Web design by Freelance web developer

How to become a freelance web developer/designer or a programmer

Many individuals and companies from the US, Europe and other parts of world are looking to outsource their work to other countries so they can get their work done for less. Clearly a low rate of pay for a person living in the USA will be very good income for a person living in countries with a lower cost of living such as China, Taiwan and India. Every web designer or developer either beginner or experienced, wants to get web development or programming projects outsourced by individuals or companies located in the US or Europe. For those of you elsewhere in the world you see the value of working for yourself. The perceived independence and the potential for greater income. You are reading this article because you recognize opportunity and wish to capitalize on it yourself as a freelancer. How?

I'm here to help.

I receive phone calls and emails almost every day from people asking me how to become a freelance web designer, web developer or a programmer. I don't mind sharing my knowledge, but rather than explaining to each of them, I'm writing it down and offering my experience online so that everyone interested in becoming a freelance web developer, web designer or a programmer can find out how to take their first step towards becoming a successful freelancer. On this page I am going to share my experience and have some advice for new web developers or designers who have just learned a programming language or web development application, as well for people who are already employed by companies and want to start working as a freelance web developer or designer in their spare time. This article is divided into two main sections - the first section - 'You are an aspiring freelance web designer or developer' is relevant to beginner web developers or designers and the second, 'You are an experienced web designer or developer' concerns both beginner as well as experienced web designers or developers.

You are an aspiring freelance web designer or developer

Many students who complete their computer degree or wrap up a computer course find it difficult to get jobs because no one is ready to risk important projects on someone inexperienced. You may recognize this already, but in case you don't, your degree requires just the basics and often lacks in how to develop real world applications. Potential employers definitely know that useful problem solving stems from experience, not education. How do you acquire this elusive experience if no one is willing to risk giving it to you?

Pay your dues.

You didn't want to hear that, but for most of us it is the only way.

Say someone is ready to give you a job but is not willing to give you the pay you think a talented individual such as yourself deserves. Accept it anyway. I did my first real world web site in ASP back in 2000 while working for a company for a nominal salary. The real compensation is in the experience you will have earned. Perhaps a bonus will be that it is a project worth putting in your portfolio too.

If you cannot get a job then force yourself to start experimenting on your own. Invent tasks for yourself. For instance, I once programmed and designed a slide show tool for a member of my family to share pictures of their new born baby. She appreciated how easy it was to upload images and display them and the challenge to myself earned invaluable experience and knowledge.

If your interest is web design and you are learning Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver etc. then try to see how how people have created their static (non database) websites. Like an artist learning to paint, copy from the masters. Also there are many tutorials on the Internet explaining how to start designing web sites.

If you are a beginning web developer who knows programming languages such as PHP, Asp.net (C Sharp, VB.Net), Java, JSP, Servlets etc then there are an incredible amount of open source applications available. Download the source code and study it. Try to modify it. Rewrite it.

The other thing you can do is, is to look at existing websites to see the features they have. Try to make sites like those. While doing so, you'll learn what sort of problems arise when doing a real world applications. When I started, I liked a matrimonial site, I started writing code to develop a site which had all the features of that existing one. If I faced a problem, I asked questions on forums. It's staggering to recognize how many nice people out there who like to help others.

After you have gained enough experience of developing real world web applications, you are ready to work as a freelancer. So read on...

You are an experienced web designer or developer

Everyone wants to earn extra cash. People already working for a company want to earn more by working on the side as well. Good. I had done the same until I had enough work that I couldn't continue with my job. Though tempting, experienced web designers or developers should not just quit their jobs without concrete prospects. You must first establish a client base and work as part time freelancers until you do. It's not easy. You'll most likely be working many extra hours. It's a good test to see if you are dedicated enough and talented enough to succeed. You may discover some unexpected things along the way. Not everyone is cut out to be a freelancer. If you're not, it's best to find that out before you give up the comfort of a steady paycheck. I'm stunned when people call me to say that they have just quit their jobs to become freelancers and are now sitting at home with no work.

How to get freelance projects

These are the ways which have worked for me as well as others who are doing freelancing.

Register on freelance sites

Research and find freelancer sites and register. Search their listings and find projects that match your skill set. Clearly a static web designer should not try to bid on a project which involves database work. Bid reasonably and provide just enough information about yourself to get noticed. Don't exaggerate. Don't bid too low or too high and claim to complete a project within 3 days if in reality it is going to take 10. Clients who post their projects on freelancer sites normally know how much work is involved. If a client likes your bid and contacts you, he will ask for examples of work you have done. Here your prior experience of doing web sites will come in handy (even if they were your experiments). If client is happy and you get the project then you must try to complete it within agreed period. If you don't complete it within agreed time or don't reply to client's emails or phone calls then naturally you'll have made a negative impact and naturally that's not good. On these sites you are rated by your clients so if you ignore your clients they are going to rate you lowly and it'll be hard for you to get new projects. It may sound obvious to some of you, but providing good work is a just a small part of your success as a freelancer. Excellent customer service is essential. Always try to make your clients happy even if you have to do little extra work than agreed. The short terms sacrifice will be worth it in the long run.

Payment on freelance sites
Every freelance site has its own method when it comes to receiving payment for work done. Some sites have escrow payment options where a client submits the full project price and after successful completion of the project these sites deduct a percentage of the project fee and you can get rest through a variety of payment methods.

Other ways to get freelance web designing, development or programming projects

Create your own web site to promote yourself and do what I what do! Write articles. For example if you are a flash designer and have done a cool effect, post it on your web site and write a tutorial about how you have made it work. Don't forget to submit your web site to search engines so people can find your tutorial. Ideally, they will post a link to your site in forums or on their own site where it will increase your rankings in Google or other search engines. You'll get recognized for work you have done. I have written articles and provided free source code to people who are trying to learn to make similar applications or do similar things. For example, I wrote an article about compiling apache php on linux and it is very popular. I have also provided free source code of a java chat application I wrote in 2003 using jsp and servlets while learning those technologies. So be prepared to share as well. It feels good to share and it's good for your reputation. You should have the portfolio of the work you have done on your web site as well as your contact information. Don't add work to your portfolio which you have done while employed for a company you were working for full time. The company may not approve and you'll have started down a path of ill will. It is wise in some cases, even if it is purely your own work as a freelancer, to add it to your portfolio with the permission of the client.

Final Words

You should always keep enhancing your skills. For example, if you know Photoshop and dreamweaver you should try to learn flash as well. The more tools in your tool belt the more work there will be available to you. When you are in demand you should try to accept only as many projects you can think you can complete within project's deadline. The time difference between different countries has to be taken into account as well. You may have to work late nights to accommodate to client's time zone. If you followed what I have written above and work hard then there is no one stopping you from becoming a successful freelance web designer/developer or a programmer.

Copyright @ 2008-2017 Sukhwinder Singh
20th April, 2008

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