How to Become a Freelance Web Developer

Deborah Cohen

Making the transition to becoming a freelance web developer is an exciting step. Perhaps you’re dreaming of working remotely on a beach in Bali, but you’re not quite sure how to make the leap, get set up and start acquiring clients. It might take some hard work and long hours to get started, but the good news is, freelance web developers are in high demand. With some hard work in the right direction, you can get started freelancing, working on projects you are passionate about, choosing your rate, and working from wherever you want - contingent on a WiFi connection, of course. 

We have covered a few benefits of becoming a freelance web developer, some practical steps to help you get started as a freelancer, some tips to acquire clients and a few top developer tools we recommend implementing into your freelance business. 

If you’re wondering how to become a freelance web developer, keep reading!

Why Become a Freelance Web Developer

Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’ve already weighed some pros and cons of becoming a freelance web developer. Perhaps complete freedom over your time and schedule, or not having your income limited to one source appeals to you. If you’re wondering if you should make the jump to full-time freelance web development, there’s a few pros and cons to consider. 

Work-Life Balance

First, many freelancers report a better work-life balance. Freelancing, especially remotely, means working from home with your partner, or spending the day coding with your cat. You also get to be your own boss. Many freelancers may find themselves working long hours, but being your own boss and working for yourself may mean you find more intrinsic motivation - making working those late nights and early mornings more fulfilling. 

Financial Freedom

You also have complete freedom to choose your schedule, clients, and rate of pay. This means you get to say a polite ‘adios’ to that unpleasant client and their criminally low budget. While you may not be able to be as picky about your first projects, once you’ve built up a portfolio, you can start to pursue projects you’re really passionate about. Each month can hold a variety of new projects, interesting clients, and surprising opportunities. 

Work Environment 

Becoming a freelance web developer means you get to choose when and where you work. With the right developer communication tools, you can work from home or from a beach Hawaii as long as you have a WiFi connection.

How do I become a Freelance Web Developer? 

Freelance web development might not be for everyone - at least not right away. You might be ready to make the leap to freelancing if you have worked on a variety of projects, learned a few coding languages, and have the skills and self-motivation to work from home. However, if you haven’t learned to code yet, you might want to start there and then build up your experience at a company first. There are even some great free web development courses for beginners available. 

Learn How to Code

Before making the jump to freelancing, you may want to learn as many coding languages and technologies as possible. The more diverse you are, the more projects and opportunities you’ll be able to accept when building up your repertoire of clients. This will make the transition easier - especially for those first couple months where you may be starting from scratch. If you’re wondering which coding languages to prioritize, you’ll want to pick languages that are in demand, pay well, and are versatile, such as Ruby on Rails or JavaScript

Set up Your Business

In addition to having coding skills, you will also want to consider some practical business steps to set up your freelancing business. You will want to start by meeting with your accountant to discuss the best structure for your business. While many freelancers choose to start as sole-proprietors, there can be certain tax benefits by switching to an incorporated business depending on a variety of factors, such as your total yearly income. Chatting with your accountant will give you insight into setting up your business the right way, and knowing your options down the road if your business structure needs to change. 

You’ll also want to set-up a bookkeeping program to keep track of invoices, quotes, and more. There’s a number of free solutions such as Wave or Quickbooks that are easy to get started with.

Create a Dedicated Work Space

You’ll also want to set-up an office space dedicated to work. Setting up a dedicated space for working is a must. It means you can still have a mental separation between your workspace and home. If you are working from home, making sure you can still disconnect from work while you’re at home not working is a must. Similarly, being able to get into a productive mindset when you sit down to get some work done will be easier with a dedicated workspace. If you’re working remotely, we suggest checking out another CloudApp article on 5 Creative Ways to Set Up a Distraction-Free Workspace at Home

Build Your Freelancing Web Developer Website

What’s a freelance web developer without a great website? Acquiring clients is a lot easier if they’re able to find you online. Sure, it might be hard to fill out your online portfolio if you’re just getting started. However, as a web developer, your website itself can serve as an opportunity to show off your skills to potential clients. You’re likely more inclined to get your hair cut from someone who always has great hair, right? Similarly, clients will be more interested in working with a freelance web developer with a great website.

How do Freelance Web Developers Get Clients?

Perhaps you’ve gone through the steps above - you know how to code, your business is set up, you have a clean workspace, and your website is ready to go. But now, you’re wondering how to land your first freelancing client. Getting started can be tough, but with enough self-discipline and motivation, it’s far from impossible. Keep in mind; there is an incredible demand for developers in almost every industry. In fact, it’s estimated that around 1 million technology jobs will go unfilled in 2020

Word of Mouth

One of the best ways to land a client with virtually little to no work is through word of mouth. Having a personal recommendation goes farther than any slick resume or polished website. 

You can get more word of mouth recommendations by doing excellent work. If your clients are happy, they’ll pass on your info to other businesses or people in their networks. Also, don’t be ashamed to pick up jobs from family and friends. It’s still money in the bank and experience gained. 

Keep in mind for word of mouth to work you need to let your network know you’re a freelance web developer! Update your LinkedIn profile, chat about it with people, share your website on Facebook, scream your services from your rooftop! Whatever it takes to get the word out that you’re offering your services.

Network

Does the word ‘networking’ fill you with an utter sense of dread? Perhaps you were tempted to skip this point, hoping there’d be another way, any other way, to land clients. 

The good news is that networking doesn’t have to look like showing up to a stuffy corporate event and trying to sell your services to a bunch of people you don’t know. (Unless, of course, this sounds like something you’d enjoy). 

Networking can be as simple as getting involved with other freelancers who do work complementary to yours, such as designers or copywriters. If you know a copywriter who was just contracted to write some web copy, they may pass on your information to build the website and vice versa. You can connect with other freelancers by joining a co-working space, freelancing Facebook groups, or utilizing your existing network of contacts.

Create Content

Sharing content revolving around your expertise can be a great way to get the word out about your skills. Writing content on your own site in the form of a case study for a project you’ve worked on, or a useful blog can help with your site’s SEO and position yourself as an expert in your industry. 

You can also team up with fellow freelancers to swap blogs. For instance, if you’ve connected with a copywriter, try reaching out to see if they’d be interested in writing a guest blog for your site in exchange for you providing a blog on their site. It can be mutually beneficial by adding diverse content to each of your sites while increasing each of your exposure on the other’s site.

Tools Any Freelance Web Developer Should Use 

Working for yourself means organizing each of your projects and clients yourself. Setting yourself up for success right away can make all the difference. We’ve provided a few suggestions for some apps to help you utilize your time as efficiently as possible.


Communicate Visually with CloudApp

One of the top tools for web developers we recommend is CloudApp. Communications, revisions, and more are made incredibly simple with CloudApp. 

For example, have a client who isn’t sure how to login to their Wordpress site? Send them a link to a how-to screen recording in just a few clicks. Or, not sure if you understand their revision requests? Send a quick annotated screenshot to confirm. 

CloudApp also allows you to communicate with clients asynchronously. It can be hard to meet with clients in different time zones, or with different work schedules. This gets increasingly complex if you also have team members working on the same project in different time zones. Working with CloudApp means you can answer their questions with a quick video, make a walkthrough tutorial, or skip the long email that may not have conveyed the right tone or context.

Your clients may not know the technical terms for what they’re requesting, and communicating with visuals can help bridge the gap between what they’re saying and what they mean. Stronger communication means a smoother, more pleasant project for both you and your client. And a happy client is more likely to recommend your services to their network! 

If you’re still not convinced, CloudApp is free and available on pretty much any device. We recommend downloading a copy and giving it a try - you may be amazed by the amount of time you save communicating with clients! 


Project Management Software

Staying organized is quintessential to effective client communication, meeting deadlines, and correctly executing a client’s vision for their website. A project management software should be easy for you to learn, and keep you on track. There are some free great options like Asana and Pivotal Tracker to keep you on track. Both these project management software also integrate seamlessly with CloudApp. 

Time Tracking 

Whether you decide to bill hourly or by the project, tracking your time can be incredibly useful. If you are billing hourly, using time tracking software is an easy way to keep track of the time you need to bill out for. Even if you’re not billing hourly, tracking your time can help you find your most profitable projects, and potential areas you need to streamline. 


If nothing else, timing yourself can help you cruise through your work at a faster pace! There’s some time tracking software like Toggl or Harvest that you can get started with for free.

Conclusion

Transitioning to becoming a freelance web developer is an exciting step to take. If you were wondering how to become a freelance web developer, we hope this guide helped point you in the right direction to get started. We covered a few of the coveted benefits of being a successful freelance web developer, some tangible steps to get started, a few tips to acquire clients, and a few top developer tools we recommend using to keep yourself organized and effective. 

Whether you find yourself working on your next project from home or on a beach somewhere warm, don’t forget to download a free version of CloudApp to make all your communications easier than ever.

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