It’s Going to be Scary at First
It’s true and it’s daunting. At first, you’re going to look into a sea of contracts, and have no idea where to start. Some will look easier than others, some will pay more, but all of them are potential opportunities to find your footing.
Trust me, there is no perfect first contract. Find one that looks tangible and something that you think you are capable of. Even if you’re not 100% sure that you can do something or have done it before, trust in your skills as a developer and a learner. Just know that Google will always have your back in a sticky situation. No joke, most entry level contracts will be something that you can use a web search to guide you to execution.
My first contract freelancing as a web developer was simple, yet scary, because I have never done anything like it before. I had been assigned a contract to edit some custom code on Squarespace, and mind you, I had never even interacted with Squarespace before. I communicated with the client to be sure of what they needed exactly, and proceeded to trek along with the task. It took me longer than it should have, but with some good searches to reference, I figured it out after a few hours.
At the end of it, I was sitting at my desk extremely happy and gracious, because I realized that all the time I spent studying web development had finally amounted to something.
How Much Do You Really Need to Know?
Let’s move on to the topic of how much you need to know freelancing as a web developer. Simple answer first: not as much as you think. For example, let’s say you are applying for contracts that need front end development. Having a solid understanding of HTML and CSS will be your prerequisites, and anything beyond that is a bonus. Building a few modern responsive landing pages with simple HTML and CSS markup will do wonders for you, and actually will be enough to land your first few contracts for sure.
Freelancing as a web developer is less about asking what you need to know, and more about what you are willing to do. Don’t get caught up in telling yourself “I need to know this framework” or “I haven’t built this project”. There is no perfect time to start freelancing as a web developer, nobody is every 100% ready, and you will always be learning more than you currently know at any given time.
Your First Few Contracts Might Not Pay Much
You probably don’t like the sound of this one. I know I didn’t. With platforms like Upwork, you are able to make custom proposals. It’s sort of like Ebay, where different Freelancers can make different offers for the job, where you provide a short cover letter about the job and how you might be a good fit, though you are also able to set your price point for the job. This price point could be higher or lower than the budget the client sets for the job, and sometimes it will be extremely lower than their budget. Certain clients will often look for these low offers, and while they aren’t appealing, you might consider a few for your first gigs.
Truthfully, what you are looking for at first should not be lots of money, but rather good reviews, and material for you to put on your resume or portfolio. Projects from tutorials might look great on your portfolio, but the work you do freelancing as a web developer will show other clients and even potential employers that not only do you have skills, but you put those skills to work and successfully fulfilled a clients needs. It shows the world that you are truly about what you say you are, and that’s a damn good reason for then next client to hire you for the job!
Be Professional, Act Professional
Plain and simple, position yourself as a professional. It doesn’t matter if you have never had a job as a web developer, or have ever made money or even made anything for free. Take a nice photo of yourself, write something nice about yourself and what you do, and publish it to LinkedIn and Twitter. Clients will want to know a little bit more about you, so make sure you give them something to look at, and make sure it sounds professional.
Quick advice: Be proud of yourself and what you’ve learned. Clients don’t necessarily want to hire an ‘aspiring’ web developer. Even if you don’t have previous experience, look as ready as possible and act as professional as you can. Speak to your clients like you are working for someone else’s company; speak respectfully and a good client will reciprocate the same respect. Trust me. Freelancing as a web developer requires you to be ready for anything.
Remember, it’s all business at the end of the day. You are being contracted to do something along your lines of expertise, and a client is willing to pay you for this. You are providing value to them, and that value is potentially making them or their business money. Bring some value to the table and it will take you far.
There’s a Client Out There For Everyone
There will always be clients out there looking for freelancers, and there will inevitably be several who look for entry level freelancers to do the job. This is for a few reasons:
- They might want to pay less than average
- The project is on the easier side
- The project is not time sensitive
Don’t take these reasons as negatives, but rather as opportunities. Be extremely humble at first, because truthfully, that’s how you’re going to score your first few. Chances are you aren’t going to be able to approach a client with a high rate and leverage a job this way, because your experience freelancing as a web developer is close to none. Rather, clients will understand that you’re fresh in the game, and want to give you the chance, as long as you approach them with respect and professionalism.
Don’t Over Think Any of It
Quick topic, but seriously, there has been so many times where I felt like I did something wrong, or said something wrong. There have also been times where I have submitted work for the client’s review, and have been so nervous at a negative response from the client. Most of the time, I realized I was just overthinking a lot of it.
It’s completely normal freelancing as a web developer. Client’s will often want some kind of revision, or even some things reworked entirely. Don’t sweat it, you may have misunderstood something, or even your client may just be a bit stingy and hard to work with. They usually mean well after all, and they are paying you for your expertise, so give them what they are paying you for. Know when you are being treated unfairly, however, and put boundaries on how far you are willing to go.
Take Care of Yourself
Take breaks and don’t take rejection personally. It’s all part of the process, after all. If you work hard and with genuine intentions to provide good work, you will be compensated in due time. It takes a lot to get yourself off the ground freelancing as a web developer, but if you just stick to it, I guarantee you can land your first few contracts in no time.
About Stefan Kudla
Software Developer, Music Producer, and Tech Content Creator. When I'm not creating, you can usually find me brushing my teeth with coffee or looking for the best view atop a mountain.