How to become a freelance web developer

How do you go from coding for fun to building the websites you’re landing on? We're sharing a few steps to help you become your own boss as a freelance web developer.

How to Become a Freelance Web Developer

You can probably guess that becoming a freelance web developer takes hard work, dedication, and meticulous planning. But what is that plan, exactly? How do you go from coding for fun to building the websites you’re landing on?

It’s easy to imagine that it would take years of education and experience with coding and all matters of computer science. But that’s not necessarily the case! You can start as a freelance web designer and go at your own pace, beginning right now—or, as soon as you finish reading this article.

In the sections below, we’ll break down the process of how to become a freelance web developer into these simple steps:

  • Learning the skills of the trade
  • Build your own professional website
  • Create a business plan
  • Register your business
  • Secure insurance

Let’s get scrolling!

Learn the skills of the trade

Now, even though you don’t necessarily need to spend years and years learning coding, you will need to have some initial skills to start as a web freelancer. Once acquired, you can continue honing your skills as you grow as a freelance developer (and business).

There are three primary skill sets you’ll need to develop in order to sell your freelancing services for top dollars. These are:

Primary web development skills – This is the bread and butter (or 0s and 1s, if you’re already savvy) of any web developer. You need to have the knowledge and practical experience in coding language and practices like:

  • HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Optimal user experience (UX)
  • Popular front-end frameworks

Back-end development skills – Building on those primary skills, you’ll also want to start developing secondary coding skills and familiarities. That means cutting your teeth on:

  • Back-end development (Python, Ruby, MySQL, etc.)
  • Specialized development and database tools

Complementary skills – Finally, as an aspiring freelancer, you’ll also want to build out some other skills that go beyond the basics of actually making the website. To distinguish yourself as a well-rounded freelance web developer within the market, consider also offering customized website content that’ll help grow your clients’ businesses—and your own. Consider:

  • Design best practices
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies
  • Digital marketing best practices

While you do not need to have “expert” skills in any of the above categories, you do need to have a baseline understanding to get started. Once you’re up and running, your growth as a web developer will be in tandem with the clients you acquire along the way. New freelance web developer jobs will require you to learn new skills!

Fully downloaded on the above? Then it’s time to practice and showcase your skills on your own site! 

Build your own website

Now’s your time to shine!

In many ways, your website will function as your calling card and your virtual storefront. Just like artists have portfolios, your portfolio website presents an opportunity to showcase each niche skill you possess as a web developer.

Think of your own website as your resume.

While there’s little doubt you know what it takes to create an intuitive and visually aesthetic portfolio website, it’s also critical that you don’t forget about other crucial elements like your web copy. Both the words on the page and your blog serve to persuade customers to trust your personal brand and drive your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Particularly if you have a limited budget, your website can act as your primary marketing channel so you can begin landing some client work and gain experience with different projects.

Create a business plan

An important step for a business of any kind is creating a business plan. The same is true for web developers. A typical business plan for any aspiring freelancer will have the following key sections:

  1. Executive summary – Overviews your web development business model and how you plan on driving sales.
  2. Company overview – Touches upon your specific business goals, the problems you’re solving, and the market you expect to serve during your freelancing career.
  3. Market analysis – It’s crucial that you have a deep understanding of your target market and overall industry outlook. This competitive research covers the leading players and details their strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Organization and management – Covers how your company will be structured and who will be in charge. This section should also include a description of your legal business structure, which could be a:
    • C Corp
    • S Corp
    • LLC
    • Sole Proprietorship
    • General Partnership
  5. Operational and marketing plan – Discusses day-to-day operations, long-term goals, and strategies to grow the business.
  6. Financial plan – Includes your projected budget, costs, and revenue.

Your business plan is a living document. It’s subject to change as your business evolves and you take on different projects, as well as how technology and the demands of your clients develop. But it’s especially important to leverage this framework as you start your new venture. It will help you track your growth and optimize your various initiatives.

Make it official: Register your business

A successful business has money coming in. And a legitimate business also has money going out in the form of taxes. Even if you don’t have any employees, you still have to pay for local, state, and federal taxes.

Therefore, it’s important that you register the business according to whatever legal business entity you decided in your business plan (LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.).

Once you’ve registered the business, you’ll receive an employer identification number (EIN) that you’ll list when applying for taxes or employee withholding(s). This number is similar to a Social Security number, making it simple for the IRS to keep tabs on your organization.

With your business and finances squared away, it’s time to take important protective measures. You’ll want to secure small business insurance before taking on a host of clients.

Protect your business

Depending on what state your business is located in, there’s a chance you may need to show proof of insurance to operate legally. But even if it isn’t required by law, you’ll want insurance to protect your assets in the event of an accident. Plus, having robust coverage is an excellent selling point that’ll set you apart from your competitors.

With Freelance Insurance with Thimble, you can count on the following kinds of coverage:

General liability insurance – General liability helps protect you from the financial ramifications of third-party claims related to:

  • Property damage
  • Bodily Injury
  • Personal and advertising injury
  • Legal expenses, such as lawyer and court fees

Professional liability insurance – Professional liability covers you in the event of a work error (negligence) that causes a client financial loss. Despite whether the negligence actually occurred, should your client file a claim, a professional liability policy can help cover the costs of:

  • Actual or alleged negligence
  • Legal defense costs
  • Claims and damages

With these coverages in place, you’re well prepared for every freelance job, will grow your client list, and begin building your web development domain.

Now it’s time to…

Find clients & conquer the web!

Starting a freelance web development business is a great way to establish long-term income and develop your freelancing skills.

Depending on where you are in the process of learning the ins and outs of the trade, the career path that lies ahead will be both rewarding and challenging. But one thing’s for sure: with the steps laid out above, you have a solid framework to build off of.

So, what are you waiting for? Build your own website, make your business plan, legalize your entity, and protect your new business with insurance. That way you can become a successful freelancer and get to doing what you do best—building beautiful websites!

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.

Related Articles

tutor working with student
Consultants & Freelancers

How to become a tutor

Private tutoring can be a great career or side hustle. In this short guide, we’ll go over the basic steps for how to become a tutor. Sharpen those pencils, and let’s get started!

Read More