfolio.

Some employers will also want to see evidence that you’ve applied your skills in the real world. So if you’re able to get an internship or secure some freelance real-world projects, that work can give you an advantage on the job market. Be sure to make it clear in your portfolio that you created these websites or apps for a real business. If you can demonstrate that a real business valued your skills, that looks good to another company as they consider hiring you.

Build a Portfolio

Once you have those finished projects, you’ll need to create a website that can serve as your portfolio–a display of the successful web development work you’ve done. For a complete portfolio, you will need multiple polished projects demonstrating the full range of your skills.

What you provide on your site must also be more than simply links to what you’ve done. You need to give a hiring manager looking at your site an idea of the context of your work and the thought process behind it. Was this an assignment for a bootcamp? If so, how did you make it your own? Or was this real-world work? If so, what did you contribute to the success of the business you worked for, and what did you learn from it?

Make Industry Connections

No matter what specific job you’re searching for, making connections in that industry will always be vital. LinkedIn is a great tool for this, as are any networking events that your school or local business community might hold. As a Web Developer, naturally you’ll want to connect with anyone in the field of web development. However, you’ll also want to think about what industry you’d like to work in. You should reach out to different people if you want to work as a Web Developer in the transportation industry than you would if you wanted to work at a large and prestigious tech company. 

You can also ask to meet up with these professionals for what are called “informational interviews.” An informational interview is not a job interview, but rather an opportunity to talk with an expert in your field and benefit from their knowledge of the world you’re looking to enter. Also, if you get to know these people through your informational interview, they may think of you when they are hiring or hear of a friend who is looking for a new employee.

Begin Your Job Search

Do you have a certificate in hand, a finished portfolio, and some solid connections with professionals in the industry? Congratulations—you’re ready to begin looking for freelance opportunities. First, decide which niche you’d like to try to fill and what the most important skills are that you have to offer. Then, keep an eye out for opportunities. Does your favorite local restaurant have a Facebook page but no website? Consider reaching out to them and seeing if they’re interested in having you develop one.

Also, don’t forget the old maxim that when it comes to getting a job, “it’s who you know” that matters. Tell everyone you know about your new freelance web development career. Then, ask them to keep an eye out for anyone in their circle who may have need of your services.

Learn Business Skills

As a freelancer, you’ll need to know more than just web development. For example, you should pick up the skills that will allow you to promote your business, such as social media marketing and ad copywriting. You’ll also want to learn about contract law so you can avoid signing anything that would put you or your business at risk. Even if you want to bring in consultants for these purposes, it’s still important to understand the basics so that you know exactly what you need to hire them for and what you can take care of yourself.

Learn the Skills to Become a Web Developer at Noble Desktop

To become a Web Developer, you must learn specific skills critical to the job. Noble Desktop can help you build these skills through in-person or live online instruction. Either way, you’ll have access to expert instructors who can clarify issues when you are confused, provide feedback on your work, and guide you through becoming a Web Developer. Small class sizes and the option to retake any course for free once you’ve completed it are additional incentives for studying with Noble Desktop.

Noble offers several relevant certificate programs demonstrating your Web Developer skills and qualifications to share with potential employers and support you in your job search. Completing the software engineering certificate gives you the broadest qualifications and career path options. If you are primarily interested in developing for the front end, consider the front end web development certificate. JavaScript is becoming increasingly popular for web development, so completing the certificate in Javascript will boost your resume. Opt for the full stack development certificate if you're interested in front end and back end programming. And if you prefer behind-the-scenes programming, pursue the certificate in Python development.

If you’re a beginner in web development, Noble’s hub of articles and resources on web development is a great place to start and plan your learning path. Noble’s web development courses are excellent if you’re eager to start learning but not yet ready to commit to a full certificate.