Freelance Web Development: Learn Your Craft

In the beginning you have to learn to code or program or design. Whatever route you decide to go, it’s going to take time. A lot of time. How to get started? Give these ideas a shot, they worked for me.

School

If you can spend 1 or 2 or 4 years in a school where all you’re doing is learning your craft, that’s what I would recommend. We don’t all have that luxury. I started at this relatively late in life (in my 40s) so I could only spend a year getting a certificate, which, honestly, was not enough time, but it did give me a good foundation to start learning more advanced things on my own.

The typical 4 year degree where you’re learning everything you don’t need to to do the job you want to do is beginning to fade away. I have a four year degree, a Master’s degree and I have not used either one for my jobs for over 30 years.

If you can go to a trade school where every class is about web development, programming websites and the like. Do it. BUT DON’T GO INTO MAJOR DEBT TO DO IT! It’s not worth it.

Build Websites

Build websites. Build lots of websites. Build websites for your Grandma, for your friends, for yourself. But build, build, build and build some more. You need to love building websites. There is so much time involved and you will encounter many, many “bugs” in the beginning.  A “bug” is usually your bad programming. Mark that down. It will save you a lot of headaches and useless energy spent cursing the computer or the programming language. Most of the time the problem is your bad code. Remember that. Trust me.

I’ve been doing this for about 15 years and I still love building websites. I love getting a new project and I build lots of sites for myself. It is just fun for me and I really can’t explain it except to say just that. I enjoy it immensely. Make sure you do too.

Challenge Yourself

While you’re learning your craft and looking for job and trying to get clients, you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. So, when you build a website and every new website you build, build something complicated that you have not done before. It might be something that requires some complicated javascript or PHP (or your programming language of choice), it may be learning to set up and connect to a database, or setting up a complicated form.

I guess the easiest way to approach it is just think about a website you’d like to build and then make that baby do the most complicated things it can. I built a huge website for K-12 students about literature. Parents could sign up, pay for classes and make lists of books their students had read. I had study questions, information on the authors, I created Flash (I’m dating myself) videos and audios and wrote lots of content. This was long before anyone paid me to build a website. No one used it. No one signed up. It’s not even up anymore.

But when I got my first business call it was from someone who needed a form fixed and by that time I had built and worked on so many forms I could do it my sleep. It was an incredibly simple issue (because I had encountered it so many times building my literature site). I fixed it quickly and that client used me for another 5 or 6 years.

For the record, I loved building that literature site, because I love literature and I love building websites. Maybe you’re a surfer or gardener or whatever. But build something you want to and make it complicated.

One of the first websites I built was for a class. It’s memorial site for my grandfather who fought in World War One, The Great War as they called it. That site is still up and I have continued to work on it and upgrade it.

Coffee or Tea

You’re going to need some. Maybe a lot. If coffee, grind it yourself, if tea, loose leaf only!

Conclusion

If you love building websites, the CSS, the HTML, the Javascript, the programming and learning all you can about it, you are going to have some fun! And if you can make a living at it all the better. I worked a job for 17 years that I did not particularly like. I hated Mondays. I loved Fridays. It was hard coming back to work from a long vacation.

But now? Now, I look forward to my job. I like the weekends, but I don’t dread Mondays. I no longer use an alarm clock, something I hated at my previous job. Look, are there bad days? Sure there are. Do stressful things happen? Sure they do. But all-in-all I would not trade this for just about any job I can think of. Give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen? You might have to get a “real” job? Who cares? If you don’t give it a shot you’re going to have to do that anyway.

Cheers!

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