So You Want To Be a Freelance Web Developer

Don’t do it! Run! Hide!

I’m just kidding. I love my job. Seriously, I do. I’ve had jobs I didn’t like so I have something to compare this to.

This is going to be a series about pursuing web development as a career. And specifically pursuing it as a freelancer. There are downsides to being a freelancer, but I’ll get into that in another post.

My qualifications? That is, why the hell should you listen to me? Well, I started Sweet Thursday Web Development in 2006 and my business has grown steadily since then. I started out building small, static websites with PHP, CSS and HTML. It would be hard to even look at those early sites now, if they’re even still up. One of my last projects was building the website for the world famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California…for the 2nd time. As they say, “You’ve come a long, Baby!”

Before getting into all the reasons freelancing is great, I’d like to start off with the one, absolutely necessary trait you need to start this journey: you have to love building websites. Or if you want to be a designer: you have to love designing websites. My perspective is as a web programmer. I build websites. But the principles here will work for those of you pursuing design too.

You do have to love it. I built many websites early on for no money at all. I spent hours and hours and hours and days and days building sites. I loved it. I knew I’d love it more if I could make a living at it, but nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed programming in PHP and Javascript and writing CSS and HTML to create websites very few people ever saw. I still enjoy it, except now I get paid for it.

The Good Stuff (in no particular order)

So what’s good about freelancing?

  • No Commute
    There are studies out that show work satisfaction is closely related to the length of your commute. The longer the commute, in many cases, the less you like your job. When I lived in San Diego, California (I live in Prescott Valley, Arizona now) my commute was about 30 minutes one way. Luckily, I was usually driving before or after the traffic got heavy, but even that got tiring. It’s the daily grind of it, I think, that takes its toll.
  • You’re in Charge
    I spent many years working for other people and/or companies. It does have its benefits (benefits being one of them), but working for yourself is great. Want to take the day off for your kid’s birthday? Go ahead. Do you have an idea you think will work to benefit your business? Implement it. You don’t need to check with anyone. You’re the boss. Enjoy it.
  • If you don’t want to work with someone, don’t.
    I’ve met with potential clients that I just didn’t have a good feeling about. So, I didn’t pursue it. There have been a few times when I just decided to cut my losses and let a client slip away. It’s my business, no reason to work with someone I don’t like working with.
  • Work at home…or don’t
    It’s called freedom. I love working at home and it’s not a problem for me. I take the weekends off. I know some people prefer to work at the coffee shop or an office. It’s up to you. That’s the great thing. You have the freedom to do what you want.
  • High satisfaction level
    It feels good to be self-employed. It’s a very satisfying feeling to know you worked hard to start your business and to have built a successful business. When I say successful, I just mean you can make a living at it. Most of my friends make more money than I do. But I wouldn’t trade my business for a 9 – 5 job at this point unless I absolutely had to. Nor would I be tempted by 2 or 3 times as much pay. My freedom is worth a lot.

The next installments in this series will be about practicalities: billing, learning to code, work habits and anything else I can think of.

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