You Can Learn How to Code

How to Get Hired for Freelance Web Developer Jobs

If you’re trying to determine if web development is a good career choice, contributing to projects as a freelancer is a good way to see if it’s the right fit. This allows you to try it out before committing to a full-time job that feels more permanent. Provided you have skills that are in demand, freelancing offers you some flexibility. You can save your money from your freelance jobs and take some time off in between projects if you’d like.

Because workloads often exceed what teams can handle, managers often hire freelance help for projects. I manage a creative services team, and once my hours and the hours of the design team begin to exceed 55 hours per week, I know it’s time to bring in freelance help for design and web development to relieve the team’s burden. In this article, I am going to discuss exactly what I look for when hiring a web developer for freelance projects.

Technical Knowledge

Unless I am already familiar with their work, I routinely ask web developers who I haven’t worked with before to complete a coding challenge, especially if they’re going to help out with a large project. It is important that I understand how they think and assess their level of knowledge before expecting them to contribute to our efforts. Because our web pages are built in PHP, the skills that I need most often are in PHP and JavaScript.

Before I bring in anyone to freelance on a project, I need to make sure they have worked with JavaScript or PHP long enough to properly script web pages if we’re working on a project that resides outside of a content management system. During a review of their portfolio, I enjoy hearing about the challenges they encountered while working on their projects and how they worked through problems.

Referrals

candidate getting interviewed for a jobWhenever I can, I try to hire people who I’ve worked with before or who come highly recommended by trusted colleagues. This is true for both web developers and design professionals. No matter what industry you work in, having good referrals and people who will vouch for your work is key. If a web developer or designer I typically like to hire for freelance work is not available, I ask my colleagues in the IT and marketing departments to make recommendations. If I know that a web developer has been approved as a vendor by my employer and has successfully completed projects for other departments, then the interview process is not as rigorous. If you do a great job on the projects for which you’re hired, that can easily expand to bigger opportunities as you become known. I have seen this happen many times.

Soft Skills

male business man shaking hands with a womanSoft skills are often overlooked in technical fields, but they are very important. As a web developer, you’ll need to be able to work well with others and prove that you have good communication skills. I can think of countless projects that got derailed because a team member had a difficult personality or failed to articulate challenges.

While good managers typically appreciate knowing when there is a problem with team dynamics, as a freelancer, you’ll want to make sure you’re as accommodating as possible. It is your job to get along with the team members as best you can. If the dynamic is dysfunctional, then be grateful you don’t work there full time. If there is a situation that will negatively impact your performance or if a team member exhibits disrespectful or bullying behavior, then it is important to report it to the hiring manager. Otherwise, keep your head down, work hard, and bring your best work to the project.

Another important soft skill is speaking up when you encounter a problem. This can be another uncomfortable situation for a web developer. Often, we are the go-to for technical issues, and many of us take pride in that. But, if you do not inform your manager when you encounter a problem that may affect a deadline, he or she is blind sighted and might need to scramble to renegotiate deadlines or have to go to extra expense to bring in freelance help if the deadline isn’t negotiable. As difficult as it is to admit that you need help, your team members and manager will appreciate you for informing them so that you can all work together on solving the problem.

Additional Talents

designer working with color wheels and art supplies at computerIt’s wonderful to hire people who are talented web developers but who can also help solve other challenges. I will often ask them to stay on after their project is completed and help with other tasks or integrate more than one type of work into their contract.

One freelance web developer who was helping out with our website migration performed quality assurance on one of our websites and caught an important issue right before the launch. He noticed that some anchor tags were applied incorrectly. Thanks to him, we were able to correct this issue on three web pages, which could have led to a confusing user experience. Because he is a talented web developer and performs thorough quality assurance checks, we will bring him back for additional projects.

Once you’re comfortable with web development, some other skills you can acquire include:

  • Graphic Design
  • User-Experience Design
  • Quality Assurance
  • SEO Copywriting
  • Digital Marketing
  • Video Editing

If you’re curious if web development is a good career for you, I encourage you to try it out on a freelance basis. If you are currently working full-time, this may not be possible, but in some cases, you might be able to contribute remotely. Many employers are beginning to allow this, especially for freelancers they’ve worked with before.

You will be most successful as a freelance web developer if you build strong communication skills, get along well with others, can demonstrate your technical knowledge, come with referrals and have additional talents to offer. Provided that you work hard and make yourself a valuable member of a team, you will be able to build a successful freelance career.

5 comments

    1. Thanks, Julian! I hope you found the information you were looking for. If not, please let me know. I am continually trying to improve this website and make it easy to use.

  1. Great article Laura,
    And it does suggest some opportunities I’d not considered before in freelance web development. I do have a few questions, though, before I plunge into the training and marketing needed to put myself out there.

    For starters, what kind of billing rates are typical for this kind of work when it is contracted remotely? I’m in the US, and I could travel to a customer site here or internationally, but realistically, would be more likely to try it if I could leverage other skills and do the work on my schedule and in my location.

    Also, if I’m to do this, I’ll need to update my skills since so much with JavaScript has changed. I have plenty of design, analysis and complimentary skills, but I’m curious about initial steps to get the hands on experience and referrals needed to land solid gigs. Would you advise initial work as a volunteer for a non-profit or on a straight contract website development basis for non-IT businesses?
    Thanks,
    Steve

  2. Thanks for the helpful tips, It is a tricky world we live in, so many people out there think they can do all the technical things required on the web. 

    I myself struggle with coding, my brain just doesn’t grasp it properly and It gets boring. I’ve been using Wix and WordPress but want to build my own website. I don’t know how, though. Are there any courses that are good for beginners?

    1. Hi Kris,

      I can certainly empathize. I struggled to learn the basics, too. Don’t worry — it’s normal to struggle with this, especially in the beginning. 

      I also understand that it can get boring, especially if you’re trying to learn from a book or course that is dry. That’s why I recommend Udemy courses. Many of the instructors do a good job to present challenges and then have you try to solve them yourself. That methodology works for me and keeps me engaged.

      Yes, I can recommend a couple of courses for you. My #1 course recommendation is Colt Steele’s Web Developer Bootcamp. You can check out my review here: https://youcanlearnhowtocode.c

      If you are certain that you do not want to learn web programming and concentrate entirely on becoming a web designer, which is technically less challenging than becoming a web developer but still deeply rewarding work, then check out Brad Schiff’s course Web Design For Beginners: https://youcanlearnhowtocode.c

      Both courses are great. Cole Steele’s course will teach you HTML, CSS, front-end and back-end JavaScript. Brad’s course concentrates on HTML and CSS only, the two markup languages you need to add structure and layout / design to your webpages.

      Good luck, and if there is anything more I can do to help you on your journey to becoming a web developer, please feel free to reach out.

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