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In a world increasingly driven by digital technology, the demand for skilled web developers is on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for web developers is set to expand by a remarkable 17% from 2022 to 2032. This is significantly faster than the 3% growth forecast for all other occupations.

If you’ve been thinking about becoming a freelance web developer, 2024 presents an opportune time to transform your aspirations into reality. Whether you’re contemplating a full career shift or just want to make some extra money on the side, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to become a freelance web developer.

What does a freelance web developer do?

Being a “freelancer” means you’re not tied to one organization. Instead, you have the freedom to work with multiple clients and on different projects simultaneously. Additionally, you’re not bound by the traditional nine-to-five schedule.

However, the fact that you’re self-employed also means that you’re responsible for overseeing and managing all business and administrative tasks. This includes sourcing and managing clients, drafting contracts and handling invoicing and payments.

As for what freelance web developers actually do, they build websites and web applications for clients using different programming languages (such as HTML, CSS and Python), frameworks (like Ruby on Rails, React and Vue.js) and platforms (e.g., WordPress and Shopify).

Their role is to transform design concepts and mockups created by a web designer into a fully functional website or application. Some web developers are also responsible for ensuring optimal website performance post-development.

What are the different types of freelance web developers?

Types of web developers.

As a freelance web developer, you can choose from three main types of web development:  front-end, back-end or full-stack development.

  • Front-end developers use programming languages like HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build the visual aspects of a website or web application that clients see or interact with directly.
  • Back-end developers use languages like Python, PHP and Ruby to build and maintain the invisible (i.e., the backend) elements — such as servers, databases and application logic — that keep websites and web applications running.
  • Full-stack developers are proficient in both front-end and back-end development and can therefore handle either aspect.

How much do freelance web developers make?

Average annual salary range of a freelance web developer.

According to data collected by Arc, the average hourly rate for freelance web developers in North America ranges between $81 and $100.

Per year, freelance web developers in the U.S. make between $64,000 and $108,000, or an average of $83,162, according to Glassdoor. The exact amount depends on the level of experience.

Entry-level freelance web developers can expect to make between $48,000 and $80,000 per year, while seasoned developers (those with over four years of experience) can make between $58,000 and $104,000 per year.

Specialization, skills, geographical location and whether it’s a full-time job or a side gig are also factors that affect how much you can earn.

Key benefits of becoming a freelance web developer

Benefits of becoming a freelance web developer.

Becoming a freelance web developer comes with several benefits. Here are some of the perks of following this career path:

Increased flexibility

Unlike traditional employment, freelancing lets you set your own schedule, including your working hours and the number of projects you take on at a time.

For example, if you’re a morning person, you can start your workday at 4 a.m. and be done by midday. Conversely, if you’re a night owl, you can enjoy afternoon or early evening social activities and then commence work once you’re back home.

Essentially, you can tailor your schedule to fit with other personal commitments or priorities, which could facilitate a better work-life balance.

Opportunity to become your own boss

As a freelance web developer, you’re your own boss. You make all the decisions, from the clients you work with to the type of projects you work on to the rates you charge for your services. You can set your own goals and work toward them in a manner that fits your circumstances and working style. 

Ability to work from anywhere

The majority of freelance web development jobs can be done remotely. This saves you time and resources that you would otherwise spend on commuting. If you enjoy traveling, you can work from virtually any location worldwide as long as you have an internet connection. 

Supplemental income

When pursued as a side gig, freelance web development offers a great way to supplement your regular income. This additional revenue can help you reach your financial goals faster, whether that’s building an emergency fund, paying off debt or amassing savings for a big-ticket item like a car.

Access to a strong professional network

Another great advantage of becoming a freelance web developer is that it helps you build a strong professional network.

As a freelancer, you’ll be interacting with a diverse range of individuals in the normal course of business. This includes clients, collaborators in some of your freelance projects, fellow professionals and even random people you meet during networking events or in online communities.

Cultivating strong connections with these individuals can lead to several benefits, including new business opportunities through referrals or recommendations.

Pathway to business ownership

Freelance web development offers an opportunity to market your skills and build a personal brand.

You also gain hands-on experience in business processes and operations like client management, project execution and bookkeeping — competencies that are crucial for aspiring business owners. If you start freelance web development as a side hustle, you can eventually turn it into a full-time business.

How to start freelancing as a web developer

How to become a freelance web developer.

Transitioning into a freelance web developer is an exciting journey that requires strategy, skill and a bit of entrepreneurial spirit. If you’re ready to get started, here’s a practical step-by-step guide:

1. Select a niche

Niching means choosing a specific area of web development to focus on. This could be anything from user experience design to eCommerce development to specialized front-end frameworks like React or Angular. It could also involve focusing on specific industries like real estate or fitness and specific platforms like WordPress.

Focusing on one niche, as opposed to trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, presents numerous advantages:

  • Reduced competition: Niche specialization means you’re not competing with every other web developer out there, only those in your niche.
  • Targeted marketing: With a clear niche, your marketing efforts can be more focused, appealing directly to a specific audience who needs your special services. Also, by focusing on one area, you can position yourself as an expert in that particular field.
  • Higher rates: If you’re one of the few experts in a high-demand web development area, clients may be willing to pay more for your specialized skills and expertise.

If you’re experiencing difficulty settling on a niche, here are a few helpful pointers: 

Consider your background

Look at your education and professional background. It’s easier to get into a web development niche that you already have some knowledge or experience in than venturing into a whole new area.

Reflect on your interests or passions

Which parts of web development are you most passionate about and where do you think you can offer the most value? You’ll be more motivated to keep working and give your all if you’re engaged in a niche you’re interested in.

Research the market

Research the market to identify niches that are in demand. Opting for in-demand niches can help ensure a steady flow of clients. Some useful resources to consider using during your research include:

  • Industry-specific websites, forums and blogs.
  • Market research reports from companies like Statista and IBISWorld.
  • Google Trends: Use this tool to identify the popularity and search volume of specific keywords and topics related to web development. This can help you gauge the level of interest and potential demand for specific niches.

2. Upgrade your skills and knowledge

You might already have a background in computer science, some working knowledge of programming languages or technologies, or even actual experience in developing websites and web applications. However, to make yourself a more attractive option for clients, take some time to upskill before you get started.

This might include taking online courses on sites like Coursera, Udemy and Codecademy to deepen your skill set and expertise. Or you could attend workshops, webinars and seminars to stay current with industry trends and technologies.

3. Create an online portfolio

The next step to becoming a freelance web developer is to create an online portfolio that showcases your best web development projects and demonstrates your skills and expertise to prospective clients.

A portfolio also provides useful details like your background, certifications and the type of services you offer. You should include contact information so potential clients can reach you.

Third-party platforms like GitHub, Behance and Adobe Portfolio offer a fast and convenient way to create a web development portfolio. Alternatively, you can choose to showcase your work on a self-hosted website, which you can easily create using tools like WordPress, Squarespace or Wix. You can even code a portfolio website from scratch, which would offer you another opportunity to showcase your skills.

If you’re new to web development and don’t have any previous work to show, don’t panic; there are options. For example, you can do some pro-bono work for a local business, friends and acquaintances, or complete some mockup projects for your ideal clients. You can then feature these works in your portfolio to illustrate your potential and abilities.

Here are a few more additional tips to help you optimize your online portfolio:

  • For each featured project, write a concise summary that highlights its purpose, your specific role, achieved results and any unique challenges you overcame. Use relevant data and metrics where possible to quantify your impact.
  • Use engaging language that communicates your passion and expertise in web development.
  • Emphasize the web development skills and technologies you want clients to associate with you.
  • Include client testimonials (where possible), as positive feedback from past clients adds credibility to your portfolio.
  • Keep your portfolio up to date. Replace older projects with newer, more relevant work to keep your portfolio fresh and reflective of your current skills.

4. Determine your rates and terms

Start by conducting market research to gain insight into the prevailing rates for freelance web developers in your niche. This will provide you with a benchmark for setting your rates.

When setting rates, take into account your experience level, any special skills and knowledge you possess, and the overall value you bring to clients.

Keep in mind: While clients are often willing to pay premium rates to expert freelance web developers, they might not be willing to pay that much to a novice. If you’re a beginner web developer, you may need to offer competitive rates to attract new clients initially.

As for the pricing strategy, you can charge by the hour or a fixed price per project. Both have their pros and cons, so do your research to determine the better option for you.

For example, some clients favor a fixed price per project as it provides them with a clear budget upfront. However, to ensure fair compensation, this approach requires an accurate estimation of the time and effort a project will take, which can be challenging for more complex tasks.

On the other hand, an hourly rate can be beneficial for projects where the scope is not clearly defined or is likely to change. However, this method can limit your earning potential, as you’ll only ever make that rate per hour, regardless of how many projects you tackle.

Once you’ve set your rates and settled on a pricing structure, the next step is to set up payment systems. Choose payment methods that are convenient for you and your target clientele. Payment processors like PayPal, Venmo and Wise are popular among freelancers due to their accessibility, ease of use and security.

Finally, define your terms of service, including working hours, revision policies, deadlines and any other conditions for your service. Clear terms ensure both you and your clients have a shared understanding of expectations and can help prevent misunderstandings (if they occur) down the road.

5. Apply for projects

Having defined your niche, honed your skills, built an impressive portfolio and set your rates, it’s time to find clients and projects.

You can start by browsing online job boards or websites that specialize in remote freelance web development opportunities. Popular options include Remote.co, FlexJobs and We Work Remotely.

Note that for some of these sites, such as FlexJobs, you might have to pay a subscription fee to access their entire freelance jobs database and any extra job seeker resources they offer.

Consider also registering on freelance platforms like Fiverr and Upwork. These platforms allow you to showcase your skills and connect with clients seeking remote talent. Similarly, sign up on professional networking sites like LinkedIn to connect with other pros in your niche and explore work opportunities.

When applying for projects, craft a strong elevator pitch that succinctly describes your value proposition. Customize it for each client, demonstrating how your skills and experience align with their specific needs.

Other than these short-term approaches, it’s also important to work on a long-term strategy for attracting clients. Typically, this involves building a personal brand and establishing authority in your field.

For example, the following actions can help you position yourself as an expert in your niche and increase your visibility and reach within your target audience:

  • Writing guest posts, tutorials or web development content on reputable platforms like Medium or DEV.
  • Contributing to open-source projects on platforms like GitHub.
  • Making guest appearances on web development podcasts.
  • Answering web development-related questions on online platforms like Stack Overflow, Reddit and Quora.
  • Building a community on social media sites like X (formerly Twitter) and Facebook or through email newsletters.

6. Leverage tools

Leveraging the right tools can help streamline the business and administrative aspects of your freelance web development. It can also help free up your time to focus on what you do best — developing outstanding web solutions for your clients.

Here are some useful tools to consider integrating into your workflow:

  • Project management: Asana and Trello offer excellent solutions for managing projects and deadlines.
  • Time management: Tools like Timely and Toggl help you accurately track the time spent on each project, which is essential if you’re billing by the hour.
  • Financial tracking and invoicing: Tools like FreshBooks and Marketcircle’s Billings Pro offer great solutions for financial tracking, invoicing and expense management.

7. Continue improving and learning

To stay relevant and competitive, embrace continuous learning and improvement. Regularly seek and absorb client feedback to refine and enhance your services.

In addition, stay up to date with industry trends, technologies and techniques. Invest in learning and improving your skills by attending workshops and seminars or taking online courses on the sites we mentioned above.

Final thoughts: How to become a freelance web developer in 2024

Freelance web development offers a path to both personal and financial freedom. The liberty to choose your own client projects, the flexibility to work from any location at any time, and the potential to earn supplemental income are just a few of the benefits that make a freelance web developer career desirable.

One factor that can contribute toward success as a freelance web developer is having a reliable and efficient platform for building and hosting your portfolio as well as your clients’ websites.

Bluehost’s unique blend of affordability, ease of use, robust functionality and round-the-clock customer support makes it the perfect option for freelance web developers looking for a dependable web hosting partner.

Explore Bluehost web hosting plans to find the right option for your needs.

  • Devin Sears

    Devin is a Senior Event Marketing Manager for the Bluehost brand. He is our brand steward for all things Bluehost and WordPress. You'll always see him supporting Bluehost at WordCamps around the world!

    Education
    Brigham Young University
    Previous Experience
    Social Media, Customer Experience, Field Marketing, Sponsorships, Event Coordinator
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