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July 6, 2023 - 8 minutes

The Pros and Cons of Freelance Web Development

Considering freelance web development? Here’s what you should know.

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As a web developer, you have lots of options available to you. First, you can choose if you want to work on the front or back end, or you can decide if you want to do both and specialize in fullstack web development. And you can decide to pursue only in-person roles, or work remotely from anywhere. These might seem like two big decisions already, but there’s one more: do you want to work as a freelance web developer or in-house? Just like with absolutely everything in life, there are pros and cons to freelance work, and this article will help you lay them out and make the best possible decision for you. 

Let’s start by defining some of the responsibilities of web developers so that you’re able to see exactly what you’re dealing with. 

Responsibilities of Web Developers 

The web development field is vast and, naturally, the responsibilities for each role also vary. But generally speaking, we can split web development tasks into five categories: creating a website, designing a website, testing a website, maintaining a website, and managing a website. 

  • Creating a website: this is where coding comes into play; website developers on the back end work to create the structure and framework of the website, allowing it to interact positively with users and following all local and global regulations when it comes to storing user data. The code also has to be easy to change or debug when problems arise, to avoid starting over from zero. 

  • Designing a website: for those working on the front end, creating an effective and responsive product that intuitively shows users what it needs is the main goal. Those working here need to understand user behavior and company goals to ensure they work well together. 

  • Testing a website: the job isn’t done once the website is launched! Those in charge of testing the website must try to find any possible errors and fix said bugs and continuously use feedback from both the front and back end to make the website better. 

  • Maintaining a website: similarly to the above point, those in charge of website maintenance must ensure everything is working properly and work fast to correct any error, especially in the case of a cybersecurity issue. 

  • Managing a website’s data: the data sourced from a website is an incredible source of information so those tasked with managing website data must ensure they’re protecting user data, securely storing information, and making use of the gathered information. 

All of these aforementioned roles will be carried out on a team, meaning you’ll need to work closely with other professionals. There’s also a lot of coordination in web development and different areas of tech; this is a great point to consider when thinking about your future web development career. Are you looking to work on long-term projects for the same company? Do you want a change of pace every once in a while? Let’s dive right into discussing freelance web development and making the right choice for you. 

Freelancing: What is it? 

We’re sure you have a good idea of what freelancing is, but just in case, let’s give you a quick definition. Freelancing is when you work for yourself, looking for typically short-term and specialized projects. As your own boss, you’re responsible for both finding work and setting your rates, meaning you have a lot of flexibility. 

Benefits of freelancing 

As a freelancer, you’ll have a ton of things that in a traditional, in-house setting would be impossible. Let’s discuss:

  • Flexibility: the biggest benefit you’ll see when people talk about freelancing is flexibility; that’s because freelancers can make their own hours, working around other responsibilities, such as childcare duties, and complete their work on their own schedule. 

  • Complete decision-making: long gone are the days of busy work tasked by your boss that you have no interest in. Instead, you’re able to select the projects that you want to do, turning down projects that you aren’t interested in. 

  • Autonomy over wages: you’ll set your own prices and fees, ensuring that you’re paid exactly what you decide is fair. 

These sound great, right?! They are, but with every advantage comes a few disadvantages to be on the lookout for: 

  • Being completely on your own: freelancing can be a lonely world and if you’re coming from working in a busy office, staying home and working on your own can be a tough adjustment. As a company of one, you’ll also be responsible for your finances, reporting the correct taxes, sales, marketing, social media, and anything else that makes up your career. 

  • Complete financial responsibility: the amount of money you bring it will depend entirely on the work you seek out and complete. There is no set salary and especially as you start out, you may experience months where you surpass your goals and others where you barely break even. 

  • A lack of consistency: unless you’re lucky enough to land set contracts with a few companies, you will most likely be constantly on the hunt for work. Like we mentioned above, this means your workload and income will vary significantly, making planning for the future a bit hard. 

In addition to the aforementioned disadvantages, you have to remember that working as a freelancer means you don’t have the typical company benefits of a set salary, vacation days, sick days, parental leave, bereavement, 401k matching, and much more. 

However dreary these points may seem, working as a freelancer web developer is the right choice for some people, we promise! 

Freelance Web Development

Freelancing is a popular choice in web development, with both developers choosing to go out on their own and others who are employed full-time by a company looking to pick up some extra work on the side. Regardless of your reasoning, there are lots of opportunities for freelance and contract-based web development work. Lots of smaller companies, for example, can’t afford to hire entire development teams and might look to outsource certain roles. 

To start planning your freelance web development career, here’s our three step guide to success. 

Make a plan 

This is an obvious first step, right?! Before you can do anything else, you need to have a plan for how your career will go. As it will probably take you some time to generate a client base, maintaining your current role (if you have one) before you fully jump into freelancing might be the best choice. As you plan your future, keep these tips in mind:

  • Plan for the worst: assume that it will take you a few months to get a couple clients and maybe double that to have a steady clientele on which you can rely. Before you start out on your freelancing journey, make sure you have the financial security to survive a few months without any income, and even more time without the salary you’re used to receiving. 

  • Plan for other aspects of your life: are you currently receiving healthcare benefits from your company? You might now be on your own; make a list of everything you’ll lose from your company and make sure you have something in place to cover that need. 

  • Plan for what you’ll offer: to be successful as a freelancer, you’ll need to not only be skilled at what you do, but also fill a market need. Do you research and make sure that your specific offer is something that the market needs; the last thing you want is to put all your eggs into one basket and enter a saturated market. 

Start off on the right foot 

As we mentioned above, getting off to a solid start is crucial, which is why we recommend finishing steps 1 and 2 before quitting your current role: 

  • Figure out how you’ll publicize your business: letting people know about your skills and offerings is crucial! Talk to other freelancers, do your research, and start getting word out. 

  • Figure out your administrative responsibilities: depending on where you live, you may be required to register with the government as a freelancer or follow distinct tax practices. Also, how will you send invoices to your clients? Do you have templates made for contracts? Getting all of the boring administrative responsibilities out of the way before you start working can help alleviate some of the pressure. 

  • Research appropriate prices: you don’t want to offer prices that are so high that no one hires you, but you don’t want to undervalue your abilities and skills. 

Get started 

Now that you’re prepared to be a freelancer, it’s time to get to work. As a web developer, there are some specific things to keep in mind: 

  • Focus on a smaller area at the beginning: there are a lot of freelance developers out there, so try to find the specific audience you’re trying to reach and focus on them, figuring out their needs and working to meet them. From here, you can slowly start expanding into other areas once you have a few consistent clients. 

  • Work to continuously improve: tech is constantly evolving and you need to be up-to-date on the latest skills and technologies that clients will demand. You no longer have a boss telling you to review new skills or paying for courses, so it’s on you to ensure your services are up-to-date and reflect market needs. 

  • Stay positive: it can be tough at first! But stay positive, get solace from the fact that you are well-prepared and can financially survive a rough start, and work hard to share your skills with potential clients. 

For the right person, freelance web development can be a great option. But like with anything, it depends on your personality, drive, and what you’re willing to put into it. If this sounds like a challenge made for you, that’s fantastic! Our Web Development Bootcamp at Ironhack prepares students to enter the web development market as both freelancers and in-house professionals; check out the course today and don’t wait any longer! 

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