How to Get Started As A Freelance Web Developer

In 2019, one in ten adults either work for themselves or run their own business.  There are a number of reasons for making the leap from employed to self-employed; from a need to balance parenthood with employment to frustration with that daily commute.  Although there’s no denying that swapping secure employment for freelancing is a risk; with the right preparation (and a lot of hard work), freelancing can be a rewarding and lucrative occupation.  We’ve put together our guide to making the transition from employee to freelance web developer.

What is a freelance web developer?

The freelance web developer is tasked with all things relating to creating websites, including designing, coding and modifying.  This means that you’ll need to have certain skills under your belt including an understanding of UI, general web functions and security standards.  As a freelancer, you’ll be performing website development according to a client brief which will feature specifics such as layout, the function of the site and building parameters.  You’ll also be responsible for finding clients, quoting for projects, invoicing once a project is complete and paying tax, so being super-organised is a definite asset.

Show me the money

Whatever your reasons for going solo, it’s important to first make sure that you can afford to do so.  Freelancers set their own rates so earnings do vary, however, as a rough guide, an experienced freelance web developer can expect to earn around £30k per year.  Your first decision is to decide whether you’ll be charging by the hour or per project so that you can put together a rate card for your prospective clients.  Hourly rates can range from £15 to £45 depending on skill and experience – although it may be tempting to go straight to the higher rate, bear in mind that you stand a much better chance of gaining work if your prices are competitive.

Starting blocks

First, the good news; in terms of equipment, all you really need to get started is a reliable laptop and connection to the internet.  As you begin to take on clients, you’ll also need to invest in some software, including programs such as InDesign, Photoshop and e-commerce tools.

In terms of qualifications and experience, you’ll be required to demonstrate a knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript as well as an understanding of security principles.  Potential clients are likely to ask to see a portfolio of your previous work so it’s a good idea to put this together before pitching for projects.

Building your portfolio

Your portfolio is, essentially, proof of your talent and knowledge and, as such, deserves significant time and attention.  Choose only the samples of your work that you’re most proud of and which clearly show your skills.  Set up a website to display your work (free sites such as WordPress are fine to begin with) and include detailed descriptions for each piece of work as well as clear contact details.  If your current body of work is a little light, try offering free or discounted work in order to bulk up your portfolio – it’ll be worth it in the long run.

Tools of the trade

As your new career gets underway, you’ll want to arm yourself with a web developer toolbox created to help you save time and hassle.  This can include Asana for managing your teams, Tickspot for timing your projects, Quickbooks for invoicing and GitHub for software development.  All of these involve an initial financial outlay so you’ll need to include them in your short to medium-term budgeting.

Learning the ropes

To succeed as a freelance web developer, it’s vital that you’re able to show evidence of your knowledge.  You can do this either by demonstrating your previous experience, or by gaining a qualification such as a bachelor’s degree in web design or, accreditation from a recognised body such as Udemy, Code Academy, Free Code Camp, and  In many cases, you can choose to learn part-time and from home so that you’re able to earn and learn in tandem. You can also check out a number of books, blogs, and tutorials to help you on your way.

Cast your net wider

When starting out as a freelancer, the importance of networking can’t be overstated and, the wider you cast your net, the better your chances of success will be.  Try joining forums and Facebook groups as well as attending events such as conferences and local meetups in order to make useful contacts and make yourself known in the industry.

Untangling the web

The internet is a veritable treasure trove of places to find freelance work.. Try Just UX Jobs, People Per Hour, Codepen and Upwork. You can also target companies in your local area by email or by post.

Becoming a freelance web developer takes preparation, perseverance and a lot of hard work so, don’t expect to become successful overnight.   Be prepared to put in some long hours and a lot of legwork as you perfect your skills and chase down those all-important clients.  Happy freelancing!

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